Volunteering to post a weekly article for NoFanAlone is a Good News/Bad News situation. The Good News: I get to interview soccer mucky mucks, including players and coaches. Bad News: I might have to actually appear to know technical soccer stuff when interviewing those players and coaches. Given that it took me 4 years to figure out offsides, I knew I needed another angle. So here’s my angle: the people involved: players, coaches, staff, fans and maybe the mascots.
With that in mind, I drove off to DSGP on a sunny weekday morning, to interview players and coaches after practice. Practice is on the fenced field east of the stadium, behind Class VI’s former tail gate location. Jason, the Director of Media Relations, greeted me and we chatted about things Rapids while the team practiced. Nearby, a camera man from a local TV station was busy filming random scenes, including laying on the ground and filming a soccer ball.
My first impression: they’re all much taller than they seem when I’m sitting in the stands watching a game. There were 30 or so guys practicing, and Jason explained that additional players come to practices, including MLS pool players who live in the vicinity, and other hopefuls who travel to Denver to work out with the team and get noticed by coaches. New forward Pat Noonan was there; scoring star Conor Casey was not. As we know, he’s currently in South Africa with the National Team, competing in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup. I asked about National Team call ups. Is the player obliged to go when asked? No, apparently they can decline the offer. I didn’t know that. When I asked coach Gary Smith about the impact of Casey’s absence, he said it was a big blow to have a player like Casey miss games, especially on short notice. However, given how play has gone in South Africa, he now expects Casey to be back for Wednesday’s match, although it’s not certain how much he would play after traveling.
After practice I spoke to new defensive player Scott Palguta. When he first subbed in to cover for some injured players earlier this spring, my reaction (perhaps yours, too) was “Who’s he?” He was signed in mid-March, and has started 7 of the 8 games he’s played. He’s excited to be playing here, although he admits adjusting to the altitude took a week or so. He was recruited to play soccer at Cornell University. After graduation, he played 4 years in Rochester, NY for the Rochester Rhinos, where he met Steve Guppy, now the Rapids assistant coach, who thought Scott would be a good fit here.
Key words for the day: consistency, parity and Seattle-esque. Coach Smith used that term to refer to the May 23rd tie with the Sounders. His view was that many good things came out of that game. His goal is team consistency, vs the highs and lows of last season. This season, the Rapids have shown they can win (or tie) at home or away, so the message is that even if they do lose a home game going forward, they can also win an away game. Meanwhile Smith said he is “taking every game as it comes”, being flexible with starting line ups as necessary.
Power rankings in Week 13 at the Soccer by Ives website have the Rapids at #7, down from 4, based on ..what? They had a bye week. Apparently not playing at all costs you. ESPN ranks them #6, with the observation that with 4 of the next 5 games at home, the Rapids have a golden opportunity to “make hay in the standings” – good hay.