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

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

Rapids Win, Horse of Apocalypse Hindquarters Glimpsed

Without having watched this game beyond the highlights, I can’t say much about it (though I can direct your eyes to the thoughts of some people who did: Boston Globe, Rocky Mountain News, FC Rocky, the Denver Post,…that should do).  From what I saw in the highlights, though (available here), reports that the Rapids dominated this one, unlikely as they may be, seem pretty accurate.

My thoughts?  No.  No, no, no, no, no… That goes double when you read things like this:

“The win brought Colorado within two points of Columbus for the eighth playoff spot and made for an impressive first two games in their critical three-game homestand.”

Based on my understanding of Kroenke Sports Enterprise personnel policies, this second consecutive win (a streak!  well, all right) should secure Fernando Clavijo’s place on the Rapids’ bench till shortly before the Apocalypse, which, apparently, is coming soon (I think three consecutive Rapids wins is the sign immediately before or after the return of the Jewish Diaspora to the Holy Land).

A couple noteworthy injuries, though duration of which aren’t yet clear, occurred in the game: Colorado’s Dan Gargan suffered a knee injury, while New England fans may have witnessed the unwelcome return of Pat Noonan’s dodgy groin.  (Personal note: Dammit!  Dammit, dammit, dammit!)

Anyway, weird friggin’ result.  Why won’t this league sit up and make sense?

Salvaging the S.S. Colorado

“The Rapids are not only competing with other MLS franchises, they’re competing in a crowded sports landscape in Denver. A beautiful new stadium isn’t enough. The All-Star Game isn’t enough. David Beckham visiting Commerce City isn’t enough. Winning needs to become part of the equation, even though winning in soccer is not always a sure thing.”
– George Tanner, FC Rocky Blog, 08.09.07 (LINK)

“Today I wish the Rapids ownership, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, would do something to make me believe they care about their club. Today I would not, under any circumstances renew my season tickets. Today I don’t want to go to Saturday’s Rapids game.”
– Bonji, College to Pros, 08.08.07 (LINK)

Those two quotes, just an ort of the frustration stuffed into the scathing posts from which they were lifted, get at the larger issue about what’s going on in Colorado these days – the first sentence Bonji’s comments, especially. It’s as if Kroenke Sports people don’t recognize that Denver is, and long has been, a struggling market for Major League Soccer. If it weren’t for the physical fact called Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, I’d assume Kroenke (it’s Stan, right?) cherishes hopes of so offending the locals that they would chase him to a hotter market. All the floundering, the baffling trades (Greg Vanney for Facundo Erpen; Mehdi Ballouchy for Kyle Beckerman) and flatly stupid tactical decisions pointed out by Bonji, not only didn’t improve matters, but had almost no hope of doing so.

When a guy like Bonji, who cares enough about soccer to start a blog about it, utterly loses faith (not to mention two reporters fighting for a blog at a mainstream outlet), the situation virtually demands some form of action, even action of the symbolic variety. The easy option involves throwing over the clown working the bottom of the lifeboat with the hand-drill: Fernando Clavijo. This constitutes the easiest way to own up to the rotten emanations wafting from Commerce City while still doing what must be done – e.g. playing out the rest of the season; you need a team for that, so you’re stuck with the players. No coach could possibly turn around the season – salvage, maybe – so kicking the job down to a caretaker coach won’t do much harm. But the crucial thing comes with the front office signaling to fans (abjectly as possible) that it’s been nothing but claret-and-blue turds on the field since late May and that the front office knows it.

If Kroenke wants to show real contrition, he’ll double-down by kicking off a Gulati-style (i.e. high profile) search for a fancy-pants head coach who can reshape the franchise in 2008 in the same press conference where he fires Clavijo. If he’s smart, he’ll bring tar-and-feathers…though, at this point, I’m not sure fans wouldn’t seize the pot and go after Kroenke.