Friday, April 29, 2011

Rapids Try To Put Dark Week Behind Them

Its been a rough week for the Rapids. The Mullan incident hung over the team all week, and they're in the middle of a 3 game losing and scoreless streak. They try to right the ship tomorrow when the Chicago Fire come to town. Game time tomorrow at the Dick is 7pm. Class VI and the Pid Army are having a themed tailgate of Chicago dogs starting at 4pm in the regular spot. The game is also on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Eddie Ababio (R hamstring strain); FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle strain); FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: FW Caleb Folan (R quadriceps strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Brian Mullan (10 games)

Wow, that's an ugly list of injuries and suspensions. The Fire have 5 players questionable or worse, including former Rapid Cory Gibbs. In today's update Smith made it sound like Casey won't go, and Folan was more likely to go than Wynne. This makes the lineup pick this week a little tricky. My best guess:

Kimura - Moor - Marshall - Wallace
Thompson - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Folan

If Wynne can go I think Marshall sits. If Folan can't go I think Nyassi takes his place. Given Nyassi's play in Denver I bet that Smith keeps him coming off the bench unless he needs another forward, making Thompson the obvious pick to replace Mullan.

Key To Look For: At this point the Rapids need to rediscover the form that carried them through the last 3rd of last year, the playoffs, and the first 3 games of this year. If the can't do that the details won't matter.

Prediction: 2-1 Rapids win. Goals by Cummings and a weird goal. Could be a defender on a header, could be an own goal, could be a PK. I just feel like we're going to get one of those crazy goals out of nowhere. The shakeup in the defense will prevent us from getting a shutout but the Fire are not a good team and even with our makeshift lineup we can do enough to win.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mullan Gets 10 Games

The league handed Mullan a 10 game suspension and a $5000 fine today. That's 9 games on top of the 1 automatic game a player gets for a red card. This ties the 10 games given to Ricardo Clark for kicking Ruiz on the ground in a dead ball situation for longest suspension in league history. Mullan has chosen not to appeal.

In my opinion, it was too much.

The only way this makes sense to me is if harsh tackles, injury or not, get more severely punished than they have in the past. The league said today that they told the players in preseason they were cracking down on preseason to protect players from injuries and to clean up the game. If Mullan had done this in week 1 or 2 then this punishment makes sense.

But Mullan made his tackle in week 6, and there have already been numerous tackles of the type MLS was supposedly cracking down on this season that went unpunished or lightly punished. Beckham has gotten yellows for a couple of tackles that could have easily hurt a player. Sounder Servando Carrasco stomped Patrick Nyarko's leg a couple of weeks ago. Live it looked like he could have broken his leg. Luckily he didn't and Nyarko was able to play the next game. He received a yellow in the game which the Disciplinary Committee upgraded to a 1 game suspension and a $500 fine, right in line with MLS precedent.

So despite their talk MLS didn't crack down on bad tackles until Mullan committed a horrendous tackle. If Carrasco has gotten 3 games and Beckham had gotten a game for his tackles, then I wouldn't complain about 10 games for Mullan. What Mullan did was horrendous and deserves to have the worst suspension in this new crackdown era.

By not cracking down on the tackles that didn't result in injury but easily could have, then cracking down on Mullan, the league is telling its players its status quo unless you really hurt somebody. Given the percentage of tackles, even bad tackles, that result in serious injury is very low, that's not much of a new deterrent for players to stop doing making them. Their odds are very good they'll still get away with it.

If MLS cracks down going forward then I'll have no problem with the 10 games. Given the league's track record so far this season and their inconsistency over the history of the league I have no expectation that they will. Because of all that I think Mullan got about 4 games more than he deserved.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dark Day Ends With A Loss

Obviously the post game focus has been on the Mullan-Zakuani incident. I covered that in length yesterday so I won't say any more about it other than correct red card to Mullan doomed the Rapids in the game. Playing a man down for 87 minutes is too much to overcome.

I thought Colorado actually had the better play most of the game but that was partially because Seattle got an early goal. Up a man and a goal and on the road at altitude the sounders seemed happy to let the Rapids control play. I don't think they wanted to look as bad or let Colorado have as much possession as they did, but they were certainly in no hurry to take control of the game either. The Rapids took full advantage, but could never find the final pass. This was mainly due to the Sounders having an extra man to cover any lapses.

