Friday, September 26, 2014

Rapids - Earthquakes Tomorrow

7pm tomorrow night at the Dick the Rapids try to avoid tying their longest ever winless streak at 10 games.Really that's the ONLY thing of interest in this game at this point. Colorado is just playing out the string on this lost season and San Jose is in even worse shape.  The game is on Altitude with Fleming and Balboa on the call.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Sanchez.  I can't predict a win at this point until the team proves they can win but SJ is bad so we'll get a draw.

(Yes, short preview for this one.  Hard to get too excited at this point and life is getting in the way)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Letter To The Rapids FO

Patrick Quinn has allowed me to share his letter to the Colorado Rapids organization, which nicely sums up my current feelings after last night's game as well.

To Whom It May Concern,

It really and truly is hard to put into words how incredibly disappointed I am with this club. In fact, I do not think I have ever been more disappointed in this club since 1996. That in and of itself is quite impressive considering how generally mediocre this club has been for most of its existence.

With still a month left of fixtures, the season is already effectively over from a competitive standpoint. In fact you could argue that the season ended back in July since that was the last time we won a game. This entire season is a failure, and it is due entirely to a culmination of issues you have created upon yourself. I have never, in the 20 years of supporting this club, have seen such a comprehensive failure of an organization across the board.

I turn on ESPN any time in the last two weeks and the big topic right now in sports seems to be the concept of “accountability”. Well, I think it is high time you, as an entire organization, need to be held accountable for the embarrassing and insulting product you have put on the field.

Let’s start with the roster. The roster you have assembled is arguably the weakest in all of MLS today. You have been remarkably stingy when it comes to acquiring new players that could have a genuine impact on the team. According to player salary information provided by the MLS Players Union, you are in fact one of the lowest spenders in the league. Only Chivas USA spend less on total player salaries. New England was formally below us until they did something a little over a month ago that the Rapids have never done in their history, which was sign a high profile Designated Player (in Jermaine Jones) to a seven figure salary.

However, the roster issues go far deeper than simply not spending money. When you do spend money, you have done so in a haphazard fashion. You continue to retain players such as Edson Buddle and Danny Mwanga who command ludicrously high salaries and have contributed essentially nothing to the team since they were first signed. Moreover, when you attempt to invest in a DP status player like Gabby Torres, you never play him…and are seemingly unable to motivate him to even keep his fitness during the offseason (something that Buddle has also been guilty of).

The roster issues go even deeper than that. You have been unable to plan and build a roster from Day 1 that has the ability to compete over the course of a full MLS season. We saw this under Oscar Pareja, and we are seeing it today under Pablo Mastroeni. There have been clear flaws in this roster that have persisted even before Pablo was considered for the head coaching job, and you did nothing to solve those issues. We have needed a target striker since 2011 when Conor Casey became injured and disinterested in playing here. Four years later and this is still and issue you have failed to fix. We have not had a viable set piece specialist since Jeff Larentowicz left the club, and you still have failed to fix this issue.

This year alone, when injuries settled in and the roster became thin, you did nothing to try and give the squad the support it needed. Goal scoring has been a serious problem, transition play has been a serious problem, we haven’t had two heathy choice center backs in months, and now we seem to have serious issues with goalkeeping. Your “solution” to this mountainous amount of roster problems has been to do nothing. You have literally done nothing to address any of these issues even when the team was still competitively positioned for a playoff spot. The international transfer window closed and you signed no one. The MLS roster freeze deadline came and went and you signed no one.

Your solution to fill roster holes is by either acquiring inexperienced players through a broken and obsolete college draft system, or by acquiring old players that are injury prone or no other MLS team would touch. Sure, you might get a Dillon Powers, but for every one of him there are 4 or 5 guys like Kindle, Griffiths, and Yamada. Sure, you might get a Vincente Sanchez, but for every one of him there are 4 or 5 guys like Edu, Harbottle, and Zapata.

