Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Easy Rider and a 3-4-1-2 Formation

Maybe this is what Colorado Rapids' coach, Fernando Clavijo, thinks to himself when he's on the seat of his Harley approaching Estes Park. How am I going to get the most out of my big players and what is the best formation to fit the biggest of them all, Christian Gomez? Well, it may just be the 3-4-1-2 scenario, Gomez being the 1. "I don't want to play with one striker if I can avoid it," Clavijo told me at training today. If current indications are to go by, those two strikers, subject to fitness, are probably going to be Tom McManus and Conor Casey. Casey, to large amounts of applause from his teammates, saw some action today in a competitive scrimmage against the University of New Mexico. Coming on for the last 20 minutes or so, the big striker made his presence felt and almost scored a couple of times. The Rapids dominated what I saw of the game (most of it) and ran out easy winners, 4-2. Jacob Peterson was another who looked sharp, scoring twice with one spectacular strike to the top right hand corner from about 20 yards. I think he is beggining to get in the coach's mind a little more and will probably build upon his ten minutes or so against Chicago this weekend.
Many of the big name players had the day off. Pablo Mastroeni, who is set for a long run in the side if he can keep fit, was nowhere to be seen. Terry Cooke and Rafael Gomes were not suited up at all. Cooke, who has been quiet the last two games, admitted to some naivety in the team last weekend. Clavijo expressed what many have been saying this week how badly caught out the defense was when in attacking mode. They simply were not able to get back into position to prevent the inevitable goals. Expect Kosuke Kimura to come back into the line-up this weekend (he better, he's in my fantasy team). Otherwise, it may be a pretty similar line-up to last week. Ugo Ihemelu played a full 90 in the scrimmage (or was it 120? The game seemed to go on for ever), and his speed would be a welcome asset in the heart of defense. I would think he will get some action this weekend. Ciaran O'Brien could see some gametime too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Oh dear. Another crazy owner who knows jackshit about football thinks he owns the world and can make bad decisions at the expense of everyone else at the club - players, coaches and fans. Manchester City manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson, is, according to the BBC, going to be sacked at the end of this season by billionaire owner Thaksin Shinawatra. Manchester City have had one of their best seasons in recent years. They may have slipped since the turn of the year but they will finish in the top ten, precisely the target set for Eriksson. I thought you usually kept your job if you met your targets. He may even exceed them. What does Shinawatra expect? Manchester City to win the Premiership? I've not been a fan of Eriksson for a while now. I think he was a great coach in his earlier days but he ended up a major disappoinment at the helm of England and I think his decisions largely cost England in the last World Cup. However, he has done a great job at City. The players like him, the fans like him. It just appears that the owner doesn't. What is with these power crazy owners? We've seen the shenanigans at Liverpool. OK, Liverpool have faded in the Premiership but they are still in the Champions' League for Christ's sake. Benitez remains a top notch coach.
I think there are lessons for everyone. Owning a football club, particularly in England, is not simply a financial investment. You have to have the players' and fans' interests at heart. Glory does not come overnight. I would not be at all surprised if the Manchester City fans take to the streets on this one. Maybe Mr. Shinawatra's days at City could also be numbered?
Here's the BBC link to the story.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Asking The Questions, Getting The Answers?

I know you Rapids fans out there (and others who contribute to this blog) are both passionate and informed. A dangerous combination. I can generally pick up from your comments what your concerns are about the team, what you would like to see changed etc. However, it would be good to get some direct questions that I could then ask the coach and the players. I aim to get to one Rapids' training session a week and I have good access to all the players and coaching staff. Our relationships are building this year. So, I propose you either email me ( with your questions or include them in any relevant blogpost comment you would like to make (I would prefer the latter). I look forward to your input. I can't promise I'll be able to ask them all but I will do my best.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gargoyle Blanco Helps Fire to Win Over Rapids