The goal was just a jailbreak with too many Rapids caught up field. Both Moor and Kimura had pushed forward on the wings and Seattle took possession and pushed the play. Moor was tracking back and Marshall tried to pressure the ball-handler, leaving Wynne to cover both forwards. Not surprisingly he was unable to. Montero was left with a wide-open shot. Surprisingly he still shouldn't have scored as he hit it right at Matt Pickens. Somehow though Pickens had a "Rob green" moment and let the ball hit his hands and go under his legs for the goal. Poor defense all the way around.

My key to the game was Folan and Cummings working together. They didn't, at all. To be fair, after the early red card Cummings shifted back into Mullan's spot in a 4-4-1, but it felt like Folan and Cummings had never played together before. Disappointing after having 9 days off to figure it out.

Other Observations:
  • Its a bad sign when the player that most looks like scoring the whole game is the right back.
  • Folan had a couple of chippy fouls, including one he was yellow carded for. In general he hasn't looked good since the DC game. We need Casey back.
  • Where has Omar Cummings gone? He hasn't been on his game at all this season. If he keeps this up we won't have to worry about losing him in the summer transfer window.
  • Shortly before half I realized the Rapids were playing schoolyard soccer with players just going wherever they felt was best. Pablo was up high on the right wing, Larentowicz was playing center back, Jamie Smith was in the center, and Moor was playing left wing. I understand formation changes are necessary after a red card, but this felt like the team had no plan.
  • I'm not thrilled with the sub pattern in this game. All 3 subs were like for like. Defender for defender, d-mid for d-mid, and winger for winger. I would have liked to see more attackers put in down a goal at home.
  • The refs did a great job not allowing this game to get out of hand.
  • We desperately need a win against Chicago to stop this slide.
Player of the Game: Kosuke Kimura. He seemed to be the only player that looked like he wanted to tie the score.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

On Mullan And The Rapids Being Thugs

My standard game review is coming tomorrow, but i wanted to get my comments on what happened to Steve Zakuani down before MLS makes its ruling. This is a long post, so settle in. Anyone who watched the game or any other MLS game this weekend has heard (or seen) what happened. In the 3rd minute Brian Mullan went in two-footed on Steve Zakuani and got his leg, breaking the tibia and fibula (both lower leg bones). He was rightfully red carded and Zakuani was taken to Rose Medical Center where he had successful surgery on his leg. He'll be able to travel home to Seattle in a few days.

Let me get this out first. Mullan was completely in the wrong, he made a tackle that has no business being in the game, and he should be heavily fined and face a long suspension.

Not surprisingly this has led to two days of extended discussions on BigSoccer about the deserved punishment, Mullan's rep, and if this was a result of the long history of the Rapids being thugs. There are many people saying that Mullan should be suspended for a great length of time. They're talking about Mullan being suspended for the rest of the year, for as long as Zakuani is injured, and there's even one idiot Sounders fan who's calling for MLS to fire Mullan and black ball him from the league (since the league controls all player contracts). All is this is knee-jerk overreaction crap.

Let's look at the history of some major fouls and suspensions in MLS;
  • Dema Kovalenko broke Brandon Pollard's leg in 1999 and Ronnie O'Brien's leg in 2002 (both Dallas players), both times he served a 1 game suspension if I remember correctly
  • Tyrone Marshall broke Kenny Cooper's leg in 2007 (Yeah, Dallas has been really unlucky with 3 broken legs), he got a 3 game suspension.
  • Rapids fans will remember Dario Sala (Dallas again!) going bonkers after we eliminated them from the playoffs in 2006, punching Jovan Kirovski in the back of the head and dropping Hunter Freeman with a punch to the jaw before Petke and Cannon corralled him. Sala was suspended 6 games.
  • Ricardo Clark kicked Carlos Ruiz (Yes, still Dallas) in the shoulder after Ruiz was on the ground from a foul and the whistle had been blown. He got a 9 game suspension, the longest in MLS history.
In another recent example from outside MLS Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross broke the leg of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey earlier this year. Shawcross was given a 3 game suspension.

As you can see the idea of a season long (28 games) or until Zakuani returns (at least 28 games) suspension doesn't fit with the precedents set both by MLS and by other leagues. MLS and the EPL both gave 3 games for their most recent tackle that broke a leg. MLS gave 6 and 9 games for actions that took place off the ball in dead ball situations that had nothing to do with playing soccer.

