Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Husidic Goes To Sweden

This actually happened before Christmas but I haven't gotten a chance to mention it. Baggio Husidic, who's rights the Rapids acquired in the Re-Entry Draft, has decided to decline Colorado's contract offer and instead sign with Hammarby IF in Sweden. Former U.S. Nats player Gregg Berhalter was recently named manager of the AEG-owned club and this will probably be the first of multiple signings from MLS for the team. Assuming the Rapids extended a bona fide offer to Husidic they will retain his rights should he return to MLS.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I hope all my readers have a Happy Holidays. Here's to a great 2012!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Colorado Gets New Players And New President

Busy day in Commerce City as the organization has a new face, a returning face, and a promoted face.

Let's start with the roster moves. In today's re-entry draft the Rapids selected Chicago midfielder Baggio Husidic and Houston defender Hunter Freeman. Husidic is a 24 year old former Generation Adidas player who's been with Chicago since leaving college 3 years ago. He's made 50 appearances with the Fire, scoring 5 goals.

Long-time Rapids fans will remember Hunter Freeman. He was drafted by Colorado as a Generation Adidas player in 2005 and made 47 appearances with the team. In early 2007 he was traded to NY for draft picks, then went to Toronto and IK Start in Norway before ending up with Houston last year. Colorado has 7 days to reach a contract agreement with the players.

This afternoon the Rapids announced that Chief Marketing Officer Tim Hinchey has been promoted to Team President, filling the role left by Jeff Plush last week. Hinchey has been Rapids CMO for the last year and before that he spent 3 years as Vice President of Commercial Operations for Derby County in England. He's also worked for the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets.

I'm of mixed feeling about this move. His history shows him to be much more of a sports guy than Jeff Plush was before he took the job, something I would hope to be a positive. At the same time this is the guy who Gary Smith butted heads with over player moves, an odd position for a CMO to be in. He's also the same person that said, at two different times this season, we would have a jersey sponsor very shortly and yet the Rapids still don't have one. Not what you want to see from your CMO. I think the only move is to take a wait and see position on this one. He's got a big decision to start off on in picking a head coach. How he handles the relationships that Jeff Plush made with the Supporters Groups will also be something to watch.

I've got holiday family obligations starting later this week, so I may be slow to react to any news that comes out. I'll try to keep everyone updated as much as possible though.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Rapids And Jeff Plush Part Ways

Colorado announced this afternoon that Managing Director Jeff Plush is leaving the club. Depending on which report or rumor you believe Plush either resigned (ESPN), amicably split (press release), or was fired (poster's inside sources). Regardless the Rapids will now need to find a new Managing Director and a new Head Coach.

The timing of this move is odd at best. If KSE made the decision, why would you remove somebody that you've had interviewing new head coaches as recently as last week? You were hoping to get a new coach in place in the next two weeks, but what are the odds of hiring a coach before you hire a Managing Director? The offseason now turns into chaos as the Rapids need to find a Managing Director, and then the new Director will have to find a coach. And the Superdraft is just 37 days away, with Christmas and New Year's between here and there. I hope this wasn't a sudden decision due to something happening in Jeff's personal life. Regardless of your opinion of his work nobody should have to deal with something like that.

Making this move is a good one for the Rapids. I thought Plush would be out after last year, until we made our MLS Cup run. With the exception of the new stadium bounce in 2007, attendance dropped every year under Plush between 2006 and 2009, then barely stabilized in 2010. We never found a jersey sponsor, even when adding the opportunity to be seen in CCL, despite repeated promises. Outside of the playoff run to MLS Cup last year the team was average every year Plush was in charge, only making the playoffs half the time. Generally this is not the image of a team moving forward, more just standing still. That's not what you want to see in a sports organization.

On a personal note I'm going to miss Jeff. As you can see I was not impressed by the results of his leadership but he was always willing to take the time to talk to me or answer my emails. I remember ripping into the organization in an email to him when once again we lost a "coin flip" to host a U.S. Open Cup qualifier, only to find out 30 minutes later that this is the one time the coin flip was recorded. I emailed him again with egg on my face but he just let it go and never brought it up again. Jeff seemed like a person who was really trying to do the right thing, but never had the resources to figure out and do it.

In the end though, the new Managing Director will have the same issues Plush had, mainly a parent organization that doesn't care about the team. KSE isn't going to change the budget or suddenly make the Rapids the jewel in the crown of their sports holdings. Some new blood with new ideas should be good but in the long run the Rapids are still working under the same constraints as always.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Colorado re-signs Mullan

The Denver Post is reporting that the Rapids have re-signed Brian Mullan to a multi-year deal. No details on amount or length, but I'm sure those will leak in the coming days. The article also mentions that they're working on a new contract for Steven Emory, and that they would like to re-sign Danny Earls and Miguel Comminges, but they're waiting on a new coach before making the final decision on those two.

I'm sure the news of a new contract for Mullan makes the rest of the league very happy, particularly in Seattle. ;)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Rapids News and Notes - December 3rd 2011

Sorry I went AWOL on everyone (which I'm guessing is about 5 readers at this point in the offseason ;)) for a few days, stomach flu sucks. A couple of interesting news items came out this week.
  • Colorado declined the options on Miguel Comminges, Danny Earls, Steven Emory, and Michael Holody.
Holody's 3 years of service means he's eligible to be selected by other MLS teams in next week's re-entry drafts. The other 3 are either have to work out new deals with the Rapids or hope they can get a team to trade for their rights. The only real surprise here is Comminges. I thought he played fairly well in his time here, but Colorado doesn't seem interested in keeping him. My only guess is that he had a significant salary escalation clause if his option was picked up and the Rapids want him, but not at the higher price. Declining the option gives Colorado the chance of renegotiating now.

The other oddity was protecting Danny Earls in the expansion draft but then not picking up his option. Maybe the Rapids were really hoping that Montreal would take Folan or Comminges with their current contracts and wanted to leave them exposed, which would have required them to protect Earls as one of the only three remaining internationals.
I'm glad to see things are moving quickly out at the Dick. It sounds like the team is hoping to have somebody in place before things start shutting down for the holidays. According to the Rapids the one thing all 4 candidates so far have in common is that they all have head or assistant coaching experience in MLS. Everyone seems pretty sure that 3 of the candidates are Curt Onalfo, Denis Hamlett, and Steve Ralston. My choice out of those 3 would probably be Hamlett, and I would hate to see Onalfo become the guy. I'm hoping the 4th one is a bit of a wild card like Steve Morrow or Cobi Jones but the heavy favorite seems to be Richie Williams.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Player Of The Year: Marvell Wynne

Two small pieces of news before we get on with the Player Of The Year discussion:

*Steve Nicol turned down the Rapids interview request. There was some talk about him being uncomfortable with the environment here, but all along I thought getting Nicol out of Boston, where he's been for 13 years, would be a long shot. The concerns about the FO environment are a convenient excuse, but if he was really interested in the job otherwise he would have at least interviewed with Plush and Bravo to find out how many of the rumors had a basis in fact.

*MLS announced he season will start on March 10th and the Rapids will open at home that day. The opponent is still to be announced but given the other teams having their home opener that week we know that it will be FSL or an Eastern Conference team other than DC.

The Rapids player of the year is Marvell Wynne. No offense to my Class VI and Pid Army brethren who picked Moor as Player of the Year and Kimura as Defender of the Year, but Wynne was better than both of them. His speed allowed him to team up with either Moor or the slower Marshall at center back which allowed him to push forward in the attack while his partner covered behind him. When needed he was also able to move back to his "natural" position on the right to cover when Koz was injured or pushed forward to midfield.

