Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 Midseason Review

Believe it or not this week marks the midpoint of the Rapids season. 17 games down, 17 to go (plus the CONCACAF Champion's League). Time for a midseason review then!

Goalkeeping: Matt Pickens has been his normal solid self. In fact he's come up big numerous times. He's had two iffy games but has been my Man of the Match 5 times. While the Rapids could upgrade at goalkeeper it would be to a Best XI type player, and even then the upgrade wouldn't be worth the added expense.
Grade: B

Defense: Two games ago the back-line looked damn near perfect. Colorado had given up just 14 goals in the first 15 games and the signing of Marshall was looking inspired. The last two games have seen an own goal, 3 bad giveaways leading to goals, and a total of 7 goals allowed. Drew Moor is still the ironman of the squad, playing every minute of the season again. Kimura has only missed 13 minutes himself. Marshall has been great coming off the bench to grab a starting spot by filling in for injured players. The problems have come due to instability at left back throwing off the whole group. Wallace had a shaky start to the season and seems to have been passed by Earls and Palguta, but both have had horrible games recently. with Wynne injured Marshall and Moor have had to stay inside and that's exposed this weakness. Gary Smith has said he's specifically looking for a left back in the upcoming transfer window to try to solve the issue.
Grade: C+

The best way to describe the midfield so far is strong in the center but fragile on the wings. Larentowicz has played every minute so far, and while he hasn't always excelled he's been a steady presence. Pablo missed two games due to injury but at his age that's a pretty good track record. That means the defensive side of midfield has been solid, but the offensive side has struggled. Jamie Smith has been the MVP of the team so far, but his legs have kept him from starting 4 games and he's regularly subbed off in the second half. Along with Mullan's extended suspension this has exposed our lack of depth outside. Nyassi doesn't have great field vision and he's got a bit of a hot head, which can lead to trouble. Thompson is, at best, a late-game defensive sub. LaBauex had a couple of good games but is still inexperienced. In Gary Smith's system of two defensive midfielders and two wingers, the wings really need to generate the offense and get the ball to the forwards, at the moment it seems only Mullan and Smith can actually do that.
Grade: C-

As expected Casey and Cummings have been the class of the strike core. What wasn't expected is that they would only play together for 105 minutes int he first half of the season. They got 60 minutes before Casey was subbed in the season opener, and they got the whole second half against LA two weeks ago. Otherwise they haven't been available at the same time, which has really hurt the team. The big offseason signing, Caleb Folan, has been a bust. Smith, Larentowicz, and Casey all have more goals than him, despite Folan having played the most minutes at striker. Folan got two goals in one game, and has done nothing else. There are rumors that the Rapids have been approached by teams in England looking to by Folan, if so, they should sell. With Kandji still rehabbing from the ACL injury he received setting up the winning goal in MLS Cup Akpan and Amarikwa have gotten a good chance to show their skills. They are both works in progress, but Akpan seems to fit better than Amarikwa right now. This is a two part grade. A B for Casey and Cummings and a D- for the rest of the group.
Grade: C-

The bench has gotten a serious workout this year. Outside of left back the starting XI is pretty much set when everyone is healthy and available. Besides those 10 guaranteed starters there have been 11 other starters. That's one less than we used all of last season. Only 4 players have started every game (Larentowicz, Kimura, Moor, and Pickens) while every player that's seen game time has started at least one game. Marshall has been the best bench player so far, but Akpan, Amarikwa, and LaBauex have all had good showings. There have been a number of poor performances as well, particularly Palguta and Nane. Bringing in reinforcements in the summer transfer window should be in Smith's plans.
Grade: C

