Monday, October 16, 2017

Rapids Finish Off Home Season By Almost Ending FSL's

Well, that was a nice way to end a bad season.  A 4th minute goal by Josh Gatt (with a great celebration in front of the visiting FSL fans) somehow held up under a barrage of shots from FSL and Colorado got the 1-0 win.  With the result FSL's post season hopes are on life support, now needing a win next week and needing San Jose and Dallas to drop points.  Unlikely.  The 3 points for the home side also assures the team of finishing above its 2014 and 2001 pts/game total, avoiding the worst season ever that this was looking like for most of the year (a win in Seattle on Sunday would push them above the 1996 season as well).

Gatt had the goal but Hairston was the man of the match.  He had a goal-line clearance midway through the first half and generally killed FSL's attacking momentum every time they got near him.  Howard came up with a few big saves as well to preserve the shutout.

One more game on Sunday before this long season is over.  A win will keep us from finishing last in the league but anything else opens the door for LA and DC to pass us.  Looking at the matchups I think LA is most likely to end up with the spoon, but we have a better chance than DC of ending up with it (for better or worse, depending on your POV).

Friday, October 13, 2017

One Last Time

One last trip to Commerce City to see the Rapids on Sunday.  The end of a very long home season is on us but at least we finish on a high note with a chance to return the favors FSL paid us in years past.  Namely all-but eliminating them from the playoff run.  That and avoiding our worst season ever is about all we have left to play for.  Kickoff for this one is an odd 5:30pm on Sunday as all Western Conference games kick off at the same time.

Watts is still suspended for this one while Azira is questionable.  Howard and Williams are back and there's an open question if this will be our last chance to see Howard in Colorado.  We'll discuss that more after the season.  FSL is down 5 players to injury and suspension with another two questionable.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Badji and Aigner.  FSL has already won the Rocky Mountain Cup so this one is just about pride.  Time to give the fans something to root for to end the season.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Still Stunned

24 hours later and I'm still stunned at what happened in World Cup Qualifying last night.  I had no thought that the 4th, 5th, and 6th placed teams would all win.  I figured the absolute worst case was that we'd stumble and either Panama or Honduras would pull a major upset and we'd have to beat the Aussies for our trip too Russia.  More likely I figured we'd play a boring draw and just squeak into the 3rd spot.

There's a lot of hot takes out there right now about who to blame and what the U.S. should do next.  Personally, I think the players take the majority of the blame for only playing a complete game about 3 times in the 10 game hex.  Last night, especially in the first half, we looked like a team that assumed we were going to Russia and didn't have to make an effort.  Outside of Pulisic and maybe Yedlin I don't think anyone on that field deserves to continue as a Nats member, and that includes Howard.

As for what we do from here, I don't know.  There is no easy answer.  Pundits have talked about what Germany did after their failures in 1998 and 2000 and I think the general idea is the right one.  The USSF, MLS, the USL (I'd say the NASL but they're going to be out of business in a few months) and the USSDA need to get together, figure out what the long-term plan is, and all commit to that plan.  That will require some give and take from all parties, and most likely new leadership at the USSF, but its time to examine everything in the U.S. soccer sphere, from the Nats to the Rapids Academy.

Next June/July is going to be very different for American fans.  For the first time in most of our lifetimes, or at least in the part of our lifetimes when we've been soccer fans, the Yanks won't be at the World Cup.  I'm going to be watching the UEFA playoffs next month to see if either of my ancestral sides, Ireland and Sweden, get through to Russia.  If they're both eliminated I'm not sure who I'll back next year, maybe Colombia.

Monday, October 9, 2017

As Expected, Another Draw

As I predicted Friday, Colorado and Dallas played to a 1-1 draw.  A GK mistake that allowed Aigner his second goal was cancelled out by a solid header for Dallas in the second half.  The most interesting thing in the game was Atiba Harris being yellow carded for a tackle on Aigner and then having that yellow card waved off after discussions with the 4th official.  Right call as Harris never made contact, though I think Aigner might have admitted it to the ref as well.  Otherwise it was more of the same from this season. though I think at times we had a more organized strategy than we've seen in the past.

The Rapids now need 2 points in the final 2 games on the next 2 Sundays to avoid the worst season ever.

Friday, October 6, 2017

MLS Cup Rematch

Break out your scudetto jerseys and party like its 2010.  Dallas is in town makes their only trip to Commerce City tomorrow night and the Rapids have a chance to Burn their playoff chances to the ground.  Their 2-0 win over us last week is their only win in the last twelve games and they've tumbled from the top of the table to holding on to the last playoff spot by .04 pts/game. A loss tomorrow would drop them into a 3-way tie with San Jose and (sadly) FSL for the last playoff spot.  Kickoff is at 7pm and Fleming and Balboa will have the call on Altitude while Kevin Doyle will join Conor McGahey on the radio call.

The Rapids will be without Howard (who had a shutout against Panama tonight), Williams (who traveled with T&T but didn't suit up due to injury), and Watts, who got a 2 game suspension today for his red card last week.  Azira is also questionable due to the ankle injury he picked up last week.  Dallas is down Acosta and Figueroa to international duty.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  I want to predict a win because I want to see us kill Dallas' playoff hopes but after they easily handled us last week so I think that's a step too far.  We get 1 point, Badji gets his 10th goal, and Dallas' playoff hopes are on life support but not dead.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Two Bits Of News

Two pieces of news today.

  • The players union's salary guide was updated today.  We know that Aigner is making $425K in base salary per year, with guarantees he's at $470 which is just over max salary range, making him a TAM player.  I assume he has an escalation clause for next season.
  • Badji signs a new contract through 2019 with team options for 2020 and 2021.  Good move and well deserved.  He's clearly the team MVP this year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Another Odd Game Featuring Montreal At DSG

Weird things happen when Montreal comes to town.  Four years ago the Rapids won on a wind-blown ball that was whistled out for a corner before it went in the goal but the goal stood.  This year it was two VARS, two red cards, the first goal from our new summer signing, and Alan Gordon's 3rd game winning goal of the season.  While I wouldn't go so far as to call the game quality or maybe even entertaining it certainly was interesting.

After reviewing the highlights on all the various calls I have to say the ref team largely got it right.  Certainly all the major calls were correct (or at least defend-able).  While the ref had some questionable restarts both reds were justifiable and the PK was correctly called off after VAR.

With the win the Rapids got out of last place, now ahead of LA on tiebreakers.  They also need just 3 more points in the last 3 games to avoid their worst season ever.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

First Of Three At Home

The Rapids finish with the next 3 games at homed followed by a final trip to Seattle.  Tonight we have Montreal in Commerce City.  With Wednesday's result we're officially eliminated from the playoffs and we're now two points behind LA (with a game in hand) in last place.  Two years ago when we were eliminated from playoff contention MacMath got the rest of the starts while Irwin backed him up, will we see the same thing tonight with MacMath and Howard?  Game time is 7pm with the game being on Altitude.

With Doyle's retirement on Thursday the only player not available for either team is Montreal's Oyongo which honestly is a bit surprising at this late state of the season.  Its unusual to have two healthy teams not deal with suspensions after 30 games.  Right now the Impact are 4 points behind NYRB for the last playoff spot in the East and NYRB have a game in hand.  They are going to be pretty desperate for a result.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  Montreal has a horrible defense and an above average offense.  Combined with the Rapids decent defense and horrible offense, plus the fact that I expect the Rapids to experiment even more with the lineup now that we're officially eliminated, makes a draw likely.  Both teams can score but neither team is really going to control the game.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Doyle Retires

To quickly dispense with the mess from last night Dallas beat us in the first 10 minutes and then just ran the remaining 80 minutes off the clock with no threat they would ever lose.  The Rapids are now officially eliminated from the playoffs.

Moving on to more important news, Kevin Doyle announced his retirement today, effective immediately.  Continuing issues from his second concussion of the year combined with what we now know about CTE and the effects of on-going concussions has made him realize its time to step away before permanent damage is done.

Doyle was possibly the most professional player the Rapids have had the last couple of years.  Regardless of what was asked of him or what he felt about it he showed up and put in 100% effort to do what was needed.  He was probably a better player than anyone gave him credit for, stuck in a system that revealed his weaknesses without ever playing to his strengths.

