Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rapids In Philly To Face Cheesesteaks

Well they also have to play the Union, but I'm guessing that at least a couple of the guys will take the opportunity to try a cheesesteak. Its somewhat of a homecoming for the Ginger Ninja as he went to high school and college in the Philly area. The Rapids get the honor of being FOX Soccer Channel's Game of the Week tomorrow night, kickoff is at 5:30. Class VI and the Pid Army will be gathering at the Streets of London for this one.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; MF Sanna Nyassi; MF Wells Thompson; DF Anthony Wallace

Good to see Kandji moving up to the probable status, but I'm guessing we won't see him until next week. Smith is always a question mark of course. Philly is only missing one player so they'll have the advantage there. My guess at the starting XI:

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

Any other lineup than this one makes no sense at this point. Put our best XI out there and play.

Key To Look For: Does Smith tinker with the lineup or does he give us the best chance to win? His decisions have been hit or miss the last couple of weeks, let's hope he settles down.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Cummings. Philly is a good team, but I''m not sure they're as good as some people are making them out to be. We're equal on points (but Philly has 4 games in hand) but the Union leads the weaker Eastern Conference. They have the second best defense in the league but I think the speed of Nyassi and Cummings can pull it apart. I still have no faith in our defense getting a shutout though.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Right Midfielder

The starting right midfielder for the Rapids All-Time Team is Anders Limpar.

How Acquired: Signed as a free agent from Swedish side AIK.

Years In Colorado: 1999 through 2000

How Departed: Left as a free agent, signed but never played for Swedish side Djurgardens IF before retiring

Our first international player in the All-Time team, Anders Limpar might be a bit of a surprise in this position. Most of the All-Time team involves players who spent significantly more time in Colorado than Limpar. While Anders only played in 36 games over two years (mainly due to injury), his class when he was available was second maybe only to the all-time left midfielder, who we'll discuss next week.

In his time in Colorado Limpar was the perfect winger for a team who's offense was designed around crossing the ball. The Swede would bring the ball down the right wing and whip cross after cross into the box. This lead to the odd stat that in 2 years Limpar had one more shot on goal than he had assists on actual goals. His 15 assists in 36 games means he was setting up a goal in just over every two games. When you consider he often didn't play a full 90 minutes his average increases to assisting on a goal every 1.8 games. That's the best ratio in Rapids history for a player with 5 or more assists! Not only that, he was playing on a team where there was no star striker as nobody had more than 10 goals in a season while he was here.

Of course the most notable assist in Limpar's Rapids career was the setup for Marcelo Balboa's legendary bicycle kick in Columbus in 2000. Because you can never see it enough, here it is again:

Monday, July 25, 2011

Power Of Jameson Night Plays Out In Odd Ways

The Jameson tradition continued as the Rapids are still undefeated against New England when Jameson Night is held. Saturday night though the Jameson power resulted in a very odd game. Two PK's, a 70 yard goal, and a goal off a throw-in all combined for a 2-2 draw.

The Rapids had complete control of the first half, with the Revolution really only making one good foray into the Rapids attacking third. Unfortunately that foray resulted in the only goal of the half. Off a throw-in the ball was headed on and found an unmarked Benny Feilhaber who headed the ball down past Pickens for a 1-0 lead. For the rest of the half Colorado continued to control the game but couldn't turn that control into goals.

The second half was when things got a little strange. It started with Cummings and Nyassi teaming up again to get Sanna in on goal, only to have him tripped from behind. A clear red card and penalty, which Folan converted to level the score. 17 minutes later Kimura scored his first goal of the season...from 70 yards! There was less than 10 minutes left and Koz was playing a long ball to try to get Folan or Cummings behind the defense. Instead Revs keeper Matt Reis misread it, let it bounce in front of him, and over his head into the net. Needless to say all 12,000+ fans at the Dick had their jaws on the floor. The power of Jameson's!

