Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Roster Rule Changes and Camp Departures

The league announced new roster rules today.  The big change is an expansion of the roster from 28 to 30 players, with the two new slots specifically for Homegrown Players.  This allows the Rapids to move Ford and Perez into those slots (or Serna) and sign two other players in their place.  Teams can also use TAM now to sign Homegrown Players to their first contact.

There were a few other minor changes but those two are the big news.

Also today Dan Bonficae of the Post tweeted that Liam Callahan has left Rapids camp and Tony Cascio didn't come north with the team.  That leaves the other two draftees (Hamilton and Siaj) and GK Cody Mizell as the only unsigned players in camp.

Signing those three would put us at a total of 26 signed players, with 4 goalkeepers.  Depth is going to be a problem with only 22 field players, we need to fill those extra 4 roster spots ASAP.  There are probably 5 spots available as I expect Mizell to be a short-term signing until Berner or Howard are healthy.  No team needs to carry 4 keepers for a season.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Rapids Lose Diamond Cup Final to Dynamo

In a game very reminiscent of 2016 Colorado fell to Houston 2-0 in the Desert Diamond Cup final, the second time they've lost the last game of the tournament.  The lineup:

Miller - Watts - Sjoberg - Burch
Azira - Cronin
Hairston - Powers - Badji

The starting XI was also the finish XI as no subs were made in the 90 minutes and the team was dragging by the end.  Earlier in the day the second team scrimmaged Houston (losing by the same score) which meant that by the end of both games almost everyone had gone 90 minutes.  That's probably why their was no subs.

The game itself was very 2016.  Good defense, decent possession, no creativity on offense.  Eventually the defense broke down and conceded and then we were chasing the game.  Powers is clearly not a #10 and Badji is still Badji.  Expect a repeat in playing style from 2016 this year if this game is anything to go by.  The Rapids finish preseason 4-1-1.

Now, onto the regular season.  Its game week!  Midweek I'll have my season preview and predictions before we get ready for opening night (day) on Saturday.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Rapids Beat NYCFC, Qualify For Diamond Cup Final

Yesterday was the third of the four matches we'll play in Arizona, this time against NYCFC.  I didn't get to see the game so I'm basing this recap on reports from others.  The starting XI:

Miller - Watts - Sjoberg - Burch
Azira - Cronin
Hairston - Powers - Badji

Minus the recovering Gashi and maybe Nana that looks like the opening day lineup (and if we're lucky Howard).  Its also probably an actual starting lineup from sometime last year and the play reflected that.  Solid defense, decent possession, but not a lot of creativity in attack.  Shortly before half Cronin got on the end of a clearance from the box and hit a sidewinder through a crowd for a 1-0 lead.

A full team substitution at half left us with the following lineup:

(T) = Unsigned trialist
(D) = Unsigned draftee

Castillo - Ford - Burling - Williams
Hamilton(D) - Boateng
Cascio - Perez - Callahan(D)

This team looked more ragged, as you would expect.  Largely the same results, good defense but quiet offense.  NYCFC has a couple of good looks and the Rapids batten down the hatches late to defend the 1-0 lead and continue their undefeated preseason.

They'll play for the Desert Diamond Cup in the final on Saturday against Houston.  Game time is 6pm MT and the game will be streamed in the same places as the other games.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Time Is Running Out If there's To Be Another Significant Signing

We are now 12 days from the season opener.  The team seems to be coming together in Phoenix with the addition of Nana and Gashi returning from injury.  There hasn't been much addition to this team from 2016 however.  Two new homegrown players, Gordon who's likely to be a super-sub, and Nana along with some draftees (probably, no signings yet).  There's been hope that the FO will unveil another signing out of nowhere like they did with Gashi last season but with 12 days to go it seems to be getting close to too late, at least for being ready and in sync with the team on opening day.

