Monday, June 29, 2015

After A Week Off, Nothing Has Changed

I took the last week off and went on vacation to Orlando.  That included seeing the Rapids play Orlando City.  Kind of wish I hadn't after the performance.  They repeated the performance against KC.
Taken from Burgundy Wave's twitter

The bottom half of that shot was the pitiful attack in the 28th minute of the KC game.  And that wasn't immediately after a turnover, Solignac dribbled the ball into the box from near midfield.

After that, I'm done.  That shows how much of a mess of a team this is.  We're never going to score and never going to win if that's the team's mentality.  We need a major change.  #PabloOut

The Rapids are in Houston tomorrow for their Round of 16 U.S. Open Cup match.  Game time is 6:30pm and there will be a stream online at the Rapids website.

Man of the Match: Clint Irwin for Orlando, Luis Solignac for KC.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Another Game, Another Draw

That was bad soccer and they should feel bad about making us pay for it.

General impressions:
  • Backline of Riley - Burling - Watts - Moor.  Pablo, WTF are you thinking?  Only Dallas' woeful shooting saved us from a loss.
  • Moor was not the captain, Cronin was.  Moor was played out of position.  That worries me.
  • Drew Moor was listed at left back but was playing as a third center back to clean up Watts' mistakes.
  • So glad we went out and got Doyle signed and got him here early so he could spend 225 of the last 270 minutes of play on the bench.
  • Then when Doyle gets into the game Pablo moves Powers to the outside.  Once again it proved that Powers needs to play in the center.
  • Serna. Should. Play. Every. Game.
  • The Dallas keeper deserved a time-wasting yellow.  He did not deserve that time-wasting yellow though as he literally could not get a ball from anyone.  Poor decision from the official.
  • Clint Irwin badly botched the Dallas goal and I'm sure he knows that.  Nobody's perfect all the time.
  • This team doesn't look like it plays together during the week.  We see great individual skill and teammates who aren't expecting it.
  • Pablo didn't make a tactical change last night.  All his subs were like for like, the formation didn't change, and the style of play never changed.  He didn't coach the team at all beyond keeping an eye on fitness levels.  He is not a coach.
  • We now need to play at 1.63 pts/game the rest of the way to even think about the playoffs.
  • #PabloOut
Man of the Match: Dillon Serna.  He created most of the dangerous chances and scored the goal.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Final Time To See Dallas In 2015

Hard To Choose Between This And MLS Cup

Barring a playoff matchup (yeah, right) this is our last look at Dallas this year.  We've already gotten 4 points off of them in 2 games so this is a good chance to grab some more points.  Its really do or die time for the Rapids now and they can't afford not to win home games, especially with this being the second of six games in an 18 day span.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4, and the game will be on UniMas.

Injury Report:
OUT: D Axel Sjoberg (Knee); MF Juan Ramirez (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: MF Vicente Sanchez (hip flexor)

ONE YELLOW FROM SUSPENSION: M Sam Cronin (2 games left for good behavior reduction)

Missing Sjoberg and Ramirez is not good.  Dallas only has one player questionable so we'll get their full strength lineup.  My starting XI guess based on who we used on Tuesday:

Cronin is the only player in this XI that started on Tuesday and he was the first player subbed off.  Moor, Sarvas, and Solignac all came on as second half subs but didn't have to strain themselves much.  With Pittinari and LaBrocca going the full 90 on Tuesday I doubt they start and everyone else seems obvious.

Strategic Consideration: Figure out how to get Doyle and/or Solignac on the scoreboard.  They need to start producing ASAP.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  A win is possible but I'm not ready to predict it.  Our defense is good enough to keep us in the game and Doyle finally opens his account to get us a draw.

Rapids @ Houston In USOC

The USOC draw just happened.  As expected the Rapids were in a pod with KC, Dallas, and Houston.  We got drawn 4th, which means we're the road team for both rounds.  First we're at Houston then if we win we'll be at the Dallas/KC winner.

