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The Charlie Foxtrot that was in Colorado

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Saturday, August 25: 0-6 Loss

Saturday was painful. There’s really no other way around it. The best words I have to describe it are that it was an absolute Charlie Foxtrot.

The Colorado Rapids were facing off against their Rocky Mountain rivals, Real Salt Lake for the third, and final, leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup. They needed to win by four goals in order to overcome the scoring differential and win the shiny trophy. That didn’t happen. In fact, the exact opposite happened – Colorado lost 6-0. I have never heard a crowd boo the team like they did Saturday night. Nor have I heard of the supporter’s group awarding themselves the Man of the Match oar at the end of the game.

I, like many other Rapids fans, am frustrated. We have been promised much and given little. The great offseason signings haven’t produced much, though I have seen an improvement in Jack Price as the season has gone on. The coach that was supposed to do great things, has proven to be slow to change when something isn’t working and stubbornly devoted to the players he brought in. I can understand the fans who want their money back from the RSL game.

From the start, the Rapids weren’t in the game mentally. I have no idea what happened to the Burgundy Boys that knew how to win or could pull out ninetieth-minute game winners, but this group wasn’t them. The mistakes came early and they came frequently. Before the 45th minute had ticked off the clock, they were down by 2 goals and 2 men. The lack of communication and the fact that they had 8 field players to cover the space spelled disaster for the Rapids.

The Red Cards.

These were foolish, dumb mistakes that both players should have known better. The first was shown to forward Niki Jackson in the ninth minute for head-butting Albert Rusnák after being provoked by both Rusnák and Damir Kreilach. It was an incredibly soft red card as there was barely any contact. The problem is, he dropped his head, and there was contact. It was the right call. This was Jackson’s first start with the team and in MLS so this one can be filed under “Mistakes that won’t be repeated.”

The second red was on Nana Boateng in the 43rd minute. Boateng was already sitting on a yellow card for a late tackle on Rusnák in the 19th minute. The ref missed a call, and a card quite frankly, in the 30th minute when he came in late on Brooks Lennon and stomped on his foot. The final strike for Nana came in the 43rd minute when he came in, late, on Brooks Lennon, again, and caught him just under his knee with his studs.

Again, this was the right call. While Jackson’s red card can be chalked up to a rookie error, Nana Boateng has been playing professionally since 2012. He knows better.

The Cons:

  1. Lack of Communication – each player seemed like they were in their own world for the full 90+ minutes of this game. Sure, they found some spaces to make plays in – but they could not capitalize on the opportunities handed to them.
  2. The defense – Axel Sjöberg has been out due to an MCL injury and it’s obvious. The back line is far more cohesive when he’s in. I know that needs to heal, but the Rapids need to find someone who can handle the back line like he does to step in.
  3. Nana Boateng, Danny Wilson – why these two have starting positions is beyond me. Both should go the way of Yannick Boli and hang out on the bench of the practice squad. I enjoyed Boateng’s physicality when he first joined the team until I realized that his physicality seemed out of his own control. Danny Wilson is just not good. If he has been performing well in practice, and this is why he’s getting minutes, something needs to be fixed to get that to transfer into games.

The Pros:

  1. Rapid Man: Any longstanding Rapids fan can remember Rapid Man from the early days of the club. He was the club mascot whose head looked like a wave. According to the Rapids website, he retired in 2007, but he made a brief appearance on the stairs to the dressing rooms on Saturday.
  2. C38: The supporter’s group fought harder for the game than the players on the field did. As the game went on, they got louder. There were a lot of people that left the game early, but you couldn’t hear the difference out of the supporter group.
  3. One game: This is all this was. One game. The Rapids get to start over on the 8th with zeroes on the scoreboard. The playoffs are definitely out of reach at this point, but maybe we can spoil someone else’s run.

The Rapids will face the Portland Timbers in Portland on Saturday, September 8th.

Featured image: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

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With love, your Rapids reporter

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Dear Reader,

When we last left off, the Colorado Rapids were in the middle of a seven-game losing streak and things were not looking good. Though I ended the article feeling hopeful that things would change, that losing streak became a team record-tying nine-game losing streak and included a loss to a USL side in the US Open Cup. It was painful. However, as Solomon noted in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything. Thankfully, the time for not losing came in the Rapids’ June 13th 2-2 tie with Chicago Fire.

Now, I mentioned in my last article that I am an eternal optimist. What I failed to mention, is that growing up a baseball fan also made me more than a bit superstitious. Up until that Chicago game, I had been wearing my 2016 Marlon Hairston burgundy kit with matching burgundy Adidas shoes. (Yes, I have a thing about matching colors and brands when it comes to my sports gear.) Since the Rapids had consistently lost while wearing that kit, it was time to change things up. So, I wore my gold kit instead. And they tied.

