Friday, April 30, 2010

Play To Win

Colorado is back on the road again this week. This time they are in San Jose playing the Clash, err, Earthquakes, err Earthquakes 2.0. The Rapids are on a 2 game win streak (3 if you count the USOC play-in) and have won 2 of their 3 road games. Last year they won 2 road games total. Colorado has not beaten San Jose since they re-entered the league after the original San Jose side was moved to Houston though. Last year we pulled out two 1-1 draws in back-to-back games, both draws coming when the Rapids earned stoppage time penalty kicks. This week's game is at 8pm MDT on KWGN. No official watch party but most of the usual haunts will have some Rapids fans watching the game.

Injury Report:
OUT: MID Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain), FWD Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: MID Jamie Smith (hamstring)

Jamie Smith is out again, which is annoying. With the new lineup deployed in New England though that doesn't hurt as much. San Jose has 3 players probable so they're in better shape than we are. My guess on the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Earls
Pablo - Larentowicz
Cummings - Ballouchy - Clark

I think that we'll stay with the 4-5-1 after the success last weekend. The only real two question marks for me are possibly Baudet starting and if Clark isn't worked back into the starting XI now that we're off the turf. I think Colin is clearly a better player than Wells Thompson, but Thompson has been playing well and Gary Smith may want to keep his roll going.

Key To Look For:
Midfield dominance. If the midfield can perform like they did last week then I'll consider this problem on the road to a solution. They have to show me that can do it in back-to-back weeks though. The Rapids have a long history of up and down play and I'm not willing to consider the problem solved based on one week's play.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal Omar Cummings. The Rapids long history of frustration on the road leaves me hesitant to predict back to back wins. San Jose is a team we should beat, but we've said that for the last two years and failed to do it. I'm being conservative with this pick because I can see us winning this game but I'm gun shy at getting too excited about this team before they really prove it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mehdi, Pablo Score; Hell Freezes Over

Yeah, you read that right. Both Mehdi Ballouchy and Pablo Mastroeni scored for the Rapids on Saturday. No, you haven't entered the alternate Star Trek universe with evil Spock (too geeky?).

Saturday night in Foxboro the Rapids played their best game of the season, and probably one of their top 5 games in the last couple of seasons. From the opening whistle the team pressed and moved the ball, never taking their foot off the pedal. The scoring started early as Ballouchy was allowed a free run at goal, and teed up a shot from 20 yards out that beat former Rapids-keeper Preston Burpo. The lead didn't last long as 7 minutes later the Rapids met their kryptonite, set pieces, and the Revolution made it pay off with a Goal of the Week strike from the free kick. I think the new ball fooled Pickens a bit as he appeared to ease up just a touch thinking the ball was going over the bar before it dipped in for a goal. Still it would have taken an All-Star effort to stop the shot. The Rapids had multiple good chances int eh half. Former New England player Jeff Larentowicz hit the post on a long shot, and Omar Cummings used some fancy footwork to control the ball around 3 defenders and lift it up for Ballouchy to get off a great bicycle kick, only for it to bounce off the post, off of Burpo, and fall right between Casey and Burpo with not enough space for Conor to get it back over Preston.

Many Rapids fans probably expected the Rapids to play their normal road game and preserve the draw int he second half. Early on int he half it looked a bit like that, but as time went on the Rapids took more and more control of he game. It paid off as Cummings found Casey at the top of the area. Conor took the ball with his back to goal, held off 1, then 3, then had 2 more defenders coming in when he played the ball back to an onrushing Pablo who slammed it into the back of the net from 30 yards for only the 5th goal of his career. After that the Rapids had a couple of scares but for the most part they kept the Revs contained and took a deserved 3 points on the road.

My key to the game was midfield dominance, and as we saw, when we have it we're a pretty good team. Colorado went to a 5 man midfield and it seemed to help. With a 3rd midfielder centrally (Ballouchy) we were able to control the ball and link between the defense and the attack better.