Just when the Rapids thought they had stumbled into 3 points the momentum switched. In the 90th minute Scott Palguta challenged for a ball at the top of the box and got more of the Revs forward than the ball. A PK was called and converted to level the score. The Rapids made an attempt to get the win but the game ended in a draw.

My key to the game was if the Cummings - Nyassi combo was a one time thing or a new partnership. Gary Smith decided to sit Cummings down for a half to rest him so it was hard to tell, but the Rapids were more dangerous when they were working together.

Other Observations:
  • I have no idea why Gary Smith rested Cummings int eh first half. He only played 62 minutes on Wednesday and had 3 assists. If for some reason he only had 45 minutes in him, why not start him and sub him off at half instead of the other way around?
  • Setting up for the throw-in that led to the Revs goal, Jake (sitting next to me) yelled "Hey Wells, Feilhaber is their best guy, don't leave him so much space!". 5 seconds later the unmarked Feilhaber put the ball in the back of the net.
  • Colorado had no hurry to their game until New England scored. The Rapids were happy to control play in midfield without making many dangerous attempts on goal. That cost them when they went behind.
  • The PK call on Palguta was a bit soft, but it wasn't a horrible call.
  • There were a number of questionable calls in the game, but that's not what cost us the win. The lack of pressure in our play left us in a position where a bad play by Palguta cost us 2 points.
  • Folan shouldn't see the field again unless the Rapids are up or down by 3 goals. He adds nothing to the attack and if the ball isn't played perfectly to him he doesn't try.
  • Just a bizarre game. A draw was probably a fair result, but there were times when it looked like we were going to lose and win this one.
Player of the Game: Pablo Mastroeni. When things worked they worked because they went through Pablo. New England's offense was also stymied int he midfield, largely due to Pablo's play (along with Larentowicz).

Friday, July 22, 2011

10th Annual Jamesons Night!

The New England Revolution are in town tomorrow and long-time Rapids fans know what that means, Jamesons Night! (Go here for the history of this fan tradition) Both teams are coming off of mid-week wins, so they have momentum but may be tired. Game time tomorrow at the Dick is 7pm, so the kegs will be tapped at the tailgate at 4pm and the grills fired up at 5pm. Jameson Whiskey will, of course, be served. For those of you missing the celebrations, the game will be on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); DF Danny Earls (L quadriceps contusion); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Pablo Mastroeni; DF Drew Moor; MF Wells Thompson; DF Anthony Wallace

No change to the injury report since Tuesday, so I'm not expecting many lineup changes. New England is only missing one player due to injury, so they should be pretty close to full strength. My guess at what we'll see:

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

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. 3rd game in a week you would expect some of the starters to get a rest but according to Gary Smith earlier today nobody wants to stay on the sideline. Jamie Smith is still a game time decision so I expect Thompson being ready to take his spot again. Otherwise go with what worked on Wednesday.

Key To Look For: Cummings + Nyassi, flash int he pan or a new partnership being built? We've seen a number of strikers come in and have a great game early on, without being able to repeat it. Are we going to see that pattern hold or will Nyassi become the go to guy?

Prediction: 2-0 win, goals by Nyassi and Cummings. The Revs are a bad team playing their second road game in 4 days. Colorado should be able to control this game and get a win. Given their struggles this could be the game where the defense gets a much needed shutout, and the speed of Nyassi and Cumming should be able to burn the New England defense.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ladies And Gentlemen, Sanna Nyassi!

Apparently Sanna Nyassi saw an opportunity with Casey's injury to claim a starting spot and he took full advantage. He was a couple of inches short of a first-half hat-trick, but got his hat-trick and staked the Rapids to a 4-0 lead right after half. After that it was smooth sailing the rest of the way.

