Friday, September 28, 2012

Rapids Face Do Or Die Against LA

Never Doubt The Bruce

The Travelling Galaxy Road Show is in town on Sunday, possibly including Old Spice for only the 3rd time in his MLS career.  A win by Vancouver on Saturday and anything but a win in this game will officially eliminate the Rapids from the playoffs.  Even if both teams win, there's still only a thin margin for error the rest of the way.  For such a big game there has to be a big tailgate, and Class VI and the Pid Army are delivering.  Not 1 but 2 pigs are being smoked overnight in the DSG Park tailgate lot for this party, and it starts at 2pm.  The game is on Altitude locally and Galavision nationally.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain); FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); MF Brian Mullan (L hamstring strain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

LA has 4 players questionable or worse, including Old Spice himself and Wilhelmsson (who scored against us two weeks ago).  Its really hard at this point to guess the starting XI for the Rapids, but I'll take a shot:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Marshall- Wynne - Moor

I'd prefer to see Freeman on the bench for this one after he got worked over by the Galaxy two weeks ago, but I don't think we'll see that.  We could see Cascio or Cummings up front and I wouldn't be shocked.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  I don't see any changes in the Rapids from two weeks ago that maes me think we'll see a different result.  The tailgate should be fun though.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rapids Not Yet Out Of Their Playoff Misery

The Rapids played a good 30 minutes and an adequate 60 minutes on Sunday night, which was enough to get out of Vancouver with a 2-2 draw and a slight playoff hope.  The early game was controlled by the Whitecaps, with Pickens having to come up twice on big saves and Wynne making multiple clearances.  Around the 30th minute Colorado started to take control of the game and really put Vancouver under pressure.  In the 34th minute Rivero took a pass from Wynne just over midfield and drove towards the goal. The Whitecaps decided not to pressure him so at the top of the box Martin let it rip and nailed the post.  For once this season the Rapids got a lucky break and the rebound came right to Cummings who finished it from a narrow angle for the early lead.

Colorado continued the pressure, with Vancouver's keeper being forced to make a big save off a Castrillon header right before half.  They picked it up again after the break and keep control of the game.  About the 60th minute though the momentum switched and the Whitecaps started to drive the game.  Off a corner kick that was cleared into the far corner Koffie beat Cummings and sent a cross in that Rochat redirected past Pickens to level the game.  4 minutes later Robsen played a good through ball past Marshall and Wynne to an on-rushing Miller who made it a 2-1 lead for the home team.

Things weren't looking good for the Rapids at this point as this appeared to be another game where Colorado would get a lead only to give it back on defensive miscues.  Jamie Smith had other ideas though.  8 minutes from the end of the game he snagged a misplayed ball from the Vancouver defense, forced himself past 3 defenders, and slammed home the tying goal.  Great individual effort.  The Rapids had a shot to win the game in the 90th minute only for Knighton to come up with one final big save.

My key to the game was defense and sure enough, a 5 minute span of mental mistakes cost us.

Other Observations:
  • Casey missed a lot of headers on Sunday night.  He really needs a run of healthy games to knock off the rust, but there's only 4 games left.
  • The Rapids looked like the better team for the 15 minutes on either side of halftime.  The rest of the time they let Vancouver stay in the game and it cost them.
  • On the first Vancouver goal the 3 closest Rapids to the ball were Cummings, Casey, and Castrillon.  Something's wrong there.
  • This was the first game where I wasn't impressed with Thomas.  He wasn't horrible, but he didn't control the midfield like he had in his prior games.
  • Good to see the team battle back after going down, we haven't seen enough of that this year.
  • The Rapids need a miracle to make the playoffs but it still is possible.  Amazingly we're going to still be mathematically alive when we enter October, as the earliest we can be eliminated now is Vancouver's game on October 3rd.
Player Of The Game: Jamie Smith.  Maybe that never-say-die goal is what this team needs to wake up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Playoff Hopes Will Be Soaked For One Team

Whitecaps - Rapids; Wettest Game In MLS

Tomorrow night Colorado is in Vancouver to face the whitecaps.  A loss all but officially eliminated the Rapids from the playoffs (if they aren't at that point already).  A loss by the Whitecaps doesn't eliminate them, but if they can't beat the Rapids at home they don't have much of a chance.  Game time tomorrow is 5:30pm and the game is on Altitude.  Class VI and the Pid Army will be gathering downtown at the Celtic to watch the game.

