Saturday, August 09, 2008

Rapids - Toronto Preview

The match kicks off at Dicks Sporting Goods Park in a few hours. Rapids have only won once in their last five and twice in their last 10. They've been scoring goals, with only Columbus and Houston keeping them out of the net (incidentally both of those games were at home).

Toronto hasn't tasted victory in nearly 2 months. Toronto hasn't won in their last 5. They have 2 in their last 10 with both of those being at home. 2-0 at home against LA in May and 3-1 at BMO field against Colorado mid-June.

Nick at We Want Rapidman is reporting that we should see the same lineup that started against Everton. That means unlike recent games we'll see Pablo in the midfield, LaBrocca on the bench and the back 3 will be Ugo, Erpen and Burciaga. It's too bad. I'd rather see LaBrocca instead of Medhi at this point. Medhi's been struggling with his decision making and taking too much time on the ball.

More On The Upcoming Match :
We Want Rapids Man
View From The Couch
American Soccer News

Friday, August 08, 2008

Southampton's Season Set To Begin Saturday

Southampton travel to Cardiff Saturday to kick off their 3rd consecutive season in England's 2nd division. Yes, yes, I know it's called the Championship. But that's just a new label the marketers slapped on the old 2nd division.

Saint's new Dutch manager Jan Poortvliet says the team will be ready. Veteran Polish striker Marek Saganowski has joined Danish club Aalborg on loan until December. Saints are looking to get his £5,000 / week wages off their books. More so though, Saganowski only managed 3 goals in 30 appearances last year. A club in the tight financial situation Southampton is in right can't afford to have veteran players who don't produce.

Saturdays game is totally different. We knew the games over pre-season would be difficult but we start on Saturday and boys will be full of confidence.
As you can see above, Poortvliet isn't concerned about Southampton's results in the pre-season. The question though will be if the young players can step up and perform during the long 46 games season in division two. They'll also need another 15+ goals from Stern John (scored 19 in 07-08). Can they get the job done on the road at Cardiff tomorrow?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Rapids Still Give It Up Too Easily

I don't want to make too much of a glorified friendly like the game the Rapids had against Everton last Sunday evening. Glorified scrimmage? Yes, that is what the "international exhibition" is in terms of the game. Everton was working to get match fit and look at some players. For example, Everton manager David Moyes was using highly touted 17-year old Jack Rodwell as a midfielder. The talented Rodwell, who's the youngest player to have appeared for Everton's first team, has been a defender up until now.

Fernando Clavijo on the other hand put out his first team. The only differences were starting Preston Burpo in goal and using Jose Burciaga as one of the 3 defenders in the back instead of 4 in back. Despite fielding a strong squad, right off the bat the Rapids showed the defensive issues they've had all year (in fact, I've argued in the past defensive issues they've had during Clavijo's tenure with last year being a fluke; here and here). Mikel Arteta got the ball in the middle of the park and ran at the Rapids. Nothing special yet everyone kept backing off of him. Arteta showed his skills using the space he had to let loose with a 22 yard shot for a nice goal. For all the talk about the embarrassing goal by the Crew's Ekpo a few weeks ago for the game winner in Columbus, the Rapids don't seem to have learned.

What makes it more frustrating is that Clavijo is clearly aware of the team's defensive issues. As he said :

It's still a concern that it's too easy to break us down.
-Fernando Clavijo on the Everton games last Sunday
Jump ahead to the 65th minute. Everton was clearly gased. They're not match fit, they'd been training in 100F heat, and they were playing at elevation (over a mile high). Yet the Rapids did little to take advantage. They were again failing to get the ball to Christian Gomez and utilize his skills. Apart from a couple of wonderful saves by Everton's Tim Howard, the Rapids were failing to put their frequent shots on frame. Only Colin Clarke looked like he was interested in taking advantage of Everton's heavy legs.

To close the game out, the Rapids defensive organization issues again reared it's ugly head. They young Everton sub Baxter get a little run with the ball in the box where he slotted the ball across to a relatively open Leon Osman to slot it home. With only a couple minutes left in the game and faced with an exhausted Everton, the Rapids defense yet again came unhinged and let the opposing team score their 2nd goal for the win.

It's hard to see the Rapids making the playoffs if they can't count on their defense keeping the goals out, especially when they're on the road. FC Rocky had a guest writer take a look at the playoffs the other day. You can read the post here.

Liverpool's Daily Post on the exhibition game here.
View From The Couch on the Everton game here.
Kyle at The Offside on the game here.
Nick at We Want Rapidman takes a look at the game and also notes Colins 2nd half performance.
And Class VI's Josh Vaismann takes a look at the game with player ratings here.