So far Gary Smith hasn't had much decision making to make. His options for the most part have either been obvious or non-existent. While I have some quibbles, such as an over-dependence on Thompson and the disappearance of Wallace, he really hasn't had many choices due to injuries and suspensions. His first real test is coming up next month when the summer transfer window opens. This team needs help, particularly at left back and outside midfield depth, and he's going to need to go out there and find some players. After that the challenge will be balancing league play and Champions League play, doing enough to hopefully advance to the next round (playoffs/knockout rounds) in both competitions. I'm giving the coaching staff an average grade so far, but it could almost be an incomplete.
Grade: C

Overall: So far the team has been very average. Only 5 wins so far is a disappointment, but only 5 losses isn't bad considering the injuries and suspensions. The team has had two really bad games (@Dallas and @Columbus) and a couple of great home games (Portland and DC). When the team is healthy it looks like a team that could compete for MLS Cup again. When the team isn't healthy (or isn't mentally int eh game) it looks like a team that will be playing in the wild-card round of the playoffs, and probably not at home. With a .500 record and .500 play, the overall grade seems obvious.
Grade: C

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Left Center Back

The starting left center back for the Rapids All-Time Team is Ritchie Kotschau.

How Acquired: Traded Adin Brown, Scott Vermillion, and our 2002 first round pick to Tampa Bay for Carlos Valderrama, Scott Garlick, and Richie Kotschau.

Years In Colorado: Mid 2001 through 2005

How Departed: Traded to Columbus for Cornell Glen.

This pick is probably a bit of a surprise to some readers. honestly it was a bit of a surprise to me when I sat down to figure out who should claim the third center back spot. Most of the other obvious choices either haven't spent enough time in Colorado to make the cut, or made their name with another team and their time in Colorado was nothing special. Kotschau, however, was in Colorado for the prime of his career and was one of the cornerstones of the Rapids lineup during that time.

In his 4.5 seasons with the team Richie played in 116 of 132 games, making 106 starts. He's 6th in team history in minutes, games played, and games started. Balboa is the only defender ahead of him in any of those categories. In Kotschau's last two seasons in Colorado the Rapids had the 2nd best defense each year.

Unlike his teammates on the All-Time team backline, Kotschau was a pure defender. While Vermes and Balboa were good for a couple of goals every season and were always a danger on set pieces Richie only had one goal and seven assists in his Rapids career. He averaged just over two shots on goal for a season for the team. Needless to say his job was to hang back on set pieces to prevent quick counter-attacks. Due to that though, Kotschau gave his coaches many options for using him, as he spend time on both wings and at center back. Most often he played left back but he was just as comfortable on the right or teaming up with Robin Fraser or Nat Borchers in the center.

So that's it for the All-Time Defense. A back 3 of Peter Vermes, Marcelo Balboa, and Richie Kotschau. Now its on to midfield.

Monday, June 27, 2011

On To Better Things

Every year the Rapids (and most teams) play a game or two where the videotape should be burned, the game forgotten, and the team moved on. Last night was one of those games. So we're moving on to the big event of the week, the Colorado's visit to the White House. The Rapids started the day getting their championship rings:

(Photo from Anthony Wallace)

Then it was off to the White House!
Has Koz let that trophy out of his sight since we won it?

The President congratulated the team and his researchers did a good job, having him mention Mastroeni, Casey, Cummings, Kimura, Kandji, and Thompson by name. Jeff Plush then presented Obama with a #10 jersey, both to represent the Rapids winning the 2010 MLS Cup and the fact that 10 traditionally represents the leader of the team. Of course I wonder if this means Mac Kandji has to get a new number now! :D

Full video of the press event, from the White House YouTube channel:

Then it was soccer on the White House lawn with kids of military families:
All in all, a pretty good day for the Colorado Rapids, one I'm sure they'll all remember for the rest of their lives (or at least until the next time we win the Cup!).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Village People Or Bananas? You Decide.

The Rapids have headed East to face the team that could do double duty as traffic cones, the Columbus Crew. The last time these two teams met the Rapids won a PK shootout on their way to winning MLS Cup. This time its only 3 points on the line, but its 3 points Colorado could really use. Game time tomorrow is 6pm on Altitude. The Pid Army and Class VI will be watching the game at the Highland Tavern.