Doyle was also a member of the Irish National Team up until the moment he retired as he was called in for Ireland's qualifiers next week.  National team manager Martin O'Neill has already said he wants to honor Doyle at a match in Ireland when the time is right, if that's not in next week's games I'm sure it will be in the near future.  Hopefully Doyle feels up to coming out to the Dick on Saturday so us fans can give him the send-off he deserves.

As far as what this does for the Rapids its not that much different than what was expected.  Most people (me included) felt that Doyle wouldn't be back next season or if he was it would be at a significantly reduced number.  Obviously now we know he won't be back so that frees up abput $450k in cap room for next season.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Rapids Start Final Run In Dallas

5 games in the next 25 days to finish the season.  Officially the Rapids haven't been eliminated from playoff contention yet but a loss tomorrow night would do it.  Even a draw would do it if San Jose wins tomorrow.  San Jose winning either game this week and FSL not losing on Saturday will eliminate us regardless of our result.  No surprise, its been over for a while, but it will actually be nice to make it official.  Game time tomorrow in Dallas is 6pm with the game on Altitude.

The Rapids will be missing Doyle, due to his ongoing concussion symptoms, while School of Mines grad Tesho Akendele is suspended for Dallas.  Otherwise both teams are at full strength.  While the Rapids have nothing to play for Dallas is trying to stop a 10 game skid and save their playoff chances.  Right now they're barely on the outside looking in at FSL by .01 pts/game.

Most likely we'll see some changes tomorrow due to the 3 games in a week schedule we have.  I doubt Aigner will start but we might see Gashi and/or Boateng.  Really the only question left though is if Badji will get to 10 goals or not.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  Dallas is a mess right now but we're still not good.  Ttheir slide continues and they'll be ripe for an upset in a week and a half here in Colorado but for now we get a point and keep our hopes of beating our worst ever season going.  Badji gets his surprising 10th goal.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Rapids Lose North Of The Border

My Friday prediction:
2-1 loss, goal by Aigner.  Vancouver has a much better offense but a pretty similar defense to us.  I think both team can score but Vancouver will control the game and with the home field advantage, get the win.
Ok, Badji had the goal and not Aigner but otherwise this was fairly accurate, for the  second straight week.  I'll be honest.  With the UW win over CU on Saturday night and the NFL yesterday I've only seen the first 50 minutes or so (up to Vancouver's second goal) but by all reports there wasn't much different in the second half.  This team just isn't good enough and that's not going to change this season.

Nice job by Badji poaching the goal on a bad defensive effort.  For as bad as the team has been this year you can see real growth in his game and he's rightfully going to be the Golden Boot winner with probably double-digit goals, not something I would have expected at the start of the year.

On the other side, what does it take to get Aigner a start.  Planning for next year or not this is ridiculous.  A mid-season signing should not be waiting until the final month of the season to get his first start.  He might be great in 2018 but he (along with Boateng) is a bust for 2017.

The Rapids still need 6 points in the final 5 games to avoid their worst season ever.  Next up, a trip to Dallas on Wednesday.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Wet Night Tomorrow

Colorado is in Vancouver tomorrow night.  Not only is this the wettest fixture in MLS (Rapids and Whitecaps both being water features) but I'll be missing it as I sit int he forecast rain at Folsom Field as I watch my Washington Huskies hopefully repeat their performance against CU in the Pac-12 Championship Game last season.  Either way, its going to be wet.  Kickoff tomorrow (for both games) is at 8pm and the Rapids game is on Altitude (UW-CU is on FS1).

Kevin Doyle is out for this one due to his ongoing concussion symptoms.  Otherwise the Rapids are at full strength.  Of course that doesn't mean our best XI will start as Smith and Cooke try to figure out who's going to be around next season.  The turf at BC Place may also throw a wrench into who starts.  Vancouver has two players out injured, one questionable, and one player suspended.

If you remember, Vancouver was the site of Gashi's Goal of the Year last season.  Axel Sjoberg has also scored twice against Vancouver (once with a broken wrist), so we tend to have some luck against them.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Aigner.  Vancouver has a much better offense but a pretty similar defense to us.  I think both team can score but Vancouver will control the game and with the home field advantage, get the win.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Coaching Update

We got our first coaching news today from a variety of sources.  I think this article covers it all.  4 people have been talked to about the job but likely they aren't the short list of candidates.  This is a good thing because 3 of the 4 names make me sign and think "same old Rapids" and the fourth, while interesting, doesn't seem like a home run hire.  Lets go through these names:

Cesar Farias - The most interesting name of the bunch.  He was the Venezuela National Team coach for 6 years and got them to the Copa America semifinals for the first and only time.  He also coached in Mexico and most recently in Bolivia.  He's certainly got a wide range of experience and is used to "punching above his weight" like he would need to do here.

Henning Berg - No.  Just no.  As a Blackburn fan I watched him come in and take the team from a playoff position to 17th place in the Championship in 10 games, winning once and losing six.  He hasn't made it through 2 full seasons at any of his last 3 jobs (including Rovers where he lasted a team-record low 57 days) before being sacked.

Josh Wolff and Jeremy Gunn - I grouped these two together because they have the same issue.  They would be getting their first professional managerial experience if the team hired them.  After three straight coaches getting their first pro experience (Pablo, Pareja, Smith) the last thing we need is another "learning on the job" manager.

The good news from the article is that the team has a goal of hiring a manager by November 1st.  That's a big change from last time where Pablo was signed on the opening day of the season.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Rapids Continue Non-Losing Ways

My Friday prediction:
1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  The altitude and missing players will weaken NYCFC just enough for us to snag a point but it won't be pretty.
And that's exactly what happened.  NYCFC went up early after Watts fell and Ford and Azira didn't close in on McNamara which let him get a long-distance strike off.  Howard got a hand to it but could only push it into the bottom of the crossbar where it bounced in.  After that it was pretty bleh soccer, though surprisingly at half the Rapids had to shots on target to NYCFC's 1 (I'm not sure when the last time the Rapids had more shots on goal at half than the opponent).  The second half was more of the same until very late when Badji got behind the defense on a long run and slotted it him home for his team-leading 8th goal of the season.  Credit to Dom, in past years he would have screwed the chance up and its another example of his improvement this season.

The game really changed for the Rapids around the 65th minute when Gashi and Aigner were both subbed in.  Aigner has yet to start and Gashi has not been starting much lately.  I realize that the focus in these last 6 games will be on evaluating players for next season but we shouldn't completely throw away results (especially since the fans are still paying for the tickets) so seeing our best players start more often than not should be the expectation.

The rapids now need 6 points in the last 6 games to avoid their worst ever pts/game total.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Tonight's Rapids Game A New First For Me

Tonight the Rapids host the second best team in the league, NYCFC.  Last time we saw them was in Yankee stadium last year where they put a 5-1 beat down on us.  That was almost a sixth of all the goal we allowed last season and by far our worst performance.  NYCFC is right where they were last year, 2nd place in the East, while the Rapids are on the other end of the table.  Tonight's game is at 7pm with the call on Altitude.

I'll be watching on Altitude, not at the game.  For the first time since 2008 (before I first got season tickets) the Rapids are playing at home, I don't have plans, and I'm not going.  This season has beaten my interest out of me.  Some friends will also not be there tonight and I had a choice between staying home and listening to Bob Rondeau's final season calling the Washington Huskies as they host Fresno State or watching the Rapids play ineffective soccer against a good team and hoping to eek out a draw.  I'm going with the former and I'll multi-task to watch both the Huskies and Rapids at the same time.

Bobby Burling is questionable for the Rapids but everyone else is available.  The big question is will Aigner finally start a game?  NYCFC is down 7 players, including David Villa, with an 8th questionable.  If we're going to take on a good team, now's the time to take them on.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  The altitude and missing players will weaken NYCFCc just enough for us to snag a point but it won't be pretty.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Rapids Snap Winless Streak With Surprise Win

The Rapids last road win?  Houston (last year).  The Rapids last home win? Houston (in July).  So of course we should have seen this surprise win coming.  Colorado seems to have Houston's number but it wasn't exactly exciting soccer.  We saw our first real glimpse of what Aigner can bring to this team, his perfect cross to Badji to set up the winning (and only) goal is a pass we haven't seen often as Rapids fans.  That was only the 3rd shot on goal of the night though and Houston also only had 3.  Kortne Ford had a good game on defense.

While the win is always welcome and needed, the main difference between this game and the last couple is that Houston played no better than us, which at least kept it competitive.  Offensively there was no difference this week, other than Aignr's pass, to what we've been seeing.