The next game, I wore the same kit but remembered to bring a matching scarf with me. And they won. (I know, I know. What I wear to the game has absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the game itself, but superstition dies hard.) The Rapids have gone on to earn a total of 9 points in the past seven games which has put them ahead of San Jose Earthquakes by five points. With 14 games left, I think the Rapids can break into the top 6 with a shot at the playoffs.

The Rapids have also undergone some roster changes since we last spoke. They released Stefan Aigner from his contract and he was quickly picked up by KFC Uerdingen 05, a German third division side. Joe Mason, one of their offseason acquisitions, returned to Wolverhampton.

The most surprising move out of the club, however, was that of Dominique Badji, the favored forward, who was sent to FC Dallas. In their stead, the Rapids picked up two players in the Dallas homegrown midfielder and USMNT player, Kellyn Acosta, and the Jamaican international midfielder/forward, Giles Barnes.

Both players have debuted since we last spoke, and what debuts they were!

Barnes stepped on the field against the Houston Dynamo after completing preseason with his former Liga MX side, Club Leon. While he presented a creativity and a dynamic that the team had been lacking, he was unfortunately injured after being stepped on and is currently day to day.

Kellyn Acosta debuted in a club friendly against Argentina’s best team, Boca Juniors, this past Tuesday. (Reader, we won! Thanks to a penalty kick scored by Zac MacMath, our backup keeper!) While I was unable to attend the game, I heard from several sources that he played well before he was taken off. I am excited to see him play in person when the Rapids take on Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy on Saturday, August 4th.

I will be hitting the road this weekend and making my way to Atlanta for the All-Star Game against Juventus. I will be sure to update you with my and my co-writers antics that week. Reader, I hope to see you at an upcoming Rapids game. We have 6 home games left! You can find me in the stadium in my gold kit with my scarf held high and my voice nearly gone from screaming.

     With love,

        Your Rapids reporter

Featured image of Badji: John Babiak @photog_johnb

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The Rapids long and winding road

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Friday, June 1: 1-2 Loss

“We know who we want to be, we know what type of club we want to be and to be honest, we’re not going to stop until we reach it. We want to be great. We want to be a club that brings the trophy back here to Colorado. We want to be (a) perennial playoff team…” These are just some of the words spoken by the Colorado Rapids executive vice president and general manager, Pádraig Smith when he addressed the season ticket holders Saturday at the annual Meet the Team party.

With the Rapids recent switch from a seven game undefeated at home streak to a seven game losing streak, these are some hard words to swallow. In 2016 and 2017, Colorado went from being in the top of the league, second in the race to the Supporters’ Shield, to being second from last. (The Los Angeles Galaxy gave us a gift that year by taking the bottommost spot out of our hands.) The offseason saw a huge wave of roster changes, as well as coaching changes, that brought hope for the 2018 offseason.

Sadly, that hope has been short lived as the Rapids have not been able to put more than 2 wins and 2 draws together for their current eight points. This has been nothing short of a tough and trying season for even the most optimistic.

I am a self-proclaimed practicing eternal optimist. I truly believe that optimism is both imperative and integral to being a sports fan. (You don’t go to a game without some hope that your team is going to win, right?) Every game brings a new opportunity for my team to impress me or leave me heartbroken. I choose to believe that the former will happen when I stand with my scarf held high at the beginning of the game.

And it’s been hard. It’s been hard to keep my scarf and my head up with the recent lackluster performances that I have been seeing. It has been hard to keep from swearing on my Twitter feed about the calls the referees are and aren’t making. (Sorry Dayna!)

It’s been absolutely aggravating to watch players take a few too many touches and not shoot when they have the opportunity. It has been angering to watch referees let things slide for a half and then hand out cards like they’re candy for the second half.

It’s been exasperating to hear the coaches reasoning game in and game out sound identical and to not see changes. I have been more thankful for a broken computer than I probably should have been because it meant that I wasn’t going to be banging my head against a wall to come up with the words for yet another defeat.

It has honestly driven me to the point of tears, I have been so frustrated.

And then I took my eight-year-old niece to her first ever soccer game and I got to watch through her eyes instead of analyzing the steps and the missteps. I went back to the basics to explain that a point in a game wasn’t really a point, but it was called a goal instead. That goalies couldn’t use their hands once they left the big box around the goal, even if they were standing in the half circle at the top.

That no, the Rapids weren’t going to lose their goal because Edgar Castillo got a yellow card. I smiled with great pride when, after Jack Price slid through a guy from behind, my niece turned to me and asked, “Seeka? Is he going to get a yellow card for that?” (Spoiler alert: he did.)

She had fun. She learned the field, learned some lingo, and thankfully didn’t end up with a lesson in what not to yell at soccer games.

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
From the STH Meet the Team Party. The scarf is signed by the whole team. Image: Jess Houwen

The team that showed up Friday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps was a team that showed more promise than I had seen since our first game in the CONCACAF Champions League. It was good to have Johan Blomberg back in the middle and feel the game was moving differently. (Edgar Castillo, Sam Nicholson, and Dillon Serna all were bright spots in that game for me.)

There’s still a good amount of season yet to be played. I haven’t done the math to see whether or not we’re out of playoff contention, but if we are out – I’m still here. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience to turn around a large vessel like Smith, coach Anthony Hudson, and the rest of the coaching staff and front office are trying to do.

As they pointed out in the interviews before the season ticket holders, there is a lot going on behind the season that we don’t see. As frustrated as we, the fan base, are, it’s not hard to see that they’re doubly so, and they are actively working on it.

As we were leaving, my niece slipped her hand into mine and pulled close to me. “Seeka. Maybe I can bring my ball over to your house some time and we can go to the park to kick it around.” And with that, my hope was renewed.

Featured image of my niece from her first game ever: Jess Houwen

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Second time’s the charm for Colorado Rapids

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Saturday, April 14: 2-0 Win

For the second time in 2018, the Colorado Rapids faced the reigning MLS champs, Toronto FC, at home. Toronto did not play with their normal starting lineup as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Sebastian Giovinco were being rested for their first leg in the CONCACAF Champions League final on Tuesday against Chivas.

The first half started off with a bang as Jack Price hit home for the first goal of his MLS career within the first 90 seconds of the game. Kip Colvey passed the ball to the middle and Drew Moor attempted to clear it out of the box. Unfortunately for Moor, his clearance attempt put the ball right on Jack Price’s foot.

After a Toronto throw in, Jordan Hamilton (TOR) saw a chance to tie the game get deflected by the goal post in the sixteenth minute. Coach Anthony Hudson made his first substitution by pulling a poorly performing Kip Colvey and replacing him with an eager to play, Dillon Serna.

The Rapids kept their momentum up during the second half and did not sit back as we have seen them do in past games. After being plagued with injury last season, Shkëlzen Gashi was finally healthy enough to come in during the sixty-eighth minute to replace Jack MacBean.

Minutes after he came in, Toronto gave up a penalty kick when Liam Fraser took down Badji in the box but got more of Badji than the ball. Gashi stepped up for the kick and put it away for the second goal of the game and his first of the 2018 season.

Unsurprisingly, Jack Price picked up his fourth yellow card in five games in the eighty-fifth minute.

In the final minutes of the game, where Colorado has a knack for giving away goals, Tim Howard made an incredible save with his shoulder to maintain the clean sheet. At the final whistle, the Rapids walked away with three points and maintained their undefeated-at-home record for this MLS season.

Now, most of you who follow me on Twitter and read my writing understand that I am neither a Dominique Badji fan nor a Shkëlzen Gashi fan. However, I was thoroughly impressed by how both played on Saturday as they seemed to control the ball better than past games and move it around well. Notably, Gashi used far fewer touches in this game than he did last season. While it was only his first game back, I am hoping that this is an indication of what is to come with him.

It seems that Coach Hudson’s earlier comment about seeing a better team within four or five games has proven itself true. In the interview after the game Saturday, coach Hudson said that “…what we are seeing is a team that is working together,” and that “we’re not a team of individuals and that we have good players that are playing to a certain style and system…[the players] are all stepping up and fulfilling their roles within that system as well.”

The Rapids will face Real Salt Lake on Saturday, April 21 at Rio Tinto Stadium in a game for the Rocky Mountain Cup.

