Forward Andre Akpan made an astute observation the other day on twitter that got us thinking. Are there other players who look like people we've seen - whether other celebrities or just people down the street?
— André Akpan (@auakpan) February 23, 2012
Rapids rookie Tony Cascio (left) and Academy Award winner actor Adrien Brody:
The Hawaiian Islands Invitational hosted all four teams in the tournament at the Starlight Waikiki Luau on Wednesday evening. A nice traditional Hawaiian dinner was followed by a live show. At one point the dancers went around and grabbed one player from Rapids - Stew Ceus, and a player from Busan and brought them on stage to dance. Imagine what the other teams might have thought of the Rapids when they saw the huge Stew up there. CLICK HERE FOR MORE PHOTOS.
The skills competition continued after Wednesday's practice inside Aloha Stadium. Today is was the Crossbar Challenge. It's very simple: kick a ball from 20 yards and try to hit the crossbar. The team that hit it most wins. It was funny to see how many guys hit the bar while goofing around, but then...well, here you go:
Yesterday we told you about the competition the guys are involved in this week. It's an off-shoot of a game that Oscar was part of during preseasons with Dallas. In those days they called it Survivor, because the teams of two would be eliminated at every challenge. There are no eliminations in this Rapids version - only point accumulations, with the team that wins the most challenges taking the prize. As such, there's no name for this yet. Maybe you can suggest some?
Anyway, we realized we hadn't told you how the teams are split:
Pablo's team: Tyrone, Jaime, Eddie, Tony, Stew, and Brian.
Jeff's team: Ross, Scott, Ian, Davy, Kohei, and Luis.
Matt's team: Omar, Kosuke, Andre, Josh, Dillon, and Joel.
Drew's team: Marvell, Wells, Joseph, Steven, Quincy, and George.
The coaching staff made the teams, but on the first day each team had to select one player to trade to another team. Jeff's team traded Brian to Pablo's team, with Pablo's team sending Kohei to Jeff's team. Matt's team traded Steven to Drew's team in exchange for Joel.
As you see in the post below, Drew's team won the Header's competition. The next challenge was trivia, which took place during the team dinner.
Myself and our PR Director David Lindholm were asked to come up with a mixture of trivia questions. We thought that we'd be asking the same questions to the group, and which ever team had the most correct would win. But the coaches wanted the guys to have to call out the answers, knowing that when they'd get one wrong the other teams would laugh, etc.
Well, this presented a challenge for us. Now we were tasked with deciding which questions to ask each team - and of course, some teams felt cheated when they got questions they didn't know and others got easier one. We tried to make it even, asking each team a question about players from the Deep Thoughts videos, or Hawaii fun facts, or general sports trivia. But inevitably, even when we tried to throw a team a bone, they'd get the question wrong.
At the end, Jeff's team won it, answering correctly on all but one. Pablo's team took second place, followed by Drew's, and then Matt's.
Amidst the training and preparation, the players will also be involved in a friendly competition that will happen throughout the stay in Hawaii. The coaches split the 28 players into four teams of seven - led by Pablo Mastroeni, Matt Pickens, Drew Moor, and Jeff Larentowicz, respectively. We don't yet know all the rules, but we know they'll be challenged on and off the field in fun exercises and activities, with the winners of each event gaining points.
After today's scrimmage and practice, the coached came up with this race: each team member had to head a ball backwards to a teammate, and so on. The team that made it to the end of the field without the ball hitting the ground was the winner. They had a few minutes to figure out their strategy, which for some was a matter of order.
Drew's team made it down on the first try, Pablo's team finished second. And after a number of re-starts (when the ball hit the ground), Jeff's team came in third. Unfortunately for Matt, they didn't even need to continue trying to finish.
With one camera we had to choose which team to follow. I liked Pablo's team's strategy, so I chose them and missed the winning race. So even though we missed it, we figured we might as well show the footage we got:
After the team completed their first training session in Hawaii, the schedule showed the afternoon was off - no training. But at lunch, the learned it was only off from a full training session. The guys that are playing in the scrimmage on Tuesday had a video session with the coaching staff, and the rest of the guys went for a gym workout. Still, they were all done by around 4:30, which gave them plenty of time to have some fun on the beach right in front of the hotel.
It started out just laying on the beach, but soon they got to digging. Davy Armstrong (above), Quincy Amarikwa, and Joel Helmick used their sandals to made the pit, then Davy volunteered to be the first one in. Soon, Ross LaBauex and Andre Akpan began pushing the sand on top, then Tony Cascio and Steven Emery. In no time, Davy was covered by 2-3 feet of sand, but he was easily able to get out.