After the disastrous 2015 season the Rapids let 10 players go and then traded Irwin and Sarvas and loaned out Ramirez.  2015 was a bad team so there needed to be a lot of turnover..  That said, they signed every non-rookie player available on opening day by February 14th last year (with the trade to acquire Miller).  That was Azira, Pappa, Pfeffer, Gashi, Williams, C. Doyle, and Miller.  7 players with profession experience to replace 13.  Then later on we added three draftees, Jones, and eventually Howard.

After the great 2016 season the Rapids let 6 players go and then traded Greenspan.  So 7 total players out.  So far we have had 2 players with professional experience added, 2 homegrowns, and probably a draftee or two.  So we're likely to fill the empty spots though we finished 2016 without a full roster and the rosters have been expanded with a couple of homegrown roster spots so there's still room to sign more.

So from a quantity perspective we're probably fine depending on the number of draftees that get offer.  From a quality perspective though things seem more tenuous.  Last offseason we replaced 13 players with 8 (9 once Howard got here midseason) non-rookies.  About 2/3rds of the open slots.  This year with 7 players to replace from last year we've signed 2 experienced players, less than 1/3rd.  Obviously the quality of the remaining players is significantly improved from the remaining 2015 players so you could make the case we don't need as much help and I'd agree with you...on defense.

Its no secret that our offense last year was horrible.  A great (historic at home) defense combined with just enough well-timed goals got us to the 2nd best record and the conference finals but just a few more goals would have gotten us the Supporters Shield or a MLS Cup spot.  So far this offseason our purely offensive additions have been Alan Gordon, who's best use is a super-sub off the bench late in games.

Nana is somebody who could control the midfield and give us some momentum going forward but he's not a true attacker and will most likely play out of one of the defensive midfield spots in the 4-2-3-1.  Ford is a central defender and while Perez is a more attacking mid relying on him to kick start the offense is asking a lot of a rookie.

Looking at this I think we need another signing.  Somebody who can fill the hole left by Jones or who can take over the right wing spot (something we were looking for last offseason as well).  Without it I fear we will struggle in attack again this season, regardless of the focus the team us putting on it this preseason.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Desert Diamond Cup Game 2 - Including Blast From the Past

Colorado lined up for the second of their four Desert Diamond Cup games this afternoon.  I only saw the second half, but here's the lineup for kickoff:

(D) = Unsigned draftee

Miller - Ford - Sjoberg - Williams
Azira - Cronin
Callahan(D) - Powers - Badji

This lineup gave up a goal 19 minutes in from a corner that managed to fall uncleared in the box.

After 30 minutes Callahan was subbed out for former Rapid Tony Cascio.  He's currently signed with Phoenix Rising FC (formerly Arizona United SC) of the USL but has been recovering from injury and this was his first real game minutes in 6 months.  Officially he was listed as a guest player, not a trialist, but everyone who gets game minutes for a team is on trial, officially or otherwise.  If he impresses the Rapids would probably be able to buy him out of his USL contract.

He got off to a good start with back-to-back assists just as the stroke of halftime, first to Calvert, then to Badji.  After the break the same 11 took the field and Calvert made it a brace with a goal in the 60th minute.  Right after all 10 field players were subbed for the last 30 minutes:

Castillo - Watts - Burling - Burch
Hamilton(D) - Nana
Hairston - Perez - Gashi

This was Gashi's first action of the preseason, so his recovery from the Achilles issue must be going well.  Not a whole lot of action after the subs and the game finished 3-1.

Next up is NYCFC on Wednesday night at 5pm MT.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jersey Release and Desert Diamond Cup Game 1

The big news today, as you see above, is the release of our new road/alternate jersey.  This replaces the yellow flag kit we've had for the last two seasons.  There's not much that has changed though, blue sleeves instead of yellow, a red C instead of the state flag on the base, and removal of some blue edging.  Oh, and the addition of a red button.  Because why not?  I was never a fan of the yellow kit the last two years so this gets the same meh reaction from me.  Nothing wrong with it, just not my thing.  As BigSoccer poster wormhole put it: "it aptly sums up the off-season: "Let's keep doing what we're doing - with a couple of unnecessary tweaks thrown in just because." "

Also today was the first game of he Desert Diamond Cup against SKC.  Our starting lineup:

(D) - Unsigned draftee
(T) - Unsigned trialist

Miller - Burling - Ford - Burch
Hamilton(D) - Cronin
Hairston - Adjei-Boateng - Callahan(D)

Good to see Adjei-Boateng getting minute right away and he had the only notable event for the Rapids in the first half, a yellow card.  For the most part KC had the better play in the first half but they arguably had a stronger lineup on the field.

