Giving In: Crew v. Rapids, Early Impressions

For those unfamiliar with it, I have dedicated myself to follow and, to some degree, conflate the relatively separate fates of the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids for the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season. The idea is to see which of these long-struggling MLS original clubs make progress this season…and which falls still further behind as the league expands.

This post just came to me out of the blue (OK, I was on the can; does that make it “out of the brown?”), but I think there’s something to it. Back when I embraced this assignment, nearly two months ago, I liked Columbus’ chances better. The reasoning was pretty straightforward: Columbus, playing in the tougher East, had the look of a team that could be competitive with the addition of only a player or two (both forwards, preferably) and more time to gel. Against that, the Rapids had the look of a team in not only in need of a total overhaul on offense, but one with the impression of a toxic locker room (suffering, perhaps from sour relations between players and coach?). Continue reading

Rapids TSII: Pre-Season Game(s) and Early Analysis

Given the low frequency of these posts, it no doubt seems I’ve stopped keeping tabs on the Colorado Rapids. If any Rapids fans out there feel chagrined, don’t fret: I posted something on the Crew a couple minutes ago with an introduction that reads exactly the same, only with the names changed around (or does it?).

The same explanation applies here: I can’t see practices (and they probably aren’t open anyway), the Rapids have a tight-lipped presence online, they haven’t done much since the Gomez trade, etc. So, as with the Crew, I’m kind of biding my time till the regular season starts. In fact, I was going to post on the basic notion of biding my time about Major League Soccer (MLS) generally, when it occurred to me this was 1) self-evident, and 2) no one wants to read about my personal problems with soccer coverage (does anyone want to read this? Hmm….).

That said, as with the Crew, I’m going to post something – anything – on the Rapids at least once a week. A round-up, some thinly-supported observations about the road ahead: something. I’ll try to make it worth your while, but no promises.

Fortunately, a couple things showed up today (and days earlier this week) that reveal signs of life out of Colorado. For one, the Rapids played two simultaneous games against every MLS club’s pre-season warm-up favorites, the United States U-17s (seriously, is there an MLS team those youngsters haven’t played?) View from the Couch turned in a report based on (inevitably) the write-up on the Rapids’ official site. Unsurprisingly, View from the Couch’s report reads better and he flags potential injury issues for a couple players.

In another bit of good luck, I stumbled across a couple massive early analyses on Class VI. Informally polling some Rapids fans/bloggers, Class VI made an apparent stab at creating the conventional wisdom on the various parts of the Colorado Mark ’08. One clocked expectations for the (Christian) Gomez-powered midfield, while the other looked at prospects for the defense, a unit that performed very well last year and experienced little turnover. A look at the forwards is in the pipeline, no doubt, and I fully expect an invitation to participate; I don’t know why, in fact, I wasn’t invited to participate on these two… (NOTE: I’m KIDDING. All those polled look like actual fans, whereas I’m, really, just a tourist at this point with more to learn than say). Anyway, these are educational, both for the awareness of the personnel and for seeing what Colorado fans think of their team’s chances.

What do I think of Colorado’s chances? In all honesty, I can’t say I have really even thought about it. It occurred to me today that I’ve essentially reserved judgment on anything to do with all MLS clubs’ regular season performance until after the March 3 roster cut-off. Too many things remain in flux and, empiricist that I generally am, I feel like too many variables remain in play. In fact, March 3 looms rather large in my head. I’ll start cranking out previews and generally prognosticating shortly after, and not just for the Crew and Rapids, but for all MLS clubs. So, look for ’em then.

Rapids TSII: (Borrowed) Line-Up Theory

View From The Couch (VftC) pieced together a plausible starting XI for the Colorado Rapids from a report on an intra-team scrimmage. This came, as all communications regarding the Rapids, from official sources.

By combining what looked closer to the first team from the two scrimmage squads with who he expects would take their place under ideal conditions, Jason Maxwell came up with the starting line-up listed below:

Bouna
Kimura – Petke – Erpen – Burciaga Jr.
Cooke – Mastroeni – C. Gomez – Clark
Kirovski – H. Gomez

And, for the record, Mr. Maxwell’s reasoning for including Jovan Kirovski are less to do with his preferences than insight gained from bitter, bitter experience.

