Friday, July 30, 2010

Rapids Try To Salve The Burn

OK, so they're FC Dallas now, but they'll always be the Burn. The Rapids are back home with a 6 game winless streak and a opponent that they like to see in the playoffs. Game time is an unusual 2pm at the Dick, so the tailgate starts at noon.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear);
PROBABLE: DF Julien Baudet (L knee strain), FWD Conor Casey (scalp laceration)

Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni

Dallas only has two players injured and heavyweight Dario Sala suspended (again) so they're close to full strength. I'm guessing on the following lineup:

Wynne - Baudet - Moor - Earls
Larentowicz - Pablo
Cummings - Ballouchy - Smith

I realize that's not much of a stretch. That's just the regular XI Gary Smith likes to trot out. Kimura is a possible starter, but I'm not seeing it.

Key To Look For: Can we score more than one goal? In the last ten games we've only scored more that one twice. I don't think a 1-0 win is likely, so we'll need 2 to get the 3 points we need.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. The Rapids are going to have to prove to me they can win again before I predict a win. I don't see anything that leads me to believe they can play a solid 90 minutes at this point.

Rapids Acquire Wallace From Dallas

The Rapids have just announced a trade with Dallas for Anthony Wallace. In return Dallas gets our natural 4th round draft pick next year and a conditional pick in 2012. Wallace has played in 15 games in 4 seasons for Dallas.

Yeah, the phrase "rearranging the deck chairs" comes to mind on this one. 2 draft picks for a defender who couldn't get on the field for a pretty bad Dallas team in the last 4 years? On a team that doesn't really need defensive help since we have 5-6 MLS-level defenders already (Moor, Wynne, Baudet, Earls, Palguta, and Kimura). Not sure what the goal on this move is, other taht to do something for the sake of doing something.

Monday, July 26, 2010

British Side Loses In Puget Sound, Again

The eventual resolution of the dispute that led to the Pig War gave control of the San Juan islands to the United States. The eventual resolution of the game in Seattle yesterday gave the 3 points to the American-led team over the British one. The Rapids played a better game, but were outclassed over the first 25 minutes by Seattle and that's all it took.

For the first time all season Colorado gave up a goal in the first 15 minutes. Due to replays there was no good look at the lead-up to the gaol, but the Rapids had a couple of chances to clear the ball and failed to do so. Then Zakuani blasted a ball past a diving Matt Pickens. The ball hit the post, and in a turn of bad luck, bounced off the post and into the back of Pickens' arm, deflecting off of him and into the net.

There wasn't even time to analyze what went wrong. Practically off the kickoff Cummings took the ball down the right, cut inside, and unleashed a shot into the upper corner of the far post to level the score. Great goal. Unfortunately just 10 minutes later Danny Earls would get beat on the right and shoddy defending inside allowed Zakuani to get goal side with the ball to get his second goal in 10 minutes.

The Rapids pushed for most of the rest of the game, but couldn't find another goal. Their best chance came from Cummings, who got behind the defense to go 1v1 with Keller, but somehow couldn't even get the shot on target and went over the top. Claudio Lopez had a back heel that would have beat most keepers but not Kasey Keller, who somehow dove backwards to get a hand on it.

My key to the game was playing for 90 minutes. The Rapids played a better game this week, but they were outplayed for the first 25 minutes. They were clearly the second best team on the field to start the game and paid for it.

Other Observations:
  • 6 games with out a win and its July. Welcome to the annual summer swoon.
  • I'm not sure I like the sub of Amarikwa for Ballouchy. Mehdi isn't my favorite player, but the Rapids had something working and that sub seemed to kill things.
  • Good to see Baudet back in the lineup.
  • Brutal collision between Casey and Ianni to end the game. No malice from either side, but the head-to-head contact was one of the worst I've seen.
  • Cummings missed ruined a pretty good game for him. Like Casey last week, that's a goal you have to get, or at the very least put it on target.
  • Larentowicz had a good game going into the All-Star break.
  • Danny Earls is still struggling to find the balance between offense and defense. He's not bad at either one, but he's poor at doing both of them in the same game.
  • And a note to my hometown fans. Guys, shut up. Pablo and Casey both went down with legitimate injuries in the first 15 minutes, only to be booed by the Qwest Field crowd. Cummings got yanked back on a breakaway, a textbook yellow, and the crowd booed when the card was given. For as "good" as a fanbase that Seattle likes to claim they have, it wasn't a very classy one last night.
Player of the Game: Pablo Mastroeni. He broke up a number of attacks like normal, but it was his passing that really stood out. He had a number of good decisions with the ball that kept the team's momentum going.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pig War 2010

