Editorial Business: “TSII” Posts for Rapids, Crew

With the calendar turning from January to February tomorrow – which, if you adopt a really broad definition of time, puts the kickoff to the 2008 Major League Soccer (MLS) season just one month away – now seems the time to organize myself for what’s ahead. And this all needs to fit within the scheme I chose for the year – e.g. following, and that verb is crucial, the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids.

To refresh some memories, and to introduce the concept to anyone new, I’ve adopted the Crew and Rapids for 2008. The unifying theme in this little study is to observe these two clubs – both MLS originals that, for some time now, have seemed weak at best, marginally competent at worst – as they try to get back to winning ways. A couple details about each club make for significant sub-plots, which lends subtle complexity to stories that seem similar on the surface. To give an example, one gets the feeling the Crew would sack Sigi Schmid if results in 2008 don’t come early while, based on the past year, one really wonders how many puppies Rapids Coach Fernando Clavijo would have to kill before losing his job.

The central effort in following those teams will be the most straightforward: watching their games, as many as I can; and when I can’t see the games – as I suspect will happen in preseason in particular – I’ll have to read match reports (lord help me). But this post is intended to introduce and explain the secondary piece in this project: “This Shit Is Important” Reports, or TSII Reports.

I have a small number of sites I visit for news on both clubs (may as well plug them: Covering the Crew; Soccer by Ives (which, for some reason, does well with Crew news); FC Rocky; The Colorado Rapids Offside (when it’s operating); Black Panther: A Soccer Blog; Rapids Class VI; and View from the Couch. I’ll use those to keep current on team news, but I won’t pass on everything I read – which is where the TSII distinction comes in.

As I follow these teams, I’m mainly interested in things that effect on-field performance – e.g. the fitness and well-being of the players, what the teams are doing tactically, their respective forms, how they stack up against their conferences, etc. But things like what’s going on with each clubs’ supporters’ groups; front office personnel movement; player interviews or their happy accomplishments (e.g. Bouna Coundoul getting the nod for Senegal): I’ll generally ignore that….well, to the point where I can report open fan revolts against – oh, I don’t know – Fernando Clavijo, which has the potential to unsettle the on-field dynamics. In other words, the first category falls under the TSII label, at least in my view, while the second piece does not.

So, if you’re popping by for Crew and/or Rapids news, look for the “Crew TSII” or “Rapids TSII” labels. As for match reports, they’ll be pretty obvious – e.g. “Crew 0-0 Red Bull New York: Another Fucking Draw?” After that, regular service will continue. Hope this works for everyone…and me. And you’ll be seeing the first edition of one of these – a report on the Crew as it happens – pretty soon.

Ives “F-Bomb” for Rapids’ Draft Day

And “F-Bomb” refers to the “F” Ives Galarcep awarded the Colorado Rapids for their SuperDraft decisions. Let’s go to the text:

“Fernando Clavijo has always been regarded as a good judge of talent, but that didn’t stop many from scratching their heads at the Rapids’ two picks Friday. Clavijo passed on a top forward (Nyarko) and can’t-miss defender (James) to draft a young and undersized defensive midfielder (O’Brien) who doesn’t really fill a need…Colorado’s second pick, Chevannes, is forgettable. O’Brien has talent, but the Rapids earn the worst possible grade for passing on so many players who could have made more of an impact.”

For those who didn’t see it, this contrasts rather sharply from my assessment of Colorado’s draft, which I’ll edit in this space to read, ” So, where Colorado is concerned, it’s arguable they worked with what they had.”

Whom should you believe? Well, Ives attended the Combine, probably watched a few college games last year, um, he gets paid to write about soccer, while I do it in my spare time…I dunno. It’s close. You be the judge.

Then again, maybe Clavijo is stupid…like a fox. Maybe he slept-walked through the SuperDraft by necessity, what with all the other fish he’s got in the fire (whoops, rumored “fish,” let’s be clear on that). There’s talk of Pat Noonan joining from New England, perhaps Christian Gomez coming from DC United on a Kee-Razy swap deal (more on this one later), and some defender named Chase Hilgenbrinkenschwarzwilderstein (sorry to dick around, but I love names that just seem to go on forever; they sound like the accountant alter-ego for a superhero).