Other Observations:
  • The Rapids have the best offense in the league. Their 8 goals are 1 more than 5 teams.
  • Colorado has yet to be scored on from the run of play. The 5 goals they've given up have been from corners, free kicks, or the penalty spot.
  • 10 points in our first 5 games is our best start ever. We've already won 2 road games, which equals the number we won all of last season.
  • In the off-season the Rapids picked up two players, Wynne and Thompson, that fans of their former teams were happy to let go. They warned Rapids fans that we would be disappointed. Well knock on wood but so far they;re looking pretty good.
  • This may sound repetitive, but Drew Moor looked great again. I liked the Ihemelu-Moor swap when we made it last season, but its looking really good now.
  • Earls got more involved in the offense again this week. He was almost too involved at times, he needs to figure out the balance a bit, but still a good sign.
  • This might have been Ballouchy's best game as a Rapid. If he could play like this every game I wouldn't roll my eyes when I see him in the starting XI.
  • Casey had his best game of the season. Maybe he's starting to feel the pressure to claim a WC spot.
  • Its easy to say "good call" after we win, but leaving Clark on the bench most of the game instead of playing his surgically-repaired knee on the turf was a good move I think.
  • I've mentioned the idea of starting Cummings on the right in the past. Its only one game so its too early to tell, but so far it looks good.
Player of the Game: Pablo Mastroeni. He gets the game winning goal on the road for only his 5th goal of his career? How do you not give it to him?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rapids Attempt To Quell The Revolution

Colorado takes its longest road trip of the year (in distance), all the way to Foxboro, MA to play New England. They'll be greeted by familiar faces and they see Preston Burpo and Cory Gibbs again. Game time is at 5:30pm MDT and the game is on Channel 2 KWGN.

Injury Report:
OUT: MID Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain), FWD Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOUBTFUL: MID Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain)

Jamie Smith's injury will make for an interesting choice for Gary Smith. Claudio Lopez? Mehdi Ballouchy? Wells Thompson against his old team? Julian Baudet is back from suspension which will give Smith another choice as he has 5 starters for 4 spots on the backline. He might have one solution to both as he could push Kosuke Kimura to right wing. Here's my best guess on what he'll do:

Wynne - Baudet - Moor - Earls
Ballouchy - Larentowicz - Clark
Cummings - Casey

Baudet's return will push Kimura to the bench IMO. He's probably been the weakest of the backline so far. As much as I would love to see anyone but Ballouchy start at right wing, Mehdi seems to be the second choice for that position when Jamie Smith isn't available.

Key To Look For:
Midfield dominance, again. This is going to be particularly difficult with one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, Shalrie Joseph, coming back from injury for the Revs. We have to find another option than 'hoof and hope' though, which means that the midfield has to be able to move the ball to give Casey and Cummings a chance to get into good positions.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Omar Cummings. neither team is an offensive juggernaut, but both defenses are unsettled enough that I expect a clean sheet to be hard to come by. I expect that the Revs will score first but won't be able to defend the lead.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Much has been made this season about the Rapids attendance. Less than 12K at the home opener followed last weekend by a sub-10K crowd has people talking. Multiple threads at BigSoccer plus blog posts as well have stirred the pot. The "conventional wisdom" is that the problem is that the Dick is all the way out in Commerce City.

Well its not. At least not based on what attendance was like when the Rapids were downtown at Invesco Field. The "conventional wisdom" is that downtown stadiums are good, and suburb stadiums are bad. Here's the average attendance per game for the last 3 years at Invesco and the first 3 years at DSG Park. I chose 3 years at Invesco because not only does it balance the 3 years in Commerce City but also because it encompasses the whole time KSE has owned the team.

2004: 14195
2005: 13638
2006: 12056
2007: 14749
2008: 13659
2009: 12331

As you can see, 2007 and 2008 outdrew 2005 and 2006. 2007 even outdrew 2004. So it appears that more people are coming to Commerce City than were going to Invesco. Still, it could be a new stadium bump that's wearing off.

One thing that Invesco had that the Dick doesn't is the ability to pull large crowds. Primarily these happened on the 4th of July for the fireworks show. so how much were the Invesco numbers affected by the 4th of July crowds? Here are the averages recalculated using just 18,000 for the 4th of July number at Invesco (the same as they can get at DSG Park).

2004: 12596
2005; 12039
2006: 10642
2007: 14749
2008: 13659
2009: 12331

Looking at these numbers its pretty clear that any advantage that Invesco had was due to the large 4th of July numbers. 3 of the top 4 years under KSE have been at DSG Park once the 4th of July crowd is normalized.