2’ – GOAL: Jack Price (COL) – 1:0 Colorado Rapids

39’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (1/3) – Kip Colvey replaced by Dillon Serna

46’ – SUBSTITUTION: TOR (1/3) – Jason Hernandez replaced by Eriq Zavaleta

57’ – SUBSTITUTION: TOR (2/3) – Ben Spencer replaced by Ashtone Morgan

69’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (2/3) – Jack McBean replaced by Shkëlzen Gashi

75’ – SUBSTITUTION: TOR (3/3) – Drew Moor replaced by Julian Dunn (MLS debut)

78’ – GOAL: Shkëlzen Gashi (COL) – 2:0 Colorado Rapids

79’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (3/3) – Enzo Martinez replaced by Yannick Boli (MLS debut)

83’ – CARD: Dominique Badji (COL) – yellow

86’ – CARD: Jack Price (COL) – yellow

Featured image of Jack Price corner kick courtesy: Jess Houwen

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A day of firsts for Rapids organization

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Saturday, March 31: 3-0 Win

The Colorado Rapids second home game of the season was marked with several firsts. It was their first victory of the season, it was the first hat trick ever for Dominique Badji and the first hat trick in seven years for the Rapids organization.

The first half was relatively uneventful, but the Philadelphia Union absolutely dominated the play. There were several missed opportunities for goals on both sides. The first real goal scoring opportunity for the Rapids came in the forty-third minute when Tommy Smith put a diving header square in the middle of the goal, but Philadelphia’s keeper, Andre Blake made the save. The deflection gave the ball to Enzo Martinez who took the shot, but that was saved by Matthew Real, who was making his MLS debut for the Union.

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Goal kick. Image courtesy: Jess Houwen

Something changed during halftime and the Rapids came out far more ready to fight than they had been in the first half. The Rapids made their first substitution by replacing Danny Wilson with Axel Sjöberg as Wilson had twisted his ankle during the first half.

Jack Price picked up the first card of the game at the beginning of the second half for making an unsafe slide tackle on the Union’s David Accam. This was Price’s second yellow card in as many games.

Badji also seemed to come awake during the second half with his first career hat trick.

The first goal came in the fifty-second minute when Smith headed the ball to Badji who then put it in at the back post. The second goal came in the sixtieth minute shortly after Marlon Hairston was stretchered off the field and replaced by Dillon Serna. The third goal happened when Johan Blomberg passed the ball up to Badji from behind the midline.

The game ended with a clean sheet for Tim Howard and three points for the Rapids.

Colorado will face FC Dallas on Saturday, April 7 in Frisco at the Toyota Stadium.

46’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (1/3) – Danny Wilson replaced by Axel Sjӧberg

48’ – CARD: Jack Price (COL) – yellow

53’ – GOAL: Dominique Badji (COL) – 1:0 Colorado Rapids

60’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (2/3) – Marlon Hairston replaced by Dillon Serna

61’ – GOAL: Dominique Badji (COL) – 2:0 Colorado Rapids

63’ – CARD: Johan Blomberg (COL) – yellow

64’ – SUBSTITUTION: PHI (1/3) – Fabian Herbers replaced by Ilsinho

69’ – CARD: Dillon Serna (COL) – yellow

75’ – SUBSTITUTION: PHI (2/3) – Matthew Real replaced by Cory Burke

79’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (3/3) – Bořek Dočkal replaced by Anthony Fontana

87’ – GOAL: Dominique Badji (COL) – 3:0 Colorado Rapids

Featured image courtesy: John A. Babiak  @Photog_John

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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Episode 4: A New Hope, for Rapids

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Saturday, March 24: 2-2 Draw

The boys are back in town! Last Saturday kicked off the Colorado Rapids season at home and it was electric in the stadium. With all of the changes that happened in the offseason, including those that happened between my last article and this game, there were a lot of excited fans.

The stadium was buzzing. There were new flags hanging in front of the Rapids supporters section, C38, that hadn’t been there last season. As commented on during the offseason, coach Anthony Hudson played the team in a new (to them) 3-5-2 format and saw Joe Mason get his MLS debut.

Image courtesy: John A. Babiak @Photog_JohnB

The game started well with a goal by Dominique Badji in the first 5 minutes. Marlon Hairston hit a beautiful cross to Edgar Castillo who put the ball directly on Badji’s foot for the goal. Not much later, Tommy Smith hit a pass up to a wide-open Joe Mason who took the ball in for the second goal of the game and the first goal of his MLS career.

Jack Price took the first booking of the night when he slid in late on Sporting KC’s Yohan Croizet and got more man than he got the ball. Enzo Martinez proved himself to be a nuisance for SKC as he was consistently pressuring their players and present whenever they had the ball on his side.

The Rapids failed to take advantage after dual fouls on the Rapids by Felipe Gutierrez and Roger Espinoza. This seemed to be a theme throughout the game – failing to convert opportunities into goals.