Nyassi got the game started with a bang, as he played a 1-2 with Cummings at the top of the box and slammed it home for a 1-0 lead after just 77 seconds. NY would quickly try to level the score, with Dane Richards getting a good look but putting it over the bar and Henry getting a cross right in front of the box that Pickens parried away (And Thompson almost put back in for an own goal!). Int he 26th minute Nyassi closed on an open ball 35 yards out and fired one in, just to hit the inside of the post and bounce out. Thompson was there to clean up the rebound (possibly with a hand ball), and double the lead. 4 minutes later Nyassi took a pass from Cummings, split 4 different Red Bull defenders, and made it 3 goals in the opening 30 minutes for the Rapids.

Things quieted down after that with both teams getting some possession in and the Rapids coming up with a couple of good chances but not converting. After the break it was more of the same with Cummings and Nyassi making the NY defense work. In the 61st minute Nyassi again took a pass from Omar, put it past the NY defense, and ran past everyone to beat the keeper to it, sliding it inside the near post for his hat-trick and a 4-0 lead. Thierry Henry is too good a player to keep out of a play completely and he followed up a shot unmarked and beat Pickens from the top of the area to get one back, but despite a couple of close chances that's all NY could get. Colorado ceded possession but not goals for the last quarter of the game and took their 4-1 win.

My key to the game was how well Cummings pairs with whomever started in Casey's place. Omar got 3 assists on 3 goals by his strike partner, so I think they partnered fine. ;)

Stats Of The Game:
  • Cummings 3 assists tied the team record for assists in a game
  • Nyassi's 3 goals and 1 assist was the best single-game offensive output in team history. The only other Rapids to be involved in 4 goals was Henry Zambrano in 2000 at New England. he had 2 goals and 2 assists. 3 goals and 1 assist is more impressive than 2 of each in my opinion.

Other Observations:
  • I blamed a lot of the loss in Seattle on Gary Smith. Everyone was questioning his decision to start Nyassi, at least for the first 76 seconds of the game. Now he looks like a super genius. ;)
  • Wells Thompson, aka Supercuts, was very lucky to be on the field to score his goal. He had an early tackle on Solli that should have been at least a yellow and could have easily been a red.
  • That said, that's two games in a row with a goal, so he's off the bad list for a while.
  • Pablo and Larentowicz didn't allow anything to develop in midfield, they forced all the play to the outside.
  • Kimura and Mullan double-teamed Henry to the point of pretty much making him a non-factor in the game.
  • Kimura in particular obviously didn't care who Henry was, I love seeing that in a defender.
  • Ballouchy getting a yellow for diving was hilarious.
  • Since Nyassi got the start and Folan and Akpan were the subs, I think we can say Amarikwa is the low man on the striker totem pole (which is actually the position of honor, regardless of how the phrase is used).
  • Great job by the fans last night as well!
Player of the Game: Sanna Nyassi. Need I say more?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Rapids Face NY Without Casey

The picture has nothing to do with our opponent, but I found it funny. Its from an article about Wynne and Earls going to the Cat Care Society to help them celebrate their 30th anniversary. Cat Care is also where we adopted our cat from.

As reported earlier today, Conor Casey's season is over. Tomorrow the Rapids have to figure out how to handle the remaining 13 games plus the 6 Champions League games without him. The first challenge, Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls. A (thankfully) rare weekday home game at the Dick, which means a 7:30 start. Tailgate starts at 5 and for those people unable to make it tot he game it will be on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); DF Danny Earls (L quadriceps contusion); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 1 MORE CAUTION: MF Pablo Mastroeni (3 games good behavior)
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; DF Drew Moor; MF Wells Thompson; DF Anthony Wallace

The injury report was getting better, until the news on Casey today. NY is missing 3 players, including one of their DP's, Rafa Marquez. My guess at the new post-Casey starting XI:

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

There are no great options to replace Casey, but Folan seems to be the logical choice. The rest of the starting XI is set at this point, assuming everyone is healthy.

Key To Look For: How well Cummings pairs with whomever is next to him. Omar is now the key to the offense and he needs to get it figured out quickly.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Cummings. NY is a good team and the Rapids look like a bit of a mess at the moment. I have no faith in the defense shutting down Henry and Co., but I think you'll see a significant improvement from our performance in Seattle. Playing at home the Rapids will find a way to get a goal, but without Casey I don't see them scoring more than one.