There's also been a call to use this as a turning point for the league, to show how they are going to crack down on thuggish play. I understand that, and if MLS wants to do that I can understand. But that still doesn't justify a double-digit game suspension based on precedent. People point to the foul that Mullan didn't get called seconds before and the fact that he immediately went after Zakuani to show that this wasn't a soccer play, he was head-hunting. At the same time there have been Sounders fans who think he was frustrated by his poor play in losing the ball in that incident and was going to get the ball back recklessly, not head-hunting. Clearly his intent is difficult to determine. His post-game comments look bad in print but the video of him making them shows that he's remorseful for what happened. Obviously there are going to be a number of factors going in to the Disciplinary Committee's decision.

I think a suspension of 5-9 games, along with a large fine. is appropriate and I expect the Committee will end up in that area, maybe on the low side. Anything more than 9 games and the committee is saying a possible, but poorly executed, attempt to play the ball is worse that players starting fist fights and kicking players on the ground. At the same time this was a serious incident and rises above Kovalenko's 1 game and Marshall's 3 games.


The incident has once again brought to the forefront a debate that has taken place mainly this off-season. Is Colorado a dirty team and/or filled with thugs? The general BigSoccer belief is that they are. I think they're wrong.

Let's look at the starting eleven.
  • Matt Pickens - Normally goalkeepers aren't considered in the debate of dirty or thuggish teams, but MLS employs Matt Reis so I include Pickens. He has no reputation as a thuggish player.
  • Kosuke Kimura - Koz actually has a pretty clean rep for being a defender.
  • Marvell Wynne - His speed pretty much keeps him from needing to make any dirty plays.
  • Drew Moor - For a center back he has a remarkably low number of cards.
  • Anthony Wallace - He's too young to have any sort of rep, but so far he hasn't been dirty.
  • Jamie Smith - Certainly a hard player, but not thuggish
  • Omar Cummings - The next dirty play he makes will be his first.
That's 7 of our starting eleven with essentially no rep as thugs or dirty players. The other 4 are definitely more in question.
  • Jeff Larentowicz - As a defensive-minded midfielder he's had his share of cards and bad tackles. I don't think he's been dirty, but he's been on the edge and he's gone over it from time to time.
  • Brian Mullan - Before the Zakuani tackle he was a physical player that pushed the boundaries. He has a temper and that has gotten him in trouble int he past. The Zakuani tackle may push him into the thug category, but prior to that I wouldn't have labelled him as such.
  • Pablo Mastroeni - Certainly the most physical player on the team, perhaps in the league. His play has never been dirty but it certainly falls into the category of thuggish. Of course all defensive midfielders have some thuggishness in their game, it goes with their position.
  • Conor Casey - Probably the closest thing the Rapids have to a dirty player, but he still doesn't qualify. He's a physical player that will play like a thug if given the opportunity.
So that's somewhere between 2 and 4 players on the Rapids that could be considered thuggish. Of course I could name 2-4 players on a number of MLS teams that could be considered thuggish.
  • FSL - Borchers, Olave, and Kyle "I learned d-mid from Pablo" Beckerman
  • Dallas - Hernandez, Ihemelu, Shea (and last year they had Harris and Sala)
  • Chivas - Braun and Conrad
  • NY - Mendes and Richards
  • etc.
All MLS teams have a couple of physical players that push the limits. That's the nature of the league. So the Rapids can't be considered thuggish just because they have a couple of those players.

Let's look at the "thuggish" stats for the last few years, fouls, yellows, and reds:
  • 2010 - Next to last (15th) in fouls committed, 5th in yellows, 4 way tie for 11th in reds
  • 2009 - 11th in fouls committed, 9th in yellow cards, next to last (14th) in reds
  • 2008 - 10th in fouls committed, next to last (13th) in yellow cards, 4 way tie for 4th in reds
As we can see, the Rapids have been in the bottom half of the league in total fouls all 3 years, and the bottom half of the league in each card category 2 of the 3 years. Not the numbers you would expect from a "thuggish" team.