The Rapids now need 7 points in the last 7 games to avoid their worst pts/game ever.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Colorado @ Houston Tomorrow Night

The Rapids finish their road trip in Houston tomorrow night.  A tough matchup against an team undefeated at home while the Rapids are still winless on the road.  Game time tomorrow is 6:30pm on Altitude.  Since the Huskies take on Montana at 6 I'll watch that live and catch up with the Rapids, if its worth it, afterwards.

Burling and Doyle are both questionable for this one.  Burling from his continuing foot injury and Doyle from the head knock he took last week.  I assume neither will suit up tomorrow.  Maybe Aigner will start for this one?  Houston has two players out injured.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  Houston has a top 5 offense and a average defense, both of which are better than the Rapids.  With how the team has apparently given upon the season this won't take long for Houston to run us over.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Rapids Lost Again

Another game, another loss.  Another time when the players didn't even try.  The Rapids were down 2 in under 30 minutes and never looked like they belonged on the field with what was (at the time) the second worst team in the league.  Their first shot wasn't until just before halftime, their first shot on target wasn't until the last 5 minutes of the game.

Honestly, I don't think we win another game this season.  Our best chance might be this weekend in Houston only because the Dynamo are a mid-tier team and who knows where their heads are with the hurricane (not to make light of the tragedy).  After that there's 3 road games, none of which I see us winning, and home games against NYCFC (loss), Montreal (a chance), Dallas (loss), and FSL.  That home finale could be a good chance since both teams will be eliminated by then, but if we're on a 15 game winless streak at that point I see no reason to expect it would change.

Next up, @Houston at 6:30pm on Saturday.  I'll watch that game on delay after watching Washington-Montana live.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Colorado @ LA Tomorrow Night

Even though its a World Cup break the Rapids have a game tomorrow night.  This was rescheduled from May when both teams decided playing without a couple of called-up players was better than playing a midweek game between two weekend games.  Kickoff is 9pm and the game  is on Altitude.

MacMath is expected back for this one to start.  Everyone should be available except for Howard and Williams, who are on international duty, and Gordon, who's suspended.  Aigner is expected to be in uniform.  Still with the players on loan that only leaves 19 players to choose from for the 18 man gameday roster.  I'm going to guess Burling or Da Fonte will be the odd man out.  LA will be missing 8 players between callups, injuries, and suspensions, including the Dos Santos brothers.

Interesting note, LA has won one home game this year, Colorado hasn't won a road game yet.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  Bad teams missing players means bad soccer.

Monday, August 28, 2017

I'm Done

That's it, I'm done with this team, at least for this year.  That was a shameful performance from the organization on Saturday night.  It started with a pregame show that featured a 4.5 minute segment on how well FSL is fitting into the community in SLC for no reason other than what, to shove it in the fans faces that their rival is doing so much better than them?  It continued into a game where pretty much the whole team gave up on that rivalry match after FSL scored a goal.  Slight credit to Cooke, the team did come out of the halftime locker room with a bit more fight but that dissipated quickly, leading to the worst loss of the season and putting us firmly in last place in the league.  Then it ended with a post-game where everyone wishes they had done better but no real acknowledgement of how they didn't live up to the standards of a professional team.

I waited until tonight to write this hoping that as everyone got back to Denver and we got into a normal "work day" we might see something out of the Front Office to address the fact we hit rock bottom on Saturday but other than an appreciative nod to the travelling supporters we haven't seen anything.

Clearly at this point this team doesn't value anything but getting this season over with, so fine, its over for me.  I'm strongly considering skipping the next home game to stay home and watch Washington-Fresno State.  As far as this blog I'll probably still do the basics (game previews, game reviews, etc.) but with only basic info, not much more than that.

We'll see how the final 9 games go and the offseason.  Based on that we'll see how much I want to write, or even follow this team.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Only Thing Left To Play For; The Rocky Mountain Cup

The season is over so we have one thing to play for and it continues tomorrow, the Rocky Mountain Cup.  FSL won the first game earlier this year in Colorado 2-1.  The third game will be at the Dick on October so this is the only visit to Utah this year.  FSL wins the Cup with a win tomorrow.  With a draw the Rapids will have to win the final game by 2 or more.  With a win by the Rapids tomorrow they'll still have to win the final game, but if they win by 2 or more tomorrow they'll claim the Cup with a draw in the final game.  Its a late 8pm start tomorrow night on Altitude and about 150 Rapids fans will be in Sandy to support the burgundy boys.

Colorado will still be missing MacMath and Burling will be questionable but everyone else is available.  FSL has 4 players out, 3 questionable. and Kyle Beckerman is suspended for yellow card accumulation.  The Rapids rested the big guns on Wednesday for this one so I expect to see the likes of Sjoberg, Gashi, Hairston, Doyle, and hopefully Aigner, in the lineup tomorrow.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Gashi and Badji.  Yes I'm being unreasonably optimistic with this prediction, I figure this is the last chance this season to do so and I'm taking it.  If there's any pride left in this team we'll see it tomorrow.  If we don't it will just be 9 long games to suffer through until the end of the year.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Juan Ramirez Officially Off The Roster

As expected, the Rapids announced today that they and Juan Ramirez mutually agreed to a contract termination.  That's one more player off the roster as we rebuild this offseason and we now have an open DP slot.

Rapids Continue To Sink

Not going to spend too long on this game review.  It was just more of the same.  This team is just not very good and that's not going to change in 2017.  Defensive breakdowns and a hell of a goal from Nagbe led to the 2-1 loss I predicted.  Saeid slipped a goal past the Portland defense to avoid the shutout.

  • Last night's starting XI showed we were going for it...on Saturday.  I have no problem with that decision.  The only thing for the fans to look forward to this season is maybe winning the Rocky Mountain Cup so I was glad to see the team use a test lineup last night and save the best options for Saturday in Sandy.
  • Mike da Fonte is not a MLS caliber player.  VAR got that call correct.
  • A number of players (Williams, Serna, Gatt) had a chance to make a statement last night.  They were very quiet instead.
Man of the Match: Mohammed Saeid.  Yeah, I took the easy way out.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Short turnaround as Rapids head for Portland

Colorado is in Portland for a midweek game tomorrow night.  Portland is flying high with a shot at going to the top of the table with the right results tomorrow.  We all know the Rapids are looking towards 2018 already.  This would appear to be a mismatched battle but that's why they play the games.  Its not even the most mismatched battle I'll watch tomorrow as at 12:45 tomorrow on ESPN3 the East Lancashire Derby is renewed as Blackburn hosts Burnley in the League Cup.  Just because Burnley thinks they're all that now that they're in the EPL doesn't mean they aren't going down tomorrow to a League One side.  Kickoff for the Rapids game is at 8:30 tomorrow night with the game on Altitude.

The Rapids are still missing MacMath and Burling is questionable but everyone else should be available, though Aigner's fitness status is up in the air.  Portland has 1 player suspended, 2 out to injury, and 3 more questionable.

I expect much the same in the lineup, with some players like Gashi rotated out for rest before the Rocky Mountain Cup match on Saturday.  Honestly given where we are this season I'd be happy to see a lot of young players get some time tomorrow and rest the big guns for the one important match we have left (if we lose on Saturday FSL wins the Cup, a draw means we'd need to win the final home game by 2, a win means we'd need to win by 1).  its time to see what the kids can do and this game has loss written all over it anyway.

Prediction: 2-1 loss, goal by Badji.  Portland has a top 5 offense and a bottom 5 defense.  The short rest will keep this game closer than it probably should be but Portland will build up a 2 goal lead before the Rapids get one late to avoid a shutout.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Is This Rock Bottom?

I was hoping this was a new dawn for the Rapids.  I was wrong.

