Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cooke to Leave; Smith Signed

"I'm so disappointed Dad." My four-year-old son summed it up so well when I told him that Terry Cooke had been waived from the Colorado Rapids. I'm sure Jamie Smith will turn out to be a good player for the Rapids but to see Cooke go is right up there with the departures of Bouna Coundoul and Herculez Gomez. The Rapids do seem to have a knack of getting rid of people that are fan favorites. The rational part of me can force me to think this may be the best move for the team as it seeks a more dynamic dribbling, one-on-one wing threat, the type of football it is trying to build with the likes of Colin Clark and Jacob Peterson, but there is an emotional attachment to Cooke. There is also, as importantly, a different role that he can play that nobody else can. When the team is in need of a different strategy, it knows it can rely on Cooke to deliver some of those trademark crosses. Clark may be close to the finished article at taking people on but Peterson still has some way to go to convince. When that is not working, the team has needed Cooke and now he is no longer an option. We all wish Smith well but we are so sad to see Cooke go. At least we can remember that goal against Kansas when he came on as a second half sub and whacked one into the net with his first touch. That is my favorite Rapids' moment at DSG Park. Good luck to you Terry. I know I am not alone in wishing you that.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

One Man's Woe is Another's Gain

The Colorado Rapids ended up sealing a comfortable 4-0 victory against the unfortunate New York Red Bulls last night. I'll stick my neck out and say this wasn't the best performance by the Rapids and that the final scoreline flattered them. That sounds a little negative when you think of a 4-0 result but, a couple of decisons going the other way, and the outcome could have been very different. Credit to the boys in Burgundy and Blue, though, for exploiting the lack of confidence in the New York team and making sure of the victory in the opening minutes of the second half when the second goal went in. After that, any crumbling resistance the Red Bulls may have had floated away and Nick LaBrocca and Mehdi Ballouchy put the seal on an emphatic victory.
I have to declare an interest at this point. I was covering the game for MLSnet for the Red Bulls so my focus was on them and not so much on the Rapids. I can tell you that there were a lot of dejected players in that New York locker room after the game, not least homecoming king, Bouna Coundoul, making his debut for the Red Bulls, and Juan Pablo Angel. I also have to say here that Angel is a class act both on and off the field. He is very unhappy about the situation he and his team find themselves in but he was gracious with me and a true gent. Not a bad player either. I wished them all well because I felt sorry for that team.
As I said, things could have gone diferently in that first half with chances falling to Angel, Kandji (very good player) and Rojas. But the early goal dented already fragile confidence and the disputed sending off totally changed the game. Another example, I am afraid, of how poor referring can be in this league. Did the guy even stop to think that it might only be a bookable offence? It wasn't the greatest challenge but the referee weakened under pressure from the home dugout and the Bulls were cursed again.
Let me briefly discuss a couple of things about the Rapids unless you think I may be turning into a New York fan. Pablo Mastroeni was back last night to his imperious best after a couple of disappointing games from the captain. He owned Sassano in the midfield and gave the unfortunate Ubiparipovic lots of trouble before the midfielder's sending off. Kosuke Kimura, who came on as a second half sub, was again marvelous and you have to wonder what he has to do to get a regular start. Congrats also to Pat Noonan for his first goal in Colorado uniform and compassion to Julien Baudet who looks to have sustained a broken wrist or arm and will surely be out for some time. One other observation. Terry Cooke, who has not featured in the last two Rapids games, looked a forlorn figure warming up last night. His rival, Jacob Peterson, has now won MoM for the last two games, just to rub things in. The unfortunate Cookie will surely be on his way next week and all true fans will miss him.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rapids Sign Diz