Injury Report:
OUT: MF Davy Armstrong (personal medical issue); FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
QUESTIONABLE: FW Tony Cascio (L ankle sprain)
PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

Vancouver is down two players due to injury so they're in good shape.  Cascio's injury makes the lineup a bit tricky but here's my guess:

Castrillon - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Marshall- Wynne - Moor

Something tells me that with Cascio out we'll see Casey and not Akpan in the starting 11.  The back 4 seems pretty set at this point, but who know's for sure.

Key To Look For: Defense.  This is pretty much the permanent key for the rest of the season.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Castrillon.  Neither team is playing well at this point so its hard to see either winning.  Unfortunately right now a Colorado win would be more shocking than a Vancouver one, but I think we can squeak a point out of this match.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What Was The Point Of The Kimura Trade Again?

Back on July 1st the Rapids traded Kosuke Kimura to Portland for allocation money and an international spot for 2012.  Since then the Rapids cut an international player (Harrison Henao) and signed an international player (Hendry Thomas).  Jamie Smith may have gotten his green card as well, which would have freed up another international spot.  Last weekend was the roster freeze deadline for the year so the Rapids won't be signing an other players.  See the problem?  The Rapids traded for an international spot for 2012, and never used it.  Thomas took the international spot of Henao who was waived about 2 weeks after the Kimura trade.

At the time I understood the trade of Kimura.  He had obviously been passed on the depth chart in Pareja's mind by Freeman and he's in a contract year and wanted to go somewhere where he could play.  Win-win for both teams.  Honestly at the point he was traded Freeman was outplaying him and the Portland fans love his passion but aren't impressed with his play there so he may never have gotten the spot back.

If you're going to trade a guy who's been with the team 5+ years and been a steady starter for the last 3 though, I expect the team to get some value for him.  Instead they got some allocation money which the Rapids never seem to use except for other trades and an international spot they didn't use, so essentially they got allocation money for him.

If I had to guess, about a week after the trade reports came out that Colorado had made a bid for Senegalese defender Mor Diouf from a South African team.  I'm betting the Rapids thought they were going to get the deal done and traded for the international spot to be able to add Diouf to the roster.  If so, this was a poor decision on two levels.  First apparently the deal wasn't as "done" as Colorado thought as Diouf never signed and is still playing in South Africa.  Secondly, the Rapids made a decision a week after the reports of their interest in Diouf to cut Henao which freed up an international spot anyway.

Colorado still has the allocation money they got, so it wasn't a complete giveaway, but a pretty poor trade none the less.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Boys Against Men

The older experienced Galaxy worked over the younger Rapids in LA on Friday.  While the scoreline was only 2-0 the differences between the teams was obvious for the whole 90 minutes.  Colorado actually had more attempts on goal and more corner kicks, but LA was clearly the more dangerous team.  In the 15th minute they made that abundantly clear as Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan spun Marvell Wynne like a top for an easy goal.

In the 58th minute LA did it again.  New signing Christian Wilhelmsson Beat Zapata down the left side and pulled him into the middle.  Wynne and Zapata stumbled over each other which gave Wilhelmsson an opening he took advantage of.  Pickens got a hand on the shot but couldn't stop it and it was 2-0.

The closest the Rapids got to a goal was late in the game when a LA defender whiffed on a clearance in the box, leaving the ball at Casey's feet.  Conor, as a good striker is want to do, immediately set up and took the shot but Saunders made the save.  Had Casey looked up he would have seen an unmarked Castrillon on the far post for an easy pass and goal.

My key to the game was defense, because I thought we could score.  Well it didn't matter how well we could defend because we couldn't score.

