COMMERCE CITY, CO - MARCH 10: Quincy Amarikwa #12 of the Colorado Rapids controls the ball despite the efforts of Danny O'Rourke #5 of the Columbus Crew at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on March 10, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. The Rapids defeated the Crew 2-0. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
The Western Conference is really, really good this year. Stumptown Footy - our fantastic Portland Timbers blog - put out a good article detailing just how tough the West has been so far this season. Points will be at a premium with so many high class teams in this side of the league, including Seattle, Salt Lake, LA and perhaps our own Rapids. The playoff push at the end of the year is going to be an absolute bloodbath.
What to do for a team that is probably just outside Supporter's Shield contention like the Rapids? It's unlikely that we'll see a sweep of the Galaxy or Sounders, and games against Salt Lake rarely seem to go the Rapids way these days. Of course, there will be some wins in those series, but the points for Colorado will have to include a sizable chunk from the Eastern Conference.
Check out the East this season and you won't be incredibly impressed. The conference as a whole right now is 4-11-2 with only Sporting Kansas City and Houston looking like contenders in any sense of the word. If one of those two teams don't win, it's going to be a huge upset.
Look at the other 'contenders' in the East. Columbus looked terrible in their first game and have a largely unknown roster. New York look like they have even less chemistry than last season. Philadelphia are a hot mess with coaching issues. DC were supposed to improve but haven't found themselves yet.
The West, meanwhile, has done nothing but improve -- except Chivas USA, but let's forget about them. San Jose has looked tougher than they did last year, more resembling their tough 2010 squad that ground out wins with Chris Wondolowski, who still looks like his old self. Vancouver is 2-0 and just won their first road game since they joined Major League Soccer. Portland added the best goalscorer in Scottish Premier League history. Only Chivas has no wins in the West, while only four teams out of the ten in the East have any points at all.
Colorado play 10 games against Eastern Conference competition this season, one against each team. Even if they lose their games against Kansas City or Houston - and the Rapids looked decent against both sides on the road last year - that's 24 points on the table for the Rapids, and it may take as many as 50 to be a Western Conference representative. It's going to be up to the Rapids to get as many points from the East as possible just in case their good form from the first two games falters a bit as they face their fellow teams at the top.
There's a great chance for the Rapids to start the season off 4-0 with games against the reeling Red Bulls and the questionable Fire coming up. After that, the real fun begins when they play Salt Lake for the first time and their first Western Conference match-up. Who wouldn't want to get a 12 point head start before inter-conference games begin?