Do you want the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that we lost. The good news was that this was so much better than last week. The Colorado Rapids certainly bounced back from last week's poor performance against San Jose. They played with far more intensity and better creativity. The nagging doubt in the head is that, when they go down a goal, it always seems so hard for them to get back in the game. We did it against Kansas City but there remains a question as to how consistently we can do that.
The line-up was different. One forced change with John DiRaimondo out with an ankle sprain. Pablo Mastroeni made his first start of the season and played with great intensity as usual. It was almost a relief when he was subbed because he looked like he may get a red card. The Rapids were incensed at the end of the first half with Chicago's number 25 and Pablo baited him throughout the second half when he was on. Tom McManus came in for Omar Cummings and continued to play with great heart just as he had done against San Jose. Congrats to him for his first goal in the burgundy and blue. Kelly Gray, who had impressed in last week's reserve game, came in for Kosuke Kimura. A little tough on Kimura who seemed to be making the right back spot his own.
We made some poor defensive errors and the defense was practically non-existent on the second goal. But I think we lost the game in the midfield. Blanco may be one of the ugliest of people (we thought he looked like a gargoyle - Blanco is a gargoyle, Blanco is a gargoyle, la la la la, la la la la; maybe we can get a song going when he visits DSG Park?) but he was more creative than his counterpart on the Rapids, Christian Gomez. His pass was instrumental in the first goal and he made a number of creative moves to make chances for his teammates.
To be honest, a draw might have been a fair result and we almost clinched it in the end with Herc putting the ball just wide and Bouna almost creating the greatest moment in Rapids' history when he came up for a last second corner and just headed over. Can you imagine if that had gone in? He would never have stopped talking about it. And neither would the fans. But it wasn't to be. We move on to a big game next weekend against DC United who seem to be getting back to the form we all know they have.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Nothing But Nets on Global Malaria Day

I was on my way to the pharmacy this morning to pick up some anti-malaria pills. Appropriate because today is Global Malaria Day. I'm getting the pills because I am going to Ghana in a couple of weeks on a volunteer project (more on that another time). I'd been worried about delaying getting the pills as all the other daily crap filtered in and stopped me from getting properly organized. What if they don't have the pills in stock and I've run out of time to get them before I go? Of course, like most things in life, I had no need to worry. I order them, I pick them up and I'm protected against this disease. It made me realize, again, just how damn lucky I am. I can get protection easily. Not so easy for the millions of children and people affected by this preventable disease, 90% of them in Africa. One child dies every 30 seconds. This is absolutely staggering.
Where does soccer come into all of this? Well, the MLS is taking action with its commitment to the UN's Nothing But Nets campaign. MLS Commissioner Garber has today written a letter about the support for the campaign. The Rapids' own Jose Burciaga is involved with this campaign. Maybe he will be one of the players going to Africa later this year to donate nets as the letter explains? It's easy to decry such efforts but this one could actually lead somewhere and save lives. Find out more at There's even some funky online game you can play to help donate.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It's Mighty Pretty But It Ain't Got What We Got

Chicago that is. I'm sure Chicago is a great city but when you are at Dick's Sporting Goods Park looking at the snow-capped mountains on a sunny morning and playing soccer for a living, Denver sure looks good. I watched the squad in training yesterday and what I would give to be 25, as fit as a butcher's dog and playing on the carpet that is the Rapids' training ground.
The San Jose debacle is behind us and we move on to the Chicago suburbs. Colin Clark told me yesterday that nobody for a minute underestimated San Jose but also that everyone was equally surprised by the way the Earthquakes came at them last weekend. They weren't prepared for that. Kosuke Kimura admitted that everybody had a bad game but it is now behind them. It could be a good lesson for everyone. There are no easy games just as there is no team that the Rapids cannot beat. We must play attackingly against Chicago as we did in all our games so far bar San Jose.
The boys looked sharp in training which included a scrimmage against the University of Denver team. Nearly all the squad got some playing time in the scrimmage with what looked like a possible first team, more or less, coming out in the last 30 minutes or so. It was noticeable how the Rapids dominated that last half an hour even though the DU team manfully managed to keep them out and there was no score in the end. The DU coaches were very happy with that result. You should check out the DU games at Pioneer Field sometime. The current Spring schedule sees them taking on the Colorado School of Mines this Sunday at 2pm.
So, who will be playing this weekend? Kimura told me there could be a little tinkering with the team but, if you look at the Rapids website, the formation seems to be pretty much the same with Pablo Mastroeni coming in for the injured John DiRaimondo (link below).
DiRaimondo is out for a couple of weeks. He said he is grateful because he really thought at the time that he may have broken his ankle. It is just sprained. Justin Hughes continues to work back to fitness and is hopeful of playing in a scrimmage against the University of New Mexico next week during training. Ugo Ihemelu, who looked dominant and impressive in the scrimmage yesteday, is back in contention but would seem unlikely to start this weekend. Nick LaBrocca looks like he has been 12 rounds but showed no effects from last week's bloodied nose.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