The last time Great Britain and the U.S. fought it was over the San Juan Islands north of Seattle in what's commonly referred to as the Pig War. A Sounder is a group of wild pigs. Tomorrow the Rapids, led by a British coach, play the Sounders, led by a top candidate for the next U.S. National Team coach, in Seattle. Con incidence? Game time on Sunday is at 8:30pm MDT and the game is on FOX Soccer Channel. As many readers know, Seattle is my home town, in fact on the map at left I grew up right where "WHIDBEY" is written. Still no split loyalties on this one, Rapids till I die!

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear);
PROBABLE: DF Julien Baudet (L knee strain)

Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni

Seattle has 6 players on their injury report, so they're a bit beat up. I don't expect Julian Baudet to jump right back into the starting XI, but I could see him coming off the bench. My guess on the starting lineup:

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

Palguta was a disaster last week, so I'm assuming Earls will get his starting spot back. I'd like to see Lopez start in place of Ballouchy, but I don't think Gary Smith is ready to make that move..

Key To Look For: Can we play for 90 minutes? The last two games we've played for about 20, and managed to get a loss and a draw. Seattle is weak enough that we can win this game on the road, if we show up to play for the full time.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Conor Casey. Honestly the way the team's been playing I think I'm being optimistic predicting a draw, but Seattle really isn't a good team right now. If we have any hope of making the playoffs we need to get at least a point out of this game.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not the Midseason Review

We're at the midpoint of the season and normally I'd do a position-by-position report card. Honestly though, I'm not up for it. As you can probably tell from the lack of posting here, the last couple of weeks have really sapped my energy for the Rapids.

It's very deflating to be a Rapids fan right now. Its not hard to look around the league and go "what about us?". We see signings like Henry, Bravo, Marquez, N'kufo, and Castillo. We see major international friendlies against teams like Manchester United, Inter Milan, and Real Madrid. In Colorado? No friendlies, no signings, and no word of anything from the Rapids Front Office.

Here's an interesting note. Since the end of the Rapids season last year every MLS team except for Colorado and Chivas has either won a major trophy, hosted a major international friendly, or made a major international signing. And Chivas signed Giacarlo Maldonado, so they've had some headlines.

Add to that the way the team appears to be entering its "summer swoon" phase based on their play in the last couple of games and their 5 game winless streak and its very hard to be anything but depressed about the current state of the team. I appear to not be alone in this feeling as the Rapids attendance isn't anything to write home about. It's up about 1200 from last year, but still down from 2007 and 2008. This year, like 2008, there's been 2 sellouts but both of those are in the past and I'm not sure we can expect to see another one.

Right now I get the impression that KSE doesn't care about the Rapids. The people in the Front Office seem to want to do a good job, but they're not being given the resources to do that. They don't seem to have the budget to sign a DP or to entice a big-name team to come to Colorado (meanwhile the Portland Timbers of USSF D-II played Manchester City in a 5,000 seat stadium). We know that the budget for the new coach was limited at best, and our play is suffering from that.

At the end of the day, why should I care about the team when its clear the team doesn't care about its fans? The website still lists 2 tickets in the season tickets package for USOC/exhibition/international matches but I've been told that at this point they won't host any games for us to use our bonus tickets on. The team can't even be bothered to honor the advertising they created. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to stop rooting for them or anything, but its hard to be somebody that wants to spread the word about the Rapids and get more fans interested in the team when the Rapids don't seem to want to keep the fans they have interested.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Colorado - KC = USA - Ghana

Now that my time with my family has ended I can get back to the blog. An ugly game by the Rapids saw them lose two points they should have won. I'm not going to go into too much detail, at this point anyone reading this will have already read about the game.