The point is, maybe Clavijo knows something Galarcep doesn’t…which is not to suggest I knew what Clavijo knew when I wrote my more generous assessment of the Rapids’ SuperDraft. That’s also not to say you should trust Clavijo over Galarcep. I mean, we’ve established that Ives is, at the very least, paying attention. With Clavijo…I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, count this as part of the record Rapids’ fans.

Columbus & Colorado: Two Founding Teams on the Skids

OK, I think I’ve settled on my two teams for 2008 as well as a proper theme to unite them…beyond the fact they both hail from places that start with the letter “C”.

The teams will be the Columbus Crew and the Colorado Rapids. While this will mostly involve watching them at every chance I get once the season starts*, I’ll also pay more attention to both teams’ 2008 draft, their signings, etc. For now, though, there’s no time like the present to start reading up.

MLSnet.com’s Columbus Crew Season Review
MLSnet’com’s 5 Big Questions for Columbus
MLSnet.com’s Colorado Rapids Season Review
MLSnet.com’s 5 Big Questions for Colorado

As for the theme, it’s two-fold: part one is a coach’s death-watch for both Colorado’s “10 Lives” Fernando Clavijo and Sigi “He Ate the Damn Pie Store” Schmid; OK, and where Clavijo is concerned, I have to admit to a modest longing for justice.  Part two comes with seeing which of these MLS originals will re-join respectable post-season company at the end of 2008 – a notion that assumes one of them will.  I know I’d put my money on Columbus today, but things could change abruptly if, say, Colorado drafts well and dumps “10 Lives” Fernando early – or, against all that is holy, he actually does a good job with the team in ’08 – while Columbus holds onto Schmid through August and loses Guillermo Barros Schelotto by June or July.

Anyway, the basic story is to see which team can avoid getting overtaken by the several recent and incoming expansion teams for the (thankfully) ever-dwindling supply of post-season spots. For what it’s worth, I think this story takes on a kind of urgency amid talk of Major League Soccer (MLS) expanding to 18 teams by 2010; if these teams keep falling behind one has to wonder how they’ll catch up.

One final note: I’m pretty stocked up on resources for the Colorado Rapids (Rocky Mountain News, FC Rocky and hard-copy; The Denver Post; Class IV; Black Panther, etc.) and I do all right with the Columbus Crew (Columbus Dispatch; Hunt Park Insider; some Columbus-area weekly, etc.), but I’d be obliged to anyone who can pass on further resources (and, please, don’t make me go to BigSoccer…so much bullshit to wade through…).

(* All of this is 100% contingent on MLSnet.com again offering MLSlive.tv. Failing that, this whole “two-team” project will fail and I’ll just watch and comment on whatever MLS deems fit for national broadcast.)

2007: A Look Back on the Domestic (e.g. U.S.) Scene

The long-promised look back at 2007 in U.S. soccer unfolds below. The talking points – 15 in all (what? you wanted a Top 10? I’m nothing like that disciplined; see, I slipped to 17) – come in, at best, half-random order; put another way, I ranked these things a certain way, but it has as much to do with themes intelligible only to me, as opposed to significance. They also came to me after only 15 minutes (or so) thought, so odds are I missed a thing or two; feel free to add any omissions in the comments.

Right. Here goes…

1. David Beckham. May as well start with the elephant in the room (propped up handsomely next to his wife with the weird tits). Beckham garnered (OK, sucked up) enough attention to transcend even the rule that bears his name – that will come in a separate section – which is perhaps why his arrival sits on our collective stoop like some kind of wet turd the neighborhood kids were too lazy to set on fire. He came, we obsessed, he went down injured, and, with an exception here or there, his team did better without him on the field. Sure, he made the Los Angeles Galaxy, and Major League Soccer (MLS) as a whole, a chunk of change, but the whiff of an injured, conceivably over-the-hill player that attached to him also revived the Ghosts of the NASL. Better luck next year, Tiger (with stuffed shorts).

