Sunday, March 11, 2012

Colorado vs. Columbus Match Summary

March 10th, 2012

The Rapids began their 2012 season and a new era with coach Oscar Paraja on Saturday in Commerce City against the Columbus Crew. Before kickoff Rapids fans, all 14,743 of them, unveiled a giant new Colorado flag and tifo saying "In Papi we trust", referring to Paraja. There was also a Colombian flare coming out of the North End Terraces with many Colombian flags in honor of Peraja's home country.

The Rapids started the match using their shiny new 4-3-3 system that Paraja hopes will bring a different and more exciting style of play to Colorado, though at times it looked like the Rapids were playing in a 4-5-1. The three forwards up top were Brian Mullan, Omar Cummings and Super Draft pick Tony Casico. The match began slowly with many players on both sides falling and tripping around the pitch, with many fouls called on both sides. Columbus was forced to make an early substitution due to injury.

The Rapids did find their rhythm near the end of the half when they began to dominate possession. A corner kick in the 44th minute by Colorado was easily cleared by Columbus, but Kosuke Kimura of the Rapids was able to put a beautiful cross back into the box. Drew Moor headed the cross straight into the back of the net to give the 'Pids a 1-0 lead going into the half.

The second half started strong, with the Rapids creating many chances on goal. Colorado's three forwards were really pushing up the field, but not able to put anything in the goal. Columbus had a few good shots on goal that forced Rapid's keeper Matt Pickens to make some great saves. At one point Pickens leapt and barely got his finger tips on the ball to send it over the woodwork.

Towards the end of the match, the Rapids aggressive style of play began to dwindle and the Pids started showing more of a 4-4-2 formation after subbing out Tony Casico for Quincy Amerikwa.

In the 89th minute, Kosuke Kimura found Quincy Amerikwa just in front of the penalty area. Amerikwa maneuvered around a few defenders and fired a laser shot into the back left corner of the net to give the Rapids a 2-0 victory and the three match points in their season opener.

Man of the Match:
Kosuke Kimura created both goals with on target passes and crosses. Kimura also drove the ball up field numerous times trying to create an opportunity to cross the ball into the box from the right side. Kimura was key for the Rapids defense as well, winning the ball back from Columbus many times.

Notes of the Match:
The anticipation of seeing the Rapid's new Argentinian #10, Martin Rivero, continues to grow as he was still unable to play due to logistics in the match against Columbus. Many fans are curious to see how the Rapids offense will change once Rivero and injured striker Conor Casey can both start seeing significant minutes.

Up Next:
Next week Colorado travels to Philadelphia to take on the Union. Philadelphia opens their season on Monday night In Portland. 

What did you think of the first match? How did the new-look Rapids play? Sound off in the comments below!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Timbers Thoughts from Colorado:

Timbers Thoughts of the Week:

The Portland Timbers reported back to town this week to begin preparation for their 2nd MLS season, with the message to the players being that they will make the playoffs this year. Portland narrowly missed out of the MLS playoffs during their expansion year.

Former Timbers Forward Kenny Cooper celebrating a goal. Cooper was traded
to the NYRB's for a draft pick.
The Timbers have made a lot of changes to their roster for this season, including signing more Colombian International players, trading star forward Kenny Cooper to the New York Red Bulls, and drafting Andrew Jean-Babtiste in the first round of the MLS Super Draft.

There are many familiar faces in training camp too, including Futty Danso who has been with the Timbers since their pre-MLS days.

“All the players I’ve talked with want to be stronger than last year and want to improve on where we were last year,” Danso said. “Everyone I’ve talked to during the offseason, the first thing they say is that, ‘I’ve been working out, and I need to make a difference this year.’ So I think everyone has the mentality of I want to make a difference this year. We all definitely want to have a good season.”

The Timbers 2012 schedule has also been released, and is front-loaded with lots of travel to the Eastern Conference. That means the Timbers will play the bulk of their western conference games in the second half of the season, which could be good or bad news for the club because western conference teams are more talented.

The Timbers will play Seattle twice at home and once on the road. They open their season on March 12th in Portland against Philadelphia. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2.