While playing Wynne made numerous plays that made me sure that he has committed a penalty, only to see on replay that he had made a perfect tackle or interception of the ball to deny a scoring opportunity. Wynne regularly made opposing strikers look stupid as they thought they had a clear run at goal only for Marvell to come flying by them and take the ball off of their foot. His speed in the attack didn't get him credited on many goals (2 assists total) but he regularly pulled defenders out of position and chased down loose balls that allowed Colorado's attack to succeed.

Reviewing my game recaps there were other strong candidates, Drew Moor, Jeff Larentowicz, and surprisingly Matt Pickens. Moor gets points for playing out of position most of the season, but loses those points since he wasn't as good in his new position at left back. Pickens started out the season on fire, but his late season gaffes (highlighted by the goal in Vancouver) really prevented him from getting the award. Ginger Ninja had a solid season but when push came to shove the fact that I think Wynne would start for almost every MLS team based on his play this year was enough to give him the edge.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rapids Lose Nyassi To Montreal

In today's expansion draft the Montreal Impact picked Sanna Nyassi from the Rapids. No team could lose more than one player, so after that selection the rest of the exposed players were safe.

Losing a player is never ideal, but given the possible outcomes this was probably the best result we could have hoped for. Due to the fact that the Rapids were handcuffed by the requirement to protect 3 of their internationals they were always going to have a player that was appealing to Montreal available. Some of the names of players who should have been exposed thrown around in Nyassi's place in the last 48 hours (Mullan, Pickens, Mastroeni, etc.) would have easily been taken by Montreal, or if they weren't somebody like Kimura would have been taken.

The difference between Nyassi and those other names is that if everyone is healthy those other players are all likely starters. Nyassi is a likely reserve/late-game sub if everyone is healthy. If you have to lose somebody, its better to lose a depth player than a starter.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rapids Reveal Protected List

Colorado just unveiled their protected list for the expansion draft:

Conor Casey
Omar Cummings
Danny Earls - International
Jeff Larentowicz
Pablo Mastroeni
Drew Moor
Brian Mullan
Joseph Nane - International
Matt Pickens
Jamie Smith - International
Marvell Wynne

You can see that the pictured Kosuke Kimura is not on the protected list. He's the big surprise. There's also a few raised eyebrows at Danny Earls being protected as one of the internationals instead of Miguel Comminges.

Personally I think protecting Mullan and especially Pickens over Kimura is a huge mistake. Koz is the most underrated defender in the league. I don't see how Montreal doesn't snap him up. My only hope is that there's some deal already worked out where Montreal takes him and trades him back for allocation money, similar to the pre-draft deal the Rapids worked out with Portland last year and Anthony Wallace.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Coaching Search, Week 2

First of all, Colin Clarke's name has been floated in some circles as a possible candidate, but he just accepted the Carolina Railhawks job, so we can rule him out.

Today Jeff Plush did an interview with that lays out what they're looking for in a coaching search, and a bit about what happened with Gary Smith. also got an interview with him that has a few more details.

Plush stated that they're looking for somebody with experience working in the U.S. system. That will rule out any surprise international signings. They also want somebody who will play a more attacking style, possibly with a Latin influence. Its not hard to read between the lines and see that Plush was disappointed with the focus on European players over Latin players under Gary Smith.

Everything that Plush says sounds good, but talk is cheap. Let's see what happens when the new coach starts making moves.

Right now if I had to put money on somebody it would be Denis Hamlett. I wouldn't rule out John Murphy, Steve Nicol, or a current assistant coach like Steve Ralston though.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Expansion Draft Looms Ahead!

Today the Rapids released information about the expansion draft, namely which players qualify as internationals. That means its time for my take on who to protect.

Automatically protected under homegrown player rule:
Davy Armstrong
Josh Janniere - I'm not sure how he qualifies as homegrown for the Rapids, but maybe the status transfers with the player.

Internationals (Must protect 3):
Miguel Comminges - He seemed to lock down the left back spot once he showed up.
Danny Earls - He's the last man standing. Folan should not be protected and nobody is likely to take Smith given his ACL injury
Joseph Nane - As a Canadian he'd be an attractive target for Montreal

Remaining 8:
Conor Casey - Duh
Omar Cummings - See Casey
Kosuke Kimura - Possibly the most underrated defender in the league, and the heart and soul of the team.
Jeff Larentowicz - See Cummings
Pablo Mastroeni - I see this as a duh but many don't. I also believe, based on gut feel, he has a no-trade clause and must be protected anyway
Drew Moor - See Larentowicz
Sanna Nyassi - Toughest choice to make as there are 3-4 players (Mullan, Pickens, Wallace, etc.) that could be protected here. I think Nyassi is the best combination of likely to be taken and most damaging to lose
Marvell Wynne - See Moor

So that's the 11. Some tough decisions due to having to protect a couple of internationals we don't really care about. Maybe the Rapids can pull off another lat minute trade like they did last year and move some internationals off the roster.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Life After Smith, Day One

Well the first 24 hours after the Smith announcement has brought some interesting fall out.
  • Nick Thomas tweeted that Paul Bravo is not a candidate for the job.
  • The Rapids asked for, and were denied, permission from the Portland Timbers to speak to John Spencer about the job.
  • ESPN's Jeff Carlisle dug into the story a bit to find out what the real issues were.
I never thought Bravo was going to be a candidate, and I knew the Timbers wouldn't allow the Rapids to take a run at Spencer.

The most interesting story was the ESPN article. Some good information in there. The part about the CMO being involved in roster decisions is odd. I can understand that if they were discussing the potential return of signing a big-name DP player, because you want to consider extra ticket sales, sponsorships, jersey sales, etc. when you sign a player like that. I don't know why a CMO would be involved in deciding to sign Ababio or Comminges though.

One quote from Smith that I want to highlight:
Not once did I ever come into conflict about wanting a designated player or needing more money, either personally or in terms of support
Given this can we put the whole "KSE didn't give Smith the money he needed for players" meme behind us? Apparently Smith doesn't think money was an issue.

In the long run it appears Smith wanted final say on roster decisions, and Plush (and/or Bravo) wanted it to be more of a collaborative effort. In the end that's a hard gap to bridge and I'm not surprised that the parties went their separate ways.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Smith Out As Head Coach

Well, that time off was a grand total of 3 days. Within the last hour the Rapids have announced that Gary Smith will not be returning as head coach in 2011.

Smith was out of contract and it had been reported a month or so ago that Colorado and Gary had agreed on financial terms for a new contract. However Smith was reportedly unhappy working with Technical Director Paul Bravo and stated that he wasn't willing to sign the new contract until that issue had been dealt with. Apparently the Rapids weren't willing to do enough to suit Smith and both sides decided to go their separate ways today.

It won 't surprise regular readers to learn, unlike a large portion of the Rapids fanbase, that I'm OK with this move. Smith has been the best coach in Rapids history, but that's not a high bar to cross. Clearly he was more successful than any coach in Colorado history, bringing the Rapids their only significant trophy in last year's MLS Cup. Outside of that great playoff run though, Colorado has continued to do just enough in regular season play to stay in the playoff hunt but not really dominate at any point. His roster handling during the CCL was poor and his decision to not even travel to Metapan for the away game was a bad decision. Combined with the "either Bravo goes or I go" stance he seemed to take in his public comments recently it was enough for me to be OK with him going.

Now the question is where the Rapids go from here. Steve Guppy is the first name that pops to mind, following the same path from assistant to head coach as Gary Smith took. He was brought in by Smith though and may leave with him. Some other names that have been floated have been former NE coach Steve Nicol, former Rapids player and Fire coach Denis Hamlett, and former Rapids assistant coach John Murphy. I'm sure we'll see more names surface in the coming days.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


As expected, the Rapids season ended last night. It was always going to be an uphill battle and the mountain just got too steep.