The added wrinkle to this road trip is what Colorado does after the game. When they get on their plane they won't be heading West to Denver, they'll be heading East to Washington D.C. To quote from today's official White House press release:
Also on Monday, the President will welcome Major League Soccer champions, the Colorado Rapids, to the White House to honor their 2010 season and their MLS Cup victory. In conjunction with the ceremony with the President at the White House, the Colorado Rapids will hold a soccer clinic for children of military families on the South Lawn.
So that's pretty damn cool.

Injury Report:
DOUBTFUL: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (L calf strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: MF Pablo Mastroeni (3 games good behavior removes one)
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; DF Tyrone Marshall; DF Drew Moor; DF Anthony Wallace

Welcome back Brian Mullan! Now don't ever do something so stupid again. In your place Folan goes on the suspended list. Pablo, don't get a yellow card suspension for the big 4th of July game, OK? Should be a lineup very close to our MLS Cup lineup tomorrow. Only Marvell Wynne isn't available (Though he, like every player, traveled to Columbus to be part of the ceremony in D.C.). My guess:

Kimura - Moor- Marshall - Palguta
Mullan - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Cummings - Casey

Left back is kind of a mystery right now, I really am not sure what's going to happen there. Otherwise I think Mullan goes right back into the starting XI and Cummings is hopefully ready to start..

Key To Look For: Is C+C Goal Factory back? The Rapids offense has been miserable lately, but Cummings instantly injected some danger when he entered last week's game. If that duo can find their connection again, watch out.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Cummings. Really, do you see any reason to predict anything but a draw yet? The Rapids offense needs to prove something before I'll expect more than a goal, and the defense is haphazard lately. Cummings got close last week, with Casey their to clean up, this week I think he gets one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Galaxy Leave Rapids Seeing Stars

The Galaxy came to town without Donovan "Glass Jaw" Ricketts, Old Spice, and PrimaDonnavan. They left with 3 points and a bunch of Rapids fans wondering which team was really missing their best players.

The Galaxy picked apart the Rapids on offense and throttled any offensive chance Colorado got started. The defending champs controlled the ball most of the game (58.4% of possession) but it was the defending Shield winners who made their posession count. In the 25th minute Lopez and Birchall combined to lay a great ball across the front of the box, where Drew Moor slid in to clear it and put it past Pickens into the net. In the 42nd minute Juninho drilled a golazo from 25 yards into the far top corner to give LA a 2-0 lead at the half.

The Rapids came out of the locker room looking much better, mainly due to the return of Omar Cummings to the field. He showed how much he was missed by becoming the most dangerous player on the field. Colorado had a new drive and energy, and it paid off in the 64th minute as Cummings twisted a Galaxy defender in knots and fired at goal, only for Saunders to block it. Luckily Casey has seen this show before and was set up to knock the rebound home to half the deficit. Colorado continued to push for the tying goal and it felt like it was coming, until in the 74th minute Caleb Folan lost his head, dove into a tackle, and saw red. 6 minutes later Todd Dunivant and Chad Barett beat the offside trap and got the insurance goal for a final score of 3-1.

My key to the game was the Rapids making a statement and controlling the game. Um, no, not what happened.

Stats Of The Game: This was Pablo Mastroeni's 300th MLS game and 200th game as a Colorado Rapid (a team record).

