Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rapids v Dallas Preview

It's good to be back! Very much looking forward to seeing the game tomorrow at DSG Park. Amazing time in Ghana which included watching the Champions' League final in the noisiest bar in the world. But happy to be back in more familiar surroundings and looking forward to reconnecting with the team. Let's hope we get the Rapids that turned out against DC United. It seems that inconsistency continues to blight the team. Capable of dominating their opponents but also of losing when dominating. I have looked at the Colorado Rapids website for an idea of the formation but it leaves more questions than answers. Just how is Bouna Coundoul a substitute when he is in Senegal with the national team? And, surely, Pablo Mastroeni will not be in the line-up given his welcome return to the US squad which is just a few days away from playing Spain in Spain? Anyway, I plan on reporting on the game sometime tomorrow and then starting to attend practices again from next week so I hope that regular service will soon be resumed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rapids Acquire San Jose Goalie as Bouna Backup

I know I'm behind the news somewhat but wanted to post a quick comment on the trade of Kelly Gray and Jovan Kirovski for the San Jose goalkeeper, Preston Burpo. This seems like a solid move on the part of the Rapids. Kirovski, the leading scorer last season, could not find his way back into the team and was some way down the pecking order. Gray had impressed earlier in the season in training and for the Reserves but was found wanting a little against Chicago and Kosuke Kimura appears to have nailed down that right back spot. We obviously needed cover for the parting Bouna and poor old Justin Hughes, who would have had a great opportunity to shine in the Senegal goalkeeper's absence, is still some way from fitness. You have to feel a bit also for the other reserve goalkeepers, particularly Chris Sharpe, who must have been thinking he had a chance to be the first Australian to play in the MLS. Maybe he will sharpen his game with the competition and still be the first choice in Bouna's absence. The only other comment/question I woud have is why didn't Kimura play in that Chicago game. Gray was picked for tactical reasons, according to coach Clavijo, but then quickly fell out of favor. It's tough being a professional soccer player, especially in the US when most players aren't exactly paid handsomely. Not much job security.
This is my last post from Ghana. Flying back to less humid climes tonight so expect more regular posts from late next week as first spending a few days in sunny England. Normal service will soon be resumed. Let us hope for a solid performace against Chivas tonight and I will see you at the Dallas game June 1.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rapids Drowning in Media Releases! Beat RSL

Is there no limit to the international events going on at DSG Park later this year? First, the US mens' national team will play in a World Cup qualifier in November and now the US Womens' Team will play against Brazil July 13. Both should be great games. Maybe we will even get Barcelona there? Not likely. Even though the Spanish giants have this week pledged to play a series of games in the US as part of a marketing deal with the MLS, the sad fact is that they will need to play in much bigger stadia.
Glad to see the Rapids safely dispatched of Real Salt Lake. Comments on the game would be more than welcome. Looks like we pretty much controlled the game, finishing it off in the second half. Was it good to see Herculez playing a full game (almost)? I presume he was playing because McManus was suspended for a game at least following his sending off against Houston? I very much look forward to your thoughts and comments. Can we not turn some of this dominance (San Jose excepted) into good away form?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

World Cup Comes to DSG Park

Well, a qualifying match anyway. The US will play a World Cup qualifier at the home of the Rapids in November as long as they get through the qualifier next month against Barbados. Very exciting. I very much look forward to that so congrats where due to the powers that be who made it happen. The US are playing a series of friendlies before the Barbados games and this includes a game at Wembley against England May 28. I was really tempted to go but the flights back to Denver from London rose dramatically May 29 so I will actually be flying back during the game. Bad planning but a lot cheaper.
I hope for a Rapids' win against Fake Salt Lake tonight. I think the Colorado boys really have to win the next three home games, for psychological reasurance more than anything. It's hard to believe they are doing so well in the conference when they have actually lost more games than they have won. They must continue to play the attacking football we saw against DC United. As we witnessed last night, defensive soccer will kill you in the end. Zenit fully deserved their win against a negative Rangers in the UEFA Cup Final. Signing off from Accra. I sound like a foreign correspondent. Go Rapids!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rapids Loss Live From Accra

Greetings from Ghana! Akwaaba! Obviously, I did not see the game as I was fighting off mosquitoes in bed at the time but I did read the official report this afternoon of the loss to Houston. Were we robbed? Sounds like the penalty decision was dubious, to say the least. Anybody care to comment on that or anything else about the game for that matter (e.g McManus sending off)? Most importantly, how did we play? Did we manage to keep up the intensity of last week?
This country is soccer mad. Pictures everywhere of Michael Essien and the rest of the Black Stars team. In the house where I am staying, there is a big poster of Essien as Man of the Match in the Ghana victory over the US in the last World Cup.They also seem to be big fans of English soccer. I tell them my son is a Chelsea fan and that usually starts a conversation pretty easily. Look forward to your comments.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Training and African Journey

My apologies but I wasn't able to get to training this week to pick up on the mood in the camp and get a feel of what Fernando Clavijo is planning for this weekend. My guess is that it seems unlikely there will be much change in the line-up given last weekend's dominant performance against DC United. I do understand that Conor Casey may be challenging for a place so he may get some game time at Houston.
The reason why I couldn't get to DSG Park this week was because I am preparing for a two-week trip to Ghana in West Africa. I will be working on a volunteer project out there teaching kids cricket. In this football crazy land, they don't play much cricket, despite the British influence. I will be in Ghana for the FA Cup Final, the Champions' League Final, featuring Ghana's own Michael Essien of Chelsea, and the UEFA Cup Final. I will be wearing my Zenit St. Petersburg shirt with pride. I am sure these games will be on television in Ghana but I'm not so sure I'll see much Rapids' action. I'll do my best to blog from Ghana but who knows how often I will be able to do this? I am disappointed I will miss the Houston game as well as the two home games against RSL and Chivas but I will be back for the Dallas game June 1. In the meantime, enjoy your soccer and let's hope the Rapids continue their good form. Hear from you all when I get back but please do keep the comments up if I can manage to blog from Ghana. Take care everyone.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

