Whats Wrong with the Rapids? (LONG)

Benjamin Kowalsky
Aug 22nd 2010

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The question on almost every Bulldogs mind: Whats wrong with the Rapids?

We dont have the free wheeling spending of a NYRB or an LA Galaxy. We dont have the winning tradition of the Crew or the Dynamo. But that doesnt mean that we cant win championships. Other teams have done it. So the question burns: Why not the Rapids?

From a fans perspective (and as a season ticket holder and blogger for the BSG, someone who has met each player and member of the coaching staff, and some from the Front Office) this question burns like lemon juice rubbed in an open sore. Until we have some kind of silverware to show for what work and love people have put into our Rapids, its going to hurt like hell.

So whats the deal? Why not the Rapids? Why cant this year be our year? Believe me. I think everyone in the organization is asking this question. Allow me to provide a fans perspective on the answer.

The Front Office

Some of the problem lies in the Front Office. Not that I think they dont try. Ive met both Jeff Plush and Paul Bravo. They are straight shooters, and both know their football. Jeff knows the game as well as any recent fan, and Paul knows the game...well I mean, hes fucking Paul Bravo. Come on people. If youre a Rapids fan and dont know who Paul Bravo is, have we met?

But our Front Office isnt one that makes big moves. The best we have done is the occasional sneaky and clever snatch-and-grab. The best two good moves we made in the off-season were for Jeff and Marvell. Both of these guys were gems who were under-appreciated by their clubs and we swept in and picked them up. Wells wasnt a terrible addition to the squad either. Neither was Claudio Lopez. Like I said, players who were under-appreciated and maybe even given up on found their services in demand in Colorado.

So what does that tell you? Yes, in retrospect the trades seem to have worked out. But we tend to go for under-rated players. Sneaky-like, and turn them into better players. Honestly, I havent seen Wynne play this well since hes been in MLS.

Should the Front Office go out and start looking for DPs? No. Thats ridiculous. But they do need to take a much more active role in grabbing good players. If their salary demands make them subject to the DP rule? So be it. Weve seen barely any moves for top talent. We just take the "low hanging fruit" of other teams, and we show people that these players are good players.

The Front Office seems more re-active than pro-active, in essence. And I hate those words. But they have to be used.

It also seems as if the Front Office is getting no support for any moves they WOULD want to make. Which brings me to my next point.

The Owner

Any mention of Stan Kroenke usually will send a Bulldog into a spiral of depression which usually results in the consumption of far too much beer. Then vomiting. Then more depression. Then more beer.

Can anyone guess how I spent my Saturday night?

Silent Stan. His nickname should tell you everything. The man who built a Colorado sports empire then sat back and watched the money roll in. The guy who owns the largest share in one of the top clubs in England. Cant remember their name though.

While the "silent owner" thing may work perfectly well in Basketball, or Lacrosse, or Hockey, or...residential complexes... It doesnt work in Soccer. Period. The owner has an immense power and influence over his club. Revolts have been started over ownership (Hello Red Knights, how are you?). Look at Chelsea, for example. For years, they languished in the middle of the EPL until they got an owner with deep pockets who actually cared about getting this club a title. Now theyve got several. Say what you will about Roman Abramovich and his "toy club", but never deny that you wouldnt give your left eye for an owner like him. Hes committed. Active. Pro-Active.

Silent Stan? Re-Active. Something you should never be in club Soccer.

Stan needs to take an active interest in the club. And I, as a supporter of the Rapids, want to see him at every home game in his swanky owners box. I want to see him watching the action and nodding in quiet approval when we win. Shaking his head when we lose. The stuff that most other clubs take for granted.

So Stan? Im calling you out. I want to see you at the match. Ill even buy you a ticket. Consider this an open invitation.

Maybe then youll start pushing the Front Office to make moves as opposed to just saying "well, if it makes sense...then go ahead and do whatever." No. This is your investment. Your money went into this. And if you dont keep investing and pushing people to make some serious moves: our club is going to stagnate. And youre going to have to get used to losing.