Press release from the Colorado Rapids:
The Colorado Rapids announced today the signing of forward Facundo Diz. Per club and league policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Diz will be available to the Rapids for this Saturday’s match against the New York Red Bulls at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 7:30 pm MT.
“Facundo adds the depth to our forward line that we have been looking for a long time,” said head coach Gary Smith. “He’s a good physical specimen, good target man, attacks the ball extremely well inside the penalty area, and from where he’s come from he has a wealth of experience. As a personality, he has already shown what a wonderful addition he will be.”
Diz comes to the Rapids having played the majority of his professional career in Argentina, most recently with Club Athletico Platense, where he scored nine goals in 15 games, helping the team avoid relegation.
Diz began his career with Club Atlético All Boys in 1997, playing with the club for eight seasons. He spent brief loan spells in 2004 with Banfield as well as Venezuelan side Deportivo Tachira before returning to Argentina and All Boys for their 2005 campaign.
Following a loan stint with Club Atlético San Telmo, Diz played the 2006-08 seasons with Club Atlético Tigre. Following a six month run with Olimpo de Bahia Blanca at the end of 2008, Diz caught on with Club Athletico Platense earlier this year, ultimately leading to his transition to MLS and the Rapids.

Facundo Diz – Forward


Height: 6-2

Weight: 189

DOB: April 16, 1979

Place of Birth: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Last Club: Club Athletico Platense

Roster Status: Senior/International

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Diz to Trot Out This Weekend?

Everyone knows that the Rapids are due to sign Argentinian striker Facundo Diz and Scottish midfielder Jamie Smith. The main question is when and who will go from the squad as a result. Word has it that Diz may be available to play this weekend against the woeful Red Bulls. The Rapids will need reinforcements upfront as Conor Casey is out due to caution accumulation. If he is ready, I can't imagine Diz would start as Gary Smith said recently he is still some way short of match fitness given that it has been offseason in Argentina for a while now. So, it looks likely that Pat Noonan will get another chance to boost his value in the team alongside Omar Cummings. Jamie Smith's transfer is not likely to be approved this week so any major news on who will be axed from the squad appears likely to hang over until next week at least. Kick off Saturday is at 7.30pm.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rapids Crash; Cooke Nowhere to be Seen

Two major defensive errors and a lack of delivery upfront ensured the Colorado Rapids crashed to a 3-1 defeat away to DC United. Colorado managed to take a fortunate lead through an early own goal but the defensive lapses in the opening 20 minutes or so of the second half were all too much. The Rapids played their best soccer after going down 3-1 but it was all too little too late. The game was crying out for some trademark Terry Cooke crosses into the path of Conor Casey or Omar Cummings but the Englishman was nowhere to be seen and it seems increasingly likely that he has played his last game in a Rapids shirt. With no Colin Clark to provide service from the left wing, Colorado's penetration was reduced to taking on DC one on one and it didn't work. It seemed very odd that Cooke wasn't thrown into the mix just to offer up a different dimension to a strategy that wasn't working but it didn't happen. Compound that with the errors of experienced players like Pablo Mastroeni, who can have no complaints about pulling back Christian Gomez in the box, and Julien Baudet, who tried to see a ball out for a goalkick but allowed Gomez (when did he ever play as well for the Rapids?) to nick in and get the ball back for it eventually to get to a waiting Emilio to smash it into the empty net, and it was all over. It desperately needed an offensive tactical change and Cooke appeared to be the obvious choice but it never happened. A very poor second half by the Rapids and a curious tactical one at that. Let's hope for better things next week at home against the league's worst team.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Unsettled Cooke Facing Uncertain Future

It will be interesting to see if Terry Cooke laces up this weekend against DC United. With Colin Clark still absent on US national team duty and the team more likely to shift back to a 4-4-2 formation now that Omar Cummings is back to play upfront with Conor Casey, it would appear as if the veteran winger may get the nod. But Cooke is unsettled. He was frustrated after the Dallas game last weekend and a large part of that appears to be linked with the imminent arrival of midfielder/winger, Jamie Smith. Gary Smith and Steve Guppy like wingers who will take on people. Smith will do that, Jacob Peterson does it, Colin Clark makes his living doing it. Even Kosuke Kimura is increasingly doing it. Cooke is your classic delivery man, not a dribbler per se. He is very good at what he does but it may just be that he does not fit into the overall plans of the coaching staff. His relative age and his salary also count against him.