So why the belief that the Rapids are a thuggish team when a majority of the player reputations and the numbers don't back it up? I think its two things. First the Rapids aren't a "pretty" team, so they aren't watched on a regular basis by many neutrals. So when the Rapids play a physical game like MLS Cup, when everyone was watching, or has incidents like Brian Mullan's tackle, the reputation of Colorado gets set based on a couple of incidents instead of their whole body of work. Secondly two of the Rapids best known players are Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni, the two players who play the most thuggish soccer in the starting XI.

So when people think of the Rapids they think of two thuggish players, a physical MLS Cup game, and (now) Mullan's tackle. Those of us that watch the Rapids week in and week out know that its an unfair label to place on the team based on their whole body of work.

I will say that this season the Rapids have gotten more physical than in past year. I don't know if that's due to a change in the team mentality or just a temporary thing due to the number of injuries and new starters. This debate has been running since MLS Cup though, so clearly the play this season can't be the reason for the reputation, since it started prior to the season. I hope that this is a short-term thing but its something to keep an eye on this season.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Personal Battle - 2011 Part 1

As long time readers of this blog know, the Rapids-Sounders matches always leave me in a bit of a pickle, as I was born in Seattle and raised in the Seattle-area. Every year that goes by makes it a bit easier though, especially since a couple of cousins have become die hard Sounders fans and season ticket holders. Tomorrow night the teams face off at the Dick. Kickoff is at 7:30, so the tailgate starts at 5:30. Bail out of work and start your weekend with the best tailgate in the league. For those of you that can't make it the game will be televised on FOX Soccer Channel.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle strain), FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (R Achilles strain); MF Sanna Nyassi (L hamstring strain)

Disciplinary Report:

Casey's injury is a big one obviously, but otherwise our starting XI is pretty intact. Seattle only has former Rapid Pat Noonan on their injury report, so they should be basically at full strength. My best guess at the lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Moor
Mullan - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Folan

Gary Smith talked today about keeping Marshall on the back line due to his success against FSL. I do think Pablo will be ready to go after missing the last couple of games, but Casey won't start. Of course with the injuries and the defensive line talk this is a big guess.

Key To Look For: Folan and Cummings. They didn't have much luck working together int he last couple of games, but know they've had 9 days of practice to figure it out. We need to start scoring again.

Prediction: 2-1 Rapids win. Goals by Folan and Cummings. I think the strike duo finally get on the same page, but it takes a while. The Sounders will be able to use the lack of cohesion up front to keep enough possession to get a goal, but the altitude and the Rapids dominance at home will lead to 3 points.

Picture courtesy of the GoalSeattle archives. The Sea Dogs were a predecessor of the Sounders, coached by our old friend Fernando Clavjo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

International Rapids

An interesting discussion came up on BigSoccer this week about how the Red Bulls have started a lineup of 11 players from 11 different countries. So I decided to take a look at the Rapids roster to see how close I could come. I can come up with a Rapids lineup of 11 players who have eligibility for 11 different national teams, but one has already passed on it. We would have to play a 3-5-2, but its a lineup I could see us using in a U.S. Open Cup game or maybe even a CONCACAF champion's League game against a very weak opponent or if we had already qualified for the next round.

GK: Ceus - Haiti*
DF: Kimura - Japan
DF: Moor - U.S.
DF: Earls - Ireland
MF: Nyassi - Gambia
MF: Nane - Cameroon
MF: Janniere - Canada
MF: Smith - Scotland
MF: Kandji - Senegal**
FW: Cummings - Jamaica
FW: Folan - England***

* = Born in the U.S. to Haitian parents, plays for the Haitian National Team
** = Kandji was born in Senegal but claimed asylum in Gambia and has announced his intention to play for Gambia
*** = Born in England but has chosen to play for Ireland due to Irish grandparents

This doesn't include Pablo, who was born in Argentina (and obviously chose to play for the U.S.), or Marshall who's Jamaican.

What does this mean? Nothing really, but its an interesting look at the roster which covers 12 different countries on 5 different continents. Only Oceania is not represented on thee team.

Friday, April 15, 2011

News and Notes, 4/15

The Rapids played FSL in a reserve match yesterday before coming back to Denver. I'm not planning on doing regular coverage of the reserves but, as in this case, if there's any interesting news I'll make sure to note it.
  • Before the game Colorado announced the signing of first-round pick defender Eddie Ababio, who then started the reserve game. This gives us one remaining open roster spot.
  • The Rapids also brought academy players James Rogers and Ricardo Perez, both of which got about 10-15 minutes at the end of the game
  • The reserves did lose 2-0
Quincy Amarikwa's injury that took him out of the game Wednesday night turned out to be high ankle sprain which has placed him in the injury list indefinitely.

Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni have both been upgraded on the injury report. If we played this weekend there's a good chance Pablo could play while Casey would be 50/50. Luckily they both have another week to recover before our home game with Seattle.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

4 Man Refs Beat 11 Man Rapids

The undermanned Rapids played Fake Salt Lake even for 92 minutes. Then the refs got involved and the Rapids were out-manned 15 to 11 which resulted in a 1-0 loss.

The weather was as bad as we've seen it in years, cold, wet, window, and snow at the end. This may have been an equalizer for the teams as the Rapids were missing 3 starters (Casey, Mastroeni, Wallace) and lost two more players to injury during the game (Amarikwa, Smith). Despite that the Rapids out shot FSL and while ceding the majority of possession had battled them to a 0-0 draw.

Then, in the 92nd minute, Brian Mullan was whistled for a foul outside the area. The foul was a bit iffy given what had gone uncalled earlier int he game, but it wasn't completely wrong. On the ensuing free kick FSL hit the near post. The rebound fell to Paulo who muffed it and bounced it forward to Espidola. Espindola poked it into the back of the net for the winning goal. The only problem is that Espindola was a good yard offside when Paulo muffed the ball. Its not even close when you look at the replays. It should have been waved off and the Rapids would have been able to run the clock out on the ensuing free kick, taking a big point out of Sandy. Instead FSl got all 3 points and we got hosed.

My key to the game was possession. Our possession was significantly improved this game and this allowed up to keep FSL from having too many significant chances.

Other Observations:
  • Despite getting hosed by the refs it was a good game from the Rapids. Given the number of injuries the Rapids looked equal to the team many think to be significantly better than any other in the league.
  • Cummings wasn't happy about coming out. I wasn't thrilled with the move, and it really hurt when Amarikwa got injured just a minute after coming on. That's some bad luck.
  • Jamie Smith had a great night in the middle of the park. Clearly he's not sending Pablo to the bench but its good to know that we have that option when we need it,
  • Folan's game against DC is looking like a bit of a flash-in-the-pan but let's see what he can do when our full midfield is there to support him.
  • As bad as the refs screwed up on the final goal, they were great with their offside calls the rest of the night.
  • The Rapids now need a 2 goal or better win in the final home game of the year to claim the Rocky Mountain Cup.
  • Next up, a 5 game stretch against beatable teams (Seattle, Chicago, @Houston, @New England, @DC)
Player of the Game: Tyrone Marshall. Getting his first start with a new back line he was solid. Jamie Smith was also in the running.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rocky Mountain Cup!

Its that time of year again! The Rapids make their way West to play FaKe SaLt LaKe. I shouldn't need to remind anyone that on top of this being a big regular season match the Rocky Mountain cup is at stake! Unfortunately the "geniuses" at MLS League HQ decided this rivalry wasn't important enough and scheduled the game for a Wednesday night. They were probably afraid that it would overshadow the new Cascadia rivalries the league is so busy promoting. There won't be a huge presence by the Rapids fans in SLC, but there will still be a contingent there. Class VI and the Pid army has done a great job in setting up viewing parties up and down the Front Range, head over to to get a full list to find out where to join other fans. Kickoff tomorrow is at 7pm MDT and the game will be on Altitude 2.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain), FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (R achilles strain)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:

Obviously the injuries to Casey and Pablo are going to be huge in this match. FSL is fairly healthy and is only missing Will Johnson to injury (he is also suspended). I expect some lineup changes in this one, but here's my best guess:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Smith - Larentowicz - Thompson
Cummings - Folan

The Nane-Larentowicz midfield pretty much failed at keeping possession last week so that has to change. Smith seems like the obvious choice. Nyassi proved to be a bit of a hothead last week and is probably better coming off the bench, so Thompson is the obvious choice to take Smith's spot outside.

Key To Look For: Possession, possession, possession. If we can't control the ball, especially in midfield, we're toast. We can't let FSL set up a shooting gallery like Dallas did last week.