Colorado started 6 regulars, 2 backups, and 3 reserves and Kansas City took full advantage. On a free kick in the first half they found the open area that Drew Moor normally fills, and Palguta failed to fill last night. The strong wind caused the ball to die a few feet short of where Pickens expected it and it was headed home to give KC a 1-0 lead int he game and a 3-0 lead in the series. At that point it was a done deal. There was no way the Rapids team on the field was going to score 3 goals to tie the series.

Honestly at that point I hit the fast-forward. Due to work commitments I didn't even get to start watching the game until 9pm and I didn't need to be up until 11 to watch the end of the season. I didn't miss much though as the Rapids still had no attack. In the second half the SporKC's put a final nail in Colorado's coffin. Once again on a set piece they found the weak spot in the Rapids defense where Drew Moor would normally be and headed the ball home for a second goal and a four goal lead in the series.

Unfortunately a couple of Rapids players decided that if they couldn't win they were going to get their shots in. Both Thompson and Nyassi took cheap shots at the KC players in payback for what had been a physical, but not dirty, series from KC. Very disappointing.

In the end what killed us was our lack of offense. In this game, where the Rapids had to win by 2 and needed to score 4 by the end of the game, they only got 4 shots on goal total. We got a combined 5 shots on goal in the two games, 1 more than the total goals KC scored. With no offense there's no way we were going to continue the season.

In the end though, we played with the scudetto on our chests, the silver ball at our feet, and the championship banner on the wall. That makes this season unforgettable regardless of the results.

I'm going to take a break for a few days, but I'll be back next week with a season recap, my choice for Player of the Year, and where I think we should go from here.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Season On the Line Tomorrow

That's Jamie Smith dressed up as the Mad Hatter for Halloween yesterday.

Another quick turnaround as the Rapids face the end of their season tomorrow in Kansas City. Down 2 goals Colorado mus win by 2 to force overtime and PKs or 3 to win and move on. On top of the other problems a storm is rolling into KC tomorrow night (probably the front edge of what's rolling into Denver tonight) which could make the game sloppy. Game time tomorrow is 6pm and the game is on FOX Soccer Channel. The viewing party for Class VI and Pid Army is at the Streets of London pub.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); FW Caleb Folan (L ankle/L knee sprain); DF Kosuke Kimura (L foot fracture); DF Drew Moor (R shoulder AC joint sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R knee ACL tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Pablo Mastroeni (concussion)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: Tyrone Marshall

Ugh, just a disaster. Pablo has already been ruled out, so that's 5 starters and 3 of their backups out. Meanwhile KC just has the same 4 players out that were out for Sunday's game. On the bright side, this might be the first time all season Pickens isn't on the injury report! At this point we're almost at the "pick names out of a hat" level of roster construction, but here's my best guess:

Comminges - Wynne - Palguta- Earls
Mullan - Thompson - Larentowicz - Nyassi
Cummings - Kandji

IThat's really a pure guess though. Pickens, Wynne, Cummings, Nyassi, Comminges, and Mullan will be starting their 4th game in 12 days so they may be reaching the end of their fitness. We could see Ababio, Nane, Akpan, or even Holody depending on who feels like they can go.

Key To Look For: We must score early to open the game up. The longer the game goes without the Rapids scoring the more KC will 'park the bus' and we've seen our inability to break that sort of defense down over the second half of the season. If Colorado can score early it will force KC to play and attack rather than sit on a one goal lead for over a half, which will continue to give us opportunities to get the second goal.

Prediction: 0-0 draw. I'm just not seeing a Rapids offense that has been shut out in 2 of the last 4 games (3 of 5 if you include the Santos game) breaking down a KC defense that is just trying to protect their existing 2-0 lead. KC doesn't need to score and won't really be pushing the game, and the longer it goes scoreless the better for them. Colorado will have chances, but not good ones and they won't convert them, leading to the end of our season.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rapids Fall And Can't Get Up

Last night the soccer gods turned away from the Rapids. I'd say they were too busy with golden boy Tebow, but he might have had a worse day than the Rapids. As a Seahawks fan I feel no sympathy. :D A combination of a lack of offense and bad luck really destroyed Colorado's hopes of repeating.

The home side controlled play for most of the first half, but as we've seen in recent games, they could not convert that into goals. Meanwhile they picked up 3 significant injuries in the first half. The combination of those two things killed them. In the first 15 minutes of the second half KC took advantage of the weakened lineup for two goals and a red card and the game was over.

I'm going to dispense with my normal game review, because there's really only a couple of points to make. This loss is directly attributable to the injuries suffered. Folan left after 23 minutes due to landing badly and tweaking his knee. He's now out 2 weeks. Kimura left after 36 minutes due to breaking his left foot, he's out 4-8 weeks. Moor left after 60 minutes due to spraining his shoulder, he's out 2-4 weeks. We used all 3 subs in the first 60 minutes for players who were injured and will miss the return leg in KC. To their credit, all 3 players tried to play through their injuries before finally having to be subbed out.

Kimura's injury was the killer, and Moor's didn't help. Because of Koz having to leave Marshall was brought in to play center back and Wynne was pushed into Kimura's right back role. Marshall let Bunbury get behind him and couldn't quite catch up, allowing Teal to beat Pickens for the first goal. It was close enough that I have no doubt Wynne could have caught him if he was still playing center back. 10 minutes later Marshall again allowed Bunbury to slip behind him in the box and when closing him down tapped him and gave him the opportunity to go to ground, drawing a PK and a red card for Marshall. Marshall was also trying to cover for the injured Moor, who came out of the game at that point. Down 2 goals, a man, and out of subs the Rapids were done.

That leads me to the second point. Toledo had a bad night in the center, but it wasn't the travesty of justice a number of Rapids fans are making it out to be. The big misses by Toledo was the lack of a foul and yellow card on the collision that injured Kimura and the lack of any cards on the scuffle in the box between Kamara, Pickens, and Comminges. Other than that he really didn't miss that much. Unless Kamara's swipe rose tot he level of a red card (I haven't seen a replay, but it doesn't seem like it) at best a couple of KC players have additional yellow cards. What killed us were the injuries that resulted from the physical, but not dirty, play by KC and our continued lack of creativity on offense. Toldeo didn't cost us this game.

Player of the Game: Miguel Comminges. After a couple of game to settle in Comminges is looking like a solid pick-up. Last night he controlled the left side of defense and even made a couple of good attacking passes. In a game that went sideways due to injuries it was hard for anyone to stand out but I thought he had a good game.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Battle Of I-70 Starts Tomorrow

A quick turnaround for the Rapids as they are back in action tomorrow. The first leg of the conference semi-finals sees the SporKC's coming back to town. It will be the final home game of the season, no matter what happens, so let's go out with a bang. The tailgate starts at 2:30 with kickoff at 5:30. For those of you who can't make it you can see the game on FOX Soccer Channel.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); MF Jamie Smith (R knee ACL tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Pablo Mastroeni (concussion)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain);

KC has 4 players out, so both teams are at the same numeric strength (Since Pablo is not expected to play. Colorado is missing 3 of its 4 best players in Casey, Smith, and Pablo though (Wynne being the 4th, who will play) and that's going to be a challenge to overcome. Here's my guess at the starting XI, but its really a guess:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Thompson - Larentowicz - Nyassi
Cummings - Folan

I'd really prefer to see Nyassi up top and Nane in midfield (and Folan in a suite somewhere) but Gary Smith seems to still like the Irishman. LaBauex, Akpan, or ven Earls could get a start though, so its a real toss-up.