The Timbers recently finished their first Dribble-Oregon event, where players were sent out all over the state to conduct soccer training camps for kids, meet the locals, and host pub parties to get to know the fans. The event demonstrated the teams commitment to the community and their power to bring people out and get them active.

“We think the Timbers have become and will become even more so Oregon’s team,” said Golub. “Many of our games are broadcast throughout the state, we’re looking to increase that distribution of our games on radio and TV. Papers around the state are covering us more and more. We’re introducing our Academy and Olympic Development Program so we’re involved in player development on a state level.”

My (other) Football Thoughts of the Week:

U.S. Women's National Team:

The US Women's National Team, who came one score away in a shoot out from winning the World Cup this last summer, is back to domination as they begin the group round of Olympic Qualifying matches in Vancouver B.C.

The Women's Team has played two games against the Dominican Republic and Guatemala in the qualifying tournament and won by a combined score of 27-0.

Hope Solo continued her mastery of the goal-keeping position by posting two shutouts and the USWNT's offense had a lot of practice finding the back of the net. Abby Wombach, the team's captain, was substituted early in both games after taking a large halftime lead. Sydney Leroux took her place and quickly scored four goals in the second half.

The US Women will face their toughest challenge in the qualifying matches against Mexico on Tuesday January 24th. Mexico has also beaten the Dominican Republic and Guatemala...but only by a combined score of 12-0. The US lost to Mexico in their previous qualifying tournament.

"We understand that 14-, 13-goal games can be looked down upon by some of our viewers, our fans, by fans of other countries," said Abby Wambach, who scored twice in the first half. "But the truth is we didn't get our job done the last qualifying tournament, and this is a statement that we're making to the rest of the world, we're making to our region, and we can't take any game for granted. We have to play hard, play physical and respect the game. That's why the results are the results you've seen."

U.S. Men's National Team:

The Men's National team played a friendly in Phoenix against Venezuela. It was a hard fought match going into extratime at the end of the game, and the score was tied at 0-0. The US Men had played a great game, with many chances to score but couldn't ever finish their opportunities. In the 97th minute though, Ricardo Clark scored on a header in front of the goal off a corner kick from Jeremiah Jones.

With both sides playing their "B" teams because starters were playing with their regular clubs, the US was able to come away with an exciting victory.

"Ricardo came in and you could see that he was struggling because he hasn't played for many months," Klinsmann, the US coach said. "He was trying hard to catch up with the group and still not there because of that long stretch. But once on the field he is a player that is technically very gifted."

Championship Sunday

NFL Thoughts of the Day:

1. The TV networks got what they had hoped for in the Superbowl XLVI: A rematch of New England and New York. They couldn't have hoped for two bigger markets to make tons of money from.

But for anyone who is from neither Boston or New York, this repeat of Superbowl XLII is the last thing you wanted. No matter what sport it is, if teams from Boston and New York are playing each other in a big game all you will hear about from any sports media outlet is how great either Boston or New York is. How they are the best sports towns in the country. The Boston-New York Rivalry may be the most boring thing in sports to other fans.

But everyone, including myself, will still watch the game. I hate having to choose to root for either a team from Boston or from NYC. Though, I will have to choose the lesser of two evils and root for New York to win the Superbowl again. Eli Manning is a stand up guy and a clutch Quarterback (possibly even better than his brother), and there would be nothing worse than seeing New England win another Superbowl.

2. I bet the Harbaugh household is having a pretty crappy night right now. No other brothers have lost Championship games on the same day as head coaches.

Jim Harbaugh did have a fantastic season as a first year coach in the NFL. He took an awful 6-10 49ers team and brought them to within one score of going to the Superbowl. The Niners are going to be great for years to come, and Jim Harbaugh showed a lot of class after the game. Harbaugh shook Manning's hand and said to him "Congratulations. Go win it. Go win it."

3. Who do you think feels worse today? Baltimore's kicker Billy Cundiff who missed a game tying kick as time ran out? Or The Niner's back-up punter returner Kyle Williams who fumbled away the ball in OT to put the Giants in field goal range?

4. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick must be thrilled to see Manning and the Giants again and get their revenge from Superbowl XLII. It's like "The Empire Strikes Back", as Belichick and the Patriots try to avenge the loss of the Death Star which was destroyed by Manning and his Rebels.

