Friday, November 28, 2008

Arsenal Cement Ties With Rapids as CEO Chosen

The Colorado Rapids and Arsenal appear to have taken a further step in deepening their relationship with the appointment this week of MLS deputy commissioner, Ivan Gazidis, as Arsenal's new CEO. Arsenal's long-standing chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, has come a long way from dissing the likes of Stan "We don't want his sort on our board" Kroenke to actively seeking the Rapids' owner's guidance on Gazidis' suitability for the job. Hill-Wood speaks about Kroenke's role in the appointment and Arsenal's ambitions in the US on the Arsenal website but you have to pay GBP 45 a year for the privilege and I am not going to do that.
Who really knows if the relationship between the two clubs will be more than simply a business investment for Mr. Kroenke? If Gary Smith can use his links with Arsenal to bring over some young UK talent to play for the Rapids, that might be of more relevance to DSG Park fans. Nevertheless, it is an interesting appointment. Gazidis was born in South Africa but spent most of his formative years in the UK including studying at Oxford where he managed to pick up a soccer blue. For those who don't know what that is, it means representing the university at the top level against arch rivals Cambridge. No mean feat even if rugby, cricket and the boat race are better known. Here's a good piece from The Times on the appointment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rapids' Defenders Petke and Ward Waived

While the Colorado Rapids didn't lose anybody in the MLS Expansion Draft to Seattle Sounders, they did decide today to waive two defenders. Mike Petke, the 32-year old veteran and New York native, will be returning to his home state to play for the Red Bulls. Tim Ward, who didn't play for the first team this season after arriving from Columbus, is also waived. Ward is presumably a casualty of the apparent demise of the Reserve division. Petke, who returned to the team deep into the season after a long injury, played well for the Rapids in the closing stretch. It may just have been time for Gary Smith to look at some of his younger players at the back. The back four of Ugo Ihemelu, Cory Gibbs, Kosuke Kimura and Jordan Harvey now looks set to be the back four of choice next season though Smith has said he wants to being in another full back.

Seattle Take No Rapids Players

The Seattle Sounders chose not to take any Colorado Rapids players in today's draft as they prepare for their entry into the MLS next season. Ten players from ten separate MLS teams were chosen in the MLS Expansion Draft. Here is a link including the complete list of the ten players selected in the draft today.
The Sounders have already signed Swedish international and former Arsenal midfielder, Freddy Ljungberg, as well as former US goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, Sebastien Le Toux and Sanna Nyassi.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cummings Nets But Reggae Boyz Not Dancing

I did ask you to spare a thought for Colorado Rapids' striker, Omar Cummings, who played for Jamaica last night in their crucial World Cup qualifier against Canada. Unfortunately, despite a fighting 3-0 victory in Kingston, the third straight win for the Reggae Boyz in World Cup qualifying, they have narrowly missed out on progressing to the final round of qualification. Honduras beat Mexico which meant that Mexico and Jamaica finished on the same points but El Tri go through by virtue of a better goal difference. Heartbreak for Omar and the boys. Cummings came on as a substitute in the 71st minute and managed a goal in the 85th. Probably little consolation for him but we look forward to welcoming him back next season at DSG Park where many feel he will have a big role to play for this club. Here is a link to more details on last night's game for Jamaica.

Monday, November 17, 2008

US Team and Perfect Weather

I was at DSG Park this morning and it was pretty awesome. The US national team is in town for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Guatemala and I am covering it for It is a thrill to be watching these gifted national team players and writing about them. This is made all the better when it is seventy degrees and the Rockies are snow-capped. I ended up speaking to Chicago Fire midfielder John Thorrington and the result was a feature on the website; the link is below.
I'll be at the game on Wednesday filing a match report as well as a post match story from the press conference and the locker room. Look forward to any comments you may have.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Rapids Trio Make It Into US Roster

Pablo Mastroeni, Cory Gibbs and Conor Casey are among the final roster for this week's US World Cup qualifying game against Guatemala. The Colorado Rapids trio made it into the final 20 man squad with teammates Colin Clark and Nick LaBrocca, in the US training camp for the first time, just missing out. Clearly, they will be better for the experience of just being in the national set-up. The US squad will train tomorrow and Tuesday before the game on Wednesday at DSG Park which kicks off at 6pm MT. Here is a link to the full squad.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Do or Die in Kingston for Cummings and Jamaica

I know all eyes will be on Commerce City for next Wednesday's US World Cup qualifier against Guatemala but spare a thought for Jamaica and Colorado Rapids' Omar Cummings as the Reggae Boyz take on Canada in Kingston in a crucial match. While the US has already qualified for the next round of World Cup qualifying, Jamaica have to beat Canada at home while hoping, in reality, that Mexico beat Honduras away. The Reggae Boyz are simply too far behind on goal difference for them to hope they will get through if there is any other result in Honduras. We wish Omar and the rest of the talented squad, which includes several Premier League players, the best of luck. I would personally love to see Jamaica in the World Cup, especially with former England great, John Barnes, at the helm and Omar playing. Here's a link to the full squad listed in one of Jamaica's premier newspapers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Smith Installed as Coach; Mastroeni Re-signed