Key To Look For: Our midfield. No Pablo and no Smith means that its a patchwork group in the middle of the field. That could put a real strain on an offense that's had a hard time generating chances in the best of times lately.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Larentowicz. Between the injuries and short rest before this game I don't see the Rapids getting a win. There's just too much stacked against them. Ginger Ninja will score off a free kick, but the defense won't be able to keep KC off the board.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One Game Down, Three To Go

A cold night in Commerce City worked to the Rapids advantage as they got a first half lead and then suffocated any chances the Crew might have had to get back into the game. Colorado won 1-0 and moved on to the Conference Semi-Final round to face Kansas City.

The Rapids took control early as they had the majority of play in the first half. With the exception of about a 10 minute period in the middle of the half Colorado had the run of play and were the most dangerous team. At halftime they had 62% of the possession. The attacking paid off right before half on a nice bit of passing from the team. Mullan played a ball through the Crew defense that Kimura ran onto. Cummings came in as the trailing player and was left unmarked and Koz played the ball back to him. Omar one-timed it past an airborne Hesmer for a great way to end the half.

The second half the Crew came out a bit more aggressive and the Rapids had to absorb more pressure. Slowly though Colorado retook control and wore the Crew out. With the cold weather and the altitude Columbus will seemed to fade as the half went on. By stoppage time the Rapids actually had the best two chances, but were unable to double their lead. That turned out to be unnecessary though as the team closed out the win and sent Columbus home for the season.

My key to the game was how Ginger and Nane/Thompson controlled the midfield. It turned out Jamie Smith partnered with Ginger and brought a good deal of stability to the center of the park. While things weren't perfect the Rapids dominance in possession was largely due to the midfield paring.

Other Observations:
  • The goal was a textbook example of moving the ball and finding the open man. It reminded me of how Cummings and Casey have linked up in recent years. Maybe this will give Omar a jump start for the playoffs.
  • The Rapids played one of the better team games of the season. Players were interchanging well and working together more cohesively than in many games.
  • That said, Folan was awful. There was no desire in his game and no effort in his play. There's no reason he needs to be on the field in a Rapids jersey again.
  • The bad news out of this game was the injury to Jamie Smith. Today's MRI revealed that he tore his right ACL and has months of rehab ahead of him.
  • The Wells Thompson sub was made at the right time, I just would have taken Folan off.
  • Nyassi and Cummings made some Crew defenders look stupid last night. It was fun to watch.
  • I was surprised to see Ross LaBauex as the sub for Smith, I was expecting Nane.
  • The Rapids move on to face KC at the Dick on Sunday. Kickoff is at 5:30.
Player of the Game: Brian Mullan. He drove the offense multiple times and set up a great goal. He was the engine of the team last night.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Defense Of The Cup Begins Tomorrow

The Rapids start the playoffs tomorrow night at the Dick against the Columbus Crew. 4 games in the next 11 days separate them from another trip to MLS Cup. Tomorrow night its simple, win or go home. There will be 30 minutes and, if necessary, PK's to decide a winner. Of course last year when Colorado started their run to MLS Cup they did it by beating the Crew in the first round. Kickoff tomorrow is at 8pm, so the tailgate starts at 6, regardless of how cold it is. Those of you that can't make it can watch on Altitude in Colorado, or streaming on elsewhere.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Pablo Mastroeni (concussion)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)

Columbus has two questionable players and one player suspended, so both teams are pretty close to equal strength. Given that its win or go home, there shouldn't be any reason to hold anyone back who can go. My guess at the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Nane - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Nyassi

Recent articles make it sound very unlikely that Pablo will be cleared from his concussion and able to play. That's a big loss for the team that Nane (or possibly Thompson) will have to step up and make up for. Otherwise I expect our normal second-half starting XI to start.

Key To Look For: How do Ginger and Nane/Thompson hold the midfield. If the Rapids can hold the ball in midfield they can make Columbus work at altitude on short rest. If they can't we'll see Colorado revert to long ball again.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Moor. I think the cold weather, short rest, and the natural conservative play of a knockout game will keep this low scoring. Eventually Columbus will wear down with the altitude and additional travel and start giving up free kicks and corner kicks. Moor will convert one of them for the winner.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Colorado Ends Regular Season With A Win

After a first half completely bereft of ideas by either team (I commented at half that the best hope for either team to score was an own goal) the second half perked up and resulted in the Rapids clinching a home playoff game.

The half started on a bad note though as Vancouver scored 4 minutes in. A free kick from Alain Rochat bounced in front of goal and into the net with Pickens standing their with his arms pulled back like he thought it was going out of play. Just a horrible read by Matt. 10 minutes later Vancouver would repay the favor on the other end. The Rapids got a free kick just outside the box, Nyassi tapped it and Smith stopped it so Ginger Ninja could power it home, and he did, right between former-Rapids keeper Joe Cannon's legs.

The rest of the game was playing out to the point where I thought my prediction of a 1-1 game with Larentowicz scoring was going to be right on, but an unlikely source had other ideas. In the 84th minute after Folan had been dispossessed in the box Kandji (or a Vancouver defender, hard to tell) got to the ball and played it back to an open Wells Thompson. Wells took a couple of touches and launched an arcing shot from 20 yards that beat Cannon and gave Colorado a come-from-behind win and a home playoff game.

My key to the game was what offensive ideas the Rapids had. Despite the win and two goals though, they really didn't have any. One goal from allowing Ginger to slam a free kick at the goal, and a long shot from Wells Thompson aren't exactly things you plan for.

Other Observations:
  • The Vancouver goal is all on Pickens. The ball was a good 30 yards away from goal and actually hit the ground in front of goal with no Whitecap able to make a play on it. Matt has to stop that.
  • Other than the goal the Whitecaps only got 1 shot on target, mainly because they had n o real ideas but also because or defense did a good job of shutting things down.
  • Omar Cummings was non-existent in this game. I just hope that he can find his mojo in the offseason.
  • Far too many times the Rapids went for the long unsuccessful pass down the field instead of the shorter, more patient, pass. Kimura seemed particularly guilty of this.
  • Good to see Jamie Smith able to play, we'll need him in the playoffs.
  • The "thug" Rapids finished with the second lowest foul total in the league.
  • Playoff soccer starts Thursday night at 8 at the Dick versus the Columbus Crew!
Player of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz. not only for the goal, which was solid, but for being a team leader in Pablo's absence.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Warning! Whitewater Ahead!

The wettest fixture in the league happens tomorrow as the Whitecaps and Rapids face off in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Its also the final game in what has been a somewhat soggy season for the Rapids. Colorado has clinched a playoff spot though, and with a win they will clinch home field for the wild-card round. Kickoff of the game is at 5pm and will be on Altitude 2, which is channel 105 on Comcast in the Denver area. Class VI and the Pid Army will be watching from the Celtic in LoDo.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Pablo Mastroeni (concussion); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:

Vancouver has 5 players questionable or worse, and having already been eliminated from playoff contention they're just trying to avoid ending with the worst record in the league. After our game in Mexico on Wednesday and our playoff game next Wednesday its hard to know what our starting XI will be. Here's my best guess though:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Earls
Mullan - Nane - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Nyassi

In this group only Kimura, Wynne, and Larentowicz started in Mexico, and seem to be the ironmen that will hopefully be able to keep playing into the playoffs. Really though this is a crap shoot depending on what Smith wants to focus on.

Playoff Scenarios: The Rapids can clinch home field in the wild-card round a number of ways:

A win on Saturday
a Houston loss on Sunday
a draw and a Columbus loss on Saturday or a Houston draw on Sunday

Key To Look For: Are there any offensive ideas? Lately its been pretty barren beside get close tot eh goal and hope it goes in.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Larentowicz. Vancouver is a bad team, but the Rapids seem bereft of ideas right now and would be lucky to get more than a goal. Given that the team is tired with their second road game in 4 days I don't see more than a draw and hoping for other results happening.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rapids CCL Run Ends In 2-0 Defeat

Colorado went to Mexico hoping that they could steal a win. Santos obliged them by starting their reserves. Then we found out the Rapids started half of their reserves and that was the end of that hope.