EDIT: If Colorado were to win the next two road games they would host the semi-final against the winner of the LA/SJ/Portland/FSL pod.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rapids B Side Outclasses Switchbacks

The Rapids easily showed off Colorado Springs last night 4-1 and the game wasn't that close.  The Rapids had a shutout until into second half stoppage time when the Springs finally broke through.

The first 25 minutes were fairly dull with the Rapids having the majority of possession but not doing much with it.  In the 26th minute Cronin slipped a perfect pass through the Switchbacks dfense for Badji to redirect for the first goal.  That was followed up 6 minutes alter by a free kick cross from Serna that Ensign Greenspan headed home, scoring in his first professional game.

The second half was more of the same and the game was really over in the 62' when Josh Phillips went two footed through Badji's ankle and rightfully saw red.  Happened right in front of the section that C38 claimed which gave the post-tackle shoving a colorful soundtrack.  :D  Dillon Serna administered the killing blows with a great individual goal in the 65' and an easy tap in 3 minutes into stoppage.

The remaining 16 teams will be broken in to 4 groups of 4 based on geography.  Almost certainly it will be Colorado, KC, Dallas, and Houston. as FSL will go with the 3 remaining West Coast teams.  Then the matchups in those groups of 4 will be drawn randomly.  We'll find out the matchup at 9am tomorrow and the game will be played June 30th or July 1st.

Other Notes:

  • Really the only change I would have made to the lineup was not playing 3 holding mids to start but it worked.  Otherwise that's' about as good of a starting XI as I could have hoped for.
  • Congrats to the Harringtons, who had a child yesterday (which is why Michael wasn't available for the game).
  • Cronin had the armband until he was replaced by Sarvas, who got ti from him.  When Moor checked in later Sarvas kept it.
  • Seeing Moor at left back was...odd
  • You could tell that O'Neill was not all that concerned about a USL team after playing against the best youth in the world in France.
  • Great to see Greenspan starting and scoring.  All I could think of was the classic Championship/Football Manager line, "He's scored on his debut!".
  • Nice rendition of "In the Navy" by C38 after the goal.
  • Hairston looked solid at LB.
  • Eloundou loves the long ball down the left side trying to beat the offside trap.
  • The Switchbacks left back (#30) has some talent, but needs to learn when and when not to get chippy.  Down 3-0 and a man is not the time to pester the other team's best player or antagonize the fans.
  • That said, Serna was stupid biting on his play and was somewhat lucky that the ref didn't buy 30's partial dive and only showed yellow.
  • With the player sue last night we should be able to see almost a full strength lineup on Friday.
Man of the Match: Dillon Serna.  2 goals and an assist makes this an easy choice.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rapids Face First Intra-State Matchup To Start USOC

For the first time ever the Rapids will play a competitive match against another Colorado-based team.  The USL Colorado Springs Switchbacks make the drive up I-25 for the 4th Round U.S. Open Cup match at the Dick tomorrow at 7pm.

Its always hard to predict how these games will go.  Until last year the Rapids seemed to take every opportunity to blow off this competition by playing plenty of reserves and not competing for hosting.  Last year they hosted both games they played and put out pretty close to first team lineups, but still got beat by an Atlanta Silverbacks team that wasn't afraid to play dirty.

One thing we know is that neither Marc Burch or Pablo will be on the sidelines for this one as they will be serving their suspensions for their ejection in that Atlanta game last season.  So we will, presumably, see Claudio Lopez leading the team from the sideline.  We've heard that new Naval Academy grad Joseph Greenspan will get his first professional playing time in this one.  I would also expect Zac MacMath to get the start in goal and players like Hairston, Serna, and O'Neill to start.

The other half of the lineup is the real question mark.  Rapids leadership (Hinchey/Bravo/Pablo) has said all the right things about wanting to win everything and take this competition seriously and last year they backed those words up with the decisions they made, the players just let them down.  This year though the Rapids play tomorrow, Friday night, next Wednesday on the road, next Saturday on the road, and if they win tomorrow night, the following Tuesday/Wednesday in the Open Cup 5th Round (location to be determined), then the following Saturday in the annual 4th of July home game.  That's 5 or 6 games in an 18 day window including a trip to Florida so I could see Pablo wanting to rest players despite coming off a 9 day break.