Prediction: 2-0 Rapids loss. I think this is a first for me, predicting a Rocky Mountain Cup loss. I'm looking at our possession the last couple of games and the fact that FSL is playing at a high level right now and I'm not liking our chances. with Pablo and Casey I think we could pull an upset and have an expectation of a draw but without them I think a draw would be a very good result. If we get a goal early I think we can surprise them and get at least a point but the longer the game goes 0-0 or if we give up the first goal the worse our chances get.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rapids Burned In Dallas

Ugh. Just ugh. That was a disaster the likes of which we haven't seen in a while. I'm going to skip the general recap (because there's nothing worth recapping) and go straight to the observations.

My key to the game was the Rapids possession. I was correct that it would be the key to the game, because the fact that we couldn't keep possession is essentially the reason the game was so painful to watch.

Other Observations:
  • The loss of Pablo hurt more than I expected. We've seen him and Larentowicz struggle to maintain possession the last couple of games, but Jeff and Nane had absolutely no possession in this game and that destroyed what little offense the Rapids had.
  • Nyassi should have seen red. I have no idea what the ref was thinking.
  • And he was only 1 of 2 or 3 Rapids that could have been sent off. The thuggish frustration fouls as the game went on was embarrassing as a Rapids fan.
  • Its hard to tell if Cummings and Folan were having a bad night or just could never get the ball to do anything.
  • Wallace looked like he pulled up with an injury, to add to our already lengthening injury list with Pablo and Casey.
  • A rare bad night for Moor, finished off by a nasty foul that, while yellow, could have had him seeing red with some refs.
  • Despite the horror of that game, we're still the ones wearing the scudetto, not them. :)
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. Yes, in a game we lost 3-0 I'm picking the goalkeeper as the player of the match, which tells you how bad the game was. Without Pickens it could have easily been 5 or 6 to 0.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MLS Cup 2010: The Rematch (Part 1)

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

Since making that statement Dallas has yet to win a game, while Colorado has won every league game, including the 2010 MLS Cup over Hernandez and his Dallas teammates. Tomorrow the teams meet again with a chance to break both streaks (but we hope not). The game will be nationally broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel with kickoff at 7pm MDT.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L hamstring strain), FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: DF Kosuke Kimura (L hand strain), GK Matt Pickens (R groin)

Disciplinary Report:

As reported earlier this week, Casey is out for 2-4 weeks. I expect both Pickens and Kimura to play, and of course we've known Kandji was going to be out most of the season. Dallas has 3 defenders listed as questionable or worse and defender Jackson was red carded last week and will miss this game. My guess on our lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Folan

Gary Smith might get tricky and mix the up the lineup with a game Wednesday against FSL, but something tells me we'll see the full first team squad, with Folan in for Casey. Its a quick turnaround but not so horrible that the players can't go both games, especially with a 9 day rest after the FSL game.

Key To Look For: The Rapids possession. The last two games Colorado has struggled to hold the ball for long periods. With a player like David Ferreira on the other side, the Rapids could get stung if that continues. The team needs to hold the ball.

Prediction: 2-1 Rapids win. Goals by Folan and Larentowicz (tempting to predict an own goal ;) ). Yeah, I'm predicting a replay of MLS Cup 2010. I think Dallas, as bad as they've been will be up for this one. Honestly I wouldn't be shocked to end up with a 1-1 or 2-2 draw. But with the Dallas backline so beat up I think there's a good chance the Rapids can do just enough to keep the winning streak going.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

News And Notes, 4/6

Two pieces of news today:
  • Casey will miss 2-4 weeks with the hamstring strain that caused him to leave Sunday's match against DC. That means he'll miss the road games against Dallas and FSL for sure, and probably the next home game against Seattle. Hopefully he'll be back in time for the home game against Chicago.
  • The Wikipedia page for Martin John, who the Rapids had been linked to as a midseason signing, has been updated to say he turned down the offer from Colorado. There's no cite though, so take it for what its worth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hello Colorado, I'm Caleb Folan

In cold wintry weather the Rapids gave a surprise start to Caleb Folan. The weather must have reminded him of home or something as he rewarded the team with 2 goals and a dominating performance. There were less than 10K of us to see it, but it was worth the cold to watch the Rapids demolish DC.

The first half was quite dull, and some ugly soccer. Both teams had a whopping one shot on goal, DC around the 30th minute that Pickens saved and Colorado in the 38th minute that went for Folan's first goal as a Rapid. Larentowicz played a long ball behind the DC defense that Folan caught up to with a United defender on his hip. He faked the defender towards the outside, cut inside, and beat Onstad far post. Other than that the half was forgettable.