This is not how you build a winning team. You build a winning team by fielding a squad that has a healthy mix of players from multiple age groups. Moreover, you bring in players that are experienced and are at or near their career peak. There are literally hundreds of examples where this is the case, yet you seem complacent and/or ignorant to what is conventional wisdom to most people.

Of course, we must also consider what you do with the roster you have. You have tried to implement an experimental fitness system that attempts to keep players in peak fitness and to avoid injuries. Anyone at this point can tell you that this fitness system is total bunk and a complete failure. This roster has been plagued with many serious player injuries since winning MLS Cup, and in many of those cases have directly resulted in determining the fate of the season. It is objectively fair to say that this club has done a much worse job coping with injuries than its peers across the league. Teams like Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders, and LA Galaxy have all had to deal with significant injury problems, yet they are able to cope and remain competitive. The evidence is clear that your entire fitness system is not working.

Part of the reason other teams are more successful is because they have a genuine system and chemistry. They have built well rounded rosters that are able to adapt and still play well as a unit. This team has no chemistry, and your fitness system is a big reason for this. When the team has clearly and desperately needed chemistry and cohesion, you instead chose to move players in and out of the squad in a completely nonsensical fashion that accomplishes nothing. Your roster meddling has even managed to ruin the confidence of all three of our goalkeepers.

Where is the accountability for failing to solve issues so simple that even novices to the game can identify? You have an organizational structure that is bizarre and seemingly ineffective. What does Paul Bravo even do as a technical director? What does Pablo even do as a head coach? Why does this club bring in someone like Metgod only to have him leave before even completing a single season? Who is in charge of building this roster? Who is in charge of signing new players? Who is in charge of tactics? Your organizational structure is a cipher wrapped in an enigma, and it clearly has done you no favors.

Speaking of enigmas, the clubs infrastructure for the future is highly suspect as well. Why is there no formal scouting team? Why are we one of the last clubs in MLS to find a lower division affiliate? Where is the visible connection between the academy teams and the senior side? Why do we lose local players to other clubs? If things are truly this vague and mismanaged now, it is safe to say the future is extremely bleak.

The upper management of this club has talked at length over the last few years about changing the club culture and finding an identity. They have been open and willing to speak to the public on numerous occasions about it. In spite of all these words, the one thing that truly strikes me is that I have never once heard talk of the club culture having an actual level of expectation, and demanding success from everyone within the organization. That is what separates the best organizations from everyone else. That is why organizations like Sporting KC are where they are today, and why the Rapids continue to be a laughing stock in MLS and in company with other broken organizations like New England and Chivas USA. If you do not strive to be great, you will never be great.

Everything you have done related to soccer operations this year has been a total and complete failure. All of you; from the technical staff, to the coaches, to the players, and the management that allowed this to happen; you have all been an embarrassment to the badge and colors of this club.

If you really care about the club you work for, if you even care half as much as the fans, and want to earn back the respect of the supporters, you first need to apologize, as an organization, to the fans. It would also go a long way to generate some good will by also compensating the fans in some way; be it a refund for a single game, reduced rates on season tickets next year, etc. The fans deserve better than what you have given us, and what you have done over the past several years and has culminated in 2014 is not remotely acceptable. It is not acceptable to the supporters, and it shouldn’t be acceptable to you either.

The second thing you must do is both show and explain what you are going to do going forward to ensure that this never happens again. Make bold moves that the fans will notice and appreciate. Cut dead wood from the roster, bring in good players with a track record, revamp your scouting and academy infrastructure, scrap that stupid fitness system, and consolidate the management structure of soccer operations.

Finally, and most importantly, keep the fans up to date with the goings on inside the club. Supporters want to have a connection with you, and giving them a window into the club both increases their understanding and enhances their connection to this organization. Hire a PR team. You would benefit greatly from having one.

What separates soccer from all other sports is that supporting a team is being a part of a community; and building a community is what is going to make the sport grow in this state, and have people continue to buy tickets and fill stadiums for many years to come.