Colorado controlled play for much of the first half, but every time the ball got to the attackers it died. Kandji and Folan had no real idea what to do with the ball when they got it, and the few times they got a good look they couldn't put the ball on target. At halftime I was optimistic that the Rapids could steal a win, but that ended quickly with a great volley by Santos in the 55th minute to go up 1-0, and then they doubled the lead in the 67th minute with another good volley. After that Colorado was done.

Colorado had one final hope tonight, if Isidro Metapan and Real Espana played to a draw the Rapids would get through. Unfortunately Metapan won 3-2 and claimed second place in the group. The Rapids failed to advance because their reserves only got one point against Real Espana, the weakest team in the group. A win in either game would have been enough to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.

Other Observations:
  • Why does Gary Smith continue to try to put out the minimum lineup he thinks he can get away with? There was no reason to fly Nyassi and Cummings all the way to Mexico, then bring them off the bench after we're down 1-0.
  • I appreciate the effort Kimura made at right mid, but he's far too defensive for that role unless your other midfielders are attack minded (and last night they weren't).
  • Folan, still awful.
  • Ceus had no chance on either goal and put in a solid night.
  • In general the defense and midfield got their jobs done, the attack just died whenever it got much past midfield.
Player of the Game: Jeff Larentowicz. Solid night leading the team but he couldn't get it done without attacking help.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Colorado Tries To Qualify for CCL Quarterfinals

Tomorrow night the Rapids play their final group stage game of the Champions League in Torreon, Mexico against Santos Laguna. With a win Colorado will clinch 2nd place in the group and a spot in the quarterfinals. With an extremely unlikely 4 goal win they will win the group. A draw or loss does not eliminate them, but it leaves their fate in the hands of Real Espana and Isidro Metapan who play on Thursday. A draw between them would allow the Rapids to finish in 2nd regardless of their result against Santos.

Colorado got beat down 4-1 in their home match against Santos with a lineup that was half starters and half reserves. The Rapids have brought most of their starters with them to Mexico. Other than Pablo and Smith, who are recovering from injury, the only other starters that didn't travel were Mullan and Pickens. There are still enough reserves on the trip that none of the starters have to play, but on first appearance it seems like Colorado is going all out for the win.

It won't be easy though. Santos clearly out-played the Rapids in September. Even though Colorado didn't play well the Mexicans would have beaten any MLS team on that night. If that team shows up again the Rapids stand no chance, regardless of who they use. There are two pieces of good news though. First, Santos Laguna has just moved to the top of the table in their domestic competition and has a good chance to extend that lead on the road this weekend. Second, they've already qualified for the quarterfinals of the CCL and they'll win the group as long as they don't lose to the Rapids by 4 or more. Since the Rapids only need a win to qualify they won't risk the result and try to score more if they get a comfortable lead. This may lead the home side to start some reserves and/or not put a high priority on the result.

Because of the huge question marks around both starting lineups I'm not going to try to make a prediction. If Santos rolls out their starters there's little to no chance the Rapids win. If they go with a largely reserve lineup though, there's a opening for Colorado to take advantage of. Their best chance is to score early and shock Santos Laguna. If the Rapids can get an early lead and keep the pressure up Laguna may fold up shop and just do enough not to finish 2nd in the group.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rapids Do Enough To Clinch Playoff Berth But Not RMC

Colorado was the better team and controlled play for most of the game, but for the first time in Rocky Mountain Cup history there were no goals to be had in the game and both teams got a point. With it FSL maintains control of the Cup for a 5th straight year.

It was really a tale of two halves. In the first the Rapids had almost complete control of the game. They dominated possession and created multiple chances. Their best chance was within the first 10 minutes as Wells Thompson had an open net but somehow kicked the cross from Cummings behind him. The Rapids also created a great chance for a PK, but Nyassi chose to avoid the contact and take a dive instead of going through Rimando to get the easy call. Rimando was forced to come up big to block another Thompson shot right before half.

The second half was just ugly soccer. Neither team looked good and it was mainly poor midfield possession for 45 minutes. The Rapids did create a couple of good chances. Drew Moor needed his right leg to be about an inch longer as he got on the end of a free kick looking at an open net, but his stretched food could only knock it over the bar. Caleb Folan forced Rimando to tip one over the bar off a header from the top of the box, then minutes later slammed another header off the bottom of the bar only for it to hit the ground on the line and bounce out. FSL never got a shot on goal the whole game, but Colorado couldn't get one into the net.

My key to the game was just win baby. Nope.

Other Observations:
  • The draw, combined with Kansas City beating New York on Saturday, clinched a playoff spot. The Rapids will be the #2 or #3 wild-card. The #2 team hosts the #3 team in the wild-card round.
  • Pablo suffered a mild concussion when he was hit by Olave. This was the first time he didn't play the full 90 in an RMC game he appeared in.
  • Hard to say much about the defense and Pickens as FSL never really threatened. The couple of times they did they were up to the challenge.
  • Thompson has to finish that early chance. There was no reason for him to botch it that badly.
  • For the first half Mastroeni and Larentnowicz were able to set up inside the FSL half and it seemed like they were pumping ball after ball back into the attacking third. Nice to see, would have been nicer to see some finishes.
  • The Rapids had 26 crosses towards a defense that was larger than our attackers. We might want to re-think that strategy after the first 10 or so.
  • The next FSL fan who wants to talk about the Rapids being "thugs" and stuff it. FSL was fouling at a 2-1 clip and they weren't exactly minor taps.
  • Along those lines the Rapids are in line to have the second lowest total of fouls committed this year. Some thuggish play huh?
Player of the Game: Caleb Folan. Odd for a sub, and a forward, to get this in a scoreless game but Folan created 2 good chances which is more than anyone else did.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Final Home Game Of The Season Means RMC Time!

Tomorrow its on. Rapids - FSL with the Rocky Mountain Cup on the line! Need I say more?

OK, I will, but only because the tailgate is almost as impressive as the game. About 5 hours from now the crack Class VI/Pid Army chefs will be arriving at the Dick to start the grill on the biggest tailgate they've ever done, a full pig roast! It will take more than 16 hours for it to be ready for the final blowout of the season (barring a home playoff game). The tailgate starts at 5:30 with kickoff at 8:30. Anyone who's unlucky enough not to make it to the party can watch the game on ESPN2.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: Caleb Folan (L ankle sprain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: Miguel Comminges
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: FW Caleb Folan; MF Brian Mullan; FW Sanna Nyassi
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; MF Wells Thompson

FSL has 6 players questionable or worse and 2 players suspended, including 6-time Rocky Mountain Cup winner Kyle Beckerman. Obviously that favors the Rapids. Folan's new addition to the injury report shouldn't hurt much. My guess at our starters:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Moor
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Nyassi

I think the Mullan - Moor combo is more likely than Moor - Earls to replace the suspended Comminges. Otherwise I don't see any reason that the standard starting lineup won't be in place. There is the Santos game next week, but with this being a Friday night game that gives the starters another day of rest.

Rocky Mountain Cup: The Rapids need to win by 2 to reclaim the Cup. A draw or a loss means FSL wins it, and a 1 goal wins leaves the teams even on points and goals so the Cup is not won, but it stays where it is (in the hands of the FSL fans). Just a reminder:

Key To Look For: There's no "key" to this game. To honor the late Al Davis, "Just win, baby".

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Nyassi and Cummings. I hate to predict this, because it leaves the RMC in the hands of FSL, but I don't think the Rapids have a two goal win in them. They'll take the lead but give one back before getting the winner and clinching a playoff spot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Turmoil In The Front Office/All-Time Team Recap

I was just going to do a recap of my All-Time Team tonight but the Denver Post had an interesting article about tension in the Rapids Front Office this afternoon. It seems that Gary Smith is happy to sign a new contract for next year, but not if he has to continue to work with Technical Director Paul Bravo.

