Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rapids Finally Sign French Defender Baudet

Press Release from the Colorado Rapids:
Former Crewe Alexandra Star Expected to Debut With Colorado After the July 15th International Transfer Window Opens
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (Tuesday, June 30, 2009) – The Colorado Rapids announced today the signing of defender Julien Baudet. Per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Baudet’s addition to the team, which will take place after the July 15th International Transfer Window opens, is pending receipt of his International Transfer Certificate (ITC).
Baudet begins a new chapter in his ten-year professional career coming to the Rapids from English League One side Crewe Alexandra, where he served as team captain the last few seasons.
Baudet’s career began in France with Ligue Un club Toulouse, followed by stints with Oldham Athletic, Rotherham United, and Notts County in England. Throughout his career, he has tallied 18 goals and three assists from his center back position.

Apparently, the 30-year-old central defender is also a very good skier though I can't see Gary Smith allowing him to do much of that here in the Rockies. This was a long expected move. What's more interesting to note is: a)how will Baudet fit in in an already crowded defense that has already seen two players (Harden and Holody) go out on loan? and b)with a new striker imminent, that means one roster spot has to go, by my reckoning anyway. If they can trade him, Ciaran O'Brien looks the most likely candidate.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bouna Helping to Pay The Bills

Press release from the Colorado Rapids: The Colorado Rapids announced today the club acquired allocation money from the New York Red Bulls. In exchange, New York receives the MLS rights to goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.
Coundoul played in 52 matches for the Rapids from 2005 to 2008 and registered 189 saves and posted a 1.16 goals against average finishing his career in Colorado with a 17-22-12 record.
Colorado Rapids – Acquire allocation money from New York Red Bulls in exchange for MLS rights to goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul.

This will be a welcome piece of business for the Rapids, giving them a bit more money as they seek to bolster their front line with a new striker among other possible moves (see earlier blogpost today). Good also to see former fan favorite, BounaTime!, making a welcome return to action. Maybe he will be playing back at DSG Park as early as July 25 when the Red Bulls come to town?

Rapids Crash at Seattle; Argentinian Striker?

I had a feeling yesterday morning that the game against Seattle was just ripe for a sound stuffing for the Colorado Rapids. Coming off an untidy draw against Dallas, a third game in eight days, still missing talismanic stiker Conor Casey, away against the best supported team in the MLS - all the ingredients were there for a sound beating. From reading all the match reports, it was clear that the final scoreline did not fully reflect the game as the Rapids outshot Seattle in the first half and unfortunately missed a penalty that would have tied the game. But the penalty was missed, the bubble was burst and the Sounders eventually won the game comfortably in the second half. Nothing to do but lick the wounds, come back home and prepare for the Rapids' favorite fixture - home on July 4, a game they never lose.
In other news, there are internet reports about the team signing Argentinian striker, Facundo Diz (see link below). The Rapids have been wanting to tie up a second back-up forward for some while now, having already picked up Pat Noonan to support Casey and Omar Cummings. Gary Smith, head coach, has said the striker will come from outside the MLS and he also narrowed it down a little at training last week when he said that "the season is still under way where he is playing." That kind of narrows it down to Mexico or South America and lends credence to the report. Also, if a player is stating the name of the team in the interview, why would anyone make that up? "All is going well," added Smith. "We are looking at getting him in as soon as possible." With Cummings now gone to represent Jamaica in the Gold Cup and Noonan still finding his way in this team, the team will need some striker support. At least, Casey will return from South Africa in time for the July 4 game against Chicago.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Rapids Close in on Striker as Waive Richardson

Press release from the Rapids issued late Friday: The Colorado Rapids announced today the club has waived forward Gregory Richardson.
Richardson appeared in one game for the Rapids this season playing 11 minutes in the season opener against Chivas USA on March 21. He also played the full 90 minutes in Colorado’s U.S. Open Cup play-in match against Seattle on May 26.
Richardson’s rights were originally acquired by the Rapids in a trade with Toronto FC on February 27 and the Guyana forward was signed by Colorado on March 20.