My hope is that we see guys like Solignac and Sarvas get a break but Doyle (since he hasn't played in 16 days) and Cronin play.  Kind of a A-/B+ team.  My fear is that we see Watts, Riley, and Badji while all the "first teamers" get a break.

I predict a win if we put out a B+ team or better.  The Switchbacks will be up for this one but they played 3 times last week and the Rapids will be rested.  I predict a loss if we put out all reserves.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Time For A Change

It is time for a change in coaching in Commerce City.  Pablo isn't getting the job done.  Some numbers for you:

  • MLS-tying winless streak (18 games)
  • Worst single season run of form in league history (2 pts in 14 games)
  • 2nd worst run of form in 28 games (2 wins)
  • League-record worst home winless streak (11 games)
  • Worst loss in team history, third worst in league history (6-0 @LA)
  • Worst Rocky Mountain Cup loss in series history (5-1 @FSL)
  • Worst scoreless streak in team history, third worst in league history (601 minutes)
That's just the "highlights" of course, there are may other numbers that could be mined out.  In the end though it comes down to this, 2 wins in 28 games.  That's just unacceptable.  So the Rapids have essentially 4 outcomes with a coaching change.
  1. Keep Pablo, Pablo figures it out, team significantly improves, Pablo has the job in 2016
  2. Keep Pablo, the play continues at the current level, team needs to make a change in the offseason
  3. Remove Pablo, team significantly improves under interim coach, team has a leader in the clubhouse for the offseason coaching search
  4. Remove Pablo, the play continues at the current level under interim coach, team has already removed one candidate for the offseason coaching search
So in 3 of the 4 scenarios the team is going to be doing an offseason coaching search.  The only scenario where they won't is the one all fans hope will happen but the track record so far deems most unlikely IMO, Pablo greatly improves over the next 20 games from his results from his first 48 games as coach.

Thus the reason I believe a change needs to be made.  There is no evidence that Pablo is going to get significantly better results the rest of the way.  It would be different if the team was showing a noticeable improvement in comparison to the rest of the league, but they're not.  While the 14 points is the first 14 games of this season is an improvement from the 2 in 14 to end last season its not good enough compared to the rest of the league.  As detailed before the team is already in a hole and 1 pt/game just makes it deeper.  We now need to play at 1.6 pts/game the rest of the way to even think about a playoff spot.  Its not like the team is showing that's likely.  The last four games have been a 1-0 win at home to Vancouver (a good result), a poor loss in Seattle, a horrible loss at home to Portland, and a huge missed opportunity draw in Sandy with FSL.  This is not the direction of a team about to turn things around, this is the direction of a team that's likely to stay in mired in the same results.

Based on that there's little risk in my mind in making a change.  We can't get significantly worse and maybe a new coach can make us significantly better.  Even if that coach does not make us better we at least find out if that interim coach should be a candidate for the position in 2016.  From a PR perspective it also shows that the management cares about the results and are trying to solve the problem where right now the silence on that front is deafening.

Now you'll notice I've talked about "making a change" and "removing Pablo".  I have intentionally not used the term "firing" the coach.  Pablo isn't any coach when it comes to the Rapids.  He is, by far (sorry 'Celo), the best player to ever wear the shirt and the first one to lead us to a MLS Cup.  You can't just call him into Bravo's/Hinchey's office and tell him to clear out.  He deserves more than that.

There's also the fact that this is a KSE team and, well, KSE is cheap.  They aren't going to want to pay for a second head coach (see the Fernando Clavijo debacle) for the rest of 2015 and possibly 2016, depending on Pablo's contract.  So that has to be taken into account when designing a plan.

So here's my proposal.  Give Pablo  a new role in the youth academy.  With Brian Crookham being involved with the Charlotte Independence there's probably room for anther "Director of Soccer Development" or something similar that Pablo can move into to.  Before his retirement Pablo had talked about wanting to coach youth soccer and working with kids and this would be a chance for him to do that.  It gives everyone a face-saving out and doesn't put either the Front Office or Pablo through the ignominy of firing a club legend.