5. I wonder how Peyton Manning feels right now. His biggest rival, The Patriots, are playing his little brother in the Superbowl. And it's all going down in "The House that Peyton Built" in Indianapolis. Must sting a little to see that on your home field.

The South Stander Edition #10

Nuggets Thoughts of the Week:

Tebow Time in Denver may be over til next season, but his heroic last minute and overtime comebacks seem to have inspired Denver's other teams to never give up and to keep believing.

The Denver Nuggets finished a four game road trip to the East Coast this week, and came away from it with four wins. Two wins in overtime, including a double-overtime victory over Carmelo Anthony and his New York Knicks at Madison Square Gardens.

Saturday's game in New York marked the first time that the Nuggets played their former all-star, Carmelo Anthony, after he demanded a trade to the Knicks in 2011.

To start the game, Denver came out working together as a team, passing the ball, as usual. Andre Miller had a great alley-oop pass to Mozgov to put Denver up early in the first. By half time though, the Nuggets were down by 8.

Carmelo Anthony nearly led the Knicks back to victory as he tied the game at 98 in the final seconds of regulation. It was then all Anthony in the first overtime period, as he kept the ball and drove at the basket. Anthony though seemed as if he was going to win the game single handed for the Knicks, but the Nuggets began triple-teaming Melo. The Nuggets tied the game again in the final seconds of the first OT and Anthony tried to get the game winner, but ended up throwing the ball out of bounds, in what looked like an awkward pass.

In the second overtime period, the Knicks showed their lack of depth off the bench as the game wares on. The Knicks looked tired and exhausted as the Nuggets finally went up by 5 and on to win the game 119-114. Gallinari, Anthony's replacement from the Knicks trade last season scored a career high 37 points on 19 attempts. Anthony scored 25 points on the night, but it took him 30 attempts. Anthony was 10 of 30 in shooting attempts in the game.

Knicks fans left the game frustrated at Anthony's performance, calling him a ball hog. This is something that Denver fans are very familiar with and it was obvious on Saturday night that the Nuggets came away from the Anthony trade with the better deal.

Click here to watch the full game highlights of the Nuggets double OT win.

The Nuggets ended the week with a 12-5 record, 1.5 games behind the Thunder for the division lead. The Nuggets are also currently ranked second in the western conference, again behind the Thunder.

Avalanche Thoughts of the Week:

The only thing bigger than a quarterback controversy in Denver might be a goaltender controversy. And the Avalanche are in the middle of one. Giguere, the 13 year veteran and Varlamov the young 3 year veteran, have both shown great flashes this year. Unexpectedly though, Giguere has a better save percentage and winning record than Varlamov this season.

Like so many other Denver teams, the Avalanche have had their share of overtime games this month. In January the Avs are 2-1 in OT games, and 11-2 in OT this season. Most recently, the Avs beat Florida 4-3 in overtime with Peter Mueller scoring two goals with one assist in the game.

Last night, the Avalanche traveled to L.A. to take on the Kings. Mueller again scored the go-ahead goal, and Giguere showed his old playoff form once again to give Colorado a 3-1 win and move them into the eighth place in the conference. The Avalanche are one of many teams vying for the final few playoff spots as we approach about two months left in the season. The Kings are in seventh place.

Landeskog (left) and Galidari (right) talk to a group of teens at the Denver Bouldering Club.
19-year old Avalanche rookie, Gabriel Landeskog, scored an insurance goal for the Avs in the third period. Landeskog passed across the rink to Stansy who then gave it right back to Landeskog as he took a shot from the slot and scored.

With ten goals and 13 assists in his rookie season, Landeskog has quickly become one of my favorite players. Besides his play on the ice, Landeskog and teammate TJ Galidari have started a community service project that works with at-risk teenagers in Denver to get them in shape called the Avs Team Fit Program. Landeskog and Galidari took 15 of these kids to the Denver Bouldering Club to introduce them to rock climbing. Its rare to see professional athletes be involved in climbing/outdoor programs outside of their sport,  because of the risk of injury. I'm thrilled to see these two young Avs players doing programs like this and I am sure they made a big impact on the teenagers they took climbing.

Rockies Thoughts of the Week:

Dealin' Dan (O'Dowd) has been at it again for the Rockies, in one of the team's most active week's during this off-season.