The Rapids gave up a goal in the first 20 minutes, as Gary Smith's lineup change came back to bite him. Smith inserted Palguta into Earl's role after Earl's poor play in the last few games. Palguta's inexperience with the rest of the back line caused him to miss stepping up on the onside trap, which allowed KC a 1v1 against Pickens and an easy goal.

The Rapids, once again, had no offensive ideas until Claudio Lopez was inserted into the game. Suddenly the Rapids looked dangerous, and the attacks paid off as Jamie Smith put Casey through into the box and with some nice footwork Casey buried the ball to level the score. Casey got a second chance in the 89th minute, getting past the keeper, but somehow, inexplicably, hit the post when shooting at an empty net. To be fair it was a tight angle, but the highest paid non-DP player in the league has to make that shot in the final minutes of the game.

This game reminded me a great deal of USA - Ghana last month. not in the quality (obviously) but in the situation. Both the U.S. and Colorado went down a goal early. Both used a sub in the first half and at halftime, both came back to get the draw with a late goal after the subs inspired better offensive play. As good as the Nats are, their style of play at the WC is not one we want to emulate.

My key to the game was a quick start. Yeah, not so much.

Other Observations:
  • We're about one game from me declaring we've hit our mid-summer "swoon". If we don't play any better in Seattle on Sunday it will be official.
  • Claudio Lopez needs to start, period. I don't care if we have to sub him shortly after half, I'd much rather be defending a 1-0 lead as he leaves than bringing him in to make up a 1-0 deficit.
  • Palguta - yuck. Everyone has a bad day, but, much like Rico Clark against Ghana, giving up a goal and getting a yellow in the first half means he deserved his benching.
  • As good as the 4-5-1 has been for our possession we need to go back to the 4-4-2 for a better attack.
  • We're now winless in 5. It better not be 6.
Player of the Game: The fans. 102 degree record high and lousy play by the Rapids most of the game. Anyone who managed to last through that showed more heart and desire than most of the Rapids on the field.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rapids Look to BBQ Kansas City

Pic: Teaspoon Willie''s BBQ Sauce, available at area Whole Foods. Teaspoon Willie works with me in Software QA when he's not making his great BBQ sauce, check it out!

I'm giving you my game preview early because I have family coming into town tonight and I'm not sure of the next time I'll be able to post. I'm going to have to guess on things like the injury report and such this far out. KC comes to town having won only one game since April 10th, which was when they beat the Rapids 1-0. They're in a downwards spiral and Colorado needs a win. The situation doesn't get much better than that. Gametime at the Dick is 7pm, with the tailgate starting at 5pm.

Estimated Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear);
DOUBTFUL: DF Julien Baudet (L knee strain)

Discipline Report:
TWO CAUTIONS FROM SUSPENSION: Conor Casey, Omar Cummings, Pablo Mastroeni

I'm guessing we won't see a significant change in the injury report this week. Baudet seems to be a ways away from being ready, and O'Brien and Schunk are likely to still be listed as out. Based on that my guess ont he leinup:

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

I assume we'll move back to the 4-5-1 now that Ballouchy is available again. I expect the same back four as we saw in Toronto, since the one goal was a single defensive miscue by Earls and otherwise the group seemed fairly stable.

Key To Look For: A quick start. The Rapids need to put away a reeling team like KC quickly. We've done well at not giving up an early goal this season, but we haven't jumped on teams the way we need to. The Rapids need to come out and press the Wizards early, take them out of the game before they even get started.

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Conor Casey and Claudio Lopez. The Rapids are a better team than Kansas City right now, and being at home have the clear advantage. Casey continues his roll and Lopez seals the deal, coming off the bench with a goal against his old team.

Somebody Forgot To Set The Rapids' Alarm Clock

Sorry for the delay, but its hard to get excited to write about a game the players didn't seem to be excited to play. The Rapids seemed to be sleepwalking through the first 70 minutes of the game, and by the time they woke up, they were down 1-0.