Casey Out 8-10 Months With Torn Achilles

Just being reported by the Denver Post. Say goodbye to our Champions League chances, its going to be a struggle just to make the playoffs now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rapids Defense Slashed Apart By Sounders

As I predicted, the Rapids lost in Seattle by a goal. As I didn't predict it was a 4-3 goal-fest instead of the expected defensive battle. The Rapids got off to a good start, with a Wells Thompson goal off a lazy Seattle clearance in the first 5 minutes. Not surprisingly Colorado gave the lead right back within 5 minutes as the back line was beaten again, for at least the 3rd time in the first 10 minutes. This pattern would continue.

In the 38th minute Casey went down due to a non-contact injury to his Achilles. I'm not sure you can blame the turf laid over the field for the ManU friendly this week for the injury, but it didn't help matters. He was immediately subbed out for Folan, and a MRI was taken today. 5 minutes later Wells Thompson laid a ball back to Ginger Ninja and he pinged it off the post and into the goal to put the Rapids up at half.

Again though, the lead would only last about 5 minutes, as in the first 3 minutes after the break the high defensive line would be beat again for Seattle to get it second. The teams would settle down for most of the second half with Seattle continuing to slip behind the Rapids defense, but the defense recovering to prevent any goals. Unfortunately there were only so many times the back line could recover, and twice between the 82nd and 84th minute they would get burned. Suddenly a 2-2 draw turned into a 4-2 Sounders lead. Colorado would steal one back int he 90th minute after a loose ball found its way to Folan on the back post, but it was too little too late.

My key to the game was the midfield. As expected Pablo and Ginger controlled the center of the midfield, but the loss of Smith before the game and Mullan not travelling left the wings to be exploited, and Seattle took full advantage.

Other Observations:
  • I place a lot of this loss on Gary Smith. The Rapids high defensive line was getting slashed apart in the first minutes of the game, and Smith never changed strategies.
  • Not only that, but when Jaime Smith pulled up with a tight hamstring in pre-game warm-ups, Gary Smith's decision to leave Mullan at home backfired. Its bad enough to play without one of our two starting wingers, but to play with both killed us.
  • If Casey's injury keeps him out for more than a couple of games we're probably going to kiss any hope of a high finish goodbye. We can expect to be playing in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
  • Kimura is being scouted this month by the Japanese National team. Lets hope they didn't see the first Seattle goal where Koz got turned inside out.
  • Moor did not have a great game at left back, Seattle was attacking him all game. I expect that's a one time thing though.
  • Nyassi, pass the #$##$! ball. He seems to want to try to beat 2 players instead of finding the open man.
  • Cummings was named an All-Star today. I'm assuming that's a makeup for leaving him out of the roster the last two years because he hasn't played well enough to deserve it, and that continued this game. He was pretty much invisible.
  • Great goal by Larentowicz, and generally a good game from him. Taunting the fans after the goal may not have been the smartest move, but I got a laugh out of it.
  • Pickens is coming up with some great saves, but he's leaving rebounds right in front of net. We've gotten burned on them and we'll continue to get burned if he can't punch them out further or hold onto them.
Player of the Game: Wells Thompson. A goal and an assist makes it his best game this year, possibly his best game as a Rapid.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mullan Grudge Match In Seattle

Might as well accept it. Regardless of the actual facts tomorrow the Rapids are going to be the evil thugs who are single-handedly bringing down the level of play in MLS while Seattle while Seattle is the shining example of all that is good in MLS.

OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea. Colorado heads to Seattle tomorrow for the teams first match-up since Mullan's horrible tackle on Zakuani. Due to his back spasms, the fact the Rapids are healthy except for Kandji, the schedule (3 games this week), and a possibility of threats from Seattle fans that the Rapids FO was taking seriously a month or so ago, Brian Mullan has been left in Colorado. That's not going to change the reaction the defending champs will get form the fans in CenturyLink Field though. Due to a Mariners game next door in Safeco Field (scheduled to be Happy Felix Day!) at 7pm, kickoff for the Rapids tomorrow is 2pm MDT. The game will be nationally televised on FOX Soccer Channel and Class VI and the Pid Army are gathering at the Highlands Tavern to watch the game.

Injury Report:
QUESTIONABLE: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); DF Danny Earls (L quadriceps contusion)
PROBABLE: MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; DF Drew Moor; DF Anthony Wallace

As mentioned, Mullan will not be available for this game. Kandji is the only other player not available for selection. Seattle has 3 players unavailable, all likely starters. Most of the starting XI is fairly obvious, but my guess:

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

I'd like to see LaBauex starting in Mullan's place, but back in Seattle I think Smith will go with the former Sounder. The other 10 spots are very obvious.

Key To Look For: This game will be won or lost in midfield. Seattle might have the best full midfield in the league, but Colorado has (IMO) the best 1-2 punch of defensive mids in Mastroeni and Larentowicz. The team that can get the ball through the midfield to its strikers in dangerous positions will win.

Prediction: 1-0 loss. Honestly I can see a 0-0 or 1-1 draw happening too, but I just have a sense that this game will be ugly soccer in midfield with neither team getting a lot of good chances. The wild card will be the grass laid over the normal turf field and I think an odd bounce will fool the Rapids and give the Sounders a goal.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rapids All-Time Team: Defensive Midfielder

The starting defensive midfielder for the Rapids All-Time Team is Pablo Mastroeni.

How Acquired: First pick in 2002 Allocation draft from the contracted Miami Fusion.

Years In Colorado: 2002 through current day

How Departed: Still with the team

Next to Balboa, this was the easiest pick on the team. The Rapids essentially have two eras in their history, the Balboa era and the Pablo era. Combined they have been on the roster for every game in team history. Mastroeni is currently the team record holder in games played, games started, and minutes. He played his 200th regular-season match for the Rapids a few weeks ago, the first Colorado player to reach that mark. Not surprisingly he's also the all-time leader in both yellow and red cards, with almost twice as many as the next closest players (Beckerman, Borchers, and Ihemelu).

Pablo is also one of only two Rapids (again, along with Balboa) to play in the World Cup as a member of the team. He stepped in at the last minute in 2002 for an injured Chris Armas and helped take the National Team to their best finish at the World Cup since 1930. That solidified his spot as a regular starter for the Nats for the next 6+ years, including the 2006 World Cup team. While he never officially retired from international play he hasn't played for the team since early in 2009 and it appears his time at that level is over.

In his time with the Rapids Pablo has been one of, if not the, best defensive midfielders in the league and, barring injury, an automatic starter. Mastroeni has been the team captain for the last 6+ years, including captaining the team to their first MLS Cup last year. He's reportedly had chances to move abroad, being linked most recently with teams in Spain and Italy when his last contract expired in 2008 however he chose to stay with the Rapids and finish his career here.

You simply can not put together an all-time Rapids team without including Pablo Mastroeni.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Rapids Drench The Whitecaps

To quote my game preview:
2-1 win, goals by Casey and Cummings. C+C Goal Factory find their rhythm and put the Rapids up 2, but the defense continues to have at least one breakdown a game to make things interesting in the second half.
That's pretty much what happened. Palguta got the second goal instead of Cummings, but otherwise I was dead on. The Rapids controlled most of the first half and midway through Casey took advantage. Jamie Smith played a great cross into the box and an onrushing Conor chested it down to his right foot and knocked it across his body to the far post for a 1-0 lead. As is typical for the Rapids they almost gave the lead right back on a close shot, but other than that they took the lead into half pretty much uncontested.