In a widely anticipated move, the Colorado Rapids today announced that Gary Smith is to be the permanent head coach. Smith took over interim coching duties in August after the resignation of former coach, Fernando Clavijo, and narrowly failed to get the team into the playoffs. In a less predictable move, the Rapids also unveiled that they have re-signed veteran midfielder and club captain, Pablo Mastroeni. Mastroeni, who has spoken openly about playing in Europe next year, has now committed himself to the organization. Great news for the Rapids and quite a coup for Gary Smith.
Here is a link to the official Rapids' release.

Five Rapids Players Called Into US Camp

Nick LaBrocca and Colin Clark will be joining veterans Pablo Mastroeni, Conor Casey and Cory Gibbs in the US national team training camp this week ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Guatemala at DSG Park taking place November 19. This is the first time Clark and LaBrocca have been involved with the senior national team. I'll try and get some response from them later this week as this is a major achievement on their part and great reward for a very hard-working season. The selection of Gibbs, Mastroeni and Casey also makes a lot of sense given their sterling performances over the season and their local knowledge, less so in Gibbs' case, admittedly, as he has only been with the Rapids for half a season. US coach, Bob Bradley, will announce the final roster for the game after initial training, which starts tomorrow and ends Saturday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rapids to Announce Head Coach This Week

That may be a bit speculative but I have it on very good authority that the Colorado Rapids will be announcing the hiring of a permanent head coach in the very near future. Given that it appears that the Rochester Rhinos may have jumped the gun a little with their announcement last week that Steve Guppy, a longtime friend of Rapids' interim head coach, Gary Smith, was to leave his post at Rochester to take up a position as assistant coach at the Rapids, the Rapids may feel forced to clarify the situation a little earlier than they perhaps wanted to. Clearly, something has got lost in translation. Rochester have publicly said that Guppy was moving to the Rapids (see link below) but very well placed sources at the Rapids have described the announcement as premature. That doesn't mean it is not true and, clearly, if it is the case, Gary Smith will be the head coach next season. Guppy would not be appointed if Smith wasn't in charge given their longstanding relationship and the fact that he would not have been hired if a new coach would be coming in. After all, any new head coach would decide who his backup staff would be. If it isn't true that Guppy has been hired, it leaves us no clearer as to who will be the head coach. That is why I think the Rapids will make the announcement this week to make it clear and get on with the very real issues of working out who will make up the squad next season.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Rapids: Where Do We Go From Here?

It's been two weeks now for the tears to dry and the hearts to heal. It's Real Salt Lake who play Chivas tomorrow for a place in the conference final and not the Colorado Rapids. The season is over for the boys from Commerce City, I am back from my UK trip and it feels like a good time to try and figure out what happens to the team from here.
What is clear is that nothing can really be decided until the Rapids get a permanent coach in place. The team is in a position to re-sign any player but this will be hard to do while the uncertainty over who will coach the team remains. Interim head coach, Gary Smith, looks like the frontrunner for the position and his chances of being hired on a permanent basis look higher given the presence of good friend, Steve Guppy, at team practices in the final weeks of the season as well as recent developments this week. Guppy, a former England international who played with Leicester City among others, has been coaching with USL team, Rochester Rhinos, but it has been reported this week that he has left that position to take up an assistant coaching spot with the Rapids. I'll try and get some clarification on that. It is interesting also to note that Watford in the English Championship sacked their coach last week. Gary Smith worked with former coach, Aidy Boothroyd, at Vicarage Road and comes from that part of the world. I can't help but think he may be interested in that position but that is pure speculation on my part.
The team continues to train about three times a week and will do so for the next several weeks. The Rapids will have to name 11 players they want to protect from the Seattle expansion draft later this month. Sources at the Rapids say we should know who would be available to Seattle by about November 24.
Much speculation surrounds the futures of some notable players at the Rapids, particularly the likes of Christian Gomez who was starved of opportunities under Smith. Mike Petke has perhaps intimated he may retire. What will happen with Bouna Coundoul who, despite playing the last two games of the season, found himself out of favor for some time? I will try and get some answers on these questions over the next few weeks. I can tell you a little about club captain, Pablo Mastroeni. Pablo, who has been selected to play for the US against Guatemala at DSG Park November 19, told me this morning that he is talking with club bosses Jeff Plush and Charlie Wright about his future. Everyone knows he would like to go and play in Europe next season and he continues to weigh his options. "I'm kind of waiting at this point," he said. "I have time on my side as the European clubs won't be making any decisions until later in December." Mastroeni revealed that his European agent will be in town for the US game to monitor the situation.
It's good to be back. I'll continue to go to training once a week so keep checking in and I'll hopefully have the news you can use.