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Another Year, Another Plane

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For the second year in a row, a protest plane flies over the Rapids final home game of the season.

The 2015 Protest Banner
The 2015 Protest Banner
Danlel Boniface

The Rapids played their last home game of 2015 on Saturday against Montreal Impact.  Sadly, unless you went to the game just to see Didier Drogba play, it ended in disappointment as the ex-Chelsea star proved the difference between the two sides with a stunning free kick in the 15th minute.

Just like last year, a plane appeared over Dick’s Sporting Goods Park late in the 1st half, & this time the banner behind it read THE CLUB IS STILL A WRECK  KSE & HINCHEY OUT.  This was a clear reference to what happened in 2014 when the plane’s message was YOU HAVE WRECKED OUT CLUB  KSE & HINCHEY OUT.

2014 Protest Plane

The 2014 Protest Banner

I wrote about the 2014 plane, discussing the reasoning fans have for taking such actions.  If you haven’t already, I suggest you read it to bring yourself up to speed.  If I was lazy, I could get away with simply updating the photo, changing the date to 2015, substituting ‘1-0 loss to Montreal’ in for ‘1-0 loss to Dallas’ & calling this week’s contribution to Burgundy Wave good.

It should be noted that to date, the two planes have been the only visible protests that have come from the Rapids fanbase, despite another year of online forums & social media being filled with negative comments about the team’s results & the way the club is run.  The planes were organized anonymously, presumably by the same person(s) who also came up with a way to finance them both as there is no evidence of fans arranging crowd funding or similar efforts.  A protest movement, KSE Out, has been sent up complete with website & other associated online presence.  However despite communicating a message that’s non-confrontational & emphasizing that the players should still be supported, the Rapids fanbase do not appear to have embraced it in large numbers.

So another year has rolled by but have there really been any changes in the situation?  Well certainly on the field things are just as bad.  Last year’s bottom finisher in Western Conference, San Jose, got a new coach & stadium to boot, which undoubtedly gave that club a lift & they are currently challenging for one of the last play-off slots.  Chivas USA, the other perennial bottom dweller, was put out of it’s misery by the league at the end of 2014 meaning that if the Rapids didn’t improve, they would end up finishing last in 2015.  This was exactly how it turned out on Saturday as, with two games to the go, the team currently lies seven points adrift from Real Salt Lake meaning that the wooden spoon is ours.  Winning the Rocky Mountain Cup on goal difference is being seen as scant consolation for yet another season to forget.

This time last year, coach Pablo Mastroeni was facing calls to be sacked from the section of the fanbase who doesn’t believe coaches should spend a year learning the job & making big mistakes when they inherit a team that was moderately successful in making the 2013 play-offs.  A year later & Pablo has now had two years with no improvement in results.  While the leaky defense has been shored up to a point, the team has been impotent in front of goal, which many fans attribute to playing s lone striker up front.  With two years of watching the team lose week in week out, the percentage of fans who think Pablo should stay appears to be much reduced & certainly is now the minority.

One of the biggest things we learnt this year as fans was that the current Rapids Front Office leadership doesn’t actually think there are major things going wrong with the club.  This was made abundantly clear after the ‘Fan Forum’ held by conference call in August of this year as we were told that missing the play-offs were ‘only a small piece of what we are evaluating’ from Paul Bravo & that off the field, season ticket sales were going great despite the large swathes of grey remaining constant in the stadium.  The realization that major changes did not appear to be even being considered by the FO, astounded fans as they wondered whether it was the product of people desperately clinging to their jobs or straight up delusion.  Before August there was a belief that the FO was like a ‘rabbit in headlights’ who knew the situation was bad but hadn’t a clue how to fix it.  After the fan forum, fans realized they were dealing with an FO mentality that was completely different to what they thought it was.

Finally, while Stan Kroenke continues to be elusive, his son Josh will talk a bit more in public if only to confirm our worst fears that the heads of KSE know absolutely nothing about soccer.  Throughout a recent interview with the Denver Post, Josh, 34, umms his way through a question on how he would grow the Rapids while mentioning the phase ‘cross pollination’ several times in relation to Arsenal, who the Kroenkes hold a majority share in.  I’m not even going to get upset about the fact that the plan appears solely comprise of attempting try to take advantage of the growth of Premier League support in this country & hoping it somehow rubs off on the Rapids.  Little Kroenke had nothing of substance on improving the Rapids team, coaching, marketing & stadium atmosphere to try and attract a generation of Rapids fans who want to support a club that represents their home city & state. Quite simply, it is apparent that the Kroenkes will never be the soccer focused people that Rapids fans want them to be.

There is a chink of hope on a number of counts.  Firstly that the Rapids fanbase, driven down by continued failures, gets bolder & starts to organize protests on a regular basis to draw attention to all of this.  The hope is that our team’s plight will really get noticed by the media, the league & if you want to really dream, that rich soccer fan who has the cash to mount a serious bid for the club.  Changes in coaching staff & management have already been made at the two bottom dweller sides in the Eastern Conference & in the case of Philadelphia Union, the replacement of president Nick Sakiewicz was attributed in part to fan pressure rather than adverse media coverage.  Also lurking in the background is a league office that set a precedent with Chivas USA in that they will intervene with their failing franchises for the good of MLS as a whole.  One thing we can be sure of is that if nothing gets better, time is on the side for those that believe major changes are required.  Another year going by means that the ‘give KSE / the FO time’ argument looks weaker & weaker.