Apparently Paul and Gary don't see eye to eye on some of the decisions made this season. There's no details as to which issues have caused the conflict, but given some of the reaction I've heard from various points in the Front Office I'm willing to bet that some of it stems from the choices made for the CONCACAF Champions League. Needless to say this leaves Managing Director Jeff Plush a big problem he'll have to handle quickly to keep it from becoming a distraction.

If it were up to me I would tell Smith that Bravo's the Technical Director next year and he can either accept that and sign the contract offer or he can choose to leave. Its no secret that I have been less than thrilled with Smith's decisions this year and I'm not sure I want the Rapids to bring him back anyway, despite him being the best coach in Colorado history (unfortunately not a tough bar to cross). To add this on top of it means I wouldn't be all that interested in going out of my way to make Smith happy.

On to better things. Over the course of the season I've been picking my Rapids All-Time Team, which I finished last night. For those who came in late or just to jog your memories, here's the full team:

Head Coach: Gary Smith

Bench: Hahnemann, Bent, Moor, Karanak, Ben Dayan, Valderrama, Bravo

Assistant Coaches: Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick, John Murphy

What do you think? Who would be on your team? Discuss in the comments or in the BigSoccer thread I created.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Bench

The bench is kind of the "Honorable Mention" category of the All-Time team. Players (and coaches) that were in the running but didn't quite make the cut.

Marcus Hahnemann - GK (1997-1999): Hahnemann was the first player that developed at the Rapids and moved on to better pastures. Marcus stepped in after a bad 1996 season and gave the team a rock to build from.

Jason Bent - D (1998-2000): Bent has been the only player to really claim the left back spot for more than a season. While the skill level of the league has passed the level he played at, at his time he was solid player out wide and going forward.

Drew Moor - D (2009-present): Honestly if I had done this list next year Moor probably would have been a starter. He hadn't missed a game as a Rapid until late this season, and his goal-line clearance at the end of MLS Cup preserved our first championship.

Aitor Karanka - D (2006): Karanka had more skill than any defender we've seen on a Rapids uniform. The only 3-time Champions League winner to ever play for the Rapids he brought a wealth of experience, and even showed up at the start of training camp in 2007 hoping to work out a new contract even though the team didn't want him.

Dedi Ben Dayan - M (2005-2006): Ben Dayan was electric on the left side of midfield. He was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Eventually though he returned home to his family in Israel, making for a far too short career in Colorado.

Carlos 'El Pibe' Valderrama - M (2001-2002): Probably the biggest name (and certainly the biggest hair) not to make the starting XI. El Pibe was the best player in MLS in its first decade and even in his final year in Colorado he was still hitting pinpoint passes to the forwards. The one knock against him was that it seemed like he never moved outside a 20 yard circle all game, and played almost no defense.

Paul Bravo - F (1997-2001): The only member of the Gallery of Honor not to make the starting XI, Bravo was the closest thing the Rapids had to an offensive powerhouse in their first 5-6 years. Until Conor Casey arrived Bravo held most of the team scoring records. Now he serves as the team's Technical Director. If I could have figured out a way to put 4 forwards on the field I would have.

Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick - Coach (1997 - 2000): As I said in my post about Gary Smith, Mooch was the only other head coach even in the running for this list. Until Gary Smith's MLS Cup win last year Mooch was the only coach to take the team to a final, and his record is second only to Smith's. Sadly Mooch passed away in 2006.

John Murphy - Coach (2006 - 2008): Murphy was largely credited for the Rapids great draft classes in 2006 and 2007, and coaching the reserve teams to their Reserve Championships in 2006 and 2007. Those teams produced players like Omar Cummings, Kosuke Kimura, Nick Labrocca, Bouna Coundoul, and Jordan Harvey.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Head Coach

The head coach for the Rapids All-Time Team is Gary Smith.

How Joined: Hired as a liaison for the Arsenal Academy.

Years In Colorado: 2008 through present

There have been 6 total head coaches in Colorado's history, but there were only two under consideration for this spot, Glenn 'Mooch' Myernick and Gary Smith.

Gary Smith joined the Rapids in February before the 2008 season through Arsenal with the idea that he would work with the Arsenal youth academy program based out of DSG Park. He was almost immediately promoted to assistant coach under Fernando Clavijo though, a move rumored to have been made by the Front Office and not Claivjo. When Clavijo's family issues forced him to leave the team Gary was given the title of interim head coach for the last third of the 2008 season, then had the interim label removed shortly after the end of the season.

He took over a Rapids side that was teetering on the edge of playoff elimination and kept them ion the race until the final day. 2009 played out similarly as Colorado was eliminated with their loss to FSL in the final game. In 2010 Gary finally had all the pieces and while the team only finished 7th overall they clinched a playoff berth with 2 games to play, and of course they took that momentum all the way to their first MLS Cup victory. This year the team has played very similar to prior years under Gary Smith, and once again we are on the edge of clinching a playoff spot or being eliminated with 2 games left.

In comparison to the rest of the coaches in team history only Mooch comes close. Myernick took over a worse team and let them to MLS Cup in his first year (losing to D.C.), and he also took the Rapids to their only U.S. Open Cup final (losing to Rochester). However Gary Smith's teams average 1.44 points per game in league play, the best in team history (Mooch's teams averaged 1.35). The MLS Cup combined with the best overall record beats Mooch's two finals for the all-time best coach.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: All-Around Forward

The starting all-around forward for the Rapids All-Time Team is John Spencer.

How Acquired: Transferred for free from Scottish side Motherwell.

Years In Colorado: 2001 through 2004

How Departed: Retired after the 2004 season.

For the final player pick on the All-Time team I went with possibly the biggest heart the team has ever had (though Kimura gives him a run for his money) the wee Scotsman John Spencer. The heart and soul of the Rapids in the early 2000s, Spencer was the face of the team under Tim Hankinson. His fiery play led the team and made him a fan favorite.

In his first season Spencer scored 14 goals in 22 games, a Rapids record for goals in a season (since broken by Conor Casey), and was named to the league's Best XI squad. After an injury-plagued 2002 he repeated his 14 goal total in 2003, once again making the league Best XI and becoming one of the finalists for the MVP award. Spencer scored the first hat-trick in Colorado history, and he still ranks in the top 3 in most of the Rapids goal-scoring records. He is probably the best international player ever found by the Rapids, with Anders Limpar being his only real competition for that title.

Beyond the numbers Spencer brought a level of emotion to the field rarely seen in Colorado. As a fan you knew that he was giving it all for every minute he was playing, and he would have nothing left when he came off the pitch. Not only that, but woe be to the referee or opposing player who Spenny thought had done him or his Rapids teammates wrong. Somehow he had a way of showing his...displeasure...with whomever ticked him off without looking like he was losing it like Pablo often does. He was rightfully named captain most of the time he was in Colorado and was the team leader on the field.

That wraps up the starting lineup for the Rapids All-Time Team. This series is not over though as there are other positions still to be named.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rapids Learn You Wynne Moor With Good Defense

Sorry for the double pun. ;) Saturday night a solid game from Colorado resulted in a much needed 3 points. Much like MLS Cup (but not quite as bad) the game wasn't pretty but it was successful.

The Rapids had the better of the play for most of the first half, punctuated by 2 shots on goal between the 23rd and 26th minute. The first forced a big Hartman save off a Sanna Nyassi blast from about 25 yards out. The second was a header from Drew Moor crashing the box on a corner kick. That one was not saved and the Rapids had a 1-0 lead. Dallas wasn't going to go away quietly though and turned up the pressure at the end of the half. In the final 5 minutes the former Burn forced Matt Pickens into two huge saves to preserve the lead and a 3rd play right at the post that probably would have gone outside the post but better safe than sorry.