Many people think that the 4th of July crowd is an aberration though, so here's the average of the non 4th of July games each year:

2004: 12210
2005: 11613
2006: 10117
2007: 14510
2008: 13294
2009: 11806

Things get a bit closer together, but again the Commerce City location is clearly outdrawing the downtown location.

Compared to other Soccer Specific Stadiums as well, DSG Park is much closer to downtown than most. Only BMO Field in Toronto and Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus are closer to what Wikipedia lists as the "downtown" of their cities. The location is also (wrongly as I understand it) blamed for attendance issues in Dallas, but you rarely see people blaming the distance to downtown LA for attendance issues with Chivas. People have also said that the additional distance people now have to go to get to Commerce City is a problem, but out of the teams that moved from another location into a SSS, only Columbus and NY had shorter moves. Again, Colorado and Dallas get blamed for this while Chicago and LA moved further than Colorado.

At this point I think its fairly obvious that what's hurting Rapids attendance isn't the location. Worst case is that people are indifferent to the location, and best case more people are actually coming out to the Dick. So there's clearly a problem but its not the location. What is it? I think there are a number of factors.

First, KSE has had no interest in the team. Clearly from the perspective of the greater organization the Rapids were purchased for the purposes of getting a new real estate development partially funded by local government. The original plan for DSG Park included large commercial development on the lands right around the complex and the Cantina was going to be a full-time restaurant, not just a game-day bar. KSE would be the owner of the land and would make money on the rents from all the businesses. The economic crisis killed this idea and now KSE is just trying to make money off the stadium and fields. I think commercial development would help make game-day more than just tailgating in the lot pre-game, but until that happens KSE needs to treat the Rapids like they treat the Avs and Nuggets and not like a tax write-off.

Second, ticket prices are far too high. Right now the cheapest actual seat in the stadium is $20. The new Supporter's Terrace is cheaper but its standing only and not suitable for families. A Nuggets playoff ticket is $13.50 and a Rockies ticket is $16. Not only that but they also raised season ticket prices this offseason. We are currently in the biggest recession of my lifetime, the team hasn't made the playoffs in 3 seasons, they can't fill the stadium, they haven't invested in a DP, and last year they cut the big name friendlies in half. Even the most dedicated fan has to wonder what the raised ticket prices are getting them, because its clearly not going towards improving the team or the game-day experience. The best move the Rapids could make is to announce a reduction (or at the very least a freeze) of ticket prices in 2011. The only other option is to sign a big name as a DP and get a major team in here for a friendly so at least the fans can see that their money is being used for more than buying Arsenal shares.

Third, make it easier to get out to the Dick. RTD runs special buses from Market Street Station for CU and Broncos games. The Bulldog Supporter's Group has had great success the last two games in running a bus from the British Bulldog downtown. The Rapids should work with RTD (or possibly a private company thanks to that stupid federal law that was passed a couple of years ago) to run a couple of shuttles from Boulder and downtown every game.

Fourth, and probably biggest, just win baby. Denver, outside the Broncos, is a bandwagon town. The Rapids have never been more than mediocre and lately they've just been bad. Make a commitment to put a good product on the field. That means making your big offseason move more than trading Burpo and Gibbs for Larentowicz and Thompson. Make it clear to Paul Bravo and Gary Smith that just squeaking into the playoffs isn't good enough anymore. The Rapids have never finished above 3rd int he conference. A priority should be to finish in the top 2 and get home-field advantage in the first round.

This turned out to be longer than I expected, and to anyone still reading, I appreciate it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rapids Defeat Rapids Wanna-Bes

A hot day in Commerce City came down to set pieces. While Colorado controlled much of the play they struggled to look like they were comfortable and didn't put the game away until the last few minutes.

4 goals, 3 PK's. The first was a call for a handball in the box that on review looks like a poor decision. At full speed (and the refs only get one shot at it) it was hard to tell though. Casey stepped up to give the Rapids an early lead.

The second was a clear PK. Pickens went into a tackle and got the man, not the ball. Poor marking from the Kimura-Wynne combo and DeRosario leveled the score.