Other Observations:
  • 3 quick referee notes. The first LA goal was probably over the line before it was crossed in front of the goal. Its really, really, close but I think it was over.
  • The red card was a good call. It could have been a yellow, but the Rapids already caught a break when Nyassi only got a yellow for his tackle and a red is hardly unjustified for Folan's tackle.
  • The 3rd LA goal was onside. It was a well timed run by Dunivant.
  • So with the possible exception of the first goal, it was actually a pretty well officiated game. You couldn't tell by the crowd's reaction by the end of the game though.
  • Which leads me to this rant. LEARN THE RULES! By the end of the game 100% accurate calls were getting booed by the fans like they were the missed offside call against FSL. Really gang, it makes us look stupid. Save the outrage for when its deserved.
  • This wasn't Moor's best game, in fact it might have been his worst in a Rapids uniform. He made two errors on the first goal, first keeping Lopez onside, then the own goal itself. He was badly beaten (along with the rest of the defensive line) on the third goal. Generally a bad night, but everybody can have one bad night.
  • Compare that to Caleb Folan, who's only had one good night so far. Again tonight he was more interested in yelling about not getting the perfect ball than actually working with the balls he did get. Then he tops it off with a stupid red card. If the rumors of interest from England are true I have one word for the Rapids FO, SELL!
  • What happened to Palguta and Wallace? Earls proved why he was the 3rd choice. Decent passing and control, horrible marking.
  • Now that Mullan and Nyassi are back, Wells Thompson should be getting off the bench until the 75th minute. He contributes nothing on offense and barely enough on defense to be on the roster.
  • I understand letting a player rip from 25 yards. 95% of the players in MLS shank that shot and the other 5% shank it 95% of the time. Still Juninho is one of the few players who's proven he can do it though, which should have been taken into account.
  • In general it was a pathetic performance from the Rapids. Colorado hasn't won at home since April 3rd, and since the next home game is July 3rd, it will be at least 3 months between home wins. We have to do better.
Player of the Game: Omar Cummings. not only did he set up the goal, but he appeared to be the only Rapid who didn't leave their brain in the locker room.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Well Hello Mister Fancypants!

That's right Mr. Posh Spice and the Galaxy are in town tomorrow. This will be only the second time Beckham has played in Colorado and they'll be without PrimaDonnavan who's trying to help the U.S. avoid one of their biggest Gold Cup meltdowns in their modern history. Combined the teams haven't lost in their last 17 games. Game time tomorrow is 7pm, so the Class VI/Pid Army tailgate breeches the kegs at 4pm and fires up the grills at 5pm.

Injury Report:
DOUBTFUL: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (L calf strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Brian Mullan
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; DF Anthony Wallace

Those lists are finally getting smaller. It sounds like only Kandji, Mullan, and Wynne will be unavailable for selection to the 18-man game-day roster, but Cummings is unlikely to start. LA has 3 players injured and along with PrimaDonnavan will be missing their starting GK to the Jamaican team. I'm feeling pretty good about my lineup guess this week:

Kimura - Moor- Marshall - Palguta
Nyassi- Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Smith
Casey - Folan

Smith went with Palguta over Wallace in Portland last week, and with that spot being the one that gets to handle Old Spice most of the time I assume we'll see the slightly more experienced Palguta again. Now that Nyassi is back I think we'll see him start again.

Key To Look For: This is a game where the Rapids need to make a statement and control the game. While the Rapids are missing 3 starters I think the Galaxy are hurt more by the loss of PrimaDonnavan and Ricketts to their national team duties. At altitude Colorado should run the older Galaxy ragged.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Folan. I know, the prediction is getting old, but I haven't seen the Rapids do anything lately to prove to me they can dominate a game. I wouldn't be shocked to see Colorado win this one, but they're going to have to show me they know how to do that on anything more than a last minute goal before I'll predict it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Right Center Back

The starting right center back for the Rapids All-Time Team is Peter Vermes. Alas I could not find a picture of him in a Rapids kit, so I went with the U.S. kit instead.

How Acquired: Traded Kerry Zavagnin to the NY/NJ Metrostars for him.

Years In Colorado: 1997 through 1999

How Departed: Traded to KC along with Matt McKeon for Scott Vermillion and an allocation.