With the head coaching role being open, name Claudio Lopez interim head coach for the 2015 season.  I am assuming (always dangerous) since he was the one to take charge in Dallas when Pablo was suspended that he's interested in coaching and seen as the "most ready" to take the role.  Lopez has one simple mandate, using the current roster start winning games.  I think putting any playoff pressure on him is unfair given the hole he'd be inheriting so all he would need to worry about is winning games.  The  USOC and the Rocky Mountain could (should) be goals as well depending on the importance the Front Office wants to attach to them.

Then in the 2015-16 offseason hold a real coaching search, not the farce of the 2013-14 offseason.  Due to KSE budget realities the chances of signing a big name coach are almost nil but we can't start a third season in the last five with another rookie coach.  That's asking too much from the fans and the players.  So the focus of the coaching search should be on candidates that have some coaching experience and are looking for another chance and on coaches that can work with the current set of players and won't need to spend another two years in a rebuilding project.  The type of candidates I'm thinking of are coaches like Mike Petke, Robin Fraser, and Wilmer Cabrera.  If Claudio Lopez does well he would be a leading candidate and would come into 2016 with 20 games of experience should he get the job.

In the end this plan costs the Rapids (at most) paying Pablo an elevated salary to work with the academy in 2016 and going forward.  All other costs are already in the budget for 2015 (as interim Lopez wouldn't get (much of) a raise).  The 2016 budget has a head coaching salary in it, which the new coach would get.  They risk very little as this season is already going down in flames.  They get some positive PR for making a move when its necessary instead of letting another Clavijo situation develop.  And maybe we actually start seeing better soccer at the Dick in 2015.

Monday, June 8, 2015

No More Excuses

A 0-0 draw where Powers missed a PK late, Doyle didn't play, and we played the whole second half with 3 holdings mids.  A debacle that actually gave us a good Rocky Mountain Cup result even as it put us further behind the playoff curve.

General impressions:
  • Powers has been co-MVP this season with Irwin but that PK was embarrassing.  Lets hope we don't lose the RMC or miss the playoffs by one win.
  • I'm so glad we got Doyle here early so we could use him in games in June.  Oh, wait.
  • At the end of the game we had Cronin, LaBrocca, and Pittinari on the field and Doyle, Ramirez, and Torres on the bench.  A DP, a young DP, and a former DP, all attackers.
  • Not that our attack was doing much better with Torres and Ramirez in.  Our only shot on goal was from Cronin in the 56th.
  • Ramirez's removal may have been injury related as he appeared to pick up a knock in the first half.
  • The first half of this game was as bad as Portland.  The second half was a bit better but not nearly good enough.
  • Pablo was quoted by the commentators as wanting to play Solignac and Doyle at the same time yet he didn't play Doyle at all while Solignac went the full 90.
  • Moor was conspicuously absent, late injury?
  • Boy it would be nice if we had an actual reporter who could ask about Doyle and Moor.
  • One of Pablo's post-game quotes "From top to bottom it was probably one of our most complete performances away from home for 90 minutes. I think there’ve been games when we’ve been brilliant in one half and kind of suffered in the other. Today was remarkable. It was that commitment, the application of all the work we’ve been talking about for the last five months. I think we were unfortunate today not to come away with three points.”"  I have no idea what he was watching to suggest this was one of our best road performances.  4-0 in Dallas and 0-0 in Houston were clearly better games than this one.
  • Pablo seemed to be happy to play for a draw despite our 1 pt/game average and the chance to get a win against our rival.  Ridiculous strategy. 
  • At this point we need to average 1.6 pts/game the rest of the way just to have a playoff shot.
  • For the Rocky Mountain Cup we need a win and a draw or a win and a loss as long as we win by more than we lose by.  Both games are at home.
Man of the Match: Michael Harrington.  He broke up a number of good attacks and had at least one perfect tackle in the box that would have a resulted in a PK had he missed.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Time To Start Getting Our Cup Back

I'll Be Happy To Hoist This Again

Oh yeah, its Rocky Mountain Cup time again.  The Rapids make their only trip into Utah this year (barring a USOC matchup or an extremely unlikely playoff game) on Sunday to face FaKe SaLt LaKe.  FSL is not having a good year and will be missing Rimando and ex-Rapid Beckerman to National Team duty so they are vulnerable.  Kickoff is at 3pm on Sunday and will be in an odd place, ESPNNews (Channel 841 in HD on Comcast).