The 3rd PK was probably not a strong call, but it wasn't incorrect. Casey got tangled up with the Toronto defender and was taken down in the box. Conor put away his second PK pf the game and the third of the season and also put away the game.

Between the TFC PK and the second Casey PK the game really changed on a Larentowicz free kick. Taken from a dangerous point outside the box the Ginger Ninja sent in a low ball that should have been stopped by the wall. For some reason Toronto's Designated Player, Julian De Guzman, decided to jump 3 feet left from his point in the wall. Larentowicz's shot went right to where he used to be and right on past inside the near post to give the Rapids the lead. At that point the fire went out of the Canucks. The Casey PK just allowed the Rapids to relax too.

My key to the game was midfield dominance, and it was better, but still needs work. The Rapids still struggled to consistently move the ball from the back to the strikers up front. Still with 4 defenders and 4 holdings minds in Toronto's starting lineup it was always going to be a struggle.

Other Observations:
  • Out of the 28 players who played in this game, 19 of them have appeared in a league match for the Rapids. Obviously the 14 who played for the Rapids yesterday, but Nick LaBrocca, Ty Harden, Jacob Peterson, Dan Gargan, and Adrain Cann all played for Toronto yesterday after having spent time in Colorado.
  • Jamie Smith looked better this week as he took the starting role from Ballouchy. There's still work to be done but a step in the right direction.
  • Casey had his best game of the season. Not only did he get the two PK goals but he was making runs and setting up his teammates well.
  • Pablo did a good job at breaking up the Toronto attack. his passing left much to be desired though.
  • Drew Moor looks good. Every time I thought TFC was getting something started, Moor would be there to break it up.
  • Danny Earls is getting more involved in the attack, and its worrying the defenders in front of him. He and Clark are starting to click and right backs in the league should be concerned.
  • Koz looked OK, but he's clearly not working well with his new teammates in Wynne and Smith. I don't know if its just going to take time or if the team is moving away from where Kimura fits in.
Player of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz. Besides the nice goal he was much more active, especially in the second half, and took steps to help with the linking issue.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010 Version Of It's A Trap!!!

The Rapids are back at home this weekend hosting the Toronto Rapids. Sorry, Toronto FC. They just look like the Rapids with Gargan, Harden, LaBrocca, and Peterson. This game has trap written all over it. home game against a team that's playing bad soccer and coming off an emotional home opener less than 72 hours earlier. Game time at the Dick is 3pm, and the best tailgate in MLS starts at 1pm, all are welcome.

Injury Report:
OUT: MID Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain), FWD Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)

Discipline Report:
SUSPENDED: DEF Julian Baudet (Red card against KC)

Injury report looks quite good, two players out that were unlikely to see the field anyway. Toronto likeways has only two players listed, both as out. The red card suspension of Baudet hurts, but not as much as Casey or Clark would. Lopez is now available, so my guess ont he starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Earls
Lopez - Larentowicz - Clark
Cummings - Casey

I think that with Baudet suspended we go back to the back 4 we used in the first two games. This will probably be Kimura's last game as a starter though, he hasn't looked good and once Baudet is back Wynne will move outside I think. Lopez proved in a minute that he's much better than Ballouchy, assuming he's ready to go at least 60 minutes I think he'll start, and if he doesn't I think Jamie Smith will.

Key To Look For:
Midfield dominance. This is going to be the key until its figured out. Our strikers are still great, our back line is only being beaten on set pieces, but our game falls apart getting the ball from the defense to the strikers.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Conor Casey and Colin Clark. This should be a relatively easy win for the Rapids, but like I said, its got trap game written all over it. I expect the Rapids will struggle, getting a lead but never looking confident until Toronto pushes up to get the equalizer and we score on a counter to put the game away.