Patrick Quinn
Long-Time Rapids Season Ticket Holder and Centennial 38 Member

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Its Still A Rivalry Game

Just say no to Utah

The Rocky Mountain Cup might be over for the year but this is still a rivalry game and the Rapids still need to put a beat down on FSL.  A loss tomorrow would make the Rapids the first team to be swept in RMC play in the 10 years of competition.  Game time tomorrow is 8pm but since the game is on NBC Sports the kickoff will be more like 8:20 or so.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); MF Jared Watts (L hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Shane O'Neill (R knee sprain); MF Vicente Sanchez (R knee soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE MORE YELLOW: MF Thomas Piermayr (2 good behavior games left)

FSL is missing 3 players to injury and Nat Borchers to suspension.  LaBrocca was suspended by the DisCo today for his rash tackle at the end of last week's draw with the Timbers.  A fair suspension as it was a horrible tackle.  My guess at the XI:
Buddle is battling injury and is not expected to be available.  Yes, Nasco is expected to start in goal again, no I don't know why.  Torres would be the obvious start up top but...  The rest is guess work.

Strategic Consideration: Just get a win.

Prediction: 2-2 draw.  Goals by Brown and Powers.  I don't see us breaking our winless streak, instead extending it to 9 games (tied for 2nd worst in team history).  The Rapids have enough to avoid getting swept in the RMC though and get a point.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Odds and Ends 9/16/14

  • Sanchez out 2-3 weeks due to injury
  • Rumors have the Rapids announcing their USL partnership for next season by aligning with the Queen City Soccer Club in Charlotte, who are taking over the Charlotte Eagles USL spot when the Eagles move to the PDL next season.
Sadly its pretty clear there will be no partnership with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks who will start play next season.  From the outside it appears the relationship between the Rapids and Switchbacks is frosty, which is too bad.  I don't know why the teams aren't working together but its a lost opportunity as now they'll be competing against each other, which is lose-lose for fans.  For example, the Switchbacks are hosting a friendly between LA II and Arizona next month, on the same night as the final Rapids home game.  Fans have to choose between the teams instead of them helping each other out.
  • John Metgod has left the team and returned home to the Netherlands
The Rapids announcement is very vague as to why, but a report translated by Google from Holland makes it sound like he only had a short-term contract and they couldn't successfully negotiate a long-term deal.  Odd to have a coach's contract run out mid-season but since the season is lost already it worked out.
  • Zat Knight still expected to sign
According to the Denver Post the Rapids did file all necessary paperwork to sign Knight before yesterday's 3pm roster freeze deadline.  He's currently back in England getting his immigration paperwork processed and will be announced once he returns.  He's expected to be ready for the next home game against San Jose on the 27th.  Current reports is that its a short term deal for evaluation purposes and the team is not committed for 2015 yet.  Sounds like a good move, get him 5 games of MLS play and see if there's value there.
  • Pablo is expecting Nasco to start in goal against FSL on Friday.
Where's that brick-wall head banging smiley when you need it.  Hopefully this will do:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Well, We Didn't Lose.

The Rapids ended their 7 game losing streak but continued their winless streak with a 2-2 draw against the Timbers.  In a game marred by lousy refereeing a draw was probably a fair result with how the teams played.  Again Colorado gave up the first goal right before half (the cleanest goal of the game) leveled the score right after half, took the lead, then gave it up late.
  • Just a badly officiated game.  The PK was questionable, the other Rapids goal might have been offside, and the second Portland goal was assisted by a clear handball.
  • Berner did not look good on either goal.  Between the Nasco red last week and Berner's performance this week let's just put Irwin back in goal and leave it.
  • I don't get the lineup for this game.  We didn't lose, so I guess it worked, but I don't know why we're giving starts to LaBrocca and Hill over Hairston and Serna at this point in this season.
  • Sanchez out 2-3 weeks injured, which is why he didn't play.  *sigh*
  • Brown should have had a hat-trick, not just 1 goal.  He needs to figure out how to put away the opportunities his speed creates.
  • Brown just needs 1 more goal to hit double-digits for a second straight year.
  • Good to see O'Neill back.  You could see the rust but he'll get better and it allowed Wynne to return to the right side where he's better.
  • We're 6 points out of the playoffs with 6 games left.  Despite the point the season is still over.
  • Next week we're in Sandy to try to avoid tying our second longest winless streak.  Also we need at least a point to avoid becoming the first team to be swept in the Rocky Mountain Cup.
  • And with this week's results we have been eliminated from finishing first or second in the West for the 19th straight year (yes, that means the Rapids have never finished above 3rd in the West).
Man of the Match: Deshorn Brown.  He earned the first penalty and scored a great goal for the second, even if both were questionable.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Rapids Hope For Something To Change Against Portland