Well, that game was one serious injury away from begin a complete cluster.  Hard to think of a worse way for the post-Pablo era to start.  Those were the two worst non-expansion clubs in the league and they played like it.  Ugly all the way around.
  • While Watts will rightfully get the flak for the own goal Howard was not being alert for the possible pass back.  Either he wasn't paying attention or didn't expect it, and after playing for this team for a year he should have expected it.
  • Really disappointed that Aigner couldn't make the 18.  I realize he was in his offseason before signing but that was 3.5 weks ago.  I would hope a professional athlete would be able to get into shape enough to be available for 15-20 minutes in that time.
  • 3 subs all before the 70th minute and none due to injury is something we haven't seen in a long time.
  • The Rapids were a bit unlucky to not score.  They had multiple good chances but didn't get the bounce they needed.
  • Overall though, bad soccer.  The 4 on 2 DC had early int he second half where they didn't even get a shot off was a good example.
  • Its obviously going to take some time to get Pablo's system out and something more attacking in place.  Credit to the team though, they looked like they were going for it in the 2nd half.
  • Two road games this week.  Portland on Wednesday night and an RMC match in Utah on Saturday.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  In another game he would have had multiple goals with the chances he had in this one.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A New Rapids Era Starts Tonight

The Post-Pablo/Steve Cooke era starts tonight with a battle with a wooden spoon battle.  DC is last in the league with .79 pts/game, Colorado is second-to-last at 1 point/game.  Both teams made major changes in the last month, DC in acquiring new players, Colorado in changing coaches.  Nobody really knows what we're going to see tonight but it should be interesting, if not good, soccer.  Game time is the normal 7pm so the tailgate starts at 4 and those who can't make it can watch on Altitude.

The Rapid will be without the injured MacMath and the suspended (for yellow card accumulation) Da Fonte.  Burling is also Questionable for this one.  Otherwise the whole roster, including Aigner, s available for section for Cooke's first game in charge.  I expect Aigner will be on the bench but not start.  DC is missing 5 players to injure including former Rapid Deshorn Brown, who's currently undergoing the league's concussion protocol.

I have no idea what to expect from the lineup under a new manager, other than Howard will start in goal.  Assuming we're going to stay with something like the 4-4-2 I think we can assume the backline will include Miller and Sjoberg and Azira will probably be in midfield.  Beyond that though, you're guess is as good as mine.

Prediction: 2-1 win, goals by Doyle and Gashi.  I think the Rapids come out more energized with a more attacking focus.  This hurts them a bit in the back but the team doesn't feel constrained to win 1-0 so they go out and outplay DC to get the win.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Direction From New Leadership

Over the last two days we've heard from the Front Office about their plans in two different ways.  First,, in a Op-Ed published by the Denver Post yesterday.  Second, in a YouTube Twon Hall held this afternoon that can be rewatched here (starts at the 11:10 mark).

I was going to do a rough transcript of the Town Hall but I gave up after a few minutes as I realized most answers where just going to be talking points from the editorial the day before.  I did get the second question of the Town Hall, asking for a realistic time frame to see actions that match the goals set out in the op-ed but Smith said he wasn't willing to set an unrealistic deadline or artificial time frame.  Really not the answer I was looking for.

The more concrete items I took from the Town Hall:
  • The Juan Ramirez "situation" will be resolved shortly.  Somebody on Facebook pointed out that he's no longer listed on the Rapids roster on  My bet is that they are crossing the t's and dotting the i's on a mutual termination contract that was agreed to ad submitted before the window closed.  That would allow Ramirez to join any team outside the window (as he was a free agent before the window closed) and would get him off the Rapids books, probably for a lower number than keeping him around to the end of the season.
  • Smith said the decision to remove Pablo was his, with the support of the rest of management.  No surprise but its always good to hear somebody tep up and take responsibility for a major decision.
  • They expect to be a playoff team next year.  That's the minimum I think we should expect but at least they aren't selling us a line about next year being a rebuilding year.
  • They are looking forward to the CCL and are going in with the intent to win it.  I mean, yeah, they pretty much weren't going to say anything else but there was no hedging of the goal or skirting around the issue, so I assume we're at least going to take it seriously.
Overall for both of these events I was more impressed with the delivery than the message.  We've never seen the FO come out with an Op-Ed in the Post to reach out to fans.  The Town Hall has been done before but given the short time frame and the fact that this was new leadership getting their plan out to the fans and not existing leadership doing damage control the fact that they had a Town Hall is a positive sign.

The message itself is nothing more than we've heard in the past.  Smith has talked a lot in the last 48 hours or so about the "Rapids Way" but we heard a lot from Hinchey about "OneClub" in the past.  We've heard the Rapids say they want to play dynamic, attacking soccer, and then roll out Pablo-ball.  Its hard to put much stock into anything the Front Office says without seeing actions to back it up.

Smith did make it clear that the next "big" step will be the hiring of the new coach.  That will really tell us if what Smith has been saying is talk or a true new direction for this club.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Pablo Removed

Interim head coach Steve Cooke

Well I can't say I saw this coming.  About 7 hours ago the Rapids announced Pablo Mastroeni has been removed as head coach.  Assistant coach Steve Cooke will be the interim head coach with Chris Sharpe and Conor Casey staying in their current assistant coach roles.

This move has been a long time coming.  Only his status as the greatest player to wear the badge and his unwavering loyalty to this club kept him in the role after the 2014 and 2015 seasons, and it seemed his wonderful season last year had bought him at least 2017 and probably into 2018.  Everyone was wrong on that assumption.  With a career average of 1.2 pts/game, barely better than Fernando Clavijo, this couldn't last.  Despite that he was just 4 games from Mooch's all-time team record for games managed.

After all that, I still feel bad for how this happened.  Pablo is and will always be a club legend and he was tossed into teh deep end of a sink or swim operation.  We can talk about what support he did or did not get but this isn't how you want to see the Rapids GOAT leave the club for (likely) the final time.  He didn't deserve to remain coach, but he didn't deserve to get into the situation he was in.

The timing of this move is quite odd.  Right after the transfer window closed and without a major incident precipitating it.  There have been a number of theories floated already and I think they all have a piece of the truth.  The first one is that the season ticket opt-out window is closing and they're seeing a higher than expected number of opt outs, so they felt they had to do something.  While this is probably true, I'm not sure this move changes anything since it comes so late in the opt-out window.  Second (and my contribution), is the changes in the front office over the last 6 weeks.  Hinchey left, the window opened, Smith became interim GM, the window closed last week, and Smith has now been able to turn his attention from deal-making int he window to other parts of the GM job, such as Pablo's tenure.  The third is that they have more moves coming and they waited until those were in place.  We'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks but there's some rumors something might happen.

Looking forward from here, Steve Cooke takes over for some amount  if interim time.  Reports are that Cooke has been the one putting in the work for years, running practices, etc. so it sounds like he's certainly earned this opportunity.  I know nothing about his style or what to expect so its going to be interesting to see what changes are made..  Sometime between now and next March the team will sign a new head coach.  The question is, will they have a real budget and do a real coaching search for the first time in KSE history or will we continue getting the MLS retreads and rookie coaches that the last 4 hires under KSE have been?  If its the latter, I suggest Robin Fraser.

As part of this news the Rapids have also announced that there will be a town hall on YouTube after practice on Thursday at 12:30.  More details to come but I've heard that this will be a true open forum and questions will not be pre-screened or otherwise eliminated.  I will have a recap of the forum Thursday night.

For more discussion on today's news check out the Voice of C38 podcast when it gets posted tomorrow.  The reason this blog entry is so late is that I was already scheduled as a guest on the podcast and had a good time recording it with the Voice gang.

Monday, August 14, 2017

So...That Happened

So I did something this game that I don't think I've ever done.  Since I was at my company picnic when the game started I couldn't watch from the beginning.  In the past that's meant avoiding any spoilers and starting the game from the beginning as soon as I got home.  (Or, if I was travelling, just watching the highlights post-game) This game, I didn't really care.  So when I left I put the radio broadcast on in the car (around thee 35th minute) and watched the second half live when I got to where I was watching the game.

Based on the play I saw, it seems the team didn't really care.  A meaningless point from a 0-0 draw leaves very little to write about.  Right now its really hard to get excited about the last 12 games of this season so don't be shocked if my game reviews are light unless something of note happens.  The most interesting thing on Saturday night was the lightning delay followed by a team that according to Pablo needed to treat every game as a must-win playing for the draw, including the subs from Pablo.

There was one other thing to note, the first significant use of VAR in a Rapids game.  They got the call exactly right under the rules VAR is used in.  Also to be clear, its FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) that set those rules, not MLS.  Lots of complaints about MLS being a Mickey Mouse league or Americanizing the game after the VAR call but it wasn't MLS's rules that allowed it, it was the same rules the Bundesliga and Serie A will be using this year.