Other Observations:
  • Wynne really got turned around on the first goal but otherwise he actually had a pretty good game, making a number of big interceptions.
  • I can't blame Casey for taking the shot he did, that's the instinct you want a striker to have.
  • Some people had wondered about the difference in salaries between the teams in this game.  The Galaxy had over 5 times the salary on the field that the Rapids did, but that was all due to Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan.  The rest of the Galaxy were actually trailing the Rapids salary.
  • The second goal is one of the few times this year where you can say Pickens really should have done better with it.  Everybody's allowed one or two mistakes a season though. ;)
  • With Casey and Cummings starting the game on the bench (Casey for the second straight fame) so youngsters Akpan and Cascio could start, its time to start wondering if the era of the C+C Goal Factory is over.
Player Of The Game: Hendry Thomas.  His passing over the last two games has been outstanding and in a game where nobody really stood out, Thomas was calm and competent which is more than I can say for most of the players.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rapids Get Chris Klute On Loan From Atlanta

Its halftime, 1-0 LA.  If you aren't watching you aren't missing much.  At the beginning fo the game the broadcast announced that the Rapids had loaned defender Chris Klute from the NASL Atlanta Silverbacks for a year.  He can play right or center back.  Klute played for the U.S. U-17s in the 2007 U-17 World Cup and has played twice for the U-20s.  He starred at Furman University and Clayton State University before signing with Atlanta in June, playing every minute since then.  he's originally from Grand Prarie, TX and played in the Dallas Texans youth program.

Given his connections to Dallas youth soccer and the U-17 team, safe to say this is a player that Pareja and/or Cabrera have had their eyes on for a while.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Colorado In LA To Face Old Spiceless Galaxy

No Spice for the Galaxy tomorrow

The Rapids are out in LA-LA land to face the Galaxy.  David Beckham is questionable and not expected to play, so a bit of a break for Colorado.  Donovan will be coking back from injury and should be available.  Meanwhile the Rapids are as healthy as they're going to be this season.  Game time is a late 9pm start tomorrow night and the game is on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Conor Casey (R knee soreness); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; MF Jeff Larentowicz; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

Besides Old Spice LA is down 3 other players sue to injury.  Its kind of hard to know what Pareja will b ethinking this week, but I'll take my best guess:

Cummings - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Larentowicz
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

I know Pickens will start and I'm pretty confident about the midfield, but everything else is a guess.  I have a feeling that against a team like the Galaxy we'll see C+C Goal Factory instead of Akpan, Cascio, or Castrillon, but I don't really know for sure.  LA has some speed so I'm thinking we'll see Marshall on the bench.

Key To Look For: Defense.  I think we can score on LA, but Donovan, Keane, and the rest are very dangerous and we have to contain them.

Prediction: 3-1 loss, goal by Casey.  We're going to lose big on this one I think.  I've seen nothing from the team this year that makes me believe we can stand with LA on the road at this point.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Trade Official, Rapids Get Draft Pick

Here's the official announcement, the Rapids get a conditional draft pick from Chicago in exchange for Wells Thompson.

There's a good deal of consternation in the on-line Rapids fanbase about wells asking to be traded to find playing time, but it doesn't bother me.  Look at what's happened this season:

*Wells was on pace for 727 minutes this year, his lowest season total of his career.
*In Pareja's 4-3-3 there really isn't a defensive winger spot, so Wells' minutes were coming as a central/d-mid (which he also played at under Gary Smith at times).
*Currently in that role the Rapids have LArentowicz and Thomas as starters, with Nane apparently moving past Thompson on the depth chart, based on recent play.
*Shane O'Neill was recently signed as the new young player and has already been announced as Larentowicz's primary backup, subbing in for him last game instead of Wells.

Its not a surprise that a player in that position who's already seen his playing time diminish and a younger player quickly moving up on him would want to move.  If anything the requested trade by Kimura earlier in the season would me more concerning, but even then Koz had (rightfully or not) been supplanted as the starter by Freeman and, in a contract year, Kosuke knew he needed to go somewhere he would start.

Obviously you don't like to see the locker room unsettled by trade requests, but both of these were cases where the players asking to be traded were being pushed out by better players.  That's certainly better than a Moor or Pickens, who are clearly starters, asking for a trade.

As to the return value of a conditional draft pick, its not ideal.  At the same time I never thought that highly of Thompson.  He had a role of coming off the bench as a defensive replacement to protect a lead, but beyond that he never seemed to fit anywhere else.  He didn't have the skills to  be a regular starter when everyone was healthy, and he didn't particularly add skill to the attack when subbed in while the team was losing (though in full credit to him, he tried to attack more than most players).  His tackling was always an adventure, he didn't earn the Holy Hacker nickname for nothing, but you knew that he'd give 100% while he was out there.  A (hopefully high) draft pick is probably a fair trade, if the Rapids can put it to good use by finding the next Cascio.