Lance and the Rapids both lost 7 in a row

After setting a new record losing streak and worst loss last week the Rapids will try to avoid their 3rd worst single-season winless streak by beating the Timbers tomorrow night at the Dick.  Just for the record the top two are 10 games (2007) and 9 games (2001).  Its the Home Brew Contest at teh C28 tailgate before the game, starting at 4pm.  Kickoff is at 7 with the game on Altitude.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (L ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); MF Jared Watts (L hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: DF Shane O'Neill (R knee sprain); MF Vicente Sanchez (R knee soreness)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE MORE YELLOW: MF Thomas Piermayr (3 good behavior games left)

International Absences:
Gabriel Torres - Panama

Portland has nobody missing for any reason, completely full strength.  We've got a mess but what else is new.  My guess at our starting XI:

Buddle is battling injury and is not expected to be available, nor is O'Neill.  Brown played into the second half for Panama on Tuesday so his lactate levels probably won't be high enough to start.  That leaves pretty minimal options up front.  Thus the Powers/Alvarez/Sanchez trio.

Strategic Consideration: Put ball in net, keep ball out of net.  At this point its just about fundamentals.

Prediction: 1-1 draw.  Goal by Sanchez.  After 7 games we finally get a bounce our way and stop the losing streak, but we still set our 3rd worst single-season winless streak with a draw.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Holding Off On Season Tickets

No, don't think I will at the moment

The Rapids 2015 season ticket drive has started.  Currently I sit in 108 so my season tickets are handled by Centennial 38.  Just to be clear, my comments in this post about not buying tickets yet have nothing to do with C38 or the C38 experience.  I couldn't be happier with the way the group has handled 108 and being our "ticket reps".

As enjoyable as the C38 group is though, I'm not rushing to the website to buy my 2015 season tickets.  C38 has generously agreed to hold seats in 108 for their current season ticket holders at the current price until Thanksgiving.  In past years I have normally set up my tickets for the next season as soon as they've become available but this year I've decided to wait.  The Rapids have spent the last month plus convincing me that they're not serious about the rest of the 2014 season, and I want to see some evidence that they're serious about 2015.  I made this as a joke originally, but every day that goes by since convinces me more and more that its the attitude the Rapids Front Office is taking:

We're currently in a seven game losing streak that started when we lost Shane O'Neill and later Drew Moor to what appear to be season-ending injuries.  Despite that the Rapids have yet to make a move to reinforce the back line and their only rumored move (Zat Knight, who was at training today) doesn't fill me with much confidence.  Our last game was a historic defeat and the Front Office continues to be silent about it.  Our big signing last season, Gabriel Torres, can't even get on the field at this point but Edson Buddle, the biggest waste of money on the team, starts.  Then you have the coaching "search" this past offseason, which I've detailed in many posts.  Heck, even the mini-donut guy left and I loved having donuts during the game (though as I understand it he got a contract for the Pepsi Center, so its hard to blame that one on the Rapids).