So now the challenge was making it more difficult for the next person. Quincy begins digging closer to the ocean, where the water would weigh the sand down.
Now is was Tony's turn, sitting in the pit as the guys used their legs, arms, and sandals to cover him up. It worked, Tony couldn't move, needing their help to get out. CLICK HERE FOR MORE PICS
For the team, one of the best ways to prepare for a season is to be uninterrupted by weather - that's why so many MLS teams - including the Rapids - often spend much of the preseason in warmer climates. For the game day production crew - and other departments - it doesn't help when the players aren't around.
The production crew needs the players for photo shoots or video interviews - things you see on the scoreboard on gamedays. The marketing department needs photos or videos even earlier (you may have already seen some of the billboards around town). The media department has their own early deadlines, as they have a short window to submit their media guide content (as complete as possible) and get the books in time for the start of the season. And of course, for event like the Supporters Forum or last night's Rookie Season Ticket Holder Orientation, we need to wait for the guys to be around.
So back to the photos / videos. In order to facilitate it, the players were split into two shoots (you'd be surprised how long it takes to shoot some of this stuff). If you've seen the billboards and spots running on 9News, Pablo and Conor were in the early shoot - taken before the team left for California. Today we were able to squeeze in the rest of the team - before they leave for Hawaii.
It's somewhat of a guessing game for the staff, because with a large group of players - we don't know who will make the final roster or not. So we try to fit in as many guys as possible to have their photos ready.
The shoots took place at the Pepsi Center on the Denver Nuggets practice court. As you see in the photo above - which is clearly taken with a phone camera (the pro photographer was busy) - Quincy Amarikwa, Ross LaBauex, Andre Akpan, and Wells Thompson are playing a game of Knockout while they waited their turns. Hunter Freeman (left) and Joel Helmick (right) give us a sneak peak at the 2012 uniforms.
It took a little while, but the 2011 year-end award winners finally received their trophies last night.
Wells Thompson - Humanitarian of the Year, Drew Moor - Defender of the Year, and Jeff Larentowicz - Golden Boot winner and Most Valuable Player, were given their awards at the Rookie Season Ticket Holder Orientation on Wednesday evening in the press level of Dick's Sporting Goods Park. The players then stuck around for an informal forum, displaying a more personal (and funny) side than fans may know from seeing them on the field.
Wells talked about getting married in the offseason, saying how his friend bluntly told him he couldn't believe he found a women that said yes...Jeff said he was ok with Kosuke wanting to be a Ginger Ninja, 'now there can be two of us.' And Drew showed the large gathering of fans why he's the Ironman by standing up from behind to let them see his 165-pound small frame, and also by flexing.
The players then also talked briefly about their seasons and their successes. Wells may have taken the spotlight, however, by telling a story of his rookie year, when some senior players put Icy Hot in his underwear and tshirts, and his reaction when he put them both on. But that wasn't it, he also told the fans about the chickens and ducks he raises, including one that looks like the Aflac duck.
The players enjoyed the night, and we hope all the first and second-year season tickets did also. We look forward to seeing everyone at the games all year!
Yesterday we posted the news that Mexican forward Daniel Frias joined the Rapids preseason camp. For some reason his name had a familiar ring to it. Upon googling him, I came across his story - and photos, and videos, and more stories.
His full name is Julio Daniel Frias Adema. He goes by Daniel Frias, but he's also often referred to as "El Maleno," which Oscar Pareja tells me it roughly translates as "The neighborhood guy."
He's somewhat of a legend in Cuidad Juarez (Mexico), the place where he was born and name of the team on which he debuted in the Mexican First Division at age 29. Previously, he played in El Paso, Texas. THIS STORY IN THE EL PASO TIMES is about his journey from the minor leagues of U.S. soccer, to the top division in Mexico.
But that doesn't tell his full story - the reason behind the support he's received from his hometown. Frias had a troubled youth which included violence and drugs - in a city still known for such issues. But thanks to soccer, he straightened himself out, making his pro debut at 20-year-old (lower division). He's been greatful for the support he's received and opportunities he's been presented with ever since. HERE'S MORE OF HIS STORY IN ESTO (SPANISH)
Twenty-nine is thought to be an 'old' age for a player to finally make a top division. But his story goes even futher. After Juarez was relegated, he signed with Jaguares and last year (April 2011) he scored a goal in the prestigious Copa Libertadores. (Google his name for more info and highlights)
Jeff Larentowicz may be the original Ginger Ninja, but it's looking like he might have some competition. Kosuke Kimura returned from the California portion of preseason with red hair, though that was not his intention...he explains in the video below: