OK fine, so 3-0-2 isn't exactly a complete turnaround from 0-6-0, but I don't think anyone could have asked for a better July after going completely winless last season. Even I wasn't expecting something as good as what we ended up seeing in July, as I myself predicted a 2-1-2 finish in my July preview at the start of the month.
Instead, we suddenly find ourselves looking at the top of the table, with a very intriguing four-game slate to come in August. It starts and finishes hard, with two games the Rapids really should be winning in the middle. While the great form in July was great, it's likely going to be August that determines whether or not the Rapids are planning on being contenders or pretenders when the playoffs begin. After all, the entire Western Conference table got shaken around like an Etch-A-Sketch just from one weekend of results. If Colorado can go from sixth to second in one game, they can go right back down or worse just as quickly in four.
Here's what August has to offer:
August 3rd vs. Real Salt Lake: It's the big'un! Theoretically, the Rapids can get into first place in the entire league with three points against their Rocky Mountain rivals, which is a spot I can't recall them being in early August... well, ever. Getting the RMC back would just be gravy, but pretty tasty gravy. Unfortunately, the game is unlikely to provide three points as RSL are likely to sit back with a large number of their key players tired from Gold Cup and All-Star game duty. If Colorado can start the month off with three points though, it'll put a lot less pressure on them in the final three games.
Prediction: 1-1 draw
August 11th @ Chivas USA: When I say 'less pressure' for the rest of the month though, that doesn't change the fact that they should be beating Chivas. Other than an ugly win over Toronto FC at Stubhub Center, the Goats have had quite mediocre form for the past two months, and they're one of the few teams in MLS that can be legitimately said to be out of the playoff picture at the moment.
Prediction: 2-0 win
August 17th vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Now, let's just forget about