"One person's roar is another's whine, just as one person's music is another's unendurable noise." - Henry Rollins
What did the Rapids do to become the MLS kicking board? I understand the love fest for the Pacific Northwest. I have been to matches both in Seattle and Portland. They have great fan bases and it would behoove the MLS to cater to them in some way, but there is good, well attended soccer being played elsewhere in the country. Therefore, since I have a platform, my current whine is threefold.
The first is the love fest shown to Portland and their head coach Caleb Porter. National pundits threw the phrase "tactical genius" around when he brought in Urruti and Fernandez in the 61st minute of last Friday's night match. Two scores later (at the 72’ and 77") and suddenly everything is alright in Soccertown? This is the same team that won the West last year and now currently sits in 7th place? This is the team with star power and DP's galore?
As a Rapids fan watching the game, I graciously disagree that Portland’s two subs were more important than the two injuries that caused Pablo to sub in the 24’ and 65’ minute in the loss of both Brown and Hairston. Without Brown (sorry Mwanga) up top, it allowed Portland to creep up without fear of being burned by Brown’s speed. When Hairston went out, the Rapids lost a key center player whose loss was even greater - Note the first Portland score came 7 minutes after Hairston left the game. Rapids were already playing without Sanchez, Mari, O'Neill, and LaBrocca and so with the loss of two more, the team fielded on Friday night was anything but itself. So Portland can bask in their "tactical genius", but I say they barely beat a team playing a shell of itself due to injuries.
My second disagreement is with Porter’s All-Star selections. I get that these things are popularity contests. Who just played in the World Cup? But after the 11 were picked by the fans, I expect a coach to step in and pick players that deserve to be there. I think both Brown and Powers deserved to be on pitch to celebrate the MLS. Really Porter? Let’s be a homer and take two midfielders to the All Star game in Johnson and Valeri? I am not saying every team should be represented but to grow the sport you need to get people to care and as a fan do I really want to see five Sounders when Vancouver, Montreal, New England, Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Jose, and Colorado (over half of the teams) don’t have at least one player comparable to the Sounders that could fill out the 23 selected to represent the MLS? Maybe the game should return to an East/West battle instead of playing some European squad just ramping up for their season. I see nothing wrong showcasing our own talent versus watching a top tier European team embarrass the league. Rapids last All Star was Omar Cummings who suited up for the 2011 match. Up to that point Rapids had a player in every All-Star match since 1996 (Pablo was on 7 of them!).
And my final moan, which I might as well blame Porter for too, is the league's turf fields. Currently four teams play with turf (Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, and New England). With Orlando entering the league next year, it appears they will play on turf as well. Currently turf teams are 17-11-9 (1.62 points per game) at home versus the rest of the league home records on grass (58-47-38 or 1.48 points per game). Seven of those 11 losses for the turf field belongs to Portland (again the tactical genius). All things equal that difference over a 17 home game schedule is about 2 points (granted three of the teams play each other so any competitive advantages turf might have against the rest of the league would be loss). Either way watching the Rapids slip and slide on Friday night along with Pablo coming out and saying certain players won’t be traveling due to the turf and there is an obvious disadvantage for 15 league teams who for whatever reasons just allow the farce to continue. I might add that England's weather isn't known to be all that great and I don't see them succumbing to the turf fields!
So after last’s week loss Rapids still stand at 27 points. They have now fallen into a three way tie for 4th with LA (although LA has played two less games) and Vancouver with a current record of 7-6-6. Chivas comes to town this Friday for Pablo’s number retiring ceremony and the Rapids need to badly secure a rebound win and three points to stop the downward spiral. Unfortunately Chivas in their last five games are 4-1-0 and are averaging the second best points per game (2.4), in the last five played, to Seattle’s (4-0-1). With Brown unlikely to play and with Mari still nursing a bad ankle, Pablo on his special night might need to wear his number, one last time, to shore up a team currently reeling from injuries.