When looking at the history of Rapids defenders there are many good players but, other than Balboa, not many great players. It seems most of the really great players, Robin Fraser for example, had their best years playing elsewhere and not in Colorado. That leaves a lot of flexibility for formations and players. Because of that I've decided to go with a 3-man backline with two players flanking Balboa that could play equally well inside and outside.

Peter Vermes didn't have a long career in Colorado, but he was a rock on the backline in his 3 years with the Rapids. In the 96 regular season games those years he started 88 of them and subbed into an 89th. He only missed 7 games in 3 years, and he was still getting occasional looks from the National Team at this point in his career (he was the last man cut from the 1998 World Cup team). That's a Drew Moor level of health (Yeah, I just jinxed Moor on Saturday). 89 appearances are the 4th most by a defender in Rapids history.

Vermes also gave Mooch some flexibility in that he was capable of playing striker late in games when needed. Peter had 8 goals and 11 assists in his career (still a team career record for a defender). This gave Mooch the opportunity to mix and match his squad, adding a defender in the back late and pushing Vermes up to protect a lead, or adding a dangerous element on the back-line to combine with the starting strikers for set pieces.

Peter combined with Marcelo to give the Rapids a center back tandem that more than once also started as the center back tandem for the National Team. This gave Colorado the foundation to build a team around after their disastrous inaugural season, and the Rapids rode that foundation to an appearance in MLS Cup 1997. They would continue their partnership and lead Colorado to the 1998 and 1999 playoffs and the 1999 U.S Open Cup final, the second (and last) final appearance for the Rapids before last year's championship run. In 1999 the team also had the 4th best defense in the league, a significant upgrade from the first 3 seasons.

Vermes combination of skill, reliability, and flexibility was unique for a defender in Rapids history. That made him a leading candidate for the All-Time Team and when compared with the other options I couldn't find a better player to line up next to Balboa.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Colorado Makes It 2 For 2 Against Portland

About 90 Rapids fans traveled to Portland to support the Rapids, and they were joined by yours truly and 7 of my family members. That's all of us up in the SW corner of Jeld-Wen Field on the left. The Rapids needed all the support they could get in front of about 20,000 Timbers fans who had only seen one loss this season, before the Rapids came to town. I haven't had time to re-watch anything but the goal yet, so all my observations are based on what I could see from our seat way up in the back of the stadium.

The game was an end to end affair with both teams having good chances, and both teams have better keepers. Pickens and Perkins came up huge multiple times to keep the game scoreless. When the goalkeepers weren't able to make the save, the strikers weren't able to take advantage, putting the shots high or wide and in the case of one Portland shot, putting it off the post.

After 90 minutes there was still no score. Amarikwa was fouled in the 91st minute on the left side of the field, right in front of the Timbers bench. While Jamie Smith was setting up his free kick, Rapids legend and Timbers head coach John Spencer went off on the officiating, and was ejected. Smith served the ball into the box where Amrikwa headed it on net, but Perkins was up tot he challenge and deflected it away. The ball fell to Folan who tried to put the ball into the far post, only to have Perkins dive to push it away. After a scramble the ball pinged off of Amarikwa and Folan and fell to the feet of Drew Moor. With Perkins still on the ground at the far post it was an easy put-away for the goal. The Timbers had one last chance that went high and Colorado got out with 3 points.

My key to the game was getting the lead and holding it for more than 5 minutes, since we had been unable to do that the last 3 times we had gotten the lead. Well we've still failed to do that since we go the lead with only about 3 minutes left! :D

Stats Of The Game: 1. The Rapids are now on 9 game undefeated and 5 game road undefeated streaks, both team records.
2. This is the first time in team history the Rapids completed a season sweep of an expansion team (Not counting Columbus in 1996 when all the teams were expansion teams).