The second half was more even and much sloppier. Despite the ugliness of the play though, only one shot on goal was recorded. Jamie Smith blasted it from 30 yards out to force another save. That doesn't mean there weren't plenty of chances. Nyassi missed an open net from a wide angle 30 yards out. Dallas had a chance to hit an open net when Pickens came out and didn't get the ball but they put it over the crossbar. At one point a Dallas attacker had it on his feet at the 6-yard box but couldn't get a shot off. Things got really interesting in the final 15 minutes when Comminges (correctly) got his second yellow and the Rapids played down a man. At that point though it looked like Colorado outplayed Dallas for the rest of the game.

My key to the game was how well splitting the team worked. Well 2 wins in a week is about the best you can ask for.

Other Observations:
  • Once again Gary Smith proves that what he says to the media and what takes place ain't ever exactly been similar (to paraphrase the great Jayne Cobb) On Tuesday he was quoted as saying that anyone who went to Metapan would play no more than a sub role in this game, leading me and others to question why he was sending Omar Cummings. Saturday night Cummings started.
  • Drew Moor's goal was a textbook example of a corner kick play. Perfect cross into the box from Nyassi and Moor crashed in to hammer it home.
  • Pickens really showed the two sides to his game this season. Great saves at the end of the first half, but twice in the second half he looked indecisive on whether to stay on his line or come out. The first was cleared by Wynne, the second resulted in that chip over the bar mentioned earlier.
  • Kimura may never turn out to be a great player, but he's turned into a good one. just another solid performance from him, especially after he had his bell rung.
  • Along those lines, buy a Kimura shirt to support Japan relief!
  • Comminges got two correct yellow cards. The first for time wasting when he grabbed the ball for a throw-in then wandered over to the bench for water. If he gets the water before grabbing the ball he probably gets away with it, but that was too blatant. The second was for clearing out a Dallas attacker that was going to beat him.
  • Dallas was forced to make a sub in the first half to bring Jackson off before he was red-carded. The difference was that Jackson committed a yellow-card foul, and committed a second close-to-yellow-card foul a few minutes later. By not being as obviously a yellow card as Comminges foul it allowed the ref to give Jackson a stern talking to, which prompted Dallas to sub him out.
  • Nyassi really should have hit the mark on his 30-yard miss. Hartman charged out but Nyassi beat him to the ball and Hartman slid to block a shot before Nyassi did anything. Nyassi could have taken an extra second to make sure he got it on target, touched it around the sliding Hartman and shot it on target, or with his speed touched it around Hartman and dribbled in closer before shooting.
  • Great use of subs by Smith. Marshall came on for Mullan to restore the 4-man back line after the Comminges card, Thompson came in to spell Smith and add some defense to the midfield, and Kandji came in for Cummings to run at the tired Dallas defense.
  • Kudos to Gary Smith for getting two wins with his strategy this week. I'm still not convinced we couldn't have done that with Smith coaching both games though.
  • The 3 points gets us 2 points from clinching a playoff spot, and as teams below us knock each other out I'm feeling fairly confident that our current 45 points will be enough.
  • Still, the next game is the Rocky Mountain Cup match against FSL. We need to win that to win the Cup back and as an added bonus we'll clinch a playoff spot. The Rapids have released the first of a Kings of the Rockies series of videos. you can see your humble writer holding the trophy at the 1 minute mark and again about 1:40.

Player of the Game: Marvell Wynne. Time and time again when a Dallas attack looked promising he was there to shut it down.

Friday, September 30, 2011

MLS Cup 2010: The Rematch (Part 2)

"No disrespect to the Eastern Conference, but tonight was the championship" -- Dallas defensive midfielder Daniel Hernandez after winning the Western Conference Championship in 2010

I just wanted to throw that in as a "friendly" reminder about our guests tomorrow. I expect him to get the official Class VI welcome for 90 minutes! Prior to giving Dallas a repeat of their MLS Cup defeat Class VI and the Pid Army will be hosting their annual chili cookoff at the tailgate (this year with a corn bread category!). Due to the contest the tailgate starts at 4pm with kickoff at 7. for those of you unable to make it the game is on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
PROBABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: FW Caleb Folan; MF Brian Mullan; FW Sanna Nyassi
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; MF Wells Thompson

That's probably the best injury report we've seen all season. Other than Casey and Wallace who's seasons are over everyone is available. Dallas is missing 3 players to injury. Both teams played midweek Champions League games on the road but Colorado won with primarily reserves while Dallas got beat down with a number of starters. My best guess on our lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Smith
Folan - Nyassi

Barring a pre-game injury this is almost guaranteed to be the lineup. Gary Smith said that the group that went to El Salvador wouldn't do any more than be subs for this game so the starting XI is pretty clear.

Key To Look For: Was the split team plan this week successful? Smith made a controversial move to essentially split the the team in half, including the coaching staff, for the two games this week. The first game went to plan with the 3-1 win in Metapan, now the "first team" has had a week of rest an no travel so they should be able to run through Dallas.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Nyassi and Larentowicz. Dallas will be tough over the first 60 minutes forcing the teams to trade goals. With their midweek game Dallas will lose steam late and Nyassi's speed will beat them late for the winning goal.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'll Take My Crow Now Please

So, yeah, about that whole post where I said the Rapids will be beat by Metapan and the roster selection was not great. Well Colorado proved me an idiot with a 3-1 win last night. The reserve squad, lead by Steve Guppy and augmented by Wells Thompson and Tyrone Marshall, pulled together in a tough environment and dominated the scoreboard.

There was a pretty big mistake to start the night. The Rapids stayed in San Salvador, about a 2 hour drive from Metapan. It wasn't until the team got to the stadium for pre-game that the equipment manager realized he forgot a bag at the hotel, the bag with the team's cleats! Immediately they called their contact back and the hotel, he found the bag, and a police escort started towards Metapan. The problem was that kickoff was in 90 minutes and starters Wells Thompson and Andre Akpan didn't have boots! A number of players had kept their cleats with them, and they were able to borrow some from Metapan and run to a sporting goods store to buy others, but Thompson and Akpan were stuck wearing cleats that were too big. Just as the teams were taking the field for kickoff the bag arrived and the referees were forced to handle a delay as Ian Joyce and Omar Cummings helped Wells and Andre get the right shoes on. The rest of the starters without their normal shoes changed at half.

In the 31st minute Ross LaBauex played a ball in front of Eddie Ababio. Ababio chipped it over the keeper for the first goal. This was Ababio's first professional appearance (later int he game he would be replaced by Davy Armstrong who was also getting his first professional playing time as the Rapids first homegrown player). The lead only lasted 5 minutes as Stweard Ceus was called for a 6-second violation. I have literally never seen that called in a professional game. The ensuing indirect kick inside the box was finished off to level the score. Metapan was very unlucky not to score right before half as they had a wide-open volley go off the crossbar.

Right after half Amarikwa put the Rapids back into the lead with a volley off a header form the top of the box that the Metapan keeper fumbled and let get behind him. Cummings finished off the scoring with a classic Omar goal, running onto a long ball ahead of the defense and beating the keeper. At that point Metapan knew it was over and folded up shop.

As you can see, the Rapids proved me wrong. Colorado was really outplayed for a good part of the game, especially in the first half, but they manged to do two things that have been lacking recently. The first was finishing their opportunities. The 3 goals were really their only 3 good chances in the game (and Amarikwa's was only half a chance at best) and they finished all of them. The second was that they didn't make any defensive blunders. The couple of good chances Metapan got came from them outplaying us (or int he case of the goal, a horrible call), not from the keeper playing a bad ball or a defender not seeing an attacker on a pass. Combined they were worse on the field but better on the scoreboard.

