Friday, May 9, 2008

Q&A: Dynamo/Rapids, Shooting the Bull, Jeff Bull

This week's Q&A is with longtime Colorado fan and one of the three-headed blogmonster that runs the fabulous Center Holds It site, Jeff Bull.

Dynamo's season has been a trying one to say the least so far. Sometimes and heretically, it almost feels like it would be better if the Orange were in full-blown suckage mode, losing all of these guys they've been tying, just to have some sense of how the season is really going!

But that's just frustration talking really, because one way of looking at the season is that, after six games, Dynamo have only lost twice. And with each game the defensive effort is improving. The problem is that the offense still seems, ah, a bit caddywompus, which is a precise technical, footie term used only by us soccer bloggers.

Still, nothing a few goals and a helping of good luck (now THAT'S something that's been in short supply recently) can't fix. And that's why I'm predicting a 2-0 win for Dynamo this weekend, which will be only the second one, for reasons detailed in earlier posts on this blog, that I will be witnessing with my own personal eyeballs. Scorers will be Dwayne De Rosario, reprising his role in Dynamo's dismantling of the Rapids in a driving Front Range rainstorm of a year ago, and El Generalissimo Franco Caraccio slotting a garbage piece past Coundoul to seal the deal.

You read it here first. Now, on to Mr. Bull (who has been patiently waiting, in a virtual sort of way, while I bloviated the above). And by the way, Jeff also asked us here at Nutmegged several questions about Dynamo that he will post on Center Holds It sometime today or tomorrow.

NUTMEGGED: Fernando Clavijo has been mentioned so often as a prime candidate for firing in the past few years that it's amazing he still has a job. But with Colorado's, ah, rapid start to the season, Clavijo seems to be the one laughing last. How much of the start is attributable to him and do you see him lasting the season?

To raise a quibble, I can’t credit any Western Conference team with a rapid start - e.g. if Colorado played in the Eastern Conference, they’d be 5th. Relevant to that point is my persistent low opinion of Clavijo’s abilities. To watch this team move the ball forward is to watch improvisation in action, or something that bears a strong resemblance. In simple terms, Clavijo played as a defender and his team looks like it....since 2007 at least. Whatever success the Rapids enjoy is down the players and a helter-skelter rush toward the opposition goal.

NUTMEGGED: Which 2-3 Colorado players (or more) are most responsible for the Rapids' success this season? What have these guys done that's all that different from what we've seen in the past from them?

I won’t say Gomez...I won’t say Gomez...I won’t say Gomez....crap...I have to say Christian Gomez. As he showed against DC, he’s one of those guys that can kill you with an inch for an opening; that gets respected even when the Rapids seem to be bypassing him and playing the flanks. After him, I’d point to just about every young buck the Rapids pulled from the reserve teams of the past couple years: Kosuke Kimura, Stephen Keel, John DiRaimondo, Nick LaBrocca, even Omar Cummings - and the exclusion of Clark is deliberate, not because he doesn’t belong here, but because we all know who he is. All these players give the sense of something being built and they look a solid foundation. This gets back to Clavijo: I don’t rate him much as a coach, but I think highly of his ability to judge talent; he’s just in the wrong side of the business. Get a proper coach and I’d wager those same players would be more than building blocks for a foundation.

NUTMEGGED: Do you see any warning signs in Colorado's games up to now that make you think the quick ascent is a short-lived phenomenon? And if instead you think Colorado is truly in contention to stay this season, then what has to happen to keep there?

The defense hasn’t been a worry since last year; things look pretty solid back there. I just don’t understand how Colorado attacks; I mean, I see it happen and it comes off often enough to put the Rapids on the high side of the goals-for average, but....I dunno. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. In a phrase, the attack looks like a bunch of guys running like hell toward the opposition’s goal or end-line, screaming like hell for the ball and whacking it around under that set-up as well as they are able. In other words, you see fewer proverbial passing triangles than you do hard-kicks upfield. If I’m wrong - and I could be, believe me - Colorado will keep scoring at a decent clip and they make the post-season without a hitch. If I’m right, though, the goals will dry up and the Rapids will settle down to mid-table in the West by alternating wins with losses all season long.

NUTMEGGED: What Dynamo players or tactics do you think are going to give Colorado the most trouble Saturday night? And vice versa, what Colorado tactics or players (other than score 1 goal given Dynamo's recent propensity for whiffing close shots) will serve them well against Dynamo? I can’t answer score one goal...hmm. Brad Davis missing means Corey Ashe will probably play and think Kimura will contain him well enough. I’d work the Rapids’ left, keep Mullan active and Dynamo players near him in order to really go at that side; Ashe will have a role to play still by crashing the far post or corralling over-hit crosses. And Brian Ching should wake up one day. I guess I’m saying the Dynamo’s usual game - e.g. play width - should hold up allright against the Rapids. I think Dwayne DeRosario will get pinched like a Christmas nut between LaBrocca and whichever of DiRaimondo or Pablo Mastroeni starts. So DeRo should be willing to move side to side and to dump the ball quicker than usual. Just keep the Rapids off-balance and you might yet get your first W. As for the other way, the Rapids have potential speed mismatches on both flanks: Clark (assuming fitness) against Mulrooney/Waibel and the Kimura/Cooke combo could really test Wade Barrett and Ashe on Houston’s left. Tam MacManus will be in the middle looking for crosses and Cummings and, worse, Gomez, will lurk for slop. The silver lining in that: your central defenders should be up to winning most crosses, so a potential shower of those might not matter so much...just make sure they clear ‘em far or Gomez will have a field-day.

NUTMEGGED: Speak about Bouna Coundoul. In the two games I have seen of Colorado's this season, he has come up huge. Has he finally turned the corner and become one of the elite keepers in the league (I'm thinking Onstad/Guzan/Reis territory here) or is he still just below that?

You know who Bouna reminds me of? David James, at least when I saw him a lot playing for Liverpool. Bouna is a GREAT shot-stopper - that’s always been his strength as I saw it - and the more he learns his position, the better he’ll get. But like James, he can wander, he can flub crosses, and he's good for a howler every so often. So, no, I don’t think he’s elite yet, but the Rapids still benefit from having continuity in goal. As for why he’s not “elite,” watch the man give up rebounds on shots. My advice to Houston: follow up on EVERY SHOT. That brings up an addendum to the question of how Houston should attack: shoot from range, but only with players in front of you.

NUTMEGGED: And finally, what is your prediction for the game?

Prediction? Pain. (Thanks for letting me type that; I had an irrational love for Rocky III (“There is no tomorrow!”) when I was a young adult.)

Seriously now...I think the Rapids come at a bad time for a team struggling to score. Call it an ugly 1-0 to the Rapids. The next most likely scenario: Houston blows ‘em out of the water....I’m talking 4-0 or 4-1.

NUTMEGGED: Thanks a ton Jeff. Enjoy the game from your outpost in the Pacific Northwest, and here's hoping your second guess is the right one!


The Manly Ferry said...

It's up now, Martek. I was compelled to add a correction, however, about my complicated feelings for the Rapids....everything else is groovy.

Martek said...

Sounds good. Enjoy the game.


Daryl said...

Great read, good work!