Other Observations:
  • Smith's free kick was from the same spot as his crazy goal in Houston. That's 3-4 goals we've scored already from Smith free kicks in that area.
  • That said, Amarikwa was offside on Folan's follow-up shot. In the scramble that followed that he absolutely had an effect on the play, even though he never touched the ball until offside was "reset". I believe he should have been flagged but I'm not 100% clear on the rule at this point. Call it a make-up from the FSL game (though I would have preferred to tie both games, even if that's one less point overall).
  • There were at least two incidents of handballs in the box. I couldn't tell from my seat if they were incidental or not, but no sense in giving the refs an excuse.
  • Casey couldn't buy a call if the defender walked up and leveled him with an right uppercut. Apparently its open season in MLS on Conor.
  • Thompson picked up a yellow on a foul that had a lot of similarities to the Mullan tackle. Thompson got fouled with no call and turned around and ran at a player in the same area as Zakuani was in. The difference was Mullan slid through Zakuani to get the ball and broke a leg, Thompson just bowled his man out of bounds.
  • And that was really the "highlight" of Thompson's night. Nyassi is back next week and Mullan in two weeks, so hopefully Wells can take his spot back as a late game defensive sub.
  • Marshall has been quite a pickup this year. He's played much more, and much better, than I ever expected.
  • Pablo and Conor were just asking fora card for dissent. Somehow Ginger got it instead.
  • Larentowicz also reportedly spent a couple of minutes taunting the Timbers Army post-game. Love the attitude, but probably not a good idea.
  • We really appreciated the team coming over and saluting the fans after the game, especially since we were on the opposite end from the locker rooms.
  • One other streak continued this week. I've never seen the team lose when I've traveled to an away game.
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. He came up huge to keep the Rapids in the game early. An honorable mention to the Class VI, Pid Army, and Bulldog Supporters Group members that made the trip to Portland.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Rapids Try To Wash Out The Timbers

You're getting an early game preview this week as I'm preparing for a road trip to Portland to watch this game in person! Somewhere between 80 and 100 Rapids fans will be in the upper SW corner of Jeld-Wen field supporting Colorado and hoping they can continue their team-record 8-game undefeated streak. For those of you staying behind kickoff is at 8:30pm and the game is on Galavision and Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Davy Armstrong(concussion); FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain)
PROBABLE: FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain); FW Caleb Folan (R groin strain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (L calf strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Brian Mullan (2 games)
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; DF Anthony Wallace

International Absences: MF Sanna Nyassi (The Gambia)

The Rapids are getting healthier, but still aren't there yet. The Timbers only have 2 players that are questionable or worse, so they'll be at close to full strength. What Smith is going to do with the lineup is still hard to pin down, but here's my guess:

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

Smith seems to be favoring tHompson over some other choices, so I think he'll start (I'd prefer to see LaBauex). Folan seems like he should be back to his starting spot, possibly being subbed out around 60 minutes for Omar Cummings?.

Key To Look For: Getting the lead and holding it for more than 5 minutes. We've only does that once int he last 3 games, and we can't afford to dig a hole we need to get out of in front of the crowd they have in Portland.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Casey. Stop me if you've heard this before. ;) I see the Rapids once again taking a lead and once again not being able to hold it. Portland is a hard place to get a win, but they haven't looked impressive recently. Colorado will continue both their team-record undefeated and their league-record draw streaks in this one.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Next Week's Lottery Numbers Will Be...

In my game preview on Friday I said:
1-1 draw, goal by Casey. The Rapids haven't shown the ability to put a team away in a long time, and with the injury report I don't see that changing. Colorado will take the lead but give it back. Our defense is strong enough, with the altitude, to prevent a loss but our offense won't be able to get a win.

That's exactly what happened. Pablo drew a PK in the second half, Casey stepped up to put it away, and less than 5 minutes later the Union equalized. Pretty much what we've seen in the last 2 games for Colorado. 4 times in the last 3 games they've taken the lead. 3 times they gave it back within 5 minutes, the 4th time it took longer but the same thing happened. While the team played better this week this game was pretty much just like every other game we've seen in the last 6.

My key to the game was no more injuries. Alas it appears we couldn't even do that right as Kimura was favoring one leg as he was subbed off.

Stats Of The Game: 1. The 6th draw in a row set a single-season MLS record for consecutive draws. If we draw in Portland we'll set the overall record.
2. This draw gave the Rapids an 8-game undefeated streak, the longest in team history.

Other Observations:
  • Weak PK call in our favor, but one of those calls where a defender put him in position to gt whistled. You can't put your hand on an attacker's shoulder like that without begging for a call.
  • Casey took what would be referred to as a "cheeky" PK. Great when it works, absolutely stupid when it doesn't. Next time just power it home Conor.
  • Nobody moved to pressure Mwanga on the Philly goal, which gave him plenty of time to fire off a great shot. It appears that Drew Moor was the defender that should have stepped up.
  • Good to see Moor gut it out through an injury and keep his streak going though.
  • Also good to see Smith back out their after his injury. When he wasn't knocking off the rust he was putting together some great ball movement.
  • The Rapids passes were feast or famine Saturday night, Some great ball movement, then horrible giveaways.
  • Akpan is still green, but he's showing more than Amarikwa has. He should definitely be the choice of those two at this point.
  • Wells Thompson found some defense. Unfortunately he hasn't found his offense.
  • Thompson and Wallace can not combine at all. They should never be put on the same side.
  • Another uninspired 20 minutes from Folan. He needs to get on the same page as the rest of the team.
  • The Rapids forwards, other than Casey, appear to be looking for the perfect pass instead of just winding up and shooting once in a while.
  • Pablo had a solid game, and drew the PK, but I disagree with giving him MOTM.
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. An amazing Save of the year candidate on a Union free kick early and a couple of other good saves kept us in this game. Nothing he could do about the goal.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Colorado Tries To Slice The Union

The injured Rapids take put their 7 game unbeaten run on the line against the Philadelphia Union tomorrow night at the Dick. Of course they haven't won in 5 games, so a draw tomorrow would reportedly set the MLS record with 6 in a row. Kickoff tomorrow is at 7 and in honor of Philly being in town Class VI and the Pid Army will be supplying cheesesteaks at the tailgate. Food starts at 5pm in the normal spot. Those of you unable to come can watch the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); FW Caleb Folan (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (L calf strain)
PROBABLE: FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Brian Mullan (3 games)
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor

International Absences: MF Sanna Nyassi (The Gambia)

Ugh, and it gets worse with Drew Moor apparently nursing a hamstring strain of his own. Philly has 7 players questionable or worse so that's something but its still the walking wounded for Colorado. The lineup is going to be even more of a guess than usual, but here we go:

Kimura - Palguta - Marshall - Wallace
LaBauex- Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Thompson
Casey - Akpan

Palguta would go to the bench if Moor is good enough to start. Really there aren't that many other choices for our normal 4-4-2 lineup. Between that lineup, the missing players, and the injury report that's every player who's played so far this season.

Key To Look For: No more injuries! We can't take it. Whomever starts better be prepared to go the full 90 because our bench is going to be paper thin.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Casey. The Rapids haven't shown the ability to put a team away in a long time, and with the injury report I don't see that changing. Colorado will take the lead but give it back. Our defense is strong enough, with the altitude, to prevent a loss but our offense won't be able to get a win.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rough Overseas Season Ends

Long time readers will remember my Weekend Roundup posts on the 4 overseas teams I follow. This past offseason was very busy for the Rapids so I stopped doing the regular updates, but I figured I'd do an end-of-season Roundup on them.

Queen of the South - Scotland Division One
QoS had a rough year due to the bath weather in Scotland. The team had 11 different matches in December and January postponed due to snow and frozen pitches. They managed just 3 matches in that time period which put a financial hurt on the club that they managed to struggle through, then it put a competitive hurt on the club in the back half of the season as all those games had to be made up. The team managed to make the final of the ALBA Challenge Cup (Cup competition between all DI-DIII teams), which was originally scheduled for November 28th but due to weather and rescheduling didn't get played until April 10th, which Queens lost 2-0. The team finally finished 5th in Division One, a solid finish given their congested schedule.