The second half started much like the first. In the 54th minute Folan scuffed a cross from Koz, but Casey jumped on it, got former Rapids keeper Joe Cannon on the ground, but couldn't hit the tight angle into the empty net. It was close enough that the goal music started and the cannon was fired. 14 minutes later Smith crossed a free kick into the box and Casey headed it towards goal, only for Cannon to push it away. Luckily it fell right to Palguta's feet and all he had to do was chip it over the prone Cannon to double the Rapids lead. After the goal Colorado relaxed a bit and Vancouver took control of the game. In the 77th minute the Whitecaps made it pay off. A great show of passing and finding where the Rapids weren't left Sanvezzo rounding a prone Pickens and hitting the back of the net. The Whitecaps continued to keep things interesting before Colorado could see out the rest of the time for their first home win in over 3 months.

My key to the game was controlling the game start to finish. They didn't quite get that done, but they controlled the majority of the game, and against an expansion team, that was enough.

Other Observations:
  • Jamie Smith had a great game and if it weren't for Casey doing even better on the end of his crosses Smith would have been the Man of the Match.
  • No one defender was to blame for the goal, it was a well worked sequence where Vancouver pulled everyone out of position and exploited the holes.
  • Folan had a better game, but still isn't gelling with the team.
  • Similarly Cummings hasn't re-found his touch this season. He's still the second best forward on the team by a good margin, but C+C Goal Factory isn't there yet.
  • Wells Thompson had a solid game, nothing more, but that's a step forward.
  • Wallace must have insulted Gary Smith's wife or something. There's no reason Earls should be starting in front of him.
  • Palguta had a good game, but he shouldn't be playing in front of Wallace either.
  • Hopefully this is the start of a run, but the Mullan revenge match next week could be ugly.
Player of the Game: Conor Casey. One goal, one unofficial assist, and one almost goal. He was a monster out there and looks like he wants to put the team on his back and carry them the rest of the season.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Choppy Waters Ahead!

The Rapids get their first look at the team trying to swamp their control of water nicknames in MLS, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Essentially you've got turbulent river water versus turbulent sea water at the Dick tomorrow. Vancouver just traded for former Rapid Jordan Harvey, so we may see him back at the Dick for a second time this year (he already played for Philly last month). Game time tomorrow is at 5pm and the tailgate kegs will be tapped at 4, with the grills being fired up at 5. For those of you unable to make it the game will be on Altitude.

Injury Report:
QUESTIONABLE: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R calf strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED: MF Pablo Mastroeni
SUSPENDED AFTER 2 MORE CAUTIONS: FW Conor Casey; MF Ross LaBauex; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; DF Drew Moor; DF Anthony Wallace

No official change to the injury report for tomorrow, though all reports are that if he wasn't suspended Pablo wouldn't be able to play anyway. Vancouver has 6 players injured or suspended so they're hurting more than we are. My guess on the lineup:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Moor
Mullan - LaBauex- Larentowicz - Smith
Casey - Cummings

I think that after a week's rest and not travelling to KC both Mullan and Smith will be able to go. Other than that the starting XI is fairly obvious. LaBauex has been the best player off the bench, though I wouldn't be shocked to see Nane starting instead.

Key To Look For: Expansion team, at home, with 10 of 11 starters available. There's no reason the Rapids shouldn't control this game start to finish.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Casey and Cummings. C+C Goal Factory find their rhythm and put the Rapids up 2, but the defense continues to have at least one breakdown a game to make things interesting in the second half.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Change Of Location, Same Result

Before I get to the game review I wanted to mention that the Rapids have announced some of their pre-season plans for next year. They've been invited to be the MLS representative in the new Hawai'ian Islands Invitational Tournament in February. The other teams invited are the J-League's (Japan) Yokohama FC, the K-League's (South Korea) Incheon United, and the A-League's (Australia) Melbourne Heart.

Now on to last night's game. Just over a month ago the Rapids hosted Sporting KC, Casey scored in the first half, Sporting equalized in the second, and the teams settled for a 1-1 draw. Last night in KC Casey scored in the first half, Sporting equalized in the second, and the teams settled for a 1-1 draw. Colorado looked strong in the first half, with the C+C Goal Factory settling back into their familiar partnership. The big hit for the Rapids came in the 12th minute as Pablo slid into a tackle and Roger Espinoza collapsed on his leg. Pablo, correctly, got a yellow for the bad tackle which will see him suspended for the next game, but he also got a hyper-extended right knee which will probably keep him out longer. Mastroeni tried to play through it but 18 minutes later he was subbed out for Nane. 2 minutes after the sub Casey chested down a long free kick out of the back, spun, and slammed a shot past the White Puma to put the Rapids up 1-0.

The second half was more physical and more controlled by Sporting. The big change was C.J. Sapong's entry into the game for Teal Bunbury. He immediately created a chance that Pickens had to parry, leading to KC missing the open net while Matty P was on the ground. A minute later he did it again, only this time Zusi was able to hit the open net to level the score. KC would hit the post on an attack after Pickens had to come out to make a save. The Rapids best chance came off a Nyassi free kick that everybody watching on TV was sure was in. The final attack came from KC where Jesus had to palm a deflection into the crossbar and out of play to preserve the draw.

My key to the game was could we score. Once again the Rapids could only find the back of the net once and not surprisingly, didn't win.

Stat Of The Game: Pablo's suspension for yellow card accumulation will make 14 games in a row that the Rapids have had a player suspended.

Other Observations:
  • Great to see the C+C Goal Factory starting again. We haven't seen it since the opener.
  • Nane is a No-no. Most of the passes he tried ended up with KC.
  • Another solid if quiet game from LaBauex. I don't expect him to be taking a starting role anytime soon, but he's showing himself to be a jack-of-all-trades in midfield.
  • I liked some of what I saw of Nyassi coming off the bench. I think that's a great role for him right now.
  • One thing I didn't like was Nyassi dribbling the ball in two circles, killing an offensive charge, before passing.
  • Folan still isn't working if he doesn't get the perfect ball.
  • In the first half you could see some of the play that got us to MLS Cup last year. We need to figure out how to do that for 90 minutes (staying healthy would help).
  • Its too soon to have a "must win" game, but the Vancouver game is looking pretty important.
Player of the Game: Matt Pickens. He had a couple of rebounds right in front of the net (one of which led to the goal) but he also came up big on more than one occasion to keep the Rapids in the game. And honestly, there was no defense to be seen on the goal so I can only blame him so much for that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Colorado Makes First Visit To Livestrong Park

Its appropriate that Colorado, home to the Garmin-Cervelo pro bike racing team and so many American bike racers, is going to Livestrong Park tomorrow during the first week of the Tour de France (can you tell one of my other interests is bicycle racing?). Kansas City finally got a home of their own and this will be the Rapids first look at it. A few supporters are making our second-shortest road trip, but with our shortest trip (to FSL), MLS did us no favors by making it a midweek game. For the rest of us the game will be on Altitude tomorrow starting at 6:30pm. No official Class VI/Pid Army viewing party, but I'm sure there will be groups at the Highland Tavern and the British Bulldog.

Injury Report:
QUESTIONABLE: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Jamie Smith (R calf strain); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain)

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

Suddenly our injury report got much worse. 3 new players added to it since Friday. Along with a 3-game week the lineup is going to be kind of hard to figure out. 4 KC players will be missing due to injury. My guess at the starting XI:

Kimura - Wynne - Marshall - Moor
Nyassi - Mastroeni - Larentowicz - Thompson
Casey - Cummings

Midfield is a complete tossup. I'm guessing that Smith rests both Mullan and Smith for the game on Saturday, but who knows. I'm sure he'd like to rest Cummings but they need some firepower and he has to get C+C Goal Factory working again. I wouldn't be shocked to see Palguta play for Marshall or Wynne but I think the regular back 4 will start.