A full team replacement for the second half left us with this XI:

Castillo - Watts - Sjoberg - Williams
Perez - Azira
Siaj(D) - Powers - Badji

Shortly after the second half kickoff SKC scored.  A cross from KC's left was redirected past Mizell for the lead.  In the 81st minute Siaj had to come off due to a high ankle sprain and Callahan was reinserted (preseason rules) in his place.  In the 87th minute the Rapids appealed to center ref Allen Champan for a handball in the box that wasn't given.  About 2 minutes later, at the next break in action, Chapman was called to the sideline by the Video Assistant Ref and we got our first look at replay.

This preseason MLS is testing the FIFA approved replay system in preseason games (along with some other leagues) with the hopes of rolling in out at some point in the regular season.  It can be used on goalline decisions, penalties, red cards, and mistaken identity.  The video assistant ref makes the determination on if a play should be reviewed but the center ref is the one that reviews the footage and makes the call.  In this case Chapman reviewed the play in the box and awarded the Rapids a PK for the handball.  Powers converted the kick for the 1-1 draw.

The announcers (KC's I believe) got a key point about replay wrong.  They stated that a replay could not be initiated until a natural stoppage in play but the rules state that the ref can stop play to go to a replay, though they are encouraged to wait until the ball is not in a dangerous position.  I think Chapman pushed it in today's game, allowing almost 2 minutes of play to go by before the ball naturally went out of play.

All three draftees got time in today's game, as did our one real trialist (Mizell).  Kai Likewise, who's a high school player on the Academy team, was also listed as a trialist for this game but didn't play.  I'm assuming the Rapids brought him with them for the experience but he's not in the running for a first team spot at this point.  A good sign for the future though!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome Nana!

That's Bismark "Nana" Adjei-Boatang getting ready to board the bus to the airport with the team this morning (and Tim Howard, obviously).  He got into Denver last night and flew out to Tucson with the rest of the team for the Desert Diamond Cup.  I expect him t get a lot of playing time in Arizona.

Daniel Boniface reported some roster news over the weekend.  Our final draft pick, Peguy Ngatcha has been released and trialist Jun Marques Davidson has returned to Charlotte.  No word on the other Charlotte trialist, GK Cody Mizell.  Our other 3 draft picks are still with the team.  The Academy goalkeepers are likely not travelling with the team.

Gashi is also dealing with an Achilles injury which is a little concerning given how critical he's going to be to our offense this year.  The team has created a 2.5 week program to get him healthy and ready to go for the opener.

There was a rumor this weekend that U.S. Nat Aron Johannsson is looking to leave Werder Bremen this summer and come to MLS with the Rapids one of three teams listed as having interest.  His name was floating around last season too, so the idea of us having interest would seem to be accurate.  It would take some work as Johannsson is subject to allocation order and the Rapids are currently 18th in the order (Minnesota is first) so we'd have to trade up to claim him, then pay him.

Last, but hardly least, in tonight's season preview show on Altitude the team announced that Conor Casey will be inducted into the Gallery of Honor on June 3rd at halftime against the Crew (his final MLS team).  A well-deserved honor.

(The graphic also listed a Transamerica Cup on July 1st when we're scheduled  to play the Dynamo so ???)