Man of the Match: Kortne Ford.  Since I only saw half the game I don't know if he was the best player out there but he made a notable difference when he came in.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rapids Start Building For 2018 In Dallas

No, referencing this is never going to get old

With Colorado all but mathematically eliminated for 2017 its time to start looking at 2018.  I'm sure the roster we see tomorrow night won't reflect that fact yet but truthfully, its where we are.  Luis Gil is in Dallas and is available for selection.  Stefan Aigner is in Denver waiting to join training when the team returns.  Kickoff tomorrow is at 6pm on Altitude.

Burling and MacMath are out for this one still but everyone else should be available for the Rapids.  Dallas is just missing a suspended Gruezo.  For game #22 both teams are remarkably close to full strength.  With no time to practice with the team I assume Gil will take Powers' spot on the bench in this game, we may see him as a sub.  Otherwise I expect very little change from the last couple of weeks, sad as that sounds.

Prediction: 2-0 loss.  Dallas has a better offense, a better defense, a top-4 team, and home field advantage (though Dallas is our second home).  This is an easy pick of what will be an ugly game.

Two Loans This Week

The Rapids have loaned out two players this week, Sam Hamilton to Drogba's Phoenix Rising and Castillo to Charlotte.  That last frees up the international spot we need to add Aigner who returned to town today and will start training with the team when they return from Dallas.

Still no word on the status of Juan Ramirez who is no longer on loan but we don't have an international spot to put him on our roster again.

When we started this transfer window we had 5 open roster spots.  After these loans we have 6.  SMH.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Rapids Power Down In The Transfer WIndow

Well, that was anti-climatic.  After multiple published statements about improving the team in this window we got a new German winger who hasn't even started training with the team yet and at essentially literately at the deadline last night we swapped unwanted players with Orlando.  We'll start with last night's trade then look at the (lack of) activity int he window as a whole.

The basics of this trade is that we sent Dillon Powers,, who's contract is reported to be up at the end of the season, to Orlando for Luis Gil, who's on-loan from Queretaro of Liga MX until the end of the season.

That's the short answer, if you don't care about the gory details of MLS roster rules skip this paragraph.  Orlando also sent $100K in Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) along with Gil and both teams agreed to keep the cap hit for their original player (Powers' cap hit is about double Gil's).  The reason for the TAM is that Gil was originally a FSL player and they retained his MLS rights when he left.  As part of the deal loaning Gil to Orlando, Orlando had to acquire his rights from FSL.  They agreed to a minimum of $50K in TAM.  Also with every loan deal into MLS there's an option to buy the player.  The loan deal stipulated that if Orlando bought Gil at the end of the season the deal for Gil's rights from FSL would go up to $100K in TAM.  Colorado has taken over Orlando's place in the contract with this trade so we will pay $50K of TAM if we don't keep him and $100K of TAM if we do to FSL at the end of the year.  The reason the teams didn't trade cap hits is that with the window closed it really doesn't matter since any cap relief either team might have gotten couldn't be used until the offseason window, at which point both players would be out of contract anyway.

This is a pretty meh trade for the Rapids.  Gil and Powers are players with similar skills and similar difficulty finding their place on their old teams.  Gil is a bit more offensively minded than Powers, which the Rapids need, but I still where he'll play under Pablo.  Overall this is really an extended loan for both players with the teams having the ability to walk away at the end of the season if it doesn't work out.

Overall this was a wasted transfer window where the Rapids didn't finish the job they promised had started with the Cronin/Burch trade.  Remember the quote at the time of the trade was that it gave them the financial flexibility to target an offense threat and the rumors going into the window were a midfielder, a forward, and an outside back was the plan.  Even when the window opened Pablo told the Post that the plan was two players, one that would "raise the level of play".  Well, we got two players, barely, but not without having to give something up to do it, which doesn't scream "financial flexibility".

As one commentator on the league tweeted today, the Rapids have traded Cronin, Burch, and Powers for Saied, Gatt, and Gil.  That's amazingly bad by the Front Office.  Two of three players would be likely starters on many MLS teams and while I think Powers needed a change of scenery I think he can become a starter, elsewhere.  In return we got 3 players who would be unlikely to start for most MLS teams and who don't fix our core problem, our inability to score.

Since the end of last season we've now added a total of 3 experienced players without giving anyone up.  Boateng, who's spending more time on the bench than the field,  Gordon, who's good for 20 minutes a game, tops, and now Aigner, who won't even start training with the team until next week.  combined they've played 775 of a possible 3780 minutes, just over 20%.

Shockingly, a team that got rid of players like Jermaine Jones, Marco Pappa, and Sebastian Le Toux and replaced them with experience that only plays 20% of their possible minutes has gotten significantly worse.  Even worse than that, the Front Office has given no indication that they realize this is a problem or care about fixing it.  They are just stringing the fans along like suckers, now talking about the next transfer window in the winter and hoping we forget about their comments about the window that just closed.

The Rapids failed this transfer window, possibly the biggest failure they've had since they did nothing in the 2014 summer window.  There's a term for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  The Rapids should learn it.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Last Spark Of Playoff Hope Crushed

I felt the season was pretty much over before this weekend, but dropping 2 points to the team you're trying to catch really shuts the door on the playoffs.  BigSoccer has even done the math, for at least the last 10 years anyone who gets this far behind has failed to make the postseason.

The game was really a tale of two strategies for the Rapids, one that worked and got us the lead, and one that failed and lot us the lead.  Up until we got the 2-1 lead we had a majority off the possession and were taking the game to Vancouver.  Once we got he league we dropped into a defensive shell, played hoof and run ball, and let Vancouver come at us over and over again.  The goal was coming and it was not a surprise when they finally scored.

I'm sure the team will keep playing like there's a playoff shot for a few more games but in reality its over.  So really the last 13 games are about playing for 2018 (and the Rocky Mountain Cup).  Its time now to see what players who have a chance to be here next year have and players who are likely gone to take a seat.

Man of the Match: Axel Sjoberg.  A goal and a good defensive effort..  He was the only defender making an effort on Vancouver's tying goal.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

River Versus Ocean In The High Plains

Where the river meets the sea

Rapids - a rough section of a river or stream which is difficult to navigate due to the swift and turbulent motion of the water
Whitecaps - Ocean surface waves, which create "whitecaps" of bubbles and streaks on their breaking crests

So of course these two teams will meet on the high plains of Commerce City tonight.  Its about time the Rapids got home after being off or on the road for the last 31 days.  Its feels like longer than that.  Kickoff is an odd 8pm tonight, probably for Canadian TV, so the tailgate won't start at 5.  If you can't make it to the game, or understandably don't want to waste your time, the game is on Altitude.

Burling and MacMath are out for this one, while Gashi and Gatt are still questionable.  Aigner is not yet back with his visa (expected to return next week) so we won't be seeing him either.  Vancouver is down 3 players to injury.

I'm not sure we'll see much of a change in the lineups.  I hope Ford gets the start finally and obviously Howard will be back in the net.  Other than that I expect something very similar to what we've seen the past couple of games.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Badji.  These two defenses are pretty much identical while Colorado has the home advantage and Tim Howard and Vancouver has a better offense.  Those cancel out leading to 1 point and putting Rapids fans ever closer to the end of this long season.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Odds and Ends As the Transfer Window Starts To Close

A few pieces of news from this week.
  • The biggest is that MacMath had knee surgery on Monday and will miss 4-6 weeks.  We play in LA in just over 4 weeks the same weekend that World Cup Qualifying resumes.  There's a pretty good chance that Howard will be with the Nats and MacMath won't be available, so we'll get a look at John Berner (presumably).
  • Kortne Ford ties the homegrown game at the death:
  • Howard also had a scoreless half against Real Madrid in the All-Star Game last night
  • Western Union coming on as a team (not jersey) sponsor next year by way of the Nuggets
  • Aigner is still the only move made in the transfer window with less than a week left.  Which is ridiculous given that this team is horrible and desperately needs help. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Rock Bottom?

Really all I need to say about Saturday's game is shown in this quote of Pablo's to the Post:
"After the match, Mastroeni voiced his displeasure with the refereeing.
“Two stonewall penalties in the second half that would have changed the game for the good and they weren’t called and that’s how it goes,” Mastroeni said. “When you’re on the road, 1-0 late in the game like that, the chance to get a couple PKs is what you’re kind of playing for. In the end, it wasn’t the case.”"
 "the chance to get a couple of PKs is what you're kind of playing for"

Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?

You know, screw this team.  We've got a coach that has no interest in scoring apparently, a FO who's stringing the fans along from transfer window to transfer window with the continuing promise that the "next" window will be where we make our big moves, and a ownership group that can barely remember the name of the team, much less care about where we finish.