German Giants to Play Rapids in July

Borussia Moenchengladbach, one of Germany's most historic clubs, will be visiting Denver to play the Colorado Rapids in July, according to a report in the New York Times. The German giants, who have won the Bundesliga five times, may be a second tier club right now in Germany but their promotion looks virtually assured and they will be back in the top flight when they trot out at Dick's Sporting Goods Park this Summer. Here is the link to the NYT story.
This is good news for the Rapids. It is a mark, surely, of the outstanding facilties that DSG Park offers that they are one of two clubs in the US that the German team will visit. If only we could get Arsenal to pop over for a pre-season tour of the US. According to managing director, Jeff Plush, speaking on tonight's From The Pitch radio show, manager Arsene Wenger is reluctant to do such a tour right now because he doesn't see real value in it. Enjoyed the show, not least the better reception on the new station, but the background noise of the fans was a little distracting. Drums at the breaks and a few songs, yes, but background laughing during the show's discussions? Not sure that really works.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Bad Day at The Office as Seniors Go AWOL

Colorado Rapids' coach, Fernando Clavijo, said he had fully expected the youngsters to crash in a game eventually after such a successful start to the season. He just didn't expect his senior players to all crash at the same time in the same game. Coach Clavijo told me after the Reserves game this morning that yesterday's defeat to San Jose was a bad day at the office. He said that the senior players didn't really show up and that is what disappointed him the most. It is hard to disagree with him when you look at the performances of the likes of Cooke, Burciaga and Christian Gomez who struggled, despite some good passes, to find any rhythm. What I would say is that Clavijo said all this not with a sense of despair. You get the sense he has the confidence in the players this season that they will bounce back and play a lot better next time. Maybe it was just one of those games. A banana skin against an expansion team. Just as just about everyone got carried away with the thumping of the Galaxy on opening day, maybe we should not read too much into this setback.
The Reserves drew with San Jose Reserves 1-1 on a beautiful morning at DSG Park. There were more chances in a few minutes in this game than all of last night. The Rapids largely dominated the match only to let in an equalizer against the run of play late in the game. Kelly Gray, who impressed defensively throughout (if he stays fit this week and continues his good form, he looks likely to get game time next week against Chicago), scored the Rapids' goal. San Jose scored from a very well taken free kick which goalkeeper, Chris Sharpe, told me afterwards he only saw very late. Not surprising. I was standing behind the goal at the time the shot was taken and it was in the net, round a wall, in approximately 0.2 seconds. It makes you wonder how they ever make any saves. Other important items of note included Pablo Mastroeni playing 60 minutes of this game and he looked sharp and hungry. He told me afterwards that this was the first 60 he had played since last season and this game had given him the butterflies this morning. Good to know he has the fire in him. No doubt about that (he got booked in the 11th minute to prove that!). Looks likely he could be starting, subject to fitness, next week. John DiRaimondo, who went off at the end of the first half last night, is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury. There was also game time for some of the substitutes last night including Herculez Gomez, Tom McManus and Rafael Gomes.

Rapids Sink to Disappointing Defeat

Oh dear. All that optimism from the recent games just went up in smoke tonight as the Colorado Rapids deservedly slipped to a 2-0 home defeat to San Jose Earthquakes. Lacking in creativity and verve, the Rapids never got going. Can anybody even remember a solid chance they had all night? Christian Gomez squeezed the ball across the goal in the opening minute but there was very little else. A 35-yard shot from Jose Burciaga at the death summed up the Rapids' night. It was what they were reduced to and Joe Cannon saved it easily.
San Jose fully deserved the victory. They were more creative, they made a hatful of chances and this was a big night for them. Kamara was a handful all night although Stephen Keel generally marshalled him very well. Kamara did outhustle the Colorado defense, though, for the second and clinching goal. Ronnie O'Brien notched the opener at the end of the first half after picking up the rebound from a great save by Bouna Coundoul. The Rapids did create a lot of pressure after the second goal but it didn't really result in much. Tom McManus was impressive afer coming on as sub but there was no way through the stout San Jose defense. Dare I say it was all a bit reminiscent of last season? No creativity, no spark and no fan atmosphere. All rather depressing and it is a wonder where the Rapids go from here to regroup and figure out what went wrong.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Late Equalizer Keeps United Favorites

A Carlos Tevez header just two minutes from time saved Manchester United from blowing the Premier League title chase wide open. By equalizing against Blackburn, it keeps United a precious three points ahead of Chelsea. Even if Chelsea were to beat United in the big one at Stamford Bridge next Saturday (set your alarm clocks early), United still have the advantage of a much better goal difference. If they beat West Ham and Wigan in their last two games, they will be champions no matter what happens next Saturday. But you never know. West Ham were the only team last season to do the double over United, ironically at Old Trafford with a Tevez goal for the Hammers. It at least makes next weekend's game between Chelsea and United an exciting one with much at stake. As for Gillingham, I'm sure you are all dying to know, the abyss looks a little wider as they also fell to a late equalizer against Bristol Rovers. Hanging by the narrowest of threads.
Attention now turns to those Colorado Rapids. I think most people would expect a Rapids victory tonight but this will be a tough game. It looks as if Mastroeni will not start and could instead play a much bigger role in the Reserves tomorrow as he battles with his fitness. Playmaker Christian Gomez is listed as probable. Unchanged team in all likelihood but a little tinkering with the formation. See you all at DSG Park. Can't bloody wait!

Friday, April 18, 2008

It Ain't Over Until The Fat Boy Spins

That's what they used to say about Australian cricket hero Shane Warne for all those unfamiliar with what is truly still the greatest sport in the world. Now, back to soccer. I love Max Bretos on FSC. I think he is one of the most knowledgeable US commentators on global soccer. I love his enthusiasm. However, I have to take issue with his comments on Chelsea and his dismissal they have any chance to win the Premiership, along with most pundits it has to be said. I concede it is a tough ask (another Australian phrase) but, if United were to slip up tomorrow at Blackburn (not an easy game), the thing is wide open and all set for a cracker at Stamford Bridge next weekend. Let's hope, for the sake of an exciting finish to the season, that Blackburn steal a draw tomorrow. Sorry to p*ss off all you United fans. Great win by Chelsea yesterday against a good Everton side. They are still in it, just, and they will be more in it if Blackburn can get at least a point tomorrow at home. Saying that, United will probably storm it 4-0. Other key games this weekend are Fulham at home to Liverpool and a big derby match (these supporters really hate each other) between Aston Villa and Birmingham. And don't forget the biggest game of them all, on that side of the pond anyway, Gillingham against Bristol Rovers, as the mighty Gills stare at the trapdoor of relegation to the abyss of League Two. Come on you Rapids!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bouna To Miss Rapids Games?