Key To Look For: Can we score? Since our 8 goals in 3 games to start the season we've only scored more than 1 twice. Not surprising we've only won twice as well. No goals means no wins.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Casey. I've seen nothing in the Rapids play over the last two months that makes me thing we're going to score more than 1. Meanwhile KC is en fuego right now. I think the short turn-around+ travel is enough to give Sporting the edge in this one, but the Rapids have proven themselves to be tenacious this year. A draw wouldn't be much of a surprise.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rapids Save Fireworks For After The Game

Well there isn't much to talk about in this game. Houston came in happy to defend and take a 0-0 draw, or get a counterattacking goal to steal a 1-0 win. Colorado carried possession most of the game and created more chances, but couldn't convert and Houston got its 0-0 draw.

My key to the game was the Rapids getting a lift from the home crowd and controlling the game. While Colorado controlled the game they were incapable of breaking down the Dynamo defense. It seems that the book is out on Colorado. If the C+C Goal Factory aren't both on the field give the Rapids possession, they can't get through a defense. Colorado was only dangerous last night off of set pieces and the occasional cross.

Stats Of The Game: It has now been more than 3 months (not the 2 that I mentioned in the game preview) since our last home win. :P

Other Observations:
  • Amarikwa's red card was deserved, and idiotic. You can't get in the refs face after the whistle, especially after just getting a yellow card. More stupid mental mistakes from our forwards.
  • I'm done with the Folan experiment. While last night was better than his last couple of appearances, he's just not on the same page as the rest of the team and he refuses to actually work for a chance. He waits for the perfect pass, and when he doesn't get it he throws his hands up instead of chasing after the ball.
  • Apparently last night's strategy was to turn Kimura into the cross-o-matic. I think he had more crosses than the rest of the team combined. I'm not sure why this is was the strategy, there's a reason Koz is a defender.
  • The best balls of the night came from Smith. Unfortunately there weren't enough of them.
  • Mullan got a nice welcome back without being over the top for a player returning from a suspension for a dangerous tackle.
  • The Rapids stadium-wide tifo looked pretty good, too bad after all that build up ESPN didn't bother to show it..
Player of the Game: Marvell Wynne. The lack of chances from both offenses made it difficult for anyone to stand out, but Wynne being back really seemed to settle down the back line. Considering the only difference between the back-line in the last two games and this one was Wynne over Earls/Palguta, and in the last two games the Rapids gave up 7 goals on poor defensive plays and in this game there were no really bad plays and Colorado pitched a shutout, Wynne seemed the best choice.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Annual Independence Day Game Is Here!

OK, so this year its on the 3rd and not the 4th, but the annual Independence Day game is upon us. Houston is in town trying to do what only two teams have done before, defeat the Rapids on the 4th (3rd) of July. The Rapids have won 11 of 15 games on this holiday weekend and tied 2. Game time on Sunday is 7pm, which means the Class Vi/Pid Army tailgate starts at 4pm and its going to be a big one this week so get there early! For those of you unable to get to the Dick, Colorado will make its first appearance on ESPN2 this year. For once I will not be watching on TV, as the move of the game from the 4th to the 3rd means I actually get to attend the game, then celebrate my 13th wedding anniversary the next day.

Injury Report:
DOUBTFUL: FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)

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

Well once again we have a suspended player, for the 12th game in a row. That means it will be another game before the C+C Goal Factory is back on the pitch. Houston is missing 4 players to injury, so they aren't in much better shape. My guess on our lineup:

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

Left back is still a big question mark as long as Wynne is injured. He's not on the injury report right now, but I doubt he starts his first game back, especially since this is a 3 game week. Folan seems to be the obvious choice to fill in for the suspended Casey.

Key To Look For: The Rapids have to get a lift from the sold-out crowd. Its been 2 months since our last home win, and they need to come out and play like they own their own house. Control the game, keep the Dynamo from thinking they're in it, and put up a dominating win.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Cummings and Smith. Houston's not a very good team, but I don't trust our defense to get a shutout right now. The game will be closer than it should be, but the loud crowd will give the Rapids the edge they need to win this one.