Wells To Chicago, But For What?

Lost Hooligan just tweeted this, so safe to say Wells Thompson is now a member of the Fire.  The question is, what did we get for him?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Rapids Unveil New Jerseys

Pictures by Class VI member Chris Earley

At today's season ticket holder party the Rapids unveiled the new 2013 home jerseys, modeled above by captain Drew Moor.  The dark bands you see are the 2012 season ticket holders names on the jersey.  The white sleeves are an intentional connection to the Arsenal jersey (also owned by Kroenke) and you can't see it under Drew's left hand, but there's a small Colorado state flag on the lower left of the jersey.

The Rapids also had a poster "map" of the jersey to assist fans with finding their name.

No Thompson Trade Yet

The team has confirmed that Wells has asked for a trade to find more playing time but states that no deal is complete yet.  Roster freeze date is Saturday, so safe bet he'll be traded sometime this week (I'm guessing an official announcement tomorrow).

Semi-Official: Wells Thompson Traded

Luis Zapata has tweeted good luck and well wishes to Wells Thompson this morning, so he's obviously going somewhere.  Rumors right now are that its Chicago.  More details when I get them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Young Guns Chop Down Timbers

My apologies for the delay.  Last night was taken up by watching the best action-adventure movie of all time in IMAX, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

A surprisingly young team started against the Timbers on Wednesday night.  Casey was given the night off, Cummings was with Jamaica, and Mullan was given a chance to rest for most of the game after his Achilles injury in Portland.  Instead Cascio, Akpan, and Castrillon started in their places and immediately took the game to the timbers.  In the first minute Cascio beat Koz and abused the near post.  In the 5th minute qa cross from Moor was deflected and Kimura managed to beat Cascio to it by inches, but his header fell right to Akpan who finished it for a 1-0 Rapids lead.  In the 27th minute Cascio again beat Koz, having an open shot off a Castrillon cross.  Ricketts made the save but it fell right back to Cascio and he made the second chance count, doubling the Rapids lead.

On the defensive side Portland wasn't threatening.  They didn't get a shot on target until the 75th minute when Chara beat and shouldered Zapata off the ball, but Pickens was up to the task with a kick save.  That would be their only shot on target for the night.  Meanwhile the Rapids had 6 shots on target total, plus Cascio's near post blast.

Colorado put the game away in the 86th minute.  A Kamani Hill corner to the far post was headed back to the near post by Moor where, once again, Kosuke was beat by Castrillon who headed it down and past Ricketts.  3-0 and that's all she wrote.

My key to the game was scoring a meaningful goal.  5 minutes in and it had been accomplished.  Amazing how that helps a team win...

Other Observations:
  • A number have fans have wondered if this game was a changing of the guard.  With Casey given the night off and the young guns playing well, have we seen the beginning of the end of C + C Goal Factory?  I want to see it against a team better than Portland, but its an interesting question.
  • I love Koz, but this game was an example of why he was traded.  Tony Casscio abused him all night.  He admitted after the game that the emotions of returning to Colorado got to him, but that's not how you convince a team they were wrong in trading you.
  • Castrillon has a team lead 7 goals and Rivero a team lead 8 assists.  It hasn't looked good at times, but the new players seen to be finding their place.  Cascio is in the top 5 of goals and assists as well.
  • Moor had two assists tonight (though the assist on the first goal seems generous) from the right back spot, but those were his only two good crosses it seemed.  He'll need to work on that.
  • Portland apparently doesn't know the offside rule.  Every time they seemed to get something going they would be called offside.
  • I got a better look at Thomas this week and liked what I saw.  Very calm on the ball and decisive, something this team needs.
  • Good to see that Mullan wasn't so injured he couldn't play.  A few minutes at the end of the game was just about right for him.
  • Loved seeing the Olympians at the game, too bad only Missy Franklin decided to wear the jersey the Rapids presented them.
Player Of The Game: Tony Cascio.  a goal, an assist, and a goalpost.  He looked good Wednesday night.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's Happened To C+C Goal Factory?