England to Get to Semis? Illogical Captain

We finally get a high caliber coach and then we set him illogical targets. No, not Fernando Clavijo, but Fabio Capello. The powers that be at the English FA, who so ridiculously insisted on having Steve "I'll stand under my umbrella and drink mineral water" McClaren as national team coach, have now heaped the pressure on the Italian to make sure that England reach the semi-finals of either the World Cup in 2010 or the European Championships in 2012. What is the point of such targets? It's almost like predicting scores in games, absolutely pointless, because it takes no account of luck, form of players, how well the oppostion is playing and any other number of indefinable factors. I understand the need to get a solid future plan together for the sake of English football but I think we should spare the silly targets. Yes, it would be nice to get to the semi-finals of a major tournament, something we haven't done for a while now (Euro 96, Italia 90) but so much will be out of our hands. We can play our best, play some proper football that the England players are well capable of and then we will see. Personally, I think Argentina will beat the Ivory Coast in the World Cup Final in South Africa with Didier Drogba scoring two in a 3-2 defeat of the Super Elephants. See how stupid it is to predict things? Here's the link to the BBC story on silly target setting.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rapids Send United Packing in Dominant Display

That's more like it. Everyone got very excited about the thrashing of the LA Galaxy on opening day but this victory over DC United was maybe as dominant and impressive. The midfield largely ran the show with DC's dangerman, Gallardo, barely featuring. I can't really remember Bouna having to make a real save because the defense marshalled things so well and the attacking play was frequently exciting to watch.
It took everyone a few minutes to work out the line-up. No starting place for Cooke, Clark or Burciaga and three strikers on the field. Well, two and half really. Jacob Peterson really played as more of an attacking right midfielder with Omar Cummings and Tom McManus up front. Finally, Christian Gomez had two strikers to play with. There were also starts for Ugo Ihemelu in central defense and a first MLS start for reserve team captain, Jordan Harvey. It was kind of a 3-4-1-2, certainly going forward anyway, with Harvey playing a little more forward than the rest of the back line and then reverting to a regular left back when defending. Full marks to coach Clavijo for trying something a little more edgy.
And it worked. The Rapids could have had a few goals in the opening ten minutes. Cummings and McManus both came close with headers and probably would have expected to score. Both full backs, Harvey and Kimura, were linking very well in attack and, just as importantly, getting back comfortably to their places when defending, something that was missing against Chicago last week. LaBrocca and Mastroeni were pretty tireless winning the ball in midfield and it was very good for the team that Pablo got 90 minutes under his belt. Despite all the chances and the dominance, it was scoreless at halftime with the deadlock only broken in the 52nd minute when Jacob Peterson walloped in a screamer from about 15 yards after a pass from Christian Gomez. I know a lot of people have been frustrated by Christian Gomez since his much-heralded arrival but he was instrumental in both goals today and played a really important role in the game. His ballwinning also led to the goal for his fellow Argentine, Facundo Erpen, who headed in a delightful chip from Terry Cooke who had come on as a substitute for Peterson barely a minute before. Cooke, himself, should have made it 3-0 a few minutes later when he pushed a shot wide after a good move from Herculez Gomez and Colin Clark. These two substitutes combined very well when they came on and created a lot of chances. Food for thought for Clavijo with the next game selection. Herculez had come on for Cummings in the 60th minute. Cummings played well and will have done his chances no harm for possible call-up to the Jamaican national squad whose coach was watching in the stands. His striking counterpart, McManus, who had impressed so much in his recent games, was not at his best today, his first touch letting him down a bit. But he ran his heart out and deserves a good run in this team. Great stuff overall. The boys are back.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Arsenal Exit Making It Easier For Takeover?

Arsenal FC managing director, Keith Edelman, is to leave the club "to seek pastures new and embark upon fresh challenges," according to the BBC. How vague is that? I'm not one for idle speculation but here's some. Edelman has been a big opponent of outside investment in the London club. His shareholding is apparently small but his move would suggest any takeover may be more likely. As we all know, Colorado Rapids owner, Stan Kroenke, has a decent stake in the club. I wouldn't even pretend to know what Mr. Kroenke's designs are on Arsenal but, if he is still interested in the club, he will still have to deal with the always erratic chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, another one apparently opposed to outside involvement, particularly American. Mr. Hill-Wood does seem to contradict himself a lot on this but he did once famously say that "we would be horrifed to see ownership of the club go across the Atlantic." As if going across the Atlantic would be worse than going to deepest Moscow? The club is currently 24% owned by Red and White Holdings which is controlled by another Russian billionare not called Abramovich. Speaking of Chelski, the Rocky Mountain News has a story on its website how the chairman just bought a $36.5 million mansion in Snowmass. So many Colorado links! This truly is the global game.

Rapids in UK Preseason Footage

Here's some footage of the Colorado Rapids on their preseason tour to Arsenal and the UK but why can't the people who make this video get Major League Soccer right and spell Colorado correctly? Link courtesy of blog The Offside Rules and video courtesy of You Tube.