Thursday, January 29, 2009

Smith Lays Down Law as he Builds Squad

The Colorado Rapids team that lines up on opening day against Chivas in LA could be a very different team from what we saw last year. According to Gary Smith in the Denver Post, only club captain, Pablo Mastroeni, is guaranteed a spot. We should take that with a grain of salt because there are a number of other players who are very likely to be fixtures this season. After all, we are not likely to be getting rid of players like Matt Pickens and Ugo Ihemelu when they have been called up to the US squad for next month's vital game against Mexico. However, it does lay down a marker. Smith has shown that he is not scared of moulding this squad as he sees fit. Witness the ruthless way he has despatched last season regulars like Bouna Coundoul, Tom McManus and Facundo Erpen. Granted, those players may have wanted out for different reasons but Smith is for sure redesigning this team so that it has his stamp on it and nobody else's.
Be prepared for a number of changes too before that season opener. If the stories are right and there will be players coming in from Europe and South America, not to mention West Africa, according to new technical director, Paul Bravo, talking on the From The Pitch radio show today, there simply won't be room for all the current squad. It's almost like the Broncos. A massive shakedown of the preseason roster before the playing season starts proper. One interesting note from Bravo also. He said that the club has a lot of respect for Colin Clark but that a similar player would be needed if Clark gets suspended or gets called up for the national team. With all this competition for places emphasis, you can't help but think that this could be a challenge also for Clark to keep fighting for his place.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Herc Gunning for Rapids at Season Opener

The Colorado Rapids will play the Kansas City Wizards in their home opener at the end of March and a former DSG Park favorite is looking to spoil the celebrations. I caught up with former Rapid, Herculez Gomez, around Christmas time and he said he was very much looking forward to that game in Commerce City. "I have nothing but good memories of Colorado but I would love nothing more than hurting my old team," he said. Always combative, Gomez said he felt the move to Kansas during the season last year had really helped him. He started every game bar one since the trade and he likes the cohesion of the Kansas City team and his role in it. "I am in a neat position there as a right-sided midfielder," he said. "I feel I have good attributes for that position." It does help a player's confidence if he can get a regular start, something that did not happen last season in Colorado. But Gomez bears no grudges and thinks the team will do well under Gary Smith. "I have nothing but the utmost respect for him," he said. "He is very honest with all the players and he is smart enough to know that, if a player is not happy, he will not get the best out of him." The trade to Kansas was handled with great respect by Smith, Gomez added.
So what has Herc been doing to keep fit during the close season? Training a lot with his brother who is a professional martial arts fighter. That has helped strength and cardio fitness. By now, Gomez will have reported for preseason. Unlike the Rapids, Kansas are due to go abroad and will be visiting Guadalajara as well as Bradenton in Florida during the preseason. Gomez is in his last year of an MLS contract and said he would not rule out Mexico as a possible soccer destination for him. He does hold a Mexican passport as well as a US one. But, for now, he is enjoying life in Kansas City and would like to stay there if the next season works out well for him. "I like the direction this team is going in," he said. "This is the first time in a while that I feel like I am playing in a team with a strong identity." One of the things he did enjoy last year was linking up with former Argentine star, Claudio Lopez, who has re-signed with Kansas. "I kind of meshed with him," Herc said. "He is not the youngest but he is very smart and makes excellent runs."
You are always said to see good players and good people leave your team but the move to Kansas seems to be working out well so far for Herc. We wish him well for the season except, of course, for the DSG Park opener.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Le Roi Est Mort - Vive Le Roi!

Sad but not altogether surprising news. Bouna Coundoul, fan favorite and goalkeeper extraordinaire, is no longer with the Colorado Rapids. That's right fans, he'll never be between the posts again at DSG Park. The Rapids clarified the situation on the club blog after days of speculation following the acquisition of Matt Pickens during the SuperDraft process. The club said it made Bouna a very generous offer which would have put him among the top five goalkeepers in the league in terms of pay. Most would say he is easily worth that. Clearly, Bouna has to think of his own future and that future probably lies away from the MLS and in the European leagues. His goal is to play for Senegal as the number one choice and anybody can understand that. There remains a small feeling that he had already made his mind up last summer when he started to be out of the team and struggling with Senegal. Wherever he ends up, he will be a success because he is supremely good, talented, hard working and ambitious. Above all, he is good. So, with heavy heart, we say goodbye to a true gent and wish him the best and hope that a small part of his heart remains in Colorado. We now get behind the team and support whoever is between those pipes.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bouna on Way Out as Rapids Acquire Pickens?

The Colorado Rapids picked six college players in today's MLS SuperDraft but it is the acquisition of US national team goalkeeper, Matt Pickens, that is the most notable trade of the day. Picking six university players (how will they all fit into a smaller squad?) is one thing but buying a top level goalkeeper is another when your apparently number one choice is still debating whether to re-sign or not. Given the fact also that one of the draft picks is a goalie, it looks as if one of the favorite sons of the Rapids, Bouna Coundoul, is pretty much out of Commerce City. Check this link out at
Unless the Rapids staff are using the trade as a ploy to pressure Bouna, that's possible. Whatever happens, some of the current goalkeepers will have to be on their way out as there simply isn't enough room for all of them.

Gomez on his Way? Changes in Tone Suggestive

I'm usually very reluctant to make a story out of a mild rumor but Gary Smith's words on today's From The Pitch show about Christian Gomez were very revealing. When asked about a possible deal involving Gomez and draft picks and other things, the Colorado Rapids' coach hedged his reponse somewhat, saying that he hoped the Argentinian would be involved with the team next season but, should anything come up in the interim that may suggest Gomez didn't really want to come back, then things were back on the table. This is a far cry from his previous words saying how the preseason would be a crucial time for Gomez and how he continues to have a role in the squad. It does make you wonder a bit what is going on behind the scenes because we are only ten days or so away from the start of preseason. I would say, reading between the lines, that the chances of Gomez coming back to Colorado are markedly smaller today than they were before Christmas.
Smith also told the radio show that longtime friend and possible assistant coach, Steve Guppy, had been doing a lot of scouting work in the UK over the holiday period. As a result, the club has its eyes on two to three possibilites from across the pond. Don't be surprised if one of those turns up in the center of defense sometime in the summer at the end of the English season. Smith wants to beef up the physicality of the center back position and a big stopper could be the way forward for him.
Doubts still remain about fan favorite, Bouna Coundoul, who still has to re-sign. Clearly, Smith wants the Senegalese goalkeeper but Bouna, who endured a difficult time last season both with the club and on the international scene, is obviously looking out for himself and weighing all the options.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Rapids Acquire Former Rookie Harden from LA

The Colorado Rapids announced they have acquired Ty Harden, a former Rookie standout for the LA Galaxy, in exchange for a draft pick. Harden, who started a rookie record 24 games for the Galaxy in 2007, stepped away from the game in 2008 to "pursue philanthropic endeavors." His father is the CEO of Goodwill. The purchase looks to have a lot to do with Paul Bravo coming on board. The Rapids will relinquish one of their two third round picks at Thursday's MLS SuperDraft in exchange.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Changes Close to the Top

Paul Bravo in, John Murphy out. In the space of a couple of days, the Colorado Rapids have said goodbye to former assistant coach Murphy and welcomed former star player Bravo in a newly created position of Technical Director. The Gary Smith coaching team finally seems to be coming slowly together. I'll be sad to see Murphy go. Great bloke and incredible soccer knowledge and analysis. He is apparently pursuing coaching opportunities but it is unclear what those may be as of now. Bravo, the team's all-time leading scorer, will be responsible for domestic and international scouting.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ugo In, Cory Out

According to the US Soccer Federation's MNT blog, Rapids' defender, Ugo Ihemelu, has been called into the national team's training camp currently taking place in LA. His center back partner with the Rapids, Cory Gibbs, has at the same time withdrawn from the camp, again according to the blog. Things look on the up and up for Ihemelu. After the bizarre call-up to the Canadian squad last season plus an inconsistent run in the team, Ihemelu can now add the US experience to the strong possibility he will be first choice with Gibbs for the Rapids once the 2009 season gets under way.