The Coaching Staff

Lets be clear: Gary Smith is the best manager the Rapids have ever had. Hands down. To this day, there hasnt been one better than Gary. He knows his football. He knows how to get the best performances out of people, and he knows how to do the best with the guys hes got. And he believes in them. Hes stubborn in that belief.

He rewards hard work with playing time. The most talented players may not make the starting 11, but the hardest working almost invariably will.

As far as we can see, this season, the players trust him. And I, as a fan, have no doubt that he cares about this Club and pushing it forward.

That being said: hes not beyond question.

The question that every Rapids fan has been asking (and should be asking) is why does Claudio Lopez start on the bench? Every time he has come in, hes been great. So...whats the deal?

I understand that Piojo is no longer the strapping young lad he used to be, but his vision is still there. His control of the game is immediately visible. So why not start him, and then sub him out later for a guy like Thompson who can just destroy tired defenses with his quickness? The LAST thing any defender wants at 60 is to see some fresh faced guy coming at them at 80MPH with a huge fucking grin on his face like he just bought a puppy.

This is a tactical decision, Gary, not a question of work-ethic. I think everyone knows that Thompson is a hard worker. But he hasnt done well with a fresh defense. Lopez, Pablo, and Jeff should be able to dictate the pace of the game and control the ball. Ballouchy or Smith should be able to pick up what Lopez is laying down. We should have a pile of goals by then.

Albeit, mostly goals from the midfield, which brings me to my last point.

The Lads

What a collection of guys we have. Honest-to-goodness, hard-working, no-nonsense, salt-of-the-earth, nose-to-the-grindstone, other-words-with-hyphens, guys. If you ever get the chance to meet them in person, theyre great people. Yes, even The Beast.

So with such a great group of guys, whats the problem? Why not the Rapids?

Its not for lack of passion or work ethic that the wins dont come. Pablo Mastroeni is one of the most intense people you will ever see on a pitch. Julien Baudet is a consummate professional who WILL stop you at all costs. Omar Cummings and Kosuke Kimura are always the first to show up to practice and the last to leave.

Its for lack of finish.

This reminds me of the story of the little boy who tried to plug up one who in the cracking dam only to have another sprout up somewhere else. Last year, our defense let in too many goals. This year, our offense doesnt score enough of them.

Is Conor just too comfortable with his guaranteed starting position and 5 year contract? Is Omar thinking about a move elsewhere? Is Akpan ever going to be ready for prime time? So many questions. Not enough answers.

The midfield is creating chances. And in many ways, we are playing better soccer than ever before. Fewer long balls over the top and just praying Omar can get to it, because of a confident midfield. One player in particular who has shown improvement is Medhi Ballouchy. His link-up play has produced goal-after-goal (one with Omar and another one with Pablo). He and the rest of the midfield has been boosted incredibly by the addition of Jeff Larentowicz.

Who knew that up top would be our problem? And that our star player, our highest paid player, just wouldnt produce like he used to?

Who knew that the most dangerous two-some last year would become like the odd-couple this year?

Ill tell you who: OTHER CLUBS.

All the other Clubs in MLS have made improvements to their squad to deal with people like Conor and Omar. They go over DVDs. They studied the tricks between the two and they figured out how they worked so well together. And then they found a way to cut it out. Simple as that.

So what can we do about that?

We have to hope that our boys still have tricks up their sleeve. Some way to switch up their style of play to keep the opponents guessing. Right now, were passionate but predictable.

Guys? If you were holding back some kind of super-secret play which results in 1,000 goals? This would be the time to unleash it.

Fellow Bulldogs

Were in the final push now. The next handful of games could be the deciding factor in whether or not we get into the Playoffs. As fans, we need to stand behind our club no matter what.

And if we dont make it. We need to ask questions. We dont need to get despondent. We dont need to be negative. We just need to ask questions. The most pressing of which should be the one I asked at the beginning of this little tie-raid:

Why not the Rapids?