Injury Report:
QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Sanchez (hip flexor)


International Absences:
USA U-23s: D Shane O'Neill, M Dillon Serna

D Joseph Greenspan (Will be added to roster after the game when Berner's loan recall is eliminated)

Obviously  missing our two U-23s stll hurts but FSL has 2 on the U-20 roster and the aforementioned Beckerman and Rimando on full Nats duty.  They also have two players out injured so they are thinner then we are.  My guess at what the Rapids will line up with is not what I'd choose but:

There's a lot I hate about this lineup but it seems to be what Pablo is thinking.  At this point the Rapids should be playing a 4-4-2 with both Doyle and Solignac up front but we seem to be wedded to the 4-2-3-1.  If Sarvas can start he'll go in for Cronin.  I really hope Pablo can at least see the value of Powers in the middle but I doubt it.

Strategic Consideration: Go get our Cup.  After the embarrassment of last weekend and the rivalry aspect I expect the players to be up to play for this one.  If not then the season is over.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Torres.  After the Vancouver game I would have predicted a win in this one but after the Portland game I can't do that.  A draw at best which would still be a good result on the Rocky Mountain Cup front.  And as always:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Greenspan In Denver and I Was Wrong

First the news of the day.  Joseph Greenspan is officially stationed in Denver for the season and will be training with the team.  For him to be officially added to the roster though either somebody will need to be cut or, more likely, one of the four players (Alvarez, Berner, Calvert, Newnam) will have to be loaned there as a full-season loan with no ability to recall.  Currently they all have recall options which means they all count against the 28-man Rapids roster.  I would expect one of those four other than Berner will be loaned through the end of the season (not Berner because of Irwin or MacMath were to get hurt the Rapids would want to bring Berner back as the backup to the healthy one).

Secondly its time for me to admit I was wrong.  Back in January when we traded Klute to Columbus I said:
This is a lousy trade.  I know Axel Sjoberg (who I'm going to start calling Axel Foley I think) was well regarded but there's only two ways this trade makes any sense.  He's going to have to become a starter by midseason or we're going to find out Klute had a huge escalation clause in his contract (similar to Omar Cummings between 2011 and 2012).  Otherwise this is a bad trade no matter how you look at it.  Yes, a chunk (or all) of that allocation money probably went to LA in the deal that got us Sarvas that still doesn't make it a good move.  I find it hard to believe Klute wasn't worth more than a Superdraft pick and allocation money.  This is a guy who a year ago was on the firnges of the National team.  I think we're going to regret this move.
So far this season Klute has started 4 of Columbus' 13 games and appeared in 3 more for 425 minutes of action.  Sjoberg has 8 starts in 13 games for 720 minutes.  Sarvas had 5 starts and 6 appearances for 462 minutes and an assist before his injury.  Klute can't get off the bench for the second worst defense in MLS while Sjoberg has been a key component for the second best defense in the league.  On top of that Sarvas was a strong midfielder before the injury and is expected to bolster the team when he returns.

Clearly the Rapids have done well with this trade and I was way off-base with my evaluation.  I got that one badly wrong.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Do I Really Need To Spend Time On This Game?

That. game. sucked.  I was hoping it was just because I was watching on my phone through MLS Live but if anything other fans comments make me think it was worse on a full size TV or in person.  Nobody on the field looked like they gave a damn or even how to play with their teammates.  The level of play and the mental breakdown to lose teh draw at the end was just inexcusable and shows how far off this team is from what the leadership claims they want.  The RMC game in Sandy on Saturday was huge before the season started but now it might be the biggest game on the Rapids schedule.  If they can't get it together to play their biggest rival while their down a couple of best players and steal a win on the road then this team is lost and changes must be made.

Man of the Match: Clint Irwin.  Kept us in a match we had no business in and then was abandoned by his defense.