Full game recap coming, but a post-game discussion got me to do some research.  Namely people were asking why Pareja seemed to be unwilling to play Casey and Cummings at the same time.  I wondered how much of that was by choice and how much was due to injury so I looked it up.

Only 9 times this season have they both been Probable on the injury report or better, and in each of those games at least one of them was listed as Probable, so they've never been completely healthy  (Casey has been on the injury report every game this season).

In those 9 games:

4/28 - Chivas: Casey makes his first appearance of the season as a last minute sub for Omar (fans there will remember Class VI screaming at Rapids players to knock the ball out so Casey could be subbed in before the final whistle)

5/2 - @NE: Casey was left in Colorado due to the turf in New England

5/6 - @Dallas: Cummings started but subbed out injured after 14 minutes, Casey subbed in at halftime

6/20 - San Jose: Casey was subbed off for Cummings in the 67th minute

6/30 - Portland: Casey & Cummings start and play 73/74 minutes

7/4 - Vancouver: Casey & Cummings start, Cummings subs off in the 61st

7/7 - @Seattle: Casey starts and goes 67 before Edu subs in, at the same time Cummings subs in for Smith

7/14 - Dallas: Cummings & Casey start and play the full game

7/18 - @Toronto: Casey & Cummings start, Cummings goes 72 minutes

So on 4/28, 5/2, and 5/6 Casey was still recovering from his Achilles injury and understandably didn't start, by the time he got serious minutes Cummings was injured.

On 6/20 Cummings was coming back from injury and only played 23 minutes, you could make a case that Casey could/should have been left in to play with him.

On 7/7 the team was playing its 3rd game in a week, on turf, and both players were probable. While playing both of them at once was possible, without knowing their injury and fitness status I can't fault Pareja for not playing them together.

When playing together Casey has both of his goals and 1 of his assists on Omar's only goal or assist when playing together.

So maybe you fault Pareja for not leaving Casey in on 6/20, a game we lost 2-1 on a Freeman own goal in the 83rd and a PK in the 92rd minute.  Colorado was up 1-0 at home when the Casey/Cummings sub happened.

I find it hard to make a claim that Pareja is resisting playing them together given these numbers though.  When they've been (reasonably) healthy, Pareja has played them together.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Colorado - Portland 2: Electric Boogaloo

Maybe Turbo and Ozone can help us...

Due to being in Portland for the weekend, this will be a combined game review, such as it was, and game preview.  Though there really isn't anything to review, due tot he nature of the game and the fact that I was seeing it in person from a lousy seat there isn't much to talk about.  The offense is anemic and the defense made one mistake they couldn't recover from.  The only highlight was an amazing kick save by Pickens right before half.  Might be the second-best save of his career (after his game-saving one at the end of MLS Cup).  Other than that, yet another loss.

Which brings us to tomorrow's match, which is a rematch of Friday only in Commerce City instead of Portland.  At this point, despite what some media might say, both teams are out of the playoff hunt and looking at 2013.  For Colorado this means Hendry Thomas, the young guys, and getting players like Casey back into the groove.  Game time tomorrow is 7pm so the tailgate starts as soon as work ends at 5pm.  For those of you not making the trip out to the Dick the game is on NBC Sports Network.

Injury Report:
OUT: FW Edu (R foot contusion); MF Pablo Mastroeni (headache symptoms); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear)
PROBABLE: FW Omar Cummings (R ankle soreness); MF Jeff Larentowicz (R knee soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER NEXT 2 YELLOWS: MF Jaime Castrillon; DF Tyrone Marshall; MF Drew Moor; MF Martin Rivero

International Absences:
Omar Cummings - Jamaica

Portland is down two players now.  The big changes for the Rapids are Omar being with Jamaica and the chance that Larentowicz won't play.  This makes the guess at the starting XI tricky:

Cascio - Casey - Mullan
Thomas - Rivero - Nane
Zapata - Moor - Wynne - Freeman

Some of that lineup depends on how quickly players like Thomas and Casey can bounce back from playing on Friday.  Of course if Ginger is available we'll see him in place of Nane or Thomas.

Key To Look For: Score a meaningful goal!  Its been 2 games since we scored a goal that meant anything, 4 since we scored a winning goal.

Prediction: 1-0 win, goal by Casey.  The home field advantage will be enough to invert the score from Friday night, but it will be another lousy game of soccer.