There's only really one lever fans have to influence their teams, their wallet.  Why should I hand over the cost of season tickets to the Rapids FO right now?  They haven't shown they're going to do anything other than bank that money and continue to not care about the results on the field.  This season is over, there's no way we're going to make the playoffs.  That gives the Rapids 7 games and the first 5 weeks of the offseason to convince me that things will be different in 2015.  Otherwise I'll save some money next year, attend less games, and the Front Office will have to find another way to sell my ticket.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Silence Is Deafening

We're now 24 hours since the Rapids suffered the worst loss in their history and in doing so extended their now worst ever losing streak.  Yet other than Pablo's standard post-game platitudes there's nothing from the Front Office in response to the game.

This isn't a game that can just be put in the rear view mirror while the team moves to the next game.  A debacle of this proportion requires a response beyond the standard coaching post-game interview.  Paul Bravo as Technical Director or Tim Hinchey as Club President should have made a statement by now, but instead we get silence.  The team's official Twitter and Facebook accounts have nothing but official game recaps.  Hinchey's personal Twitter, which he hasn't been shy in using to promote the team in the past, just has Notre Dame related tweets.  Richard Fleming (currently serving as Media Director after David Lindholm left) has published his View from the Booth column on the game, but it contains nothing more than any of his other post-game columns.  Paul Bravo doesn't have Twitter and apparently has made no public comment, nor has Pablo (beyond the post-game interview).

Contrast that to what we've seen from other teams.  Seattle's refund to their season ticket holders in 2010 is a source of much joking among other fanbases but it showed how a team can respond immediately (7:30 the next morning) to a disaster on the field.  In 2011 Arsenal (don't the Rapids and Arsenal have something in common?) lost on the road by 6 goals (hmm, that sounds familiar) and the next day offered a free ticket to another EPL match to every fan who traveled to Old Trafford for the loss.  In April Norwich City players themselves refunded travelling supporters for their game tickets after a 3-0 loss at Swansea while Norwich was in a relegation battle.

I'm not suggesting the team needs to offer any sort of refunds (that's going way above and beyond expectations) but there needs to be some sort of recognition of the historic nature of last night's loss. The fans deserve some sort of response from the organization to show that they're taking the issues seriously and there's some sort of steps being taken to rectify what happened.  Or maybe the Rapids FO is hoping that like Doctor Who's Silence (above) the game will be forgotten as soon as the fans look away. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rapids Set Records

Early game review this week because its very short.

Fasted red card in league history (23 seconds, former record 2+ minutes)

Worst loss in team history (prior record was a 5 goal loss)

One of the 7 worst losses in league history (two 7 goal losses and this was the fifth 6 goal loss)

Seven game losing streak is now the worst in team history (prior record was a six game losing streak, twice)

This is a real low point in team history.  We have never been here before, though we've had worse overall seasons.  Hinchey, Bravo, and Pablo owe the fans a real statement and not platitudes after this loss.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Rapids Try To Avoid Seven In A Row Against Galaxy

The Pleiades or the Seven Sisters

Colorado looks for their first points since July 25th tomorrow night in LA.  A loss would be a team record seventh in a row.  Game time tomorrow night is listed at 8:30pm but its an NBC Sports game, which means kcikoff will actually be somewhere between 8:50 and 9pm.

Injury Report:
OUT: DF Drew Moor (R ACL tear); MF Brian Mullan (L knee injury); MF Jared Watts (L hamstring strain)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Jose Mari (L ankle injury); DF Shane O'Neill (R knee sprain)

Disciplinary Report:
SUSPENDED AFTER ONE MORE YELLOW: MF Nick LaBrocca (1 good behavior game left)

LA has one player questionable, but Keane and Penedo are with their national teams and Jamieson is with the U.S. U-20s.  Jose Mari is expected to be available but none of the others on our injury report.  My guess at our XI:

If Sanchez can't go we'll probably see Buddle, but we should see Torres.  Otherwise this seems to be pretty much our standard lineup.  Other than Nasco that is, who is reportedly going to get another start.  He was good last week but you don't bench your starter unless there's something wrong, and I ahven't seen anything wrong with Irwin.