Blackburn Rovers - English Premier League
Rovers started out well, sitting in mid-table and getting an influx of new cash as the team was sold to the owners of Indian chicken processor Venky's. Fans saw them as the white knight riding in to bring Blackburn to the next level, but they immediately became the villains as they fired manager Sam Allardyce and replaced him with assistant manager Steve Kean in early December. No cognizant explanation was given and after that point Blackburn plunged down the table, highlighted by a 7-1 loss at Old Trafford. Blackburn later had to watch United celebrate their EPL title at Ewood Park after a 1-1 draw in the penultimate game gave the Red Devils the championship but did not assure Rovers of safety. That didn't happen until the final week when Blackburn went to Wolves and took a 3-0 lead in the first half, only to hold off a furious comeback and win 3-2, assuring themselves of another year of top-flight football as they finished 15th.

CD Tenerife - Spanish Segunda Division
After dropping from La Liga last season Tenerife had high hopes of bouncing right back up. Unfortunately just the opposite happened. CDT lost 6 of their first 9 games and didn't win until game 10. A good streak gave a little hope, but 8 and 10 game winless streaks doomed the team. Tenerife had 3 manager changing this year, which didn't help. With one game left in the season the chicharros are already relegated to Segunda B for the first time in 24 years with a guranteed 20th placed finish (out of 22 teams). They have a chance to salvage something out of this season this weekend as they travel to Las Palmas for the Canary Islands derby. The teams tied in Santa Cruz de Tenerife earlier in the season so the winner on Saturday, if there is one, can claim dominance of the islands until the teams meet again. Unfortunately Las Palmas will not be going down with CDT, so they'll be able to flaunt that until Tenerife recovers.

Melbourne Victory - Australian A-League
The Victory, coming off a disappointing loss in last year's final to their rivals Sydney FC, was hoping to continue their dominance of the A-League. Unfortunately it appears that they tried to push their aging team one too many years before rebuilding as the team suffered from mixed results all season, highlighted by captain Kevin Muscat committing an unforgivable red-card tackle (similar but worse than Mullan's) that got him banned for 8 weeks until the end of the regular season. He announced his retirement at the end of the Asian Champion's League, in which the Victory finished last in its group. Melbourne managed to finish 5th and qualify for the playoffs, but they were bounced in the first round by Gold Coast United. The team seems to have started a rebuilding process before next season.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Center Back

The starting center back and easiest selection in the Rapids All-Time Team is Marcelo Balboa.

How Acquired: First player ever signed by the Colorado Rapids team, on a free transfer from Leon in Mexico

Years In Colorado: 1996 through 2001

How Departed: Traded to NY for a 3rd round pick in the 2002 draft

Unlike many of the positions on this team, this one was a complete no-brainer. No All-Time Rapids team could be complete without Marcelo Balboa. The first ever Rapid and the face of the team for its first 6 years he held every significant defensive or appearance record when he left the team. Marcelo left the team in the fallout from the contraction of Miami and Tampa Bay before the 2002 season when Hankinson traded him to NY for a draft pick. Balboa played 10 minutes in the final game of the season in his only appearance for NY before retiring as a Rapid. After a year away from the team he joined the front office in 2004 and has continued to be a community ambassador for the team and the color man on the Rapids TV broadcasts.

Balboa was the only player to play the majority of their MLS career in Colorado to be named to the 10th Anniversary MLS All-Time Best XI and is the only player ever to play for the Rapids to be in the National Soccer Hall of Fame. He was also the first inductee into the Rapids Gallery of Honor. That's really all that needs to be said about his inclusion on the All-Time Team, so instead I leave you with his 2000 MLS Goal of the Year, still (in my biased opinion) the best goal ever scored in MLS.