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

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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. Continue reading

NE 1 – 0 Colorado: “You Do This, Tricky Pony!”

 (* The title gets explained all the way down at the bottom.  I bury leads with the best of ’em.)

Not even a late goal could retrieve the game that struck me as the snoozer of Week 26.  Only the most rabid of partisans would call New England’s win over the Rapids anything like just or deserved.  There is justice of a kind in the fact that neither team really gained, though: New England’s performance sends them into the playoffs sailing into the wind, while Colorado looks less like a playoff-bound club with each passing week.

Returning to an old tradition, I watched this one…a little sideways.  Just for the record, fortified wine can come in some surprisingly clever containers.

The stream-of-consciousness “half-dead” blog follows, typed now as I wrote it down then…in a steadily deteriorating hand.  Oh, I use parentheses and, um these thingies – [] where I feel like explanation is necessary.  Here goes: Continue reading

10 Bright Spots of Week 24: Kljestan a leader?, Noonan to the forefront, and Chivas keeps winning

1. Sacha Kljestan – a somewhat surprising first pick – I know – but his sophomore season has not been one of ups and downs; instead the Seton Hall product has already outdone his rookie season of 0 g, 7 a, by striking for 4 g this year and adding 7 assists; he put the Goats ahead against Colorado on Sunday after helping spark the 3-0 shutout of Los Angeles earlier in the week; that 2006 rookie trio of Kljestan, Bornstein, and Vaughan has turned out to be the backbone of the Chivas franchise

2. Pat Noonan – the Revs striker has always been on the fringe of the national team radar but he is one of the most consistent MLS strikers in recent MLS seasons; his versatility and character makes him the heart of the Revs; two goals against FC Dallas helped New England clinch a spot in the playoffs; I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime soon some European club ( most likely English Championship) comes calling for him; always a guy to boost the team when Twellman, Dorman, Joseph go cold

3. Chivas USA defense: they are cohesive to the point that even when you insert a somewhat iffy Jason Hernandez, they coexist and adapt; because of Suarez, Bornstein, Hernandez, Lawson Vaughn, Alex Zotinca (Preki looks brilliant for bringing him along), and big man Shavar Thomas – Chivas USA looks poised to make their second consecutive playoff appearance and this time, they could be heading into it with their first Western Conference championship under their belt. Not bad.

4. Scott Sealy – the Wizards found goals from someone other than Eddie Johnson and especially since super-sub Yuri Movsisyan was shipped on over to Real Salt Lake as the Lakers continue to collect bright young talent; Sealy’s capped a Manchester United over Bayern Munich-like comeback as EJ converted a penalty kick in the 92nd minute and Sealy followed with a goal with less than 30 seconds left in the game; he had also provided the Wizards’ first goal on a beautiful free kick that soundly beat Will Hesmer

5. Colin Clark – his play as of late warrants a higher placing as he never seems to do anything visibly brilliant but he plays his role efficiently and keeps together a questionable Colorado midfield; his late goal earned the Rapids a tie against Chivas USA who looks poised to grab the Western Conference title

6. Christian Gomez – his future is up in the air after this season, especially now that Juan Sebastian Veron rumors have heated up but it certainly seems like Gomez is pleading his case on the field; a goal and an assist against a feisty Real Salt Lake side pushed DC over the top and into the playoffs with a firm hold on the Eastern Conference championship; could Gomez be worth a DP slot?

7. Steve Ralston – the all-time assist record keeps growing as Ralston ; Stevie is one of those guys that can connect with anybody but to have TWO class strikers in the form of Noonan and Twellman, Ralston has been in heaven for years; 2 more assists in a 4-2 win over FC Dallas helped the Revs clinch a post-season berth

8. Blanco – his performance against the Red Bulls was not impressive by any means but somehow he still puts himself on the scoreboard; this time he converted a spot kick and provided the assist on Gonzalo Segares’ game-tying goal late in their 2-2 tie in Chicago

9. Carlos Ruiz – El Pescondito has not been on this Top 10 much at all this season but he has been picking it up as of late; a brace against New England (one a powerful header) was still not enough to help FCD win and most of his goals have – in fact – come in losses; is Ruiz just warming up?

10. Khano Smith – way too inconsistent for my taste but Smith has recently found his stride and was a key figure in helping the Revs find their way to the playoffs yet again; his first goal of the season sealed the deal against Dallas while it was his assist to Pat Noonan that put them ahead in the first place