This makes the likelihood of singing another striker in the not too distant future ever more of a possibility. More to follow later.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cummings Pulls Another One Out of the Hat

Omar Cummings did what he has consistently done over the last few games, saving the Colorado Rapids from losing their unbeaten streak yesterday with a well-taken goal just six minutes from the end of a frustrating game against a brave Dallas team. The Jamaican international calmly took a great ball from Mehdi Ballouchy just outside the penalty area, beat two defenders and shot past Dallas goalkeeper Burse. Up until that moment, it had been a tough night for Cummings who has now scored four goals in the three games since Conor Casey was called into the US national team. That is some stepping up to the plate.
Unlike Saturday's game, where Cummings basically decided the result, yesterday's game was about a strong team performance in terms of character. I didn't think they would pull off the draw amid increasing frustration at missed chances when there was so much dominance. This was somewhat typified by Ugo Ihemelu's header just minutes before Cummings got the all important goal. From a trademark cross by the energetic Terry Cooke, Ihemelu put in a seemingly perfect header that appeared to be flying into the corner but somehow missed by inches. The game appeared destined for a surprise 1-0 victory for the visitors before Cummings saved the team for a third game in a row.
As I say, though, this game was not about Omar. Ballouchy is playing his best soccer of the season and of his entire career with the Rapids. In the first half yesterday, in particular, he was the focal point for so much of the creativity in the midfield. For those who are critical of his apparent casualness, he was everywhere on the field in that first half. He looks confident, he wants the ball and he should be in this team from the start. Nick LaBrocca was also impressive last night, both defensively and offensively. It seemed that every chance the Rapids had in that first half fell to him. Props also to Pat Noonan who I thought played very well in the time he had and Jacob Peterson who had his best game of the season after coming on as a second half sub.
The Rapids continue this busy stretch with a weekend trip to Seattle. If they can get something out of that game, I really will start to be a believer.

Clark In; Casey and Pablo Available For Rapids

Gary Smith will be part relieved and part disconcerted by today's announcement of the final 23-man US squad for the Gold Cup. Fearing he may be losing both Pablo Mastroeni and leading goalscorer, Conor Casey, for the July 3-26 tournament, he will be mightily relieved that neither of those two made the final squad having been named in the preliminary 30-man set-up. Casey will therefore return to DSG Park after this Sunday's Confederations' Cup Final and be available for the July 4 game against Chicago and beyond. Mastroeni also looks set for a long run in the Rapids' team, World Cup qualifiers aside. Smith may, however, be less than pleased that Colin Clark is in the Gold Cup squad. Happy one of his young players has been officially recognized but mindful of the fact he will be losing a vital left-sided cog who has played every minute of every club game this season. Great news for Clark who will be trying to build on his only experience of the national team set-up so far, last year's training camp ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Colorado against Guatemala. More to follow on this and last night's 1-1 draw against Dallas. Let me know what you think of Bob Bradley's squad for the Gold Cup.

Monday, June 22, 2009

International Call-Ups Make Second Striker Vital

Omar Cummings, Conor Casey and Pablo Mastroeni, three key players for the Colorado Rapids, may all be missing in coming weeks as the Rapids try to continue to build on their successful start to the season.
Cummings, MLS Player of the Week for his performance in the victory over DC United on Saturday, has been called into the Jamaican squad for the upcoming Gold Cup. Casey, still in South Africa with the US team as they continue their improbable Confederations' Cup adventure, is in the preliminary US Gold Cup squad, as is Mastroeni. Common wisdom dictates that players don't appear in both competitions so Casey may be available for the July 4 home game against Chicago but the Rapids' topscorer has not played that much in South Africa and Bob Bradley may want to see more of him. Cummings, for sure, will not be available for that game as Jamaica opens its Gold Cup competition July 3. He should be available to play this Wednesday against Dallas and in the away game at Seattle at the weekend. Gary Smith will need him as he has proved inspirational in Casey's absence, netting three times and providing the assist Saturday for Colin Clark's game deciding goal. His upcoming absence and the uncertainty surrounding Casey, however, makes the quest for another striker even more urgent.
The Rapids have filled one roster spot with the veteran midfielder/forward, Pat Noonan, who played the first 45 minutes of the game on Saturday. Smith was happy with Noonan's contribution even if he did have to pull him a little earlier than ideal. "It was perhaps more premature than I would have liked," he said of his decision to withdraw Noonan at the half. "But there are a lot of stresses in Pat’s life at the moment and I thought he was very decent. He offered up the type of shape that we require in the team and his endeavors with and without the ball were very pleasing." Before the weekend's game, Smith admitted he wanted another forward in the team by July and that may be even more pressing now with all the international games coming up. "He will come from outside the MLS, definitely, and we want him here by the end of the month working with us," said Smith. The Rapids have clearly been working for some time to net these two forwards and I would expect an announcement on the second piece of the puzzle later this week.