Friday, April 16, 2010

News and Notes

Game preview coming either later tonight or tomorrow (depending on how long I stay up after being a the office at 11pm last night). The Rapids had some news today.
  • Valentino was waived after Tampa (USSF D-2) and the Rapids couldn't come to an agreement on a loan deal for Rob to play in Tampa this year. I assume we'll see an announcement any minute now that he's been signed by Tampa. Even though he was a Generation Adidas player his contract was written in such a way that it wasn't guaranteed. First time I've ever heard of a GA contract like that. It might have something to do with the interest from Tampa though.
  • The Rapids will play their 2nd USOC play-in game on the road, again. That's 6 straight play-in games on the road. We'll play the winner of the New England - New York/Philly game at their place sometime between May 12th and June 9th.
  • The Rapids finally have a bye week. Chicago scheduled a friendly competition against teams from Chicago's sister cities over the weekend of May 22nd. The Rapids were originally scheduled to play in Chicago that weekend. They will now travel to the Windy City on June 9th as the last Rapids game before the World Cup break. TV is still being worked out.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rapids Waive Valentino

According to the Rapids Twitter feed, Rob Valentino has been waived.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Rapids Go To The Well(s) Twice For The Win

The Rapids put out their reserve side plus normal starters Kimura and Ballouchy last night. Within 4 minutes they were down a goal and it wasn't looking good. Enter new acquisition Wells Thompson He scored off a Jamie Smith corner kick in the first half and a feed from Claudio Lopez via Ballouchy in the 80th minute. Prior to this game Thompson's only other USOC goal was the winning goal for the Revs in the 2007 final. Lopez's assist came one minute after entering the game for his first appearance as a Rapid.

The Rapids will now play the winner of the game between the New England and the winner of the Philly-NY game. The date and location of that game are still to be determined. The winner of that game will enter the true U.S. Open Cup in the 3rd Round with the 6 auto-qualified MLS teams and the winner of the other qualification spot.

Monday, April 12, 2010

USOC Play-In Tomorrow!

The Rapids are still in Kansas City for tomorrow night's U.S. Open Cup qualifier against the Wizards. Game time is 6:30pm MDT. The best coverage we can hope for is a MatchTracker or Twitter feed with game updates. The winner of this game will play the team that comes out of the New England/New York/Philly group for a spot in the full U.S. Open Cup. I'm not going to do a full preview because there's no way to know how "seriously" the Rapids are going to take this game. Based on prior years I expect well see lots of reserves starting and no real concern about if we'll win or not. Maybe they'll surprise me.

This exposes the flaw in the "qualification process" that U.S. Soccer and MLS has gone to since 2007. The public reasoning for this process was to reduce fixture congestion but adding qualification rounds for half the league doesn't do that. There's not much point in an "Open Cup" that's not 'open" to every team. Only 8 MLS teams get to play in the true U.S. Open Cup using full Open Cup rules and everything. Not a surprise that this competition is seen as, and treated as by many MLS teams, as something not worth winning.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Wizards Bespell Rapids

The Rapids continued their pattern of futility in Kansas City Saturday night. A 1-0 loss for the good guys. The Rapids didn't look great at any point in the game, but in the first half they had the better chances. Both Cummings and Ballouchy had clear shots on goal from inside the box. Cummings powered his in and the keeper made a save off of his face. Ballouchy somehow managed to sky his over the baron an almost empty net. That was the closes the Rapids would get.

In the second half the Rapids had nothing, and a moment of indecision by Matt Pickens cost them the game. On a free kick into the box Kamara out-jumped Baudet and Casey to send a high header at the box. A ball that was easy for a keeper on his line to save, but for some reason Pickens had taken two steps towards the ball as it came in, stopped, and tried to backpedal towards his line. He was too far out and the header got over him and into the net for the lead. Poor decision making by Pickens. The Rapids had two chances after that, the first where Cummings was offside by may half a step and the second when Clark was in 1 on 1 with the keeper and powered a shot right at him instead of placing it in the far corner. The other event of note was a straight red card for dangerous play to Baudet. IMO the foul wasn't even worth a yellow card (which would have been Baudet's second) much less a red. A horrible decision by the center referee, who had a bad night.

My key to the game was midfield dominance, and we didn't have any. Our offense was either passing it to Clark to link up with the Dynamic Duo, or lofting it over the top in the hope that one of them could get on it. KC figured this out quickly, closed down Clark, and left us with nothing but long balls.

Other Observations:
  • Ballouchy was useless, again. There's no reason he should be starting in Smith's 'empty bucket' midfield as he adds nothing to the offense and the critical positions in this formation are the wingers.
  • Of course Jamie Smith, in his first minutes this season, showed nothing in replacing Ballouchy. hopefully that's just rust, because if that's all he has then we wasted a signing on him.
  • I had predicted that Earls was a lock to start on the left while the other back line positions were up in the air. Turns out it was Earls that made way for Baudet, with Moor moving out to the left.
  • While the red card was uncalled for, Baudet did not have a great game. Beaten on the header, getting a stupid yellow for taking revenge, and then the red. Hopefully that is also rust for him.
  • Pablo, STFU. I thought you had matured past stupid yellow cards for dissent, but not in this game. And that one came after Cummings had rushed up and shoved Pablo away from the referee early in the game.
  • Casey is losing his spot on the WC roster. Part of his problem is his own making but part of it is also the lack of support from midfield. Casey has never had a great first touch or ball control, but the rest of the team send long balls to him with thee expectation that he'll bring the ball down, control it, and make something happen. That's not his game.
  • Cummings looks like he's a level above the rest of the team. He making runs, generating chances, and trying to carry the squad.
Player of the Game: Drew Moor. He was asked to play a new position and prevented any danger from the Wizards on that side.

Friday, April 9, 2010

We're Off To See The Wizards!

The Rapids head out on their second road trip this season to Kansas City. They'll be there for two games, the league game tomorrow night and a U.S. Open Cup qualifier on Tuesday night. Game time is at 6:30pm on KWGN, and the Supporter's Groups will be having a watch party at Katie Mullins on the 16th Street Mall.

Injury Report:
OUT: MID Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain), FWD Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOUBTFUL: GK Ian Joyce (R ankle sprain)

That's a much better injury report than we've seen in the prior two games this season. Only 3 players, none of them likely starters or even subs. Now I think there are a couple of players like Baudet and Smith who aren't on the official injury report but may not really be available for the starting XI. Given that, my guess at the lineup:

Wynne - Palguta - Moor - Earls
Kimura - Larentowicz - Clark
Cummings - Casey

Wynne probed in week 1 that he can play center back. He proved in week 2 that he shouldn't play there all the time. I think he moves back to his wing position this week with Palguta (or Baudet if healthy enough) taking his spot. I'm letting my pro-Kimura bias get in the way, but I think Ballouchy has pretty much failed to do anything as a starter and its time for somebody else. Lopez's paperwork isn't expected to be done and I'm not sure Smith is ready to start so I'm guessing Koz moves forward.

Key To Look For:
Midfield dominance. Our problem last week was linking between the midfield and the Dynamic Duo up front. That's one of the reasons I expect Ballouchy to sit and Gary Smith to give somebody else a try. If we can't get the ball to Cummings and Casey in dangerous positions, especially on the small clogged field in KC, we aren't going to score much.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Omar Cummings. Our defense is unsettled enough that I don't expect a shutout but Cummings has started the season on fire and he'll find a way to score. I don't see either team really stretching the other out and I think it stays close and the Rapids will be happy to take a point on the road and remain undefeated.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rapids Add Striker Depth

The Rapids biggest roster problems starting the season were a lack of depth at winger and forward. Last week the Rapids added winger help in the form of Claudio Lopez. Today they took at step towards dealing with their problems up front. They traded their 2nd round pick in 2010 to San Jose for striker Quincy Amarikwa. Amarikwa was San Jose's third round pick in the 2009 Superdraft.

In other news as expected Ross Schunk was officially put on IR, and he was joined their by Ciaran O'Brien. The Rapids now have 26 players on their roster, but two are in IR and a 3rd will be returning on his loan to Charlotte. I'm not sure who's a Dev player and who's a senior player at this point. By my figuring we have 21 senior players, so somebody I think is a senior player is obviously a developmental player (Ian Joyce?). I think we have an open Developmental spot until Ciaran O'Brien comes off of IR but I'm really not sure at this point.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Elements Cancel Out For a Draw

Fire balances out water in alchemy, and the Fire balanced out the Rapids at the Dick yesterday. A 2-2 draw marred by inconsistent officiating and a Rapids team that went flat for the whole second half. Colorado started well, pressing the attack and getting an early goal from Omar Cummings. The Rapids defense on set pieces needs work, and it would hurt them on a Fire corner as last week's player of the game, Marvell Wynne, was shoved aside for a free header and a tying goal. The Rapids were up to the challenge and shortly before half Colin Clark was taken down in the box for a PK. Clark was looking for the call and didn't put up any resistance, he may have even been going down before contact, but there was contact from behind which will be a PK 90% of the time. Casey converted for his first gaol of the season and the Rapids took a 2-1 lead to the locker room.