Somehow we're playing game 20 and are 10 points out of a playoff spot but we're playing for the chance to get a couple of PKs and maybe walk away with a draw.  All of last season we had 3 penalties called in our favor.  That's not a winning strategy.

Meanwhile after signing the underwhelming (but I am honestly hopeful) Aigner that plays the same position as Gashi the the next target is rumored to be George Fochive from Danish side Viborg.  I know, you're saying who?  Fochive is a 3rd round 2014 draft pick by the Timbers who made 15 appearances with them between being loaned out to USL sides.  He was then sold to Viborg before last season for $100K and he's made 25 appearances in his year and a half in Denmark.  He's a central/holding mid, another position the Rapids have in some abundance.  So at best a depth signing but also the type of player that 12 months from now will likely be playing in the USL.

Hey, there are still 9 whole days for the Rapids to do something, never mind that getting at best 13 games from whomever they pick up is going to be too little too late.

Man of the Match: Any ticket rep that can sell 500 non-C38 season tickets for 2018.  That's better performance than anything we're likely to see on the field in 2017.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Suckers Again

Recap of that ugly match tonight and the newest less than exciting transfer rumor (an American in Denmark who had a cup of coffee in MLS) coming tomorrow or Monday.  This is about where this season has gone.

Realistically 2017 has been a lost cause since mid-June. And honestly, I’m not so sure Pablo wasn’t telling the truth in that interview in May(?) about a process that was going to take until 2018 to develop. The FO’s actions all season have screamed "we don’t care about 2017".

The problem with that is that we were 2nd last year after two of the worst seasons in team history. You can’t ask the fans to hang with you through another rebuilding season and you sure as hell can’t not ask them and just do it. They spent the offseason talking about trophies and unfinished business but they’ve delivered nothing.

If they had come out in January and said "Here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to need to rebuild with plan X to deliver in time Y. Our moves are going to be focused on that and because of it 2017 may suffer. We understand that’s not what you expected when you renewed/bought your season tickets so we’re going to do A, B, and C as we value you as a loyal fan and want you to stick with us through this process." I probably would have signed on, especially if A, B, and C were discounts, lowered prices, real rewards, not a plastic water bottle or an discount ticket to Elitch's or an Avs game.

Instead I’m feeling insulted and played for a sucker right now. This isn’t the first time the Rapids have screwed up a season from start to finish but in the past they’ve made an effort until it was clearly a lost cause for even the most die-hard fans. Right now it feels like they gave up on this season around game 4.

Do It Now

The Clash's final studio album

Do It Now.  As in, win on the road now.  We can't wait any longer to start putting points on the board if we have any hopes of making the playoffs.  It starts tonight in San Jose against the team formerly know as the Clash.  Game time is an odd 6pm kickoff in Denver with the game on Altitude.

Burling is still out for this one while Gashi, Gatt, and Sjoberg are listed as questionable.  Pablo has already announced that MacMath will start this one in the nets while Howard rests from him Gold Cup games earlier this week.  San Jose has 5 players out injured or suspended so we're hitting them at a good time.

I'm going to assume a continuation of the 4-4-2 we've been seeing from the Rapids, with Doyle and Badji starting up top.  As far as I know Aigner doesn't have his paperwork yet (he may even be back in Germany dealing with it right now) so we won't see him tonight.  It will be interesting to see if Boateng starts tonight or we stick with the lineup from Toronto.  Pablo tends to like to stick to identical lineups after a good result.

Prediction: 0-0 draw.  The two worst offenses in the Western Conference means this isn't going to be high scoring.  This is a game the Rapids could steal though with San Jose's defense being in the bottom third of the league.  The problem is we're a lousy road team.  So I expect lots of bad soccer and no scoring.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sjoberg Re-Signed, More On Aigner

Our second piece of good news in as many days as the team announced that Axel Sjoberg has signed a new deal that will keep him at the club at least through 2020 with a club option for 2021.  This is a great building block for the next few years with the only possible concern being that Sjoberg seems a bit injury-prone.

Two other pieces of information about Aigner came out today as well.  First, according to Jeff Carlisle Aigner will be a TAM-level player after this season.  This gives up an idea of what his contract will be as his pro-rated salary for this year is apparently not at TAM level.  That probably means Aigner is going to be getting 500K-750K a year.  This is a big number to commit to for 3.5 years at a position where you have somebody a year younger already under a DP contract (Gashi).

This is offset by this article buy Bundesliga reporter Manuel Veth who goes into what happened last year at 1860 Munich.  It explains why Aigner moved from the Bundesliga to the 2nd Bundesliga before last season as a way to help the club that he played at as a youth and why he now wants to leave not only the club but the Bundesliga all-together.  Obviously this is all talk and what matters is how he plays on the field for the Rapids but this at least allays some of my concerns about his level and what he's trying to accomplish with his career.  If he can play like he did in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt we may have gotten a steal.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Rapids Sign Stefan Aigner

Colorado announced the signing of German midfielder Stefan Aigner today (pending medical and P-1 visa).  This had been rumored since the weekend.  Aigner is 29 years old and has signed through the 2020 season.  He is similar to Gashi in that his preferred role is a winger but he can also play striker (though Ainger prefers the right while Gashi prefers the left).  He comes to Colorado from Bundesliga 2 side 1860 Munich.  From 2012 to 2016 he played for Bundesliga side Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring 22 times in 95 appearances.  He only had 3 goals in 24 appearances for Munich last year but 1860 was a chaotic mess as their majority owner and the club administration spent more time fighting than improving the team.  They were relegated to the 3rd division at the end of the season but the owner refused to pay the fees to play in that division so they've been relegated a second time and will play in the 4th division regional league this year.

I don't see Aigner as a difference maker based on his background, but I don't hate the signing either.  He's already in Colorado but it will take a couple of weeks before I expect to see any significant minutes from him.  I'm guessing he might suit up but only get a token appearance in San Jose on Saturday at best, he'll come off then bench in our next home game against Vancouver, and then maybe he'll be ready to start in Dallas on the 12th, though I wouldn't be shocked if its not until the home game against Dc on the 19th that he gets his first start.  My hope is (assuming everyone is healthy) we would see a lineup something like this:

Hairston - Ford - Sjoberg - Da Fonte/Miller
Azira - Boateng
Badji                 Aigner

Freeing up Gashi to play as a withdrawn striker under Doyle will hopefully generate more offense and more targets to feed off of Aigner's service.  In theory Aigner could be the withdrawn forward and Gashi the winger as well.

I can see what the Rapids strategy/goals are this window with this move and the rumor that they're in the conversations around Kamara being traded.  An addition to the midfield and a striker would certainly increase the offense.  I'd like to see Colorado land a MLS quality starting striker to build around.  That would allow both Gashi and Aigner to play as wingers and Badji to be a solid sub off the bench going forward.  If that gets done we're really only an outside back away from where I hoped we'd be at the end of the window.

There will be at least one additional move coming as Aigner does need an international slot and we don't have one open.  That means either trading for a slot, trading away an international, or cutting/loaning somebody.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Leadership But No New Players

Today the Rapids announced some promotions in the Front Office to fill the hole left by Tim Hinchey's departure.  Padraig Smith has been named interim General Manager while Wayne Brant has been named interim Chief Business Officer.  Along with this the Rapids website now lists Jim Martin as the Governor of the Rapids and Matt Hutchings as the Alternate Governor.  Apparently the Governor roles were added shortly before Hinchey left but nobody noticed until last week.

Martin is the President and CEO of KSE and Hutchings is the COO, so I think those Governor titles are largely honorary and they will have little or nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of the team.  At most they would get involved next time we want to do a Howard/Gashi type deal where KSE would have to cover part of the salary or for any major events like an All-Star Game or World
Cup Qualifier.

We know Smith's background.  Brant joined KSE in 2007, served as Senior Director of Fan Development in 2014 and 15, then joined the Rapids directly as VP of Business Operations.  This seems to indicate that the Rapids are splitting the on-field and off-field responsibilities into two different spheres headed up by different people.  I'm fully in support of that move, I think its something they should have done long ago.  I'm not convinced that Smith is the right man for he job but he's got some time to convince everyone.  I know nothing about business or Brant so I'm going to assume he's going to do a good job. ;)

Of course the real issue is that in this transfer window we've had 3 "official" comments from the Rapids (outside of stuff around Saturday's game) and they've mentioned as many Rapids executives as possible player signings.  In the least week there have been official comments saying that despite rumors the Rapids have not been in talks with Michael Carrick and we are in talks with German midfielder Stefan Aigner.  That's two executives (Smith, Brant) and two players and we're through day 16 of 31 in this transfer window.  Not good enough.  We need help, we need it now, and it probably needs to be new blood.  I mean, like Hamilton says:

Thanks Omar!