Fan favorite, goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul, looks set to miss a big chunk of Colorado Rapids games in May and June because of Senegal national team duties. Senegal are due to play a series of World Cup qualifiers both at home and in other parts of West Africa in June. The team is scheduled to play four games against Algeria, Gambia and Liberia (twice). This could mean Bouna missing Rapids games against Chivas (May 24), Dallas (June 1), LA (June 7), Toronto (June 14) and Houston (June 21). He would also miss the game against Dallas in September and again against LA in October because of the two remaining Senegal games. Here is the BBC link to the details of the Senegal fixtures.
This will be a big wrench to the team. Bouna told me at training today that he had spoken with the Senegal coach this very morning and it now looks certain he will go. After all, he did finish the recent Africa Cup of Nations tournament as the number one choice for Senegal and he played a blinder against South Africa. So, how to fill the void he will leave? This makes it even more important for Justin Hughes to get himself fit again. He needs to get some game time under his belt because that will be a challenging stretch of games for him in June. Also, he can't be guaranteed to walk straight into the team, especially given the surprises that have come with the starting line-up so far this season. The Rapids also have two league goalkeepers on the books in Chris Sharpe and Mike Gracyk. These guys are good, as they say in the golf commercials. More competition in the squad but this should be welcomed. We wish Justin a speedy return to fitness because he is looking at a bigger run in the team than many may have expected.

Watch Out San Jose - Rapidfire Approaching

The San Jose Earthquakes have very dangerous forwards in Kamara and Glinton but, by the time they shoot at Bouna, their team may already be three down. I say this not in some marketing bravura but because Rapids coach Fernando Clavijo will be fielding a very attacking formation come the game Saturday night. It won't be the tried and tested 4-5-1, that's for sure. Nothing like the projected formation on the club website, which looks as if has been left over from last week
I'm not sure how it's going to exactly work out but you can be sure the emphasis will be on attack. Given what he told me this morning at training, the starting personnel will be what we have become familiar with in recent games; i.e there won't be a place in the starting line-up for some of the more established stars. The youngsters will continue and it's hard to argue with that. Pablo Mastroeni may get a start as he battles back from another injury. I did overreact to his not even being on the bench last week as he had sustained a quadriceps injury in training last week. Clavijo told me he will either play on Saturday or for the Reserves on Sunday, depending on the progress of his injury. Christian Gomez looks to be fully recovered from the knee injury sustained against the Revolution. In other injury news, Ugo Ihemelu told me it will be another two weeks before he may be considered (he also sustained a slight knee injury in training). Justin Hughes continues to battle a groin injury and will not play in this weekend's Reserves game, one he had been targeting for a comeback (see my goalkeeper/Bouna post for more on this and its implications).
Whatever the formation and line-up, nobody is underestimating the San Jose team. They may be new, they may be winless but those strikers are dangerous. Stephen Keel is going to have his work cut out watching them. I hope it does not happen but it would be interesting to see how the Rapids (and the fans) react if they did fall behind. But, stop! No more negative thinking. We could see an exciting attacking performance by the team which could cement their reputation as early frontrunners.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rapids Players Missing In Action?

One of the more surprising things about the Colorado Rapids fielding an unchanged line-up for Saturday's game against New England was the apparent absence of some of the more high profile players even from the bench. Unless I failed to see these players on the bench or the Rapids website is missing them on the team sheet, Pablo Mastroeni and Jovan Kirovski were not even substitutes. These are two of the top three paid players at the club along with Christian Gomez. Both players were deemed fit before the game. Mastroeni was expected to start in place of goalscorer LaBrocca. I don't really want to conclude anything (and maybe I just missed them on the TV screen) but it all seems a bit strange, particularly Pablo as he was listed to start. If you add in Bellouchy, who also apparently didn't make the trip, it does add up to a significant portion of the overall salary figure. I'll try and keep you posted on what's going on. Please forgive me if I have simply overlooked things or am misinformed about their absence.

Rapids Hustle to 1-0 Victory Over Revolution

This wasn't pretty but it more than got the job done. A second half goal from Nick LaBrocca from a Jose Burciaga cross was enough for the Colorado Rapids to gain a priceless victory on the road in New England. I know it's only three games into the season but the performances of the Rapids so far give much reason to hope. Yes, we stuffed the Galaxy on that opening day but it is the performances in two tough road games in Kansas and Massachusetts that give most cause for optimism. Like last week against the Wizards, the Rapids were on the offensive for the whole of this game, barring the closing minutes, against tough opponents. This was the only way to contain the dangerous New England attack. There were some anxious moments to be sure, not least the last few minutes when it seemed New England would inevitably score. But the defense held out very well this week with Bouna making some crucial saves. There were playing chances also for new signings Tam McManus and Kelly Gray. This is a notable victory so early in the season. Let's hope the Rapids continue their excellent form and passion into next week's home game aginst MLS newboys, San Jose.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rapids vs Revs; English League Ramblings

