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Colorado Rapids are punchless; does Kraft's Gulati carry too much clout?

By Jerry Langdon
Gannett News Service

(Monday, October 25, 1999) -- The most incredible streak in sports is the number of minutes Colorado Rapids have gone without scoring a goal -- 679 and counting.

That's the equivalent of seven-plus games. And that's the burden the Rapids will carry into next Major League Soccer season, with its playoff run abruptly ended by the Los Angeles Galaxy.

This is a team that has offensive talent. Admittedly, playmaking midfielder Anders Limpar was out most of the second half of the season with an injury, but he was available for both playoff games and did reasonably well. "I've never encountered anything like this in my life, playing soccer for the better part of 25 years," forward Paul Bravo said. "It's unbelievable to me."

The Rapids were outshot 105-72 during the seven games -- two of which they won in shootouts following scoreless draws.

Some point to the tougher defenses present in MLS this year, especially in the West, which arguably had the top three defensive units in the Galaxy, Chicago Fire, and Dallas Burn. Three of the seven games came against Los Angeles; the other foes were Chicago and teams with below .500 records -- Kansas City, San Jose and Miami.

In fact, Colorado managed just three goals in its final 15 games, and that doesn't include the 2-0 U.S. Cup final match loss to A-League Rochester.

Some in the Rapids front office have questioned the team's talent level: Forwards Jorge Dely Valdes and Bravo (with Wolde Harris off the bench), midfielders Limpar, David Vaudreuil, Matt McKeon, Peter Vermes and Joey DiGiamarino (with Ross Paule off the bench), defenders Jason Bent, Marcelo Balboa and Tahj Jakins (with Chris Martinez available off the bench) and goalkeeper Ian Feuer.

It's not the best group on paper in MLS, but most observers rate it in the upper half. Coach Glenn Myernick switched to a 3-5-2 alignment against the Galaxy, and had a one-man advantage for 72 minutes in the opener of the two-game series -- but still lost, 3-0.

Concern has been voiced in Major League Soccer about the appointment of Sunil Gulati as managing director of Kraft Soccer.

It centers on two things:

1. Kraft Soccer includes two MLS teams, the New England Revolution and San Jose Clash. What's going to happen with trades between them?

A mild furor arose late in the season when popular Jeff Baicher was traded by San Jose to New England for Jair. And that trade occurred with both teams having separate general managers, which is the same way the other two multiple ownerships -- Columbus-Kansas City and Los Angeles-Chicago-Colorado -- operate.

But now Gulati in effect has that role on both teams, concentrating initially on the Revolution, which is looking for a coach and where Brian O'Donovan now will concentrate on business affairs. San Jose still has a director of soccer operations, Renato Capabianco.

Major League Soccer still has to approve any trade, and many observers believe it would be wise to veto any more San Jose-New England deals.

2. Gulati wears many hats -- he was MLS deputy commissioner for three years before being fired by since-ousted commissioner Douglas Logan, he is managing director of the massive Project 2010 development program, and is on the board of directors of the United States Soccer Federation.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Sigi Schmid says that resume affords him and his teams an unfair advantage, similar to that he said is enjoyed by D.C. United having general manager Kevin Payne on the board of directors for both U.S. Soccer and MLS.

"Now you have three teams in the league that will know a week earlier than everyone else what's going on," he told the Pasadena Star-News. "I'm not saying Kevin or Sunil is out to get anyone . . . (But) is there another person in U.S. soccer who can do what they do?'"

Jerry Langdon is sports editor of Gannett News Service and can be e-mailed at

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