On Sunday Omar Cummings announced that FC Cincinnati's friendly against Valencia CF last night would be his final game as a professional.  He will immediately transition to teh front office working with Cinci's youth club.

Omar was one half of the C+C Goal Factory that combined for 89 goals for the Rapids between 2007 and 2012 (39 for Omar, 50 for Casey) and was one of the starters for the Rapids in MLS Cup 2010.  After that 2010 season (where he led the team in scoring) he got a look from Aston Villa but work permit issues prevented him from more than just a few training sessions in England.  After leaving the Rapids he spent two years in Houston and a year in San Antonio before being part of the inaugural Cincinnati FC squad last year.  He played in 17 games in 2016, scoring 3 times, but this year he only got 37 minutes in 3 substitute appearances in their first 20 games.

Cummings will always be part of the Rapids family and I wish him luck in his future plans.

With this retirement, half the Rapids who saw the field in the 2010 MLS Cup have now retired.  Moor, Larentowicz, and Wynne are still in MLS, Pickens, Kimura, Wallace are in the USL, and Kandji is playing in Finland.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Colorado Cramps Toronto's Style

In an ugly, ugly match somehow the Rapids actually got out with the point (and scoreline) I predicted.  Its a point hey had no business earning and TFC must be kicking themselves over the 2 points lost but at this point in the season a point is a point and you take what you can get.

  • A whole lot of chaos led to the early goal by TFC.  A bad read by MacMath to try to beat Giovinco to the ball started it, then I don't know what da Fonte the defense was doing in the box, and MacMath could only recover so much.
  • After that the fist half was ugly, from both teams.  Combined here was 1 shot on target after the goal (by Toronto).  TFC pretty much dictated the game but the Rapids D kept them from getting any good looks.
  • After half Toronto still had the run of play for the first 15 minutes but the balanced switched when Gordon came in for Miller.  Not so much because of anything Gordon did particularly but just because the team in general got more offensive.
  • About the 75th minute I posted in the Rapids forum that TFC had to be pretty upset they hadn't scored a second and let the Rapids stay in this game.  One mistake could cost them 2 points.
  • In the 76th minute the TFC midfield made a mistake and the Rapids pounced.  Azira stole a ball in midfield, sent it forward to Gordon, who played a through ball to Badji that he managed to sneak by Clint Irwin to level the game.
  • After that the Rapids killed the game off.  And by killed I mean took every chance to go down needing help from the trainer.  It was embarrassing a s Rapids fan to watch.  I understand some time-wasting gamesmanship at the end of the game but this was on another level.  Either that or our fitness regimen during the Gold Cup break sucked as we were cramping up left and right.
  • The teams on the field may have played to a draw but Colorado's social meeting team put a beating on TFC's post game:
  • Our first point on the road this season was a good start but its not enough to get us into a playoff position.  We actually moved further away with the result, now needing 1.73 pts/game to get to the Bodmer Line.
Man of the Match: Dominique Badji.  Scored the goal which was the only highlight in an ugly game.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Can Colorado Fight To A Result?

Battle of Lundy's Lane/Niagara Falls

Tuesday is the 203rd anniversary of the Battle  of Lundy's Lane, also know as the Battle of Niagara Falls in the War of 1812.  Tactically the battle was a draw, which is probably the best the Rapids can hope for in their invasion of Canada tomorrow.  Strategically the British stopping the American invasion of Canada was a loss for the overall ambitions of the Americans, which is probably the case as well with the Rapids tomorrow if they fail to win.  kickoff is at 5pm and the game is on Altitude, which means it will finish before the USA-Costa Rica Gold Cup Semifinal at 8pm on FS1.

Lots of missing players for this one:
Colorado: GK Tom Howard (USA), D Mekeil Williams (yellow card accumulation suspension), D Bobby Burling (injury)
Toronto: Jozy Altidore (USA); Michael Bradley (USA), Justin Morrow (USA); Steven Beitashour (injury), Nick Hagglund (injury)

Along with that Toronto has Panamanian Armando Cooper and three Canadians who were called up for the Gold Cup but their teams were eliminated midweek in the quarterfinals and they may or may not be available to TFC tomorrow.  also their head coach, ex-Rapid Greg Vanney, is suspended after being ejected on Wednesday so another ex-Rapid, Robin Fraser, will be coaching this one.

The questionable injuries for Colorado are Gashi, Sjoberg, and Gatt, I don't know if any of them traveled to Toronto.  A big question mark for Toronto is Giovinco who left Wednesday's game with a bad back injury.

After 18 days off and everyone getting rested and mostly healthy Pablo has a lot of choices for the lineup.  I'm assuming we'll stick with the 4-4-2 but if the 4-5-1 returns I won't be shocked.  The backline is still going to be a mess though with Burling and probably Sjoberg out, we'll be looking at Ford and Miller likely at CB.

Prediction: 1-1 draw, goal by Doyle.  We couldn't ask for a better time to play Toronto with them coming off a midweek game and down 5-10 players plus their coach.  If we can't get a result here then we're never going to win on the road.  The Rapids channel some of that MLS Cup history and get a draw, but that's all.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Front Office Apparently Took A Gold Cup Vacation

We are now 11 days into the 31 day summer transfer window.  So far the only thing approaching a valid rumor was a brief blip around Michael Carrick last night which the Front Office dispelled this morning by saying there have been no discussions with him.  Squashing that story is the ONLY thing we've heard out of the front office in regards to player movement during the transfer window.

This is more than just disappointing, its insulting to the fans.  When the team move Cronin and Burch they asked the fans to be patient as this allowed them the freedom to make a big move.  When the winter transfer window closed they asked the fans to be patient as they had plans for the summer window.  Well the summer window is here and a third of the way in we're done being patient.  The time for action was last week.  To remind readers of the statements from the Rapids:

Denver Post on the Burch/Cronin/Gatt/Saied swap:
Rapids sporting director Padraig Smith said.  “We feel like the upside of what we’ve brought in and the financial flexibility it gives us on the cap to continue to target an offensive threat is going to be a positive for the club in the future.”
With a significant amount of cap space cleared, Smith said Colorado is now free to chase its main attacking targets. He said the club hopes to do something before the transfer window closes May 8, but could strike a deal during the summer window that opens July 10 when European teams are in their offseason. 
“We’ve identified a number of key targets and the additional financial flexibility this deal gives us will put us in a position to execute on those plans,” Smith said. 
 Colorado Rapids podcast with Smith after the winter window closed:
We were doing this with an eye on what the future would bring – making us better immediately in terms of Nana Boateng, and also the future in terms of building increased cap space which would allow us to turn around and get the attacking assets we need to help us become a more balanced team. 
I think the window opens on July 10th. We’ve been over in Europe scouting quite extensively on a number of our targets making sure we watch them on multiple occasions so we have a sense of who and what they are. That’s a crucial thing, because one of the things Pablo and the players have done very well is built a strong locker room mentality down there. It’s important that we bring people in with the right mentality to fit in, so they can contribute right from the start. That’s hugely important for us. What we’re looking to do is obviously improve on the attacking side. We always want to make our team better in every area of the field, and we continuously look at that, but there’s no doubt we haven’t scored enough goals and we haven’t been good enough on the attacking side where we want to improve.
We want to be a playoff team year-in and year-out and that’s what we’re trying to build here.
Well we expect to compete in 2017. I mean that’s the bottom line here...So that was a challenge but we’re only eight games in, there’s no reason why with this group of players and with some of the additions we’re looking at in the July window that we can’t put ourselves in a position to be competitive this year. And that’s our aim, to be competitive year-in and year-out.  
And from the Denver Post last week:
Mastroeni has said he expects the club to add two players in the coming weeks, including one who “will definitely raise the level of the group.”
So the club has absolutely set the expectation that we will add talent in this window and compete for the playoffs.  Despite that, from all appearances to the fans the club is doing nothing, and this team is not competitive as its currently built.  Taking their time would be understandable as the 2nd best team (as they were last year at this point) and they're trying to make the right news to get that last piece of the puzzle without disturbing whats working.  When your the 2nd worst team you can't take your time.  You need to fix the problems immediately.