Thoughts turn feverishly now to tonight's game between the Colorado Rapids and New England Revolution. Had to wait for full-time in England before concentrating on the Rapids. With none of the big boys playing at the top of the EPL, it was all relegation-focused. Fulham and Bolton secured vital wins, Fulham away to relegation rivals Reading. Still a chance for the SW6 brigade. I hope they stay up because I used to be able to see Craven Cottage from my bedroom window. I am sure you all really care about my team, Gillingham. Having gone up 1-0 to league leaders Swansea, they managed to let in two goals in a minute at the end of the first-half to lose 2-1. Swansea got promoted to the Championship as a result and Gillingham are facing almost certain relegation. Bugger Bognor too. I'm glad I could get the quote in (George V on his death bed, apparently) but unhappy it comes at the expense of my hometown team, St. Albans City, who are also now facing imminent relegation from the heights of Conference South having lost to a last minute goal from fellow strugglers Bognor Regis Town.
Ok, got that all out of the way. Now, we can focus on the Rapids. It has the potential of being a real cracker. I remember losing so miserably last season away in the last couple of minutes, a defeat that almost decided our playoff hopes. This year, our hopes are different. I don't think there will be any fear on the part of the Rapids this time round. If we play as bullishly as we have done in the opening two games, we are in with a good chance of picking up something. But this New England team, injuries aside, will be a tough assignment. These Gambian guys look very exciting, particularly 19-year old Nyassi. Let's hope our somewhat inexperienced defense can keep him under wraps. Gomez and Joseph are clearly going to be involved in a major match-up. It will be very interesting to see how Christian Gomez handles this one. I am excited about the potential of him playing a blinder but who knows? Pablo looks to be starting so we will see for a full 90 (maybe) how he will link with Gomez. Will there be a place on the bench for new signing McManus? Burciaga running against Hilgenbrinck could also be a highlight. The Rapids somewhat unceremoniously dumped Hilgenbrinck before he could really kick a ball in anger, having signed him from Chile. Maybe Burciaga will prove today that the Rapids did the right thing? No predictions, just exciting possibilites. See you all at GB Fish and Chips. Come on you Rapids!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rapids Sign McManus, Waive Gargan

The Colorado Rapids eventually signed Scottish striker, Tom McManus, though nobody can seem to decide if he is called Tom or Tam. Anyway, the ex-Hibernian player is now officially a player at DSG Park although he has been with the team since the preseason trip to London. In more surprising news, the team waived defender Dan Gargan. Gargan was just getting back to full fitness after a long time out nursing an ACL injury. It's a bit tough on him. I haven't had the opportunity this week to bend coach Clavijo's ear about things but I wouldn't mind betting it is the performances of the likes of Kimura and Keel that may have made Gargan surplus to requirements. With Ihemelu not that far off from fitness and Petke a month or so away plus the other new defensive signings, maybe there just isn't room for Gargan. Gargan was a always a tough competitor and he will be missed. Check back next week for more news on this. The Rapids also waived midfielder Scott Campbell. Good luck to both players.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rapids' Italian Stallions Controlling Midfield

I like this article very much about LaBrocca and DiRaimondo. Can you only play in the center of midfield now for the Colorado Rapids if you have an Italian surname (Mastroeni?) with a capital letter in the middle? It raises some very good points not only about the sterling performances of these two youg guys but also the dilemma as to what to do once Pablo is fully fit as he now appears almost to be. If you check out the Rapids website, the planned formation includes Mastroeni in the starting line-up at the expense of LaBrocca for this week's game against New England. I know some of you will have some thoughts on that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