The question, then, is the extent to which this is a functioning, even winning, line-up. Kirovski causes problems right off the bat, of course, but it’s the defense that really gets me scratching my head. I’ve never been even kinda, sorta sold on Facundo Erpen as a defender. Add Petke, who, as much as I view him as the pick of this bunch, isn’t a world-beater, and Jose Burciaga Jr., and one gets to wondering how many goals this bunch will surrender. A review of the roster unearths a couple options – Brandon Prideaux, certainly, as well as Dan Gargan – but the question of which players constitute upgrades on those named above follows quickly thereafter. Maybe this is just one of those things that must be tried and tinkered with between pre- and the early part of the regular season…and don’t tell me the regular season is too late; the playoff format means it’s virtually never too late. Continue reading

Rapids TSII: Yin-Yang on Gomez

So, Christian Gomez…was it DC United pulling another one over on a desperate Western Conference club or a big fat win-win for all concerned?

I have no idea.  That’s why we play the games, right?

That said, I think there’s some truth to Ives’ point (who authored the “pulling one over” item) that Colorado was more than one player away from competitive…though others think this moves the Rapids to Contenders-ville.  I also think the fact that Gomez plays a similar “mid-forward” role – only well – opens up the possibility of, at last, forcing odd-duck Jovan Kirovski to find a useful role on the field…which isn’t to say he’ll be able to…

Rapids TSII: The Reassuring, Educational Benefits of Soccer America’s Preview

I don’t know how many readers will be able to access this – and I’ve got only a couple months left on my freebie trial – but Soccer America (SA) turned its pre-season attention to the Colorado Rapids this morning.  And, typing as someone who only really noticed the Rapids when they de-pantsed FC Dallas in the ’05 and ’06 post-seasons, I actually learned quite a bit from their preview.

But even for non-newbies, there’s plenty of stuff in there, including:

– Details, as far as SA could get them from our tight-lipped league, on the Christian Gomez deal.  I’d be curious as to what “real” Rapids fans think of temporarily loaning their designated player slot along with a first round draft pick for an old-ish player like Gomez.  Of more interest still is where Colorado is thinking about playing him – e.g. up top, which, as SA points out, raises some issues with the current crop of forwards, not all of whom perform as advertised, scheduled, or desired.  I’m still working through what I think about this…and I may just have to wait and see…

– …especially with the talk about Pablo Mastroeni pairing with some unnamed Brazilian in central midfield.  That only seems to 1) deepen the confusion at forward, and, 2) point to some necessary off-loading.

– There’s also the revamped defense, one built on Chase Hilgenbrinck and Jose Burciaga Jr. on the flanks and, assuming the efforts to bring him home succeed, Nat Borchers in central defense.  So, does that mean Borchers with Mike Petke or would Fernando Clavijo (or “first assistant coach” – aka, Clavijo’s successor-in-grooming) go to a 3-5-2, which would make more sense out of the talk of Pablo + a Brazilian.

Whatever all y’all make of it, at least things are happening, right?  Right?

Rapids TSII: Out of the Goodness of Their Hearts…

…the Colorado Rapids FO has deigned to release their preseason training schedule to great, unwashed masses. In a case that looks a little like putting on airs, they play up the Arsenal FC connection quite a bit. Well, I once talked a random steward into letting me walk around inside Everton’s Goodison Park (provided I didn’t touch….no, don’t look even look at it…the pitch), so I’m less impressed with that than I might have been…though I suspect the Rapids players enjoy slightly better access.

Alternately, the Rapids organization could be playing up the “Arsenal connection” to distract from the relative dearth of preseason warm-up games. Now, I didn’t read this thing closely (press releases make me sleepy), but I counted only two preseason games for the Rapids: one against Real Salt Lake (February 22) and another against the Chicago Fire (March 22). (pssst…you can schedule more games. It’s OK. I mean, look at Toronto FC’s preseason obstacle course.)

In other Rapids news, it appears that Christian Gomez is coming…but, as the Black Panther blog points out, very, very slowly. I hope it’s not cold feet. Seriously. I have to watch the Rapids this year…

BONUS: Rules for alcoholic chess. A good game, I suppose, but it doesn’t hold a candle to some featured in this drinking games collection run in The Portland Mercury. I think my favorite is Aussie Coin Flip. The rules:

“Take turns calling heads or tails and flipping the coin. If it lands on your side, your opponent(s) take a shot. If it doesn’t, you do. The first person to puke is the loser, and “has to get a smack across the head.” (Hey, we didn’t make the rules.)”

Along with the Mercury, I naturally encourage everyone to drink responsibly and to know their limits…all while sowing the seeds of wickedness…

Rapids TSII: Waiting on Gomez…

I must thank Steve Goff for this.  As usual, I did nothing…except type.  And do some copying and pasting.  Oh, and I hit the little link icon.

Anyway, according to the latest from the Soccer Insider, the question of whether the Colorado Rapids get Christian Gomez is in the player’s hands.  What do I think?  Let’s just say, it couldn’t possibly hurt.

And DC United might do OK in the deal as well.

BONUS MATERIAL: I am five years old.  And the subtitle is brilliant.