This is such an interesting time to be a sports fan in Colorado. The number one team in the State, the Denver Broncos, are beseeched by fans who are complaining that they are not playing well enough.
As I write this, the Broncos are 6-0.
And there have been players on the Broncos who have called fans "fake fans" who voice their concerns about Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
To that I say: bullshit. If you pay your money to see a team, or care for a team, or love a team, you have the right to speak your mind and call players out as you see fit. As long as you are not crossing the line of human decency in your criticism, you are right and proper to speak your mind.
You may be asking yourself why I am bringing up the Broncos right now. After all this is a soccer blog...and you would be correct, but many people who read this blog do love the Broncos and our very own Colorado Rapids.
And boy do our Colorado Rapids have some detractors out there. From justifiably pissed off fans to media around to country wondering what the hell is going on, if ever there was a fan base that had earned the right to bitch, it would be this one.
Yep. We have earned the right to bitch. Because right now the Colorado Rapids are an absolute joke and if Major League Soccer had relegation, they would have been relegated to the North American Soccer League. Read that again:
The Colorado Rapids would have been relegated this season
Obviously, since MLS does not have promotion/relegation, the Rapids were firmly ensconced in dead last in the Western Conference and were a shocking 14 points from a playoff berth.
And to make matters worse, their record is a mere 17 wins, 33 losses, 18 ties in the last two seasons. Yep, they have won 26% of their games since the playoff year in 2013.
So it is clear, and there all sorts of statistics that I could give you, back this statement up:
The Colorado Rapids are a complete mess of a franchise.
I challenge ANYONE out there to prove me wrong.
And this brings me back to the point about voicing your opinion about the club you love. Supporters of the Rapids have one such group in KSE Out and I am sure you have heard of them at some point or perhaps you read my interview with them. I have largely refrained from saying anything in regard to the KSE Out movement as I wanted to see how this year played out and for the most part I accept results, both good and bad, as part of sport. Losing is part of it and I can't accept an MLS Cup Championship (in 2010) without acknowledging there will be some rough times.
And that is all true.
However, what is going on now at the club is unacceptable and I feel I need to comment on KSE Out and their take on things.
In full disclosure, I do like Rapids President Tim Hinchey and consider him a good person. Mr Hinchey has always been kind and welcoming to me and my family and if you know my history with Rapids Gaffer Pablo Mastroeni, you know I truly like Mr Mastroeni. These are my opinions on the people running the club, not about them as people.
And while I may not completely agree with what KSE is saying, they are spot on in a number of areas:
1) For the Rapids to succeed, they must get a new head coach that has actual experience as a first team coach. I know that the Rapids were burned when Oscar Pareja bolted to FC Dallas after two years and they were looking for someone who would be loyal to the Rapids. But it is not as if Mr Pareja left to go coach D.C. United or Real Salt Lake. He left to go home and home for him is Dallas. How anyone could begrudge that I will never know.
In comes Mr Mastroeni and his term in charge has been nothing short of a disaster. Just 16 wins for him (remember he was suspended for one of the wins this season) over two years is so bad it is almost comical. I would have settled for missing the playoffs if the Rapids had shown real progress this year, and although their point total is better then in 2014, it is was a still woefully unacceptable season. Mr Mastroeni has show very little progress in his coaching abilities and still consistently starts 7-9 defensive players a game which never leads itself to goals, let alone wins.
This is tough. Mr Mastroeni is a Rapids legend and perhaps the greatest Rapids player of all time. How do you sack someone like this and make everyone involved happy. But that is the thing about being a manager of a company...sometimes you have to fire good people for the betterment of the organization.
2) For the Rapids to succeed, they must have better personnel and this falls squarely on the shoulders of Paul Bravo, Vice President of Soccer Operations and Technical Director. That is a very long title for a job that involves bringing people in to play for the club. In 2014, the Rapids decided they needed new players to make the team better so the following players departed the club after the 2014 season (and before the 2015 season):
Thomas Piermayr, Jose Mari, Edson Buddle, Brian Mullan, Kamani Hill, Chris Klute, John Neeskens, Grant Van De Casteele, Marvell Wynne, Joe Nasco, Davy Armstrong, Gale Agbossoumonde, Danny Mwanga and Tony Cascio.
And they brought in (for the start of the 2015 season):
Michael Harrington, Sam Cronin, Kevin Doyle, Marcelo Sarvas, Ben Newnam, Dominique Badji, Juan Ramirez, James Riley, Zac MacMath, Luis Solignac, Lucas Pittinari, Bobby Burling, Caleb Calvert, Axel Sjoberg, Maynor Figueroa, Sean St. Ledger
And during the course of the season they either sold/transferred/traded/released the following players:
Shane O'Neill, Deshorn Brown, Ben Newnam
So to recap: after the 8-18-8 season in 2014 the Rapids got rid of 14 players and brought in 16 new players and dumped three more in the 2015 season.
So 17 players OUT and 16 players IN.
OK. Fine. Why was this done? After the 2014 season players were brought in to fit the system of Mr Mastroeni but that thought process is flawed as the Rapids are still a terrible team. Or perhaps, the wrong players were brought in and that falls on Mr Bravo. And for the personnel disasters, Mr Bravo should be in serious jeopardy of losing his job as he has clearly shown in the past two years that he cannot bring in players that are capable of playing winning soccer.
3) Mr Hinchey Needs To Admit Accountability for this mess and commit himself to fixing it. As has been mentioned in previous articles Mr Hinchey is not a fan of taking accountability for this mess. He has come across as defensive when anyone questions his actions and will block people who are not kind to his team. If you get personal against him or his family, you should get blocked and get bent. But if you have negative comments about the club, it does not go well and you are asked to change your tone, or you are removed from lines of communication from the Rapids.
At the end of the day, the buck stops with Mr Hinchey and he has to accept blame for this terrible brand of soccer that has befallen the Rapids. And it is ultimately up to him to fix it. And fixing it should start with dismissing Mr Mastroeni and probably Mr Bravo.
So I agree with most of what KSE Out is saying. But I do not agree with them when it comes to a new owner for the Rapids. The Rapids have spent big this year on new players and this only happens from a commitment from Kroenke Sports Entertainment. You may not agree with the moves that have been made, but I do not think that selling the club is the right course of action. But where KSE can take some blame is that they have not stepped in and said this team is a mess and we need to make changes.
I don't want anyone to mistake my concerns about Mr Mastroeni, Mr Bravo, Mr Hinchey or KSE as a sign I do not love my club or that I am suddenly going to hate the Rapids. That could not be further from the truth. My commentary is based on a love for this team and for the love of soccer. This is a beautiful game and it can be a beautiful team played within the financial realities of this market. I am concerned that no one in the front office realizes just how bad things have gotten with the Rapids. To go into 2016 without any sort of change in the leadership of this team would be arrogant and short-sided by KSE and the Front Office. This team is irrelevant in Major League Soccer and is not a playoff team and is very, very far off from being one.
Can things change for 2016? Yes, it can. In MLS, parity rules the day and the Rapids can absolutely make a run at the playoffs next year (with changes in the FO and player personnel). But that idea seems quite far off and honestly far fetched that anything will change unless a significant and meaningful adjustment in the technical staff is made at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.