A horrible defensive header by Danny Earls left Toronto's Ibrahim unmarked in the 6-yard box and Matt Pickens couldn't do anything to stop his shot. Claudio Lope entered the game late and suddenly it was a new team. The Rapids were aggressive, dangerous, and Lopez alone had 2 good free kicks and a dangerous long-distance shot in his first 5 minutes on the field. Colorado could have gotten a tying goal late int eh game when the ball pinballed around the box for a good 20 seconds, but luck was not on their side.

My key to the game was set piece defense. We managed that, but against a team that was only slightly more interested in the game than we were.

Other Observations:
  • There really isn't much to say about this game. It felt much like the mid-summer "swoon" games we've seen in past years.
  • Good to see Koz get the start, but he didn't have the best of games.
  • The more I see Clark play, the more I understand why Smith is starting.
  • That said, Gary Smith really needs to break out of the rut of making the 60th minute swap of Clark for Smith or vice versa. Everyone sees it coming.
  • Funny how quickly a 6 game unbeaten streak turns into a 4 game winless streak.
Player of the Game: Claudio Lopez. By far the most engaged Rapids player in this game, and also the most dangerous.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Good Morning Toronto!!!

Well technically its a noon kickoff in Toronto, but for us here in Denver its the first ever (I believe) morning game for the Rapids. Kickoff is at 10am MDT tomorrow morning with the game live on KWGN. No official watch parties that early for the Supporters Groups, but I'm sure the usual places will have some Rapids fans watching before the Germany-Uruguay 3rd Place World Cup game. The Rapids are coming on on a 6 game undefeated streak, while Toronto has a 7 game undefeated streak. The Rapids are 0-3 in their history in Toronto though.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear);
DOUBTFUL: DF Julien Baudet (L knee strain)

Discipline Report:

Unavailable Due To Immigration Issues: MF Mehdi Ballouchy

You read that right. Due to a snafu in his immigration paperwork its very difficult for Ballouchy to re-enter the States if he leaves, so for at least the 2nd year in a row he did not make the trip to Toronto. Let's hope he gets it cleared up by next season when we have a Vancouver trip. Toronto has tow players, their DP DeGuzman included, suspended and a player out to injury. Given Ballouchy's absence, here's my guess at the lineup:

Wynne - Moor - Palguta - Earls
Smith -Larentowicz - Pablo - Clark
Cummings - Casey

I expect we'll revert to the 4-4-2 'empty bucket' we used earlier this season and most of last season. That keeps the best players on the field in their natural positions, at the risk of losing possession more often. Given our scoring difficulties though, adding a second striker may not be a bad idea.

Key To Look For: Set Piece Defense. The Rapids have given up over half their goals this season off of set pieces, while Toronto has scored half their goals from set pieces. We must figure out how do keep the opposition from getting easy goals. If we can do that then we have a chance to get a point out of Canada.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Conor Casey. Unfortunately I think there's too much going against the Rapids in this one. They're going to have to change formation, they're going to be playing at a weird hour, and they're playing on the road in a place where they have never gotten a point. I expect that Toronto will get the winner late after scoring off a set piece for their first goal. Casey will continue his good run of form but it won't be enough to get a point.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rain Dampens On-Field Fireworks

The 4th of July game was more of a fizzle than a bang, largely due to the torrential downpour that hovered over Commerce City most of the night. The Rapids started well, getting a beautiful goal from Omar Cummings in the 15th minute. Casey got loose on the right on a counter-attack and Cummings read the play well, sprinting all the way down the field to take the pinpoint cross from Casey and tuck it past a diving Bouna on the near post. Colorado appeared to double their lead 5 minutes later on an almost identical play, except with Ballouchy applying the finish. However referee Toledo decided that the collision between Casey and Borman that started the Rapids break, while not a foul at the time, must have been a foul when the Rapids scored so he waved the goal off and restarted play with a NY free kick at the point of the collision. Of course he waited 2 passes and 10+ seconds before making that decision. Horrendous refereeing.

The Red Bulls took advantage of their second life less than 15 minutes later. On a corner kick Angel found space between Drew Moor and Casey at the top of the 6 yard box to bring the ball down, and a striker as good as Angel isn't going to miss an unmarked shot from there. That was NY's one really good chance, they threatened a couple of other times but the Rapids defense was always up to it. By the last 20 minutes or so, in the driving rain, NY decided getting a point on the road was good enough and packed it in to, successfully, protect the draw. The Rapids had plenty of chances but couldn't convert.