The game on Saturday? It had moments of prettiness but the game was really about Cummings. It was an in the end comfortable victory over a top MLS side but the Rapids still played better soccer in the Seattle 2-2 draw. If it hadn't been for Cummings, it would have been quite conceivable to be down at halftime as both the players and Smith freely admitted after the game Saturday. The second half was a different story as the Rapids scored the crucial third goal and killed off the resistance, controlling the rest of the game. "We were sloppy in parts of the the first half," said Mastroeni. "In the second half, we came out sharp and, with another goal, the altitude can kick in for visiting teams." Smith conceded the difference between the two teams in the first half, save for a great save by Matt Pickens, was Cummings. "Omar was outstanding," Smith said. "He's improved enormously and he has a much better understanding of what is required of him when he doesn't have the ball -- he is thinking about his game."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rapids Looking for Win and Pretty Football

Thank God, the Rapids players and coaches must be thinking this week as they prepare for the first of nine matches out of 12 at home tomorrow against Christian Gomez and DC United. After a lengthy stay on the road in the opening games of the season, the Rapids look to set the tone tomorrow night for the home games going forward. They also play Dallas at home on Wednesday but Gary Smith isn't thinking that far ahead."I am taking every game as it comes," he said today at training. "We hope the team will stay in good health," adding that line-ups will probably stay similar for both games. Conor Casey may be back in time for next week's game but will clearly not feature tomorrow as he remains in South Africa with the US team. I would expect Omar Cummings and Jacob Peterson to start upfront with new signing Pat Noonan also expected to play some role, albeit unlikely to be a full game. Terry Cooke's role tomorrow will be limited at best as he struggles with a hamstring injury and the defense will likely be predictable with Kosuke Kimura perhaps coming in off the bench in either his new right midfield role or at fullback. Tomorrow and Wednesday's game are key in setting the tone. Two good wins and some good attacking football would be just the ticket. "We would clearly love to get what we want out of it, which is the three points, but I hope we also have a bright and purposeful performance," Smith said. "I am looking for a Seattleesque performance." If the Rapids can play the same attacking soccer they showed against the Sounders last month, that would be ideal, minus the last 15 minutes of course when the team was disappointed to not seal the win.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Guerrero Goes

Press release from the Rapids: The Colorado Rapids announced today that a mutual agreement with defender/midfielder Ivan Guerrero has been reached that will terminate his contract with the team.
Guerrero was acquired by Colorado on February 9, 2009 in a trade with D.C. United.
A four-year MLS veteran, Guerrero had yet to see the field for the Rapids this season. For his career, he has played in 101 games with 97 starts and recorded four goals and 20 assists as a member of the Chicago Fire, San Jose Earthquakes and D.C. United.

European Footballer of the Year to be a Rapid?

May seem a bit far-fetched and have no basis in truth but there is a rumor going around that former Real Madrid and Liverpool striker, Fernando Morientes, may be making his way to Colorado. A fomer European Footballer of the Year, no less. I don't know about that but I do know that there will be another striker on his way to DSG Park in the not too distant future and it does appear that he will be from outside the MLS. Paul Bravo, technical director, did tell the rapidsundercurrent blog this week after the signing of Noonan that there will be more "exciting news in the near future" and Gary Smith has also told MLSnet that they are looking outside of the MLS for such a striker. Clearly, the two signings will mean roster moves and it's probably clear who is looking the most vulnerable. Gregory Richardson, who made two assists yesterday in the reserve team's 5-1 win over the Colorado Foxes, does not look likely to break into this team and must be a likely contender. Ciaran O'Brien is out on loan for the rest of this season and appears to not have any chance of breaking into the Rapids' midfield and the defense seems somewhat top-heavy, especially in the center and on the left side. I don't see any of the center backs going - Gibbs, Palguta and Ihemelu are staying, Harden is well-liked by the coaching staff, Holody is a draft pick and cheap and Valentino has just been signed. Jordan Harvey appears to have locked up the left back position so that makes Ivan Guerrero vulnerable too. Expect an announcement on such roster moves from the Rapids in the very near future.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rapids Acquire Crew's Noonan

Press release from the Colorado Rapids issued today:The Colorado Rapids have acquired forward Pat Noonan in a trade with the Columbus Crew, the club announced today.
In exchange, Colorado send their 2010 first round SuperDraft pick and allocation money to Columbus. Per club and league policies, terms of the allocation money were not disclosed.
A seven-year MLS veteran, Noonan joins the Rapids having scored 38 goals and registering 32 assists in 135 career games. He has appeared in five games this season with the Crew and has tallied one assist.
Noonan began his career with New England and in just his second season won a share of the league’s scoring title with 11 goals and 8 assists for 30 points. In 2007, he captured the MLS Cup after having led the Revolution to three consecutive MLS championship games. That same season, Noonan was also named Most Valuable Player in the team’s U.S. Open Cup championship victory.
Noonan made 11 appearances for Aalesunds FK of the Norwegian Premier League last year before joining the Crew on August 6, just in time to join them for their 2008 MLS Cup championship run.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Forwards Update; Experience Necessary