My humble pie now eaten, I still stand by my belief that Smith skipping this game was an insult and a poor decision, regardless of the result. Just because the Rapids won doesn't change the questionable decision-making process.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Colorado Proves CCL Game Is Meaningless

Colorado faces Isidro Metapan tonight in El Salavador at 8pm MDT. The game is delayed until 10:30pm on FOX Soccer Channel but can be watched live on the CONCACAF Champions League site. The supporters groups are gathering at the British Bulldog for this one, presumably to watch the live stream on big screens.

The Rapids sent a mostly reserve squad to Metapan, with Cummings, Thompson, and Marshall as the only players who get regular playing time. Apparently the game is so unimportant that Gary Smith can't be bothered to travel, sending assistant coach Steve Guppy with the team to coach the game.

I actually agree that this game should have a lower priority. Our playoff chances are teetering on the edge while our odds of advancement in the CCL are very low. A loss in either of our next two games eliminates us, and even a draw makes it difficult. Getting wins in El Salvador and Mexico would be a long shot for a fully healthy Rapids squad, with the injuries and the importance of our remaining league games its time to punt. Had we started full lineups in either (or both) of the Real Espana games and gotten the wins that were there for the taking we'd be in a different situation, but since we didn't we need to move on from the CCL.

That said, its ridiculous that Gary Smith isn't with the team. He's the head coach and this is a first-team game. Unlike the players, the only physical exertion he has to perform at a game is to get off the bench to pass instructions once in a while. A flight to El Salvador and back shouldn't cause any problems with that. Its less than 200 miles further to Metapan from Denver than to Boston. If the Rapids had a midweek road match in New England, would he skip that as well?

Sending Omar Cummings, and to a lesser extent Wells Thompson, is also an odd choice. Cummings is our best healthy striker with more goals+assists than anyone on the team. Thompson is a backup, but with Jamie Smith having a history of pre-game injuries Wells has been pressed into service on a moments notice more than once. Now, with a critical league game on Saturday, he sends them both with the reserves to Metapan and says anyone on the trip won't play more than a substitute role on Saturday. So we can expect to see Folan and Nyassi up top and we have to hope Jamie Smith stays healthy.

Clearly this is a game Gary Smith has written off. If he can't be bothered to show up and support his team, why should I bother even watching it?

Prediction: 2-0 Rapids loss. A reserves team couldn't get it done against a weaker Real Espana team at home, there's no reason to think they can get it done in El Salvador.

Monday, September 26, 2011

This Is Getting Old...

Sigh. Another game, another lack of attack until its too late, another failure to win. The Rapids spent a good 60 minutes doing essentially nothing in the offensive third, and by then they were down 1-0. They showed some life in the last 30 minutes and were somewhat unlucky not to find two goals, but at the same time they were lucky to get one.

Once again Colorado conceded an early goal. This time it was an 18th minute 30+ yard blast from Khari Stephenson that Pickens inexplicably just chested right back to the center of the box. Wondolowski beat Moor to the ball and it was an easy shot past Pickens for the 1-0 lead. Wondo got another good look in the 35th minute, but Pickens was up to the challenge this time around.

After half the Rapids started to get moving, and they controlled the game for the final 30 minutes. This was largely due to San Jose taking former-Rapid Jacob Peterson off and Colorado putting former-Earthquake Brian Mullan on. The Rapids created plenty of chances but mainly converted them into corner kicks that were cleared. In the 70th minute Drew Moor got a snap header off form a corner, only to see 'Quakes keeper Jon Busch make a last ditch save to push it over the bar. On the ensuing corner though the ball pinballed around in front of net and Moor was able to slam it home to level the score. Folan almost won it in stoppage time, but Busch once again cleared it off the line.

My key to the game was our ability refocus on the league after the end of our CCL hopes. It seems like we haven't been able to focus on anything recently.

Other Observations:
  • Pickens is the only person to blame on the goal. A MLS-level keeper has to do better with a long-range shot than chesting it back into the center of the box. Moor let Wondo get behind him, but the difference was a split second reaction to a scenario that should never have happened.
  • At one point int eh second half Koz freed Cummings down the right side and Omar played a crossing ball right into the path of an onrushing Folan. It was an easy shot to put on target and force a big save. Somehow Folan managed to kick it out for a throw-in behind him on the far side. *shakes head*
  • Nyassi had 2-3 good chances to get a goal, only to come up with weak or off-target shots.
  • Comminges still hasn't quite settled in with the team yet, but I'm liking most of what I'm seeing.
  • Somebody smack the DJ that decided to play 'Rock the Casbah' as the fans left the stadium. Do they not know their league history?
  • And for those of you who don't (or don't know music) the San Jose supporters group is called the Casbah, because the Earthquakes were originally called the Clash. The Clash is also the group that sang 'Rock the Casbah'.
  • The Rapids have now gone 7 games in all competitions without a win. This ties Smith's record from 2010 and 2009. Unfortunately looking at our up coming schedule with games @Metapan, against Dallas, against FSL, and @Santos it could be a while before we see a win if we don't figure things out.
  • Luckily we finish @Vancouver, the worst team in the league. 3 more points will all but wrap up a playoff spot for us.
Player of the Game: Drew Moor. Not only for the goal, but for keeping San Jose quite most of the night back in his regular center back spot.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Western Foes Meet In Rematch Of Eastern Championship

The last time the Earthquakes were in town the Rapids sent them packing after a crazy goal by Koz and the trophy celebration to the left sent Colorado to MLS Cup. The stakes aren't quite so high tomorrow night but if the Rapids have any hopes of repeating they need to repeat the result from that night to solidify their playoff position. Kickoff tomorrow is back to the normal time of 7pm, which means the kegs will be tapped at 4 and the grills fired up at 5. I hope to be there by 6 after the Washington-Cal game. ;) Those of you not going can watch the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); Anthony Wallace (R knee arthroscopic surgery)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Caleb Folan; MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; MF Wells Thompson

The injury report is getting better, especially since Jamie Smith was able to play for a few minutes on Wednesday night. San Jose is missing 9 players to injury or suspension, so they're in bad shape. My guess on our lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Comminges
Mullan - Pablo - Larentowicz - Thompson
Cummings - Nyassi

I don't think Smith will get the start, but he'll be the first start off the bench, spelling Thompson who played 90 on Wednesday. Mullan and Koz also played 90, but I think they'll both start at home with Mullan being another likely sub.

Key To Look For: How well can we refocus? The CCL is gone at this point, the only thing to play for is the league. Can we put ourselves in that mindset?

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Nyassi and Larentowicz. San Jose is a bad team on the road after playing in Portland on Wednesday. If Colorado can't beat a team like that then we might as well close up shop for the season. Nyassi uses his speed to get behind the defense for a goal and Ginger ninja powers one in from long range.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Love It When A Plan Falls Apart

In 2005, a not-so-crack soccer team was sent to the reserves by a coach for skills they didn't possess. These men promptly escaped from a minimally-interested Front Office to the Denver underground. Today, still not missed by the fans, they survive as minimum wage MLS players. If you have a game...if no one else cares...and if you can find them...maybe you can start...The B-Team.

Ironically because it was a CCL match and not a league game the A-Team theme was not played before the game like normal last night. Just in writing that I think I spent more time thinking about the game than Gary Smith did prior to writing his lineup card. In a game we had to win to hopefully have a chance to get to the knockout rounds we ran out a b-team lineup supplemented by Koz and Mullan (who were by far the players of the game). Not surprising, given their results in the reserves, we got a b-team result in the form of a 2-1 loss.

And really, that's all the time I want to spend on this game. Our CCL campaign is essentially over and Gary Smith doesn't seem to care, so why should I?