My key to the game was Juan Pablo Angel. For all but 5 seconds of the game the Rapids defense did a great job denying him the ball in dangerous positions. Unfortunately those 5 seconds was all JPA needed to get NY a point.

Other Observations:
  • On the Red Bulls goal Drew Moor made a good play to head the ball away, but was an inch or two too short. Casey needs to back him up and not be moving away from the play.
  • The team is picking up bad habits from Casey and Pablo. Last week it was Cummings looking for calls late, this week it was Clark. Really, its OK to have one Pablo on the team, you need somebody to get in the ref's mind, but more than that is a problem.
  • Clark's play has not recovered from his ACL injury. I think he's the better long-term prospect, but right now Jamie Smith is correctly starting.
  • I just want to call attention to the Rapids goal again. It was a think of beauty from both Casey, with a great pass, and Cummings, to read the play and get into position to take the pass.
  • Good to see Koz back! I think his best spot is coming off the bench if Baudet is good enough to start, but he gives Gary Smith a lot of flexibility in the back.
  • I need to tip my hat to Bouna Time!. In the second half Casey went in late for a loose ball and collided pretty heavily with Bouna. Many goalkeepers would have milked the collision to get Casey carded (and it wouldn't have been that harsh of a call). instead Bouna hopped up, he and Casey traded pats on the back, and they kept playing. the whole time one of Bouna's teammates was trying to get the card on Casey, even while the game restarted. Classy move from the former Rapids keeper.
  • We're on a 6 game unbeaten streak, but we've gotten 3 draws in the last 3 games. We need to convert those draws into wins if we're going to keep up with teams like FSL, Columbus, and NY.
Player of the Game: Marvell Wynne. He started on the right and combined well with Omar Cummings to create chances on the right. Shortly after half he was move to the center to contain Dane Richards and completely shut down the chances that were coming in that way. A great performance in two different roles.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rapids Try To Continue On-Field 4th Of July Fireworks Tradition

The traditional 4th of July game in Colorado is here. The Rapids always play well on the 4th, in 14 seasons they have 11 wins and 2 draws, with the only loss being last year to Chicago. They've also averaged 2 goals a game, and had some notable moments like the first two hat tricks in team history (John Spencer and Chris Carrieri). Game time this week is 7pm at the Dick, and the supporters groups will be starting their tailgate at 4pm. along with the traditional hot dogs, soda, and keg there will also be a shrimp boil.

As has been my tradition for 4th of July I will not be at the game and probably not watching it live. Instead I'll be celebrating my 12th wedding anniversary that night. I'm not sure how my wife has managed to put up with me for 12 years, but she deserves not having to deal with soccer on that night. ;)

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Julien Baudet (L knee strain); MF Ciaran O'Brien (L hip sprain); FW Ross Schunk (R ACL tear); PROBABLE: DF Kosuke Kimura (L ankle stress fracture)

Discipline Report:

I believe that if Casey gets through this game without a yellow he'll get one knocked his total off for good behavior. NYRB has 4 players listed out, and also played a midweek U.S. Open Cup game on the road, so they'll have some roster decisions to make. My guess at the lineup:

Wynne - Moor - Palguta - Earls
Larentowicz - Pablo
Cummings - Ballouchy - Smith

I don't see Smith making any changes. Clark didn't play well enough when he was subbed in in Houston to reclaim his starting spot form Jamie Smith. Since Koz is still probable, I assume he won't be getting back into the starting XI either. That makes Gary's decisions fairly easy.

Key To Look For: Juan Pablo Angel. He's on fire right now and the Rapids need to figure out how to deal with him. The best strategy might be for Pablo and Larentowicz to cut off the supply through midfield to him. If Angel can be contained it will be very difficult for NYRB to win this game.

Prediction: 2-1 win, brace of goals by Conor Casey. The Rapids are on a 5 game unbeaten streak and are back at home for the first time in a month. That, combined with the annual 4th of July crowd, will give them the boost they need to get past a good RBNY team.