Gary Smith said this week that he hoped to have one new striker available for the next Colorado Rapids game Saturday week, June 20. With Conor Casey called up sooner than generally expected to the US squad for last weekend's World Cup qualifier against Honduras and now for the Confederations' Cup in South Africa, the need for such a forward is even more acute. Casey is not likely to be available for the Rapids again until July 4. With strike partner and MLS Goal of the Week winner, Omar Cummings, expected to be called into the Jamaican sqaud for next month's Gold Cup competition, the need is turning into a necessity.
Smith does not have the confidence to put present backup forwards Ross Schunk and Gregory Richardson into any significant action, Schunk getting a couple of minutes as a sub against Salt Lake and Richardson not even traveling with the group. So, who will the forward(s) be? What I can say is that it will be someone not in the prime of youth. Smith is clearly looking for someone who can fit the team's style and a proven goalscorer and, most of all, he is looking for someone who can fit into the team's chemistry both on and off the field and has plenty of experience. "They have to have experience coming into this phase of the season," he said.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rapids Salvage RSL Tie

"Omar Cummings, out of nothing, ties it." Having just watched the highlights, that seems to sum up the weekend's game. Apologies for not offering anything immediately after the game but I was out in deepest Oregon and miles from a computer. I hadn't seen any of the action until just now and that was a sweet strike from someone who was just getting a little frustrated with his own lack of scoring despite the numerous assists and great all round play. As you will no doubt alreday know, it was sweet enough to earn MLS Goal of the Week. Looks like this was another characterful performance to preserve the unbeaten streak and pick up a point when we could so easily have folded. No Casey, no Pablo and shorn of further attacking options when Terry Cooke had to go off injured in the first half. Looked like a pretty able defensive effort to get the draw. The Rapids now enjoy a week off before embarking on a three-game stretch in eight days starting next Saturday, June 20, at DSG Park against Christian Gomez and DC United. Check back in soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Casey With US Earlier Than Expected

So much for the signing of a new forward or forwards to back up Cummings and Casey. Gary Smith won't be able to get any new signing in time for this weekend's game just as Conor Casey is called into the national squad a little earlier than expected. Casey has been called into the World Cup qualifying squad for Saturday's game against Honduras in Chicago as cover for an injured Brian Ching. That means he won't be available for the Rapids' game against Real Salt Lake. Wonder what Smith's reaction to that will be? Already missing Pablo Mastroeni, it looked likely that Terry Cooke or Jacob Peterson would take the captain's place in midfield. Now, who is going to play upfront with Omar Cummings? It is unlikely that Smith will risk Ross Schunk or Gregory Richardson to partner Cummings, at least at the start, so I wouldn't mind betting Peterson will play as a striker with Cooke wide on the right. From looking as if the Rapids could have an advantage over a faltering Salt Lake team who will be missing influential players Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman, the Rapids will themselves be missing two key players. I think the team will do well to get back to Colorado for a rest week with a point.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rapids Ease Closer to Signing New Forward(s)

I asked Gary Smith at training today what he would do if the nightmare scenario of the US and Jamaica picking Conor Casey and Omar Cummings for their respective national teams for the CONCACAF Gold Cup comes true. He responded by saying that the Colorado Rapids are very close to signing one new striker and possibly two. One of those forwards appears more likely than the other in the very near future ("in the next week or so," said Smith) while the other forward could be after July 15. Exciting news for DSG Park. The team has been very reliant on Cummings and Casey to score the goals and provide offensive creativity and the two have responded magnificently. Casey has clearly stolen the limelight with his phenomenal scoring but Cummings, though only netting twice early this season, is right up there in terms of assists. Now, pundits with far greater clout than me, are putting the pair right up in the top three of striking partners in the MLS with the likes of McBride and Rolfe at Chicago and Ching and Kamara at Houston.
Smith has known for some time that he needs extra forwards with only rookie Ross Schunk and new signing Gregory Richardson as back-up. Neither of those players has any MLS league experience. The need for one or even two other strikers is clear and now it seems the Rapids are closer than ever in securing that. Interestingly, the imminent arrival of at least one player has nothing to do with the finish of the European season, according to Smith. "Clearly, it would be foolish for me to think they can get through 30 games unscathed," Smith said of his current strike pair. "We are working very hard to address that."
The Gold Cup starts July 3 and runs through the month of July. The US is arguably more affected because it has two games on the two Saturdays of July 4 and July 11. The Rapids have two home games on those dates. Jamaica play at slightly different times but Cummings would clearly find it hard to be available for the Rapids if he is selected. Here is a link to the complete schedule.