The first 25 minutes of the second half played out much the same way, though Colorado seemed to have more control of the game. combined the teams had 0 shots on goal in the second half by the 69th minute. Then the Rapids defense completely fell asleep and left Quaranta unmarked on the back post, and he didn't miss, leveling the score. That would be DC's 2nd and last shot on goal of the game.

After that the Rapids decided they needed to remind United who the champions were, starting just 67 seconds later as Anthony Wallace found a wide open Jamie Smith in the box and Smith nodded it home to retake the lead. This was followed 10 minutes later by a Folan header from a Nyassi cross for the 3rd goal and a Cummings goal off his head from an Amarikwa cross in the 92nd minute. The 4 Rapids goals represent their only 4 shots on goal all game, which is a pretty good conversion rate. ;)

My key to the game was the battle of the nines, #9 Davies vs. #9 Casey. Davies was a late scratch from the team that traveled to Colorado and Casey left the game in the 52nd minute with what appeared to be a tight hamstring. Neither one really had an effect on the game.

Other Observations:
  • Cummings was rested by not starting after having played for Jamaica in Jamaica last Friday and in El Salvador on Tuesday. He had the winning goal against El Salvador.
  • Folan looked better than I expected in the last two games. He keeps this up and he's going to give Smith a (good) headache when he's trying to decide which two strikers to start.
  • Smith and Wallace struggled on the left side until they combined for the winning goal. They didn't seem to be on the same page and their passing wasn't great.
  • That said Pablo and Larentowicz didn't give them much help in the middle. They did a great job stopping DC's attacks but they weren't showing for the ball and helping with possession as much as they have in the past.
  • Despite his off game, Jamie Smith is still having a great start to the season.
  • The defense had a mental lapse on the goal, but holding the opposition to only one shot on goal other than that is a pretty good showing.
  • Drew Moor, possibly the most underrated defender in the league. The trade to get him for Ihemelu gets more and more unbalanced every game.
  • Cummings looked like he didn't want to be denied a goal at the end. Its a good attitude to see in a striker.
  • Isn't their a passage in the Geneva Convention that outlaws using Cummings, Nyassi, and Amarikwa as your subs when you're playing at 5280 feet? You think Smith and Guppy were having a laugh on the bench at throwing Amarikwa on with a 3-1 lead?
  • Anyone who's watched cycling knows that Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin like to talk about the race not really starting until "the road turns up". well the MLS season is about "turn up" for the Rapids with trips to Dallas and FSL.
Player of the Game: Caleb Folan. 2 goals makes this an easy call.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Battle Of The Nines

Colorado is back home for a Sunday game against DC United. DC comes in having only one once in Denver/Commerce City in the last ten years. Unfortunately that one win was the last time they were here in October. That was the last time the Rapids walked off the field from a league match feeling like they were the losers (Technically they lost the playoff game in Columbus but won the series on PKs). I'm guessing the team has that in the forefront of their mind.

Game time is at 5pm at the Dick. The Class VI and Pid Army tailgate starts at 3pm and all our welcome. The game will also be nationally televised in Spanish on Galavision and locally in English on Altitude 2.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin), FW Conor Casey (L calf)

Other than Kandji the Rapids are at full strength. DC is not with 6 players questionable or worse and Perry Kitchen gone with the u.S. U-20 squad. This makes the lineup guess very easy:

Kimura - Wynne - Moor - Wallace
Mullan - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Casey

If it ain't broke don't fix it. These XI have gotten it done for a while, might as well keep letting them get it done. None of these players traveled to Illinois. Cummings did play for Jamaica twice since last Friday, in two different countries, so he might be a bit tired but I'm sure he's good enough to start.

Key To Look For: #9 Conor Casey vs. #9 Charlie Davies. Both teams have an American striker on the edge of National Team consideration as their #9. Which one comes out on top?

Prediction: 3-1 Rapids win. Goals by Casey, Cummings, and Larentowicz. DC is putting together a makeshift defense at altitude, they won't be able to stop the C+C Goal Factory. On the flip side, Najar and Davies are probably the best combination of attacking players the Rapids have seen since playing Buddle and Donovan to finish the regular season last year. I expect them to get one goal on our back line.