MLS Salaries Not Exactly Merit-Based

Much has already been written about the recent release of MLS players' salaries so I'm not going to add all that much. I'm also not going to say that certain players deserve less than they are actually geting, which some have commented on already. All I want to say is how can a professional sportsman, or anybody else for that matter, live on less than $18,000 a year (Kosuke Kimura, weekend goalscorer John DiRaimondo) and how come merit isn't exactly rewarded (Bouna and Colin Clark on a paltry $33,000 a year)? It seems strange to think that you would know the salaries of all the other people in your organization, no? Imagine that in any office or corporation your average Joe works in. If you think of the four Rapids players highlighted here (Kimura, Bouna, Clark and DiRaimondo), who are clearly not exactly amply rewarded for their talents, I think it speaks volumes for them as to how committed they are to the team and how they don't value success purely financially. A little bit more financial comfort would be nice though (L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur mais on est tout de meme content de l'en avoir). Here's a link to a nice piece by our friends at the Rocky Mountain News. ( Check out View From The Couch ( also whose link I will now be putting on the site.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Rapids Fall to Late Kansas Winner

I was just thinking about writing how as important it would be for the Rapids to get a great draw on the road as it was to stuff the Galaxy last week when up pops the Wizards substitute and scores the winner in the 86th. Very disappointing, especially after we had fought back from 2-0 down to tie the game. But don't despair and, most importantly, don't get down on the team after the euphoria of last weekend. Most people overreacted to the victory last weekend and this was a very tough game against a team that beat DC United last week. Not wanting to sound like a football manager but I do believe there were a lot of positives to come out of this game. Coach Clavijo fielded an unchanged starting line-up which was very encouraging for all those young players who played their socks off last week. And they played very well again this time around. Stephen Keel would probably admit to a couple of defensive errors which somewhat gifted the Wizards their 2-0 lead but he also pulled off a near miraculous goal line save and generally played very well. Nobody is going to blame him for our defeat. Kimura distributed the ball excellently and I think Erpen is relishing the fact that he is currently the senior figure in that backline. Burciaga scored the first Rapids goal and Bouna was immense in goal as usual. There wasn't really a lot he could do with the three goals and he saved at least two others. There, that's the defense. In midfield, LaBrocca and DiRaimondo were excellent (can anyone tell those two guys apart? - the Altitude TV commentator certainly couldn't but, then again, he actually couldn't tell most of the players apart.) They both worked tirelessly and LaBrocca looks very good in possession. DiRaimondo also scored the equalizing goal. I thought Herculez Gomez played very well when he came on as a sub for Clark. It's going to be hard to know how to fit all these players in when the injuries die down. Clark, Cooke and Christian Gomez are almost certain starters in midfield which doesn't give much room for the likes of Rafael Gomes, Kirovski, Colaluca etc. We'll have to see. I liked seeing Mastroeni back. He came on in the 63rd to replace LaBrocca and looked very reassuring. A final word on Omar Cummings who hustled all day and almost nicked it at the death. He might get a bit lonely up there all on his own, though, and I think it helped to have Herculez Gomez supporting him in the last half-hour.
It will be a disappointing trip back to DSG Park for the Rapids but not as long as the Class VI boys and girls who will be slumping back into their coach for the long ride home. Very encouraging to hear them shouting Bouna's name when he saved an almost certain goal in the first half. So, in conclusion, we lost the game because of some defensive errors but the team played well and looked very up for it. A minor setback on the road to MLS glory.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Not One But Two For O'Brien

Ciaran O'Brien, the rookie Rapids midfielder who was sent off last week on debut for a rough tackle on LA Galaxy forward, Carlos Ruiz, will receive a two-match suspension. I spoke to Ciaran at training earlier this week and he fully expected to get just a one match ban. I'm sure the powers that be were affected by the fact that the tackle did end in a serious injury for Ruiz who will be out for four to six weeks. Based on his performance, O'Brien looks a strong personality not easily overawed. He will be back and stronger for it. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing him play again. He is strong in the tackle (a bit too strong on Ruiz, admittedly) and plays with great heart.

Henry to Seattle on $150,000 a Week?