I can't say much as all the conversations I have had with various people about Cooke's future at the club, including with the man himself, are off the record. What I can say is that I don't think the incident involving his child in England earlier this year will have much to do with any decision he makes or is made for him. I thought for a long time that an incident so serious could make you reconsider where you need to be and, with his career coming into the twilight years, a move back to England may be in the offing. I don't think that is the case, however. Cooke just wants to play more and he doesn't appear to mind where that would be if it has to be away from Colorado.
The facts are these. The Rapids have to part with one senior player to make room for Smith and Facundo Diz. Smith's presence puts further pressure on Cooke. If you look at the roster, there aren't that many obvious choices that could be made. The defense is overloaded but it is hard to see anybody leaving from there. There could be an argument that, with the signing of Julien Baudet, Cory Gibbs could make way but that is hard to imagine. Greg Dalby could be another player but he is hardly in the same mold as Cooke and the team is not overloaded with defensive midfielders. Cooke does appear to be the obvious choice for the sacrifical slab. Gary Smith, who did say to me that there are one or two players that have attracted interest from other clubs, knows it will come down to a very hard decision. Many people will be very upset if Cooke does go, including me, but we all have to remember this is a business like any other. It will be a decision made with a heavy heart, that's for sure. There's little doubt that next week's announcements will be the biggest trades of the season so far.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kimura Steps Up to Plate as Do Others

When your star players are away on international duty, you need the ones left behind to step up to the plate. Omar Cummings did it big time when Conor Casey was away in Chicago and South Africa. Now that Omar and Colin Clark are away for the Gold Cup, Kosuke Kimura chimed in with an energetic performance that won the game on Saturday for the Colorado Rapids. Long before the right-back lashed one into the top of the net in the 79th minute, he had been in top form during the game, contributing to the attack consistently and saving the defense when needed. Kimura, fast becoming a fan favorite, is a coaches', teammates' and supporters' delight. He tries his heart out, he never complains, he loves this game and he is as modest as he is hard working. "My aim is to be aggressive all the time," he said after the game. "I knew a goal was coming; I just didn't know I was going to score." All the media was, rightly, focusing on Kimura after the game. But it would be easy to overlook the significant play of others. The midfield of Mehdi Ballouchy, Nick LaBrocca and Pablo Mastroeni were rightly picked out by coach Gary Smith after the game for their unsung work in the unusual 4-3-3 formation employed Saturday. I swear LaBrocca ran about 10k just in that second half.
Coach Smith acknowledged the vital nature of this win, coming as it did after the team's worst performance of the season against Chicago and before a tricky trip away to DC United on July 18th. "We are a side that are lacking a couple of players that make a big diference for us," Smith said about the absence of Clark and Cummings. "The most important thing was to get three points today." Thankfully, Cummings will be back to play in the DC United game as Jamaica crashed out of the Gold Cup. Clark will remain with the US team and so will miss that game. In the meantime, fans can be thankful that the rest of the squad continue to perform well, the blip against Chicago the exception rather than the rule.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Omar to Dash Back to DSG Park? Smith Unofficial