The second half was much different. shortly after the break Marvell Wynne was beat in the box and while catching up Fire attacker Nyarko tripped and went down in the box for another PK call. Replays show no clear contact between Wynne and Nyarko, it appears that Nyarko may have tripped himself. None the less the McBride converted the PK to level the score at 2. The rest of the second half was a good deal of bad soccer, with neither team seeming real interested in getting the 3 points. The Rapids had a couple of chances, but nothing came of them and the teams split the points.

My key was to run the Fire ragged at altitude, but the Rapids showed no inclination in doing that, especially in the second half. Instead they seemed happy to only get 1 point at home, something we may regret by the end of the season.

Other Observations:
  • Many Rapids fans are going to want to blame the officials for the draw, but the Rapids really did it to themselves. There were a couple of bad calls on the PK and the lack of a call on Cummings at the end of the game, but for the most part the lack of interest in the second half is what did it, not the officiating.
  • Wynne showed his limitations at center back this game, getting muscled off his man easily and his reliance on his speed was a danger when he has to use it in the box.
  • Earls had a good game, being dangerous going forward and adding to the defense well. He looks to be a good find by the coaching staff.
  • Mastroeni and Larentowicz are doing a good job of stopping up the middle, but they're adding almost nothing to the attack. That may be what Smith wants, but it puts the onus of creating opportunities on the wings.
  • Ballouchy isn't capable of having that responsibility. He had a decent game and if he keeps playing like this he's a serviceable option off the bench. He's not a starter though.
  • Clark isn't 100% yet, he seems to have regressed to early last season where he's looking for fouls and cards instead of just making the best move to score. Hopefully he gets back to that as he gets back to his playing rhythm.
  • Thanks to Drew Moor for coming over and signing my jersey after the game!
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings. His second goal in 2 games and the only Rapid to be involved for all 90 minutes.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Tomorrow's Game Has All The Elements

Alchemy elements that is, They'll all play a factor tomorrow:

Water - Colorado Rapids
Fire - Chicago Fire
Earth - The Best Pitch in MLS at The Dick
Air - Thin At Altitude

The experiment kicks off at 2pm tomorrow. The Supporters Groups will continue their tailgates this year. Tomorrow's starts at 11am!

Injury Report:
OUT: MID Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain), FWD Ross Schunk (R ACL tear)
DOUBTFUL: GK Ian Joyce (R ankle sprain)
QUESTIONABLE: M Jamie Smith (R hamstring)
PROBABLE: FWD Conor Casey (R foot sprain), FWD Omar Cummings (R knee sprain), DEF Julien Baudet (R calf strain)

Still an ugly injury report this week. Chicago only has 4 players on its injury report. Also new signing Claudio Lopez will not be available tomorrow as they are still waiting on his visa. Given all that, here's my guess at the lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Earls
Ballouchy - Larentowicz - Clark
Cummings - Casey

Yep, same as last week. The only possible change is if Bauudet is ready to go. At that point the whole backline other than Earls is up in the air, as is Ballouchy. Wynne or Moor could go to the bench for Baudet to play center back, or either of them could move out right. If that happens Kimura could go to the bench or Gary Smith could push him forward into Ballouchy's role.

Key To Look For:
One of my keys to the season is a better record at the Dick. We need to run teams into the group at altitude. Tomorrow I think a key will be moving the ball and tiring Chicago out early.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. The Rapids have never started a season with 2 straight wins, so I'm a little nervous about predicting it now. Still the Rapids feel like they have it in them. Our defense is still unsettled enough that I don't think we'll get a shutout, but I think the home opener boost will lead us to getting the win.

Lopez Signed

A source in the Rapids FO alerted me that there's an announcement coming this afternoon and now multiple sources are tweeting that Claudio Lopez has signed with the Rapids. Looks like the deal is done. My first instinct is positive, but it will largely depend on what (if anything) we had to give KC for his rights and what we're paying him.