Barcelona and France superstar, Thierry Henry, could be the next David Beckham as far as the MLS is concerned. According to that reputable rag, The Sun, Britain's top-selling daily, Henry will earn a staggering $150,000 a week, far more than most Rapids players earn in a year, when he becomes the face of new team, Seattle, next year. Everything that is written in The Sun must be taken with a huge pinch of salt but there's no doubting Seattle's ambition. For example, despite there being no team until next year, their ground is being used for an international game between China and Mexico later this month. It's interesting, this trend of staging international games in neutral countries. In the last round of international fixtures, Brazil played Sweden at The Emirates while Mexico played Ghana at Fulham's Craven Cottage. Anyway, here's the link to the Henry story.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Initial Enthusiasm Turning Into Season Tickets?

It's clear that the opening game of the Colorado Rapids' season could not really have got off to a much better start. And, in the Rapids organization's latest marketing ploy, the comments of some of the fans show this. Fans have been asked to email their impressions of the first game and they are all, of course, highly complementary. Admittedly, the organization is unlikely to highlight potentially negative impressions (i.e the quiet of the opening minutes of the game) but there are some interesting points in the published comments. One thing that stands out is the enthusiasm of some of the soccer virgins, people who had barely been to a game before. Some of them even bought season tickets on the spot. This is really good news though it of course remains to be seen just how many people would actually do this. It does show, however, that it is relatively easy to convert people to the joys of soccer. It is, after all, a simple game. You just have to put the ball in the back of the net or stop it from going in. I did like, also, the comment about the easy access to the players; the way they go to the Cantina afterwards to mingle with the fans. Or, in Bouna's case, sign autographs in the cold for adoring fans. No other professional sport in the US would allow such access and this is a fantastic USP for the game. It was also great to notice Terry Cooke's brother commenting but I bet he never used the phrase rear end in his original email. More likely to have been closer to something akin to Arsenal? I know he would never spell defense with an s.
On the subject of fans, spare a thought for the brave folks at Class VI who will now have to leave Denver at midnight on Friday night to get to Kansas in time for the revised kickoff time of 3pm. As they so eloquently put it on their website, it is good that the Kansas City Wizards organization helped out local sports fans by accommodating their basketball wishes but it is one giant middle finger to the Class VI boys. Good luck on the trip boys and girls. May your presence inspire the Rapids to a more than encouraging away win against Lopez and the rest.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tam McManus to Sign for Rapids; Could be in Weekend Squad

Scottish striker, Tam McManus, will formally sign for the Colorado Rapids this week and could be in the squad for this weekend's trip to Kansas City. Both front office staff and coach Clavijo have confirmed the signing. McManus's presence in the team is now subject to immigration requirements. He has spent most of his career so far with Scottish Premier team Hibernian. Here's a BBC story with more details about his career to date.
The forward, most recently with Scottish League One team Dunfermline Athletic, will be wearing the number 20 so let's hope he can bag as many goals. McManus impressed on the recent preseason trip to Arsenal and the UK.

Rapids' Injury Updates; Established Players to Fight for Places

The good news is that many of the injuries of the Colorado Rapids players are healing in time for the game this weekend against Kansas City. The bad news, for them anyway, is that it won't be that easy to regain their places. In reality, the performances of the younger players in the demolition of the Galaxy at the weekend give Fernando Clavijo a better dilemma than most. Apart from long-term absentees Mike Petke and Connor Casey (out for at least another month) as well as Ugo Ihemelu, the rest of the squad is either close to or fully fit. One exception to this is the very unlucky Justin Hughes. The young goalkeeper told me this morning at training that he injured a groin muscle in the Reserves game at the weekend due to probable overcompensation on an existing injury. He will probbaly be out for four to six weeks which is very tough on him given he has clearly established himself as the number two goalkeeper in the club. Maybe he will be able to cheer himself up if North Carolina take the basketball. Clavijo will make a decision on which one of the two league goalkeepers to take on the trip to KC closer to game time. Both of them looked very impressive along with Bouna in training this morning. Other players solidly on the mend include Dan Gargan and Herculez Gomez. Gomez reckons he is about 80% there. Gargan played his first full 90 minutes since injury in the Reserves on Sunday.