Strategic Consideration: Landon Donovan.  He's been lighting it up (either scoring or assisting) since announcing his retirement.

Prediction: 2-1 loss.  Goal by Brown.  What in the last 6 games leads anyone to believe we'll win tomorrow night?

Go Hawks!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Zat Knight Inbound?

Colonel Jack O'Neill with a Zat'nik'tel (aka Zat)

Yesterday the Rapids confirmed that an experienced international center back would be flying to Denver this week for final negotiations to join the team.  Today sources indicate that the defender is former Bolton and England center back Zat Knight.  He's 34 years old and has played for Fulham, Peterbrough United (on loan), Aston Villa, and Bolton.  He was named Bolton's captaoin for 2013-14 but made only 5 appearances last year.  His 2 caps for England came in 2005, with his first cap being against the U.S.  He'll turn 35 years old in May.

Color me unimpressed.  Knight may or may not be a serviceable back, but its too little too late.  Since he's an international he'll need to get his ITC transferred and an American visa before he can play.  There's no way that happens before this weekend's game and I'd be shocked if it gets done before the Portland home game next week.  Add in that he hasn't played since May and he'll need time to get up to game fitness so we're looking at maybe 6 games this season, but probably 5 or less.  By that point the season will be over.

He'll add some depth and leadership next season but where will he play?  If he's happy coming off the bench then that's great, as I expect Moor and O'Neill to get a majority of the CB starts next season.  Maybe we move O'Neill to RB or DMid, but I think that's a waste of his young talent.  I'd have to make a big signing and have to leave him on the bench or move Moor or O'Neill.

My question is where was this move 6 weeks ago?  O'Neill went down in July and we were already struggling on defense.  Moor went down 2.5 weeks ago and we were in real trouble.  Now, maybe, we might make a signing?  What took so long?  In the last 6+ weeks the season went downhill quickly.

In the end if we sign Knight for $125K or less he gives us decent depth and can fill in for Moor if he's not back to start the season next year before going to the bench.  If we spend significantly more than that or our forced to make other roster changes to fit him in then this is a late knee-jerk reaction to a season that's already lost.

And yes, that's a picture of Richard Dean Anderson in Stargate SG-1 at the top.  The Zat joke was too good for a geek like me to pass up. ;)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Yet Another Loss In Seattle

In a reversal from the LA home game our defense actually played well but our offense went missing.  A 10 second mental lapse from Marc Burch let Dempsey get free on a corner and that's all he needed to score the only goal of the game.  Meanwhile at the other end of the field the Rapids managed just two shots on goal, neither one of which was particularly dangerous.  In the end it was a record-tying 6th straight loss for the burgundy & blue.
  • Now 11 games,  1 point, 7 goals, -19 goal differential all-time in Seattle.
  • There's almost no chance of a playoff run at this point.  We're only 4 points out but we face one of the toughest remaining schedules and don't look much like a playoff team.  Meanwhile Vancouver and Portland are in front of us and San Jose can catch us with games in hand.
  • Moving to Piermayr to center back seemed to work for the defense.  That combo (with Wynne) has been our best solution since we lost O'Neill and Moor.
  • Of course the Rapids started the game packing the box and looking for the 0-0 draw, so that helped.
  • There was nothing from the offense though.  Lots of kicking it around just above teh attacking third but no creativity to generate a chance.
  • There was some grumbling about the officiating and it was very lax which helped Seattle more than Colorado, but it wasn't biased or poor.  The Rapids have to be able to play with whatever ref is out there.
  • Six losses in a row ties the record set by the team in '97 under Mooch and equalized under Pareja in '12.  Interestingly it was the first season in charge for all 3 head coaches.
  • Friday we try to avoid setting a new record in LA, gulp!
Man of the Match: Joe Nasco.  An unexpected start in place of Irwin, who was being rested for his mental health.  Made a couple of good saves, including one up for save of the week, and wasn't at fault pn the goal.  A great first MLS start for the former police office.