Before ever even putting on a Colorado jersey, pitcher Kevin Slowey was sent to to Cleveland for relief pitcher Zach Putnam. Dan O'Dowd then focused his attention on finding a true starting second baseman. O'Dowd had been eyeing Red Sox shortstop Marco Suctaro, but the deal seemed dead by mid-week. The Rockies then agreed to send Boston relief pitcher Clayton Mortenson in exchange for Suctaro. Suctaro, 36, hit .299 last season with seven homeruns and 58 RBIs. He also has a .992 fielding percentage, which is the second highest for second basemen in MLB.

One concern for the Rockies now is the age of their starting in field. Catcher Ramon Hernandez is 35 and 1B Todd Helton, Marco Suctaro, and Casey Blake are all 38. Troy Tulowitzki is the only starting infielder under 30, at 27 years old. The Rockies are hoping that this experienced and aging infield will allow promising prospects like 3B Jordan Pacheco and C Willin Rosario to develop for a year longer before taking their places at Coors Field. Pacheco helped lead his fall league team to a championship this offseason and won the fall league MVP award. The Rockies also hope that promising young outfielder, Charlie Blackmon, will make a full recovery from a broken foot he suffered last season.

The Rockies also obtained big name free-agent Michael Cuddyer, who has played his entire 10 year career with Minnesota. Cuddyer is expected to provide another big-bat in Colorado's line up to provide more offense. Cuddyer hit .284 with 20 HRs and 70 RBI's last season with Minnesota. The addition of Cuddyer allowed the Rockies to trade out-fielder Seth Smith to Oakland for pitchers Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman. 

The Rockies had recently been shopping Smith because of his lack of production at the plate against left-handed pitchers. Moscoso had a 3.84 ERA in 21 starts last season with Oakland, going 8-10. Outman was 3-5 in 9 starts with a 3.70 ERA.

The biggest question now for the Rockies as Spring Training approaches is who will make up their starting rotation. Jhoulys Chacin is expected to be the number one starter with all the other spots up for grabs from the many pitchers the Rockies have recently acquired. Juan Nicasio is also expected to compete for a spot in the rotation after recovering from a broken neck from last season. Nicasio says his recovery is progressing well and expects to be pitching in Spring Training.

Here's the Rockies projected starting day line up:

Projected Starting Day Lineup

Dexter Fowler
Marco Suctaro
Carlos Gonzalez
Troy Tulowitzki
Todd Helton
Michael Cuddyer
Ramon Hernandez
Casey Blake
Jhoulys Chacin

Rapids Thoughts of the Week:

The Colorado Rapids reported to training camp this week, and there were many new faces there, including the coaching staff.

Wells Thompson, one of the Rapids mid-fielder, won the beep-test (a multi-stage fitness test) and the Rapid's first round draft pick this year, Tony Cascio, finished second. The beep-test is meant to demonstrate a player's overall fitness and athleticism.

Tony Cascio, the Rapid's first round pick.
Cascio was a mid-fielder/forward at UCONN where he scored 24 goals and was named a 2010 NCSAA First Team All American, as well as the 2010 Big East Offensive Player of the Year.

"I'm very happy to get Tony with our pick," said Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja. "We thoughts he was going to go higher than this, so we were very excited when he fell into our hands. He's a disciplined, intense, and versatille player who caught my eye the first time I saw him play. I'm looking forward to bringing him to the group."

The Rapids have also invited to players from a try-out combine to spring training with the team, Defender Isaac Cowles and forward Sam Archer.

"I'm just very thankful for the opportunity," said Cowles afterwards. "That's what it is right now, another opportunity for me to come out and play my best. I just feel so blessed and thank everybody at the Rapids for this opportunity."

Cowles, a Denver native, attended Faith Christian High and played for club team Real Colorado before attending UNC-Charolette for school where he played in the NCAA Cup finals.

With new coach, Oscar Peraja, who will play a faster paced, Latin style of soccer in Colorado many players are hoping to have better seasons. Peraja's style will be more offense oriented which will hopeful serve Rapid's Forward, Caleb Folan well. Folan was not a fan favorite last year, and played poorly, despite having the second most shots on goal on the team. With a new coach who is more focused on offense, Folan may have a break out season with Peraja.

In other Rapids news, Jeff Larentowicz, made his third start for the US Men's National team in their victory over Venezuela.  Larentowicz has been receiving quite a bit of international attention this off season, while also training with EPL side, Bolton.

Broncos Thoughts of the Week:

Denver Bronco's Safety, Brian Dawkins was added to his 9th pro-bowl this week. Dawkins, who missed the final few games of the season with a neck injury seems unlikely to play in the Hawaii game though.

Dawkins joins five other Broncos in the Pro-Bowl inclusing Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Champ Bailey, Willis McGahee and left tackle, Ryan Clady.

After the loss to the Patriots, the Denver Broncos held an end of the season press conference. John Elway announced that Tim Tebow will be Denver's starting QB going into training camp. He would not yet name him the starter for the season, assuming he will bring in a couple other QBs to compete with Tebow in training camp. Elway also said that he looks forward to being able to work directly with Tebow this offseason to help him improve his passing motion and hopefully his completion percentage. QB Adam Webber, from the Broncos practice squad, is expected to be one of the other QB at training camp.

Finally, with the Broncos thrilling and unexpected season coming to an end, Denver Post writer Mike Klis has published a book chronicling the season's many great come from behind victories led by Tim Tebow. The book is titled "Will to Win: A Season to Remember". Excerpts from the book can be found here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Attendance Rates

Denver is lucky to be one of only eight cities in the country to have all five professional sports leagues in the US. Considering that Denver is one of the smallest markets in all the leagues, it says a lot about Colorado sports fans that Denver can support all 5 teams successfully.

Red Sox
Cubs, White Sox
FC Dallas
DC United
New York
Red Bulls
Giants, Jets
Yankees, Mets
Knicks, Nets
Devils, Islanders
San Francisco
49ers, Raiders
Giants, Athletics

This got me thinking about attendance rates and how the Broncos have sold out every home game since I can remember. So I found the attendance statistics for Denver's 5 pro teams to see how well Denver sports are at drawing fans, and I was impressed.

Average Attendance for most recent complete season
Average Percent of Stadium Filled

I then wondered how Denver's attendance statistics compared to the other 7 cities who have all five pro sports. I found the average attendance for each major sports team in each market, and calculated how full each stadium is on average for each team. I then averaged all the teams in each city together to get the attendance rates listed below.

San Francisco is a bit funky because nearly every team was at 100%, but the San Jose Earthquakes were at 115%. For some reason the average attendance at a SJE game is larger than the total capacity of their stadium...

Also, NY has nine teams. Some are well attended (like the Giants, Yankees, and Red Bulls) and others are not well attended (like the Nets and Islanders). This is why NY is below Colorado because some of these rates really dragged them down. If I only included the best attendance records from each sport, NY would be at the top. Oh, the tyranny of choice...too many teams for New Yorkers to choose from!

City Attendance rate
Philadelphia 95.3%
San Francisco 93.8%
Boston 91.9%
Chicago 89.4%
Denver 84.5%
New York 84.1%
D.C. 80.7%
Dallas 79.7%

I was disappointed to see Boston above Denver in this list. I don't think Boston should be better than us at anything.

I then calculated simply average attendance by all five sports (not considering stadium capacity). Dallas skyrocketed to near the top of the list because of the enormity of New Cowboy Stadium. NY also went to the top simply because they have so many teams in the area. I was happy to see Denver above Boston, mostly because of the poor attendance of Revolution games.

City Attendance
New York 34,614
Dallas 33,986
San Francisco 33,877
Philadelphia 33,462
Denver 31,562
Boston 31,174
D.C. 30,606
Chicago 30,266

Here's the attendance rate for other cities whose sports teams I follow, but don't have all 5 pro teams.

I wasn't surprised to see that the Timbers in Portland had nearly a 100% attendance rate, but I was shocked to see that the Trail Blazers in PDX had the 2nd best attendance in the NBA during the 2010-11 season!

Seattle would have been close to 100%, but the Mariners really hurt the city by having only a 48% attendance rate compared to the Seahawks and Sounders who are close to 100%.

City Attendance rate
Portland 98%
Buffalo 92.3%
Seattle 82.7%


Trail Blazers