Lets say the Rapids sign somebody by tomorrow. Unless its a trade within the league its probably going to be somebody who hasn’t played since their season ended in May (slight chance its from another summer league). That means at least a couple weeks of conditioning before their ready to start. At best they’re ready for our next home game the first weekend of August, and that’s if they’re ready to handle the altitude. Of course by then two more games will have gone by which means at best this new player is available to start 14 games. And we gave up Cronin and Burch after game 3 for this move.

At the same time they are doing nothing to improve the team they're sending out season ticket renewals with their new "system" that automatically renews your ticket unless you opt-out int he next 3 weeks.  Also any payments you make are non-refundable if you don't realize for a couple of months that you're paying for next year, but they'll apply the money you've paid to single-game tickets if you want to cancel your season tickets after the 21 day window.

I feel like the Front Office are playing the fans for suckers (again) but this time they're not even trying to hide it.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Go To DSG Park?

Sorry to be so quiet, there's just nothing going on with this team.  I assumed that in the first 9 days the window was open we would make a move of some sort but not only have we not made a move, we haven't even heard any good rumors.

So we're going to move on to another discussion.  I was at the Vancouver game in May and after getting to my seat I looked around, thought about the experience getting to my seat, and wondered "why would anyone come to a Rapids game?".

Two things as we get into this discussion.  This is really focused on the experience outside the play on the field.  Yes, the play this year has been ugly at times and that certainly doesn't help but all teams have to deal with bad seasons.  That's the risk when you buy tickets (unless your a Yankees or Man U fan) but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time while watching a bad team.  Secondly many of these complaints are things that I know the Rapids Front Office also feel but KSE doesn't.  Because of the nature of the hierarchy in KSE and the way stadium operations are set up the Rapids have less control in their own stadium than many (most?) teams do.  So while this is a critique of the experience that critique is mostly directed at KSE not at the Rapids FO.

Obviously the first issue is that the Victory Crossing development plan never came into being.  For readers who were not around in the mid-2000s the original announcement was that the area outside the field complex was going to be developed into light commercial use including bars, restaurants. a Dicks Sporting Goods, etc.  The drive up past City Hall to the main entrance on the West side was supposed to be retail and food all the way to the entrance.  For many reasons that didn't happen.

Because of that there is nothing to do out at the stadium other than the stadium itself.  Centennial 38 does a wonderful job of compensating for that with the best tailgate in the league (something that would not be possible with many of the "dream" ideas of having a stadium downtown).  Outside of that though the pre-game options are hit and miss (more miss).  Off and on the Rapids have tried to run their own tailgate, had Burgundy Boulevard, had concerts with local groups, but in general if you're not going to the C38 tailgate or doing your own your plan is to show up about 20 minutes before kickoff and go straight to your seats.

Of course, that process takes much longer thee days with the new security rules.  I have no problem with security if security is needed and in this day and age with what we've seen in places like Manchester I think its right to be concerned.  That doesn't matter though if your security isn't trained and ready to handle the crowds.

At one point last year I ended up getting into the stadium without anyone checking my ticket (and I wasn't trying to avoid a ticket check).  This year I got to the security line only for the Argus security guard to say out loud as she picked up the metal detector wand "now if I can remember what they taught us on how to use these" (and she wasn't making a joke) and afterwards she thanked me for being her guinea pig.  This combined with the fact that security is significantly slowing down the lines to the point that they recommended to fans that they be at the World cup Qualifier an hour before kickoff to make sure you got to your seat on time.  As a fan you start to wonder where the value is in the security process, all that seems to be coming out of it is annoyance for the ticket holders.

One you get into the stadium your food options are...not good.  I'm not much of a drinker and certainly not at stadium prices so I can't comment on the alcohol options but food-wise you have Aramark catering, which sucks, Famous Dave's BBQ which is passable outside the stadium but looks gourmet compared to the other options inside the gates, and individual carts contracted with the stadium like Jake's Baby D's mini-donuts (the best option in the stadium by far).  Again C38 does a great job compensating for this in their pre-game tailgate but that only goes so far.

Once you head to your seats you have one more hurdle to cross.  As of this year they've stared checking tickets every time you enter a section.  This isn't unusual at sporting events but it is a bit insulting when long-tome season ticket holders who have been sitting in the same seat for 10 years have to show their ticket multiple times per game.  It makes sense for big games (like the 4th of July) when the stadium is expected to be packed and you want to make sure there are no issues but does it really matter who's sitting where during a mid-week game in June where the stadium isn't even half full?  Its particularly annoying that C38 has an agreement with the Rapids FO that ticket holders in the two C38 sections (108 and 117) can move back and forth between the sections assuming there are no capacity issues, yet the stewards have been instructed by Argus not to allow it.

Great.  You've gotten to the game early, visited the C38 tailgate, gotten through security, showed your ticket to get into your section, and are in your seat.  Kickoff, first half, halftime.  The play has been bad but maybe halftime will have something to entertain you.  Probably not.  There seems to be less effort put into the halftime shows than at many minor league baseball games.  Its probably great fun for the kids who are playing on the field and their parents but for the rest of us, meh.  The halftime games with fans are great, for those fans, ,but not much for the rest of the stadium.  At least C38 is (usually) entertaining during play.  Even the mascots (not that I love the mascots) have dwindled in recent years.

So given all that, what's the appeal to go to a game?  Outside of what C38 does I have a hard time "selling" the idea of coming to a game to friends and coworkers.  Obviously winning solves everything (as we saw last year) but the team needs to be able to sustain a fan base through lean years.

I've done a lot of critiquing (or to be fair, complaining) in this post so far so thanks for sticking with me.  I don't want this to be just a list of complaints though.  As i said at the start, a lot of this isn't the fault of the Rapids FO.  I know that they are actively trying to solve some of these problems but are being stymied.  My guess is that they're being stopped because they don't have the power to make sweeping changes to the contracts that are in place with Argus Security, Aramark Catering, DSG Stadium Ops, etc.  Given that we see almost identical setups in security, food, etc. at both the Pepsi Center and DSG Park (and I would guess the Paramount as well) I'm assuming the contracts are negotiated as a group, not at the individual location or event level.  That doesn't give the Rapids FO much to work with when they want one of these groups to make changes.

That's just the Rapids FO though.  KSE has the big stick in this scenario and they could use it, if they cared about the experience at DSG and not just about the $$$.  Obviously contracts are contracts, I'm not suggesting KSE unilaterally break the contract.  But as the entity who's making the decisions on these contracts they have a lot of power to go back to Aramark and say "we want to renegotiate to allow more food options at DSG.  If you're not interested fine, but when we consider renewing your contract next time we have a chance we will be considering what other options we have".  You could repeat that for whatever contract is involved.  For intra-KSE contracts like between the Rapids FO and DSG Stadium Ops that should be even easier to sort out, but KSE has shown a long history of not caring (see the reason Richard Fleming was finally hired by the Rapids instead of relying on whatever yahoo Altitude decided to throw in the booth after Marc Stout left).

Specifically here's some of the stuff I would like to see changed:

  • Start bringing in food trucks outside the stadium for pregame eats.  If you can work out how to bring some in to the stadium itself (like on either level on the north end) that would be great too.  Long-term work the Aramark contract to allow more local places similar to Famous Dave's in.
  • Get fully staffed competent security checkpoints.  Better yet if this is going to be a long term thing (and I think it will be) invest in permanently installed metal detectors.  The StubHub Center has had them since it opened in 2002.  This will make the experience consistent for the fans and I have to believe its faster than a wand scan.
  • Stop checking tickets in the sections unless the game is close to a sellout.  Trust me, unless you've bought a table or a field side seat the seats aren't different enough to make a real difference in people moving around.
  • Start improving the halftime show.  One thing they had early in the stadium's life is Frisbee dogs.  I know many fans enjoyed seeing them.  Its not something you see every day (unlike U-8 soccer which you can go to any park on the weekend and see) and its entertaining.  Other things like that would be good.  Mascots doing t-shirt tosses, use the video board for fun games (the "find the soccer ball" challenge or even the races were good things in the past), get the fans more involved.
In general the experience needs to significantly improve and with a team that appears its going to be pretty bad the rest of this season it needs to improve quickly because the play is not likely to get fans to come out.