Updated camp roster as we head to Tucson:

Signed Players:
GK John Berner
GK Tim Howard - Designated Player
GK Zac MacMath
D Marc Burch
D Bobby Burling
D Dennis Castillo - International
D Kortne Ford - Homegrown
D Eric Miller
D Axel Sjoberg - International
D Jared Watts
D Mekeil Williams - International
M Bismark Adjei-Boateng - International
M Micheal Azira
M Sam Cronin
M Marlon Hairston
M Ricardo Perez - Homegrown
M Dillon Powers
M Juan Ramirez - Designated Player, International, On Loan
M Dillon Serna - Homegrown
F Dominique Badji - International
F Caleb Calvert - Homegrown
F Kevin Doyle - International
F Shkelzen Gashi - Designated Player, International
F Alan Gordon

Unsigned Draftees:
D Liam Callahan
M Sam Hamilton
F Jaime Siaj

Unsigned Trialists
GK Cody Mizell (?)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Rapids Make A Resource Trade

Today the Rapids traded an international slot for the 2017 season to NYCFC for $75K in General Allocation Money.

This is an interesting trade only in that the Rapids currently have seven international players and somewhere between 6 and 8 international slots after this trade.  Its been rumored that Badji and Sjoberg are pursuing green cards (which would make them domestic players under MLS roster rules), this trade is probably a good sign that they are close to getting them.

The $75K isn't much but it will help us land another player either before the season or in the summer window.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Preseason Blowout

After 24 hours offline thanks to my Comcast cable being cut I'm back.  Yesterday the Rapids had their second scrimmage against the Ventura County Fusion.  This one went much better than Saturday, resulting in a 6-1 win.  First the starting lineup:

(D) = Unsigned draftee
(T) = Unsigned trialist

Castillo - Watts - Burling - Burch
Azira - Perez
Badji - Powers - Doyle
Ngatcha (D)

Interesting lineup with Doyle on the outside and the 2nd to last pick in the draft the  only unsigned player.  At the half it was 1-0 Colorado, Doyle with a nice cross that Badji finished off.  After half the lineup was:

Mizell (T)
Miller - Ford - Davidson (T) - Williams
Cronin - Hamilton (D)
Siaj (D) - Hairston - Calvert
Callahan (D)

Yes, that's defender Callahan apparently starting up front.  This lineup went crazy.  In the first 15 minutes Hairston set up Calvert twice to make the score 3-0.  Then Hairston got one for himself before Calvert set up Callahan making it 5-0 with 15 minutes to play.  Finally Miller was taken down in the box and Siaj converted the penalty for the last of the Rapids goals.  The Fusion got on the board in the final moments to break the shutout.

Davidson, Hamilton, Callahan, and Ngatcha got 45 minutes in each game against the Fusion.  Mizell got 45 in game 2 and Siaj got 90 in game 1 and 45 in game 2.  Other than the two academy keepers who were training with the team in Boulder last week that's all the unsigned players in camp getting at least a half.  Still no sign of our new guys, Gordon and Adjei-Boateng.  Gordon was in California but there's no report that Adjei-Boateng has arrived yet.

The team is back in Colorado for a few days before heading to Tucson for the Desert Diamond Cup.  They'll play SKC on the 15th, NE, on the 18th, NYCFC on the 22, and a 4th opponent based on the standings on the 25th.  If its like prior years the games will be streamed live on YouTube.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

First Scrimmage!

Yesterday the Rapids played their fist scrimmage out in LA against the Ventura County Fusion of the PDL.  There was no stream and not much of a twitter commentary from the team.  Here's the lineups for each half:

(D) = Unsigned draftee
(T) = Unsigned trialist

Castillo - Watts - Burling - Callahan(D)
Cronin - Perez
Siaj(D) - Doyle - Hairston

and for the second half:

Miller - Ford - Sjoberg - Williams
Davidson(T) - Hamilton(D)
Siaj(D) - Powers - Calvert

So Siaj takes the early lead of the draftee most likely to be signed.  Either that or he's the most on the bubble and got the most playing time so the coaches could figure him out.

Final score was 1-1 with the Rapids conceding late and then Badji scoring an even later equalizer.  Hard to draw many conclusions with no real data but a 1-1 draw with out-of-season PDL is not exactly encouraging.  The teams will scrimmage again on Tuesday.