2 . MLS Overview: My belief that, in 2007, MLS actually felt “Major League” for the first time in its existence doesn’t strike me as a lonely one. It’s not so much that the league has arrived in terms of media exposure, money, etc., and it’s not as if problems don’t exist (refereeing, gridlines, playoff format, small rosters, payment structure, the Colorado Rapids, etc.) than things seem to be headed in the right direction, complete with a “Big Mo” tailwind. On-field play looks better than ever, stadiums are popping up at a steady clip, the scouting system looks more established, and we have yet to see what kind of talent the league’s nascent youth academies will turn out. Hell, the league could even be making more money than ever…not that we’d ever know that given how firmly they hold shut the books. So, yeah, good trends, people. Let’s keep ’em up. Continue reading

MLS Daily Sweeper, 12.12: Gimme a Boswell for a Cochrane

If I learned just one thing yesterday, it was that waiting till the afternoon only caused storms in my brain. Hence, the Sweeper returns to its normal date and time. Not that this affects anybody, but I’m also considering changing my online handle…more on that when I figure it out.

– Here I thought Steve Goff’s recap for the “real” Washington Post (that’s as opposed to the blog they run to satiate the 24-hour cycle) on yesterday’s madness drained the power of the trade whirlwind currently tossing about DC United. As it turns out, a little dust-devil spun off the mother storm, sending Bobby Boswell to Houston in exchange for their back-up ‘keeper Zach Wells and “a future draft pick.” This gives us one more fact on the ground than we had yesterday and, thus, something concrete to talk about. Bueno.

Part of me is sad I won’t get that live experiment I wanted that would compare DC’s defense with Joe Cannon in goal instead of Troy Perkins. On the upside, I get to replace that with finding out just how good a defender Boswell is. To lay down my marker, I think Boswell will do well in Houston’s back-line; that admittedly relies on the theory that the man only needed a little guidance back there, but I think we can all agree that the shit is tight on the Dynamo back line. And even if Boswell doesn’t replace Patrick Ianni outright, this gives Houston a pretty solid back-up. The bastards…

But there’s so, so much more going on with DC. Another Goff post has Perkins’ move abroad looking near-certain (the same post clocks reports that Guillermo Barros Schelotto might return to Argentina; you’d think this would deflate my interest in following the Columbus Crew, but nothing would be further from the truth; this actually makes them more interesting; sorry, long digression). And, if MLS Rumors can be believed (still haven’t run the percentages on that) we should be hearing, oh, today, that Juan Sebastian Veron will announce his intentions to leave Argentina’s Estudiantes for DC United; the rumor/report says more stuff will follow in short order, but let’s see how that first one goes. Perhaps now is when I start counting MLS Rumors’ reliability… Continue reading

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

Dai…er, Weekly Sweeper, 11.16: Things That Are Wrong + MacGyver Lives in Africa

Maybe this would be better as a weekly feature…while I’m pondering that, here’s the most interesting stuff I saw in this, the final week of 2007.

– Apart from sharing his memories from MLS Cups past, Ives Galarcep reported today that we can expect to see Fernando Clavijo back at the helm for the Colorado Rapids in 2008. This is the thing that is wrong…well, one of them. COLORADO RAPIDS FANS: Boycott this team, cancel season tickets, etc. And when you do, call the front office to tell them exactly why you’re doing so. Contempt doesn’t have to be a one-way street.

– Turning to the other wrong thing, tucked into a Seattle Times primer on MLS arriving in Seattle is more talk of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) letting a second-division Seattle Sounders carry on…in Poulsbo, Washington. While a bad idea on a number of levels, it poses additional problems for Portland Timbers fans. To which team will they direct their unconditional hatred, the MLS Seattle team or the weird transplant USL-1 incarnation they’ll play week in and out? It ain’t right, I tells ya.

– Luis Arroyave confirms my suspicions about the parties around MLS Cup. It’s the dude party stuff I’m referring to.

– With the expansion draft coming next Wednesday (right?), a few sites (including this one) have kicked around notions about which players from their team they would release and expose. WVHooligan goes the extra mile and plays the game with all 13 teams. This is a two-parter: Eastern Conference and Western Conference. This is a pretty good way to start getting your head around this stuff.

– Inching as we are toward the time when we’ll all start looking back on the 2007 season, I thought I’d flag a good one in case anyone missed. It’s going to be tough to top Who Ate All the Cupcakes 2007-in-review post. Let’s hope it’s not their last.

– Finally, before getting to the run of random crap with which I like to close my Fridays, enjoy this beauty goal kick from some random indoor game.

Now…on with the crap! Continue reading