The Rapids enter a huge game tomorrow night. It has Must Win written all over it. After only one point in the last three games, a home win against a Kenny Cooper-less Dallas is surely that. The team will not want to go away to DC next week with anything less than three points tomorrow night. Personnel for tomorrow? As much as everyone wants Omar Cummings to do well for Jamaica in the Gold Cup, Rapids fans could have at least one selfish eye on his national team crashing out of the competition tonight. Having already lost the first two games, that is a distinct possibility. According to Gary Smith, Omar is expected to start tonight in Jamaica's final round robin game against El Salvador. If they are eliminated, Smith is hoping he can play some role tomorrow night against Dallas. "The reality is he would be a sub," Smith said. "We'll just see how he is when he turns up." Barring that, the only other major change from last weekend will be the absence of a suspended Cory Gibbs. Scott Palguta looks likely to get the nod in central defense.
Three people who will not be playing are new signing, Julien Baudet, and likely newcomers Facundo Diz and Jamie Smith. Baudet, nicknamed Dolph by his teammates for his enormous frame (big thanks to Chris Sharpe for that one), is not eligible until July 15. Diz will likely be at DSG Park tomorrow but in a suit. He's probably two weeks of training away from being considered, Smith said. Jamie Smith, a former Celtic player with Steve Guppy, is "not yet on the roster," according to the Rapids. He looks highly likely to be on it soon, however. "He's quick and he's got a good engine," coach Smith said today.
With these three signings, I make that a top heavy roster by two spots. Ciaran O'Brien in midfield and Mike Holody in defense, both players currently out on loan, would appear to be the most likely ones released to make way for them. Game time tomorrow is 7.30pm.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Striker Chat; Diz Is the Man

Gary Smith has been scratching his head recently over his strikers. Having got used to the sparkling partnership of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings performing in tandem for the opening ten games of the season or so, he has since had to deal with international departures for both of them. Fortunately, neither of them have been away at the same time although it did appear at the end of last weekend's game against Chicago that Casey may have absented himself at the same time as Cummings would be unavailable, i.e. for Saturday's game against Dallas. I swear the ref took his name for the second time at the final whistle but the Rapids tell me they have heard nothing so Casey looks set to go against Dallas. He will be very eager to make up for what he and Smith knows was probably his worst individual performance of the year so far last week. Who knows? With Jamaica looking unlikely to qualify, maybe Cummings would make some contribution to the game too as Jamaica plays its final round robin game tomorrow night. If they are eliminated from the Gold Cup, it would be a tough ask on Cummings but he could play some part in theory.
Another striker piece of the puzzle is the imminent signing of Argentinian forward, Facundo Diz. Smith confirmed last week to me that Diz is the player they have been tracking for some time. He could be available after July 15th.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rapids Outclassed in First Half

The Colorado Rapids fell to their second straight defeat and their first at home this season as offensive class from the visiting Chicago Fire won the game in the opening 45 minutes. The Rapids are now facing a mini-crisis which they need to get out of quickly and my concern is that they may not have any strikers to get them out of it. I have a feeling that Conor Casey was booked right at the end of the game yesterday for dissent and, having already got a yellow, that may mean he is out of next week's now vital game against Dallas. However, I haven't see this reported anywhere else so I may be wrong. What I do know is that the Rapids desperately missed Omar Cummings, especially as Casey was not in the form we are used to.
The game was won in the first half. A seven-minute spell gave Chicago the two goals. The first was beautifully executed and, on reflection, was only what had been brewing for a while. John Thorrington had been dominant in midfield and he and Chris Rolfe had been causing a lot of problems for the Rapids. Another crisp passing move in midfield saw the ball eventually reach Brian McBride who chested the ball expertly to Mr. Blanco. A perfect pass and a great finish by Marco Pappa to fly past Matt Pickens in goal. A second goal followed, just seven minutes later, when nobody picked up Wilman Conde from the corner and the game was largely over.
Colorado did fight back well in the second half and could have had a penalty when Casey went over in the box just minutes from time. But, in truth, they didn't deserve it and Chicago were the better team. Not all was doom and glooom. Terry Cooke, making a rare start, was busy all 90 minutes and created a couple of lovely passing moves in the first half. His crossing in the second half, unfortunately, was not quite at the standard he would like and, with Casey off form, little was actually created in terms of scoring chances in the second half despite the dominance in possession. Next week's home game against Dallas is taking on big proportions.