Colorado Rapids 2007 Season Review: The Difference between “Playing” and “Eating”

Colorado Rapids
Record (W-L-T): 9-13-8; 29 GF; 34 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports

Overview
It seems fitting somehow that I should approach a review of the Colorado Rapids 2007 in the same almost aggressively feckless manner in which the Rapids’ front office runs the team – e.g. not reading the match reports, but operating from memory. I understand this isn’t logical, but, given how they run their team, neither is the continued existence of the Rapids. This review also involves an element of the personal; after all, in my 2007 Western Conference preview, I wrote “I see great things coming out of Denver this year.”

Obviously, this is not what happened. In fact, some of the worst things came out of Denver in 2007. Colorado not only missed the playoffs, but managed to violate standards of aesthetics along the way. This was supposed to be a great year in Colorado, if for no better reason than the opening of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, a soccer-specific stadium to call to home. Apparently, the memo about playing at The Dick as oppose to eating dick, failed to reach the relevant parties. Is it any wonder that enthusiasm seems in shorter supply in Colorado than in any other MLS market?

All right, all right. Time to talk about games. Optimism – Colorado fans’ and mine – was somewhat justified till around June. The team started a respectable 4-2-3 with the losses coming to Western Conference powerhouses like the Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas (OK, maybe not the second so much). The team had a colossal forward in Panamanian Roberto Brown, who seemed ideally suited for latching onto crosses from Terry Cooke, who either led or tied for assists in 2006. With Bouna Coundoul providing incredible value at ‘keeper the trade that swapped ‘keeper Joe Cannon for Herculez Gomez and Ugo Ihemelu looked all upside.

And then, at some point – it matters so little when that I’m not going to look it up – Roberto Brown was shipped off to wherever they send out-of-shape players and, possibly around the same time, Gomez went down. And when Gomez fell, the Rapids offense collapsed with him; stars from yesteryear – players like “Nico” Hernandez, Jovan Kirovski, and Jacob Peterson – picked up too little of the slack to register. If there’s a silver lining in all this, it comes with the arrival of Toronto FC: had they not been around and sucking eggs on offense everyone would have noticed that Colorado beat the goal-scoring nadir set by the Columbus Crew in 2006; Colorado scored only 29 goals over 30 games, just edging out the Crew’s earlier league record of 30 in 30 games.

In their defense, the Rapids had a defense of which they can be proud: only Houston and Chivas had a better defensive record and Colorado’s finest tied Supporters’ Shield winners DC United. And it’s not like the team stood pat amid the problems. Clavijo scrambled up a couple of acquisitions like forwards Daniel Osorno and Conor Casey. Unfortunately, discussing roster changes leads to the one Clavijo got very wrong: sending Kyle Beckerman, a centerpiece of the team, to Rocky Mountain rivals Real Salt Lake in exchange for Mehdi Ballouchy, a whisp of a midfielder who, for all his “skillz,” is still finding his feet as a pro.

All that may read a little harsh. Moreover, I can’t claim to know a hell of a lot about the Rapids because, any time past May, every time I started to watch them play, I wanted to stop shortly thereafter.

Notable Streaks
– May as well start with the big one: the Rapids went winless through June 2 to August 11. An 0-7-3 in MLS’s dog days means the dog is dead.
– Disgustingly, The Rapids remained in playoff contention thanks to the three straight wins with which they rounded out August, a spell that featured two consecutive 3-0 wins, one over the New England Revolution, the other over the Los Angeles Galaxy. After the impressive opening win over DC United, call that the season’s high-water mark.
– Yes, the use of the word “disgusting” is entirely intentional in the above. The playoff format really needs to change. That’s well below rewarding mediocrity.

What Went Right
– In terms of dollar-value, it’s hard to beat Bouna Coundoul in goal.
– The defense really did quite well, especially given what they had in front of them.

What Didn’t
– I’ve heard of a lack of depth at forward, but a one-man offense (Herculez Gomez) is something new.
– It’s tough to applaud any of Clavijo’s trades and acquisitions (though I did at the beginning of the season…is there an emoticon for blushing?). At least Casey showed something by the end…when it was too late.
– Rumors about Clavijo running the team like a half-mad North Korean tyrant (sorry, weird analogy inspired by this morning’s reading), suggest he’s an even bigger problem than he appears to be.

Key Men (as in the Ones You Want Back) (roster)
Bouna Coundoul: Even if you have to pay him more (and, face it, you owe him).
Herculez Gomez: If you can get/keep him healthy.
Terry Cooke: If he’ll even stay.
The Defense: However constituted, they did pretty well.

Anyone Who Ought to Leave
Jovan Kirovski: His ever-sub-par performance is bad enough: paying him $200K only hurts more.
Nico Hernandez: Though I’d be willing to give him another shot for his 2006.
Jose Cancela: And I have a man-crush on the guy; still, he’s too spendy.
In all honesty, apart from the players named above plus a couple decent young playes (Peterson, Dan Gargan, and Colin Clark to name a few), I’d blow up as much of this roster as I can and start over.

What They’re Needin’
– In a phrase, civil disobedience. Clavijo is a cancer and his continued employment an insult. Given that this team has a demonstrated capacity to cope with low attendance, it’s going to take something remarkable to catch their attention. If Rapids fans (assuming any remain) can somehow swing a completely empty park – one adorned only with a banner reading “Fire Fernando” – that would probably do the trick. If this can be done on a national television date, so much the better.
– Unfortunately, this perfect scenario won’t work. Security would have that banner down in minutes. But a one-game protest featuring a stadium so nearly close to empty would probably do wonders, so long as the FO knew the reason for the protest.

– OK, here’s what this team needs in more practical terms: OFFENSE. Or, more specifically, a healthy Gomez and at least two good forwards; an understudy for Pablo Mastroeni, who doesn’t have that many years left; someone the coaching staff (preferably a new one) trusts in the playmaking role – the two guys filed under “Anyone Who Ought to Leave” ain’t the answer.

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7 Responses

  1. Saw this on du Nord. I thought you would appreciate. I dream of one day having a soccer blog with the motto, “Mila Kura Si Planina”.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/7109058.stm

  2. Holy shit. That is marvelous.

  3. we all thought the Rapids would be decent this year…hell i said they would be a dark-horse in the west to start the season…looks as though we were all terribly wrong

  4. We’ve tried to protest. After we lost the Rocky Mountain Cup to *choke* Real Salt Lake, we showered him with catcalls and a “FIRE FC” Banner over the locker room entrance. His approval rating is somewhere between root canals and Bush.

  5. You have my sympathies, Badger. The KSE FO does seem pretty resistant to people pointing out the obvious. I think that’s what inspired my more grandiose (and perhaps not wholly plausible) suggestion for “direct action.”

    I’m starting to think there’s really something to the notion that KSE is completely unwilling to pay two coaching contracts simultaneously, the less direct economic costs be damned. I call that bad business; they no doubt call it something else.

  6. Well written.

  7. Coolness!!!!!! Im doin a project on this team

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