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

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Real Salt Lake 2007 Review: The Riddle of RSL

(Clever sub-titles seem in order here…perhaps even too-clever ones; I mean, is RSL really a riddle?)

Real Salt Lake
Record (W-L-T): 6-15-9, 31 GF; 45 GA
Source Material: Schedule/match reports

Overview
Real Salt Lake’s (RSL) past two seasons have followed the Riddle of the Sphinx made famous by the story of Oedipus: “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” The relationship is, naturally, more conceptual than actual: RSL starts slow – albeit fatally so, unlike the baby of the riddle – then rallies strongly enough in mid-season for the word “playoffs” to get bandied about, but that’s only the tease that comes before they feebly squander their post-season hopes to a series of draws and ill-timed losses.

Oh well. At least they won the Rocky Mountain Cup this year.

Then again, 2007 seemed a crueler year, one in which a playoff race all at once exciting and pathetic combined with some modestly hopeful omens to suggest RSL could stick around the “man” phase long enough to make the post-season. The season even started with a glimmer of hope with a fresh-start Freddy Adu coming to town. Sadly, that arrangement that went South fast enough to lose head coach John Ellinger his job by early May. If it ever feels like only yesterday since Jason Kreis took over, consider that.

But the illusion of rounding the corner to a sunlit street teased RSL all season long. Kreis’ his first game in charge featured a fighting 3-3 draw against a seemingly potent Red Bull New York; then three straight losses to weak teams followed from there. In mid-to-late June, Nate Sturgis’ and Robbie Findley’s arrived from the LA Galaxy bringing with them the team’s first win of 2007 and, in Findley, the hope that they had finally landed a goal-scorer. The Kyle Beckerman/Mehdi Ballouchy trade came in July and, after that, the arrival of the “Three Argies” – Fabian Espindola, Matias Mantilla, and Javier Morales; these last two coincided with RSL’s best spell of 2007, a 4-4-3 run through August and September. That may not sound like much, but this is MLS, where a sub-.500 can still spell playoffs.

Each little dawn faded quickly, though none so painfully as that long, lingering slide away from a post-season berth. Of the four “life-line” wins compiled over August and September, only two were consecutive and the fateful losses and draws picked up all around them killed what little hope RSL fans could briefly cherish. In fact, the fourth win in that “glory run” came too late to do anything but help bring home the Rocky Mountain Cup and ruin Colorado’s season. Maybe those “little dawns” were just anomalies in the season of a genuinely bad team? Continue reading