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
“Scarves Up” image courtesy: Jess Houwen

When the teams stepped back onto the field for the second half, the players’ energy seemed to have switched sides. The quiet Sporting KC fought with a vengeance and the fighting spirit of the Rapids seemed to have waned. Tim Howard, however, was still on fire. He made amazing save after amazing save and, in my mind, earned a Man of the Match nod. (The honor went to Edgar Castillo, who did have an amazing game.)

Unfortunately, his amazing saves couldn’t keep up with our lack of defense from our central defenders. In the fifty-sixth minute, Sporting KC converted a missed opportunity into a goal when Gutierrez put in a rebound from a header off of the near post by Khiry Shelton. Danny Wilson was just a hair too late to keep the ball from going in.

The referee missed a lot of calls on both sides of the ball that night including a cardable offense when SKC’s Espinoza came in from behind on Martinez and kicked his leg out from under him. The Rapids still looked like they were going to come away with three points until the ninety-first minute when Diego Rubio (who had been subbed on for Johnny Russell) equalized.

It feels really weird to say this since we have yet to see a win in the 2018 season, but the Rapids are playing far better than they did in 2017. It seems that with the new coach and the new players comes a new hope. We will see what the Rapids have for us in their next match against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, March 31.

5’ – GOAL: Dominique Badji (COL) – 1-0 Colorado

8’ – GOAL: Joe Mason (COL) – 2-0 Colorado

15’ – CARD: Jack Price (COL) – yellow

46’ – SUBSTITUTION: SKC (1/3) – Seth Sinovic replaced by Jimmy Medranda

57’ – GOAL: Felipe Gutierrez (SKC) – 2-1 Colorado

58’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (1/3) – Johan Blomberg replaced by Bismark Adjei-Boateng

61’ – SUBSTITUTION: SKC (2/3) – Yohan Croizet replaced by Gerso Fernandes

64’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (2/3) – Joe Mason replaced by Niki Jackson

65’ – CARD: Niki Jackson (COL) – yellow

79’ – CARD: Tim Howard (COL) – yellow

84’ – SUBSTITUTION: COL (3/3) – Dominique Badji replaced by Jack McBean

88’ – SUBSTITUTION: SKC (3/3) – Johnny Russell replaced by Diego Rubio

91’ – GOAL: Diego Rubio (SKC) – 2-2 tie

93’ – CARD: Ilie Sánchez (SKC) – yellow

Featured image courtesy: Jess Houwen

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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The Colorado Rapids 2017-8 offseason

Jess Houwen - Colorado Rapids/mlsfemale
Official Colorado Rapids Reporter

By Jess Houwen // @jesshuh15

Hello readers. I hope you haven’t missed me too much. It’s been a busy offseason for the Colorado Rapids and I’ve not been able to keep up. (Okay, the first resolution of 2018 is to be better at keeping up with everything during the offseason.)

We’ve kept some players that we should have let go and let go of some that we should have hung on to. Thankfully the new expansion team, Los Angeles FC, overlooked us in the 2018 Expansion Draft. We have a new head coach and a lot of opportunity heading into the 2018 season.

Anyone who knows me (or follows me on Twitter) knows that I am not a fan of Shkëlzen Gashi or Jared Watts. I was definitely not happy to see that these players were put on the Protected List ahead of the 2018 Expansion Draft. Moreso, I was frustrated to see that the people we traded Sam Cronin and Marc Burch for, Mohammad Saied and Joshua Watts, were not protected. (Now, I will say that I do understand that Mo requested to not renew for personal reasons unbeknownst to me.)

To his credit, Gashi does seem to be working especially hard this offseason so maybe my second resolution of 2018 should be to give him half a chance this season. I am thrilled that the likes of Marlon Hairston, Tim Howard, and Stefan Aigner will be returning to the roster for 2018. I am equally excited to see what Johan Blomberg, Kip Colvey, Jack Price, Edgar Castillo, Deklan Wynn, and our new draft picks, Alan Winn and Frantzdy Pierrot, will bring to the field.

We ended 2017 with an interim head coach, Steve Cooke, who has since signed on as head coach and technical director with the Oklahoma City Energy FC and I certainly wish him the best there. With his departure, the Rapids brought in former New Zealand Men’s National team coach, Anthony Hudson, to fill the position.

He has made it clear that he expects to be in the playoffs for the 2018 season, a resolution for the new season that I think we can all agree on. After meeting him at an event introducing Price and Castillo, I am optimistic as to what he has to offer our existing players, to see how he incorporates our incoming players, and to see how he changes our game beyond our formation.

We’ll get an early taste of how these changes will impact the Rapids as we take on Toronto FC in the first leg of our CONCACAF Champions League games this February.

Featured image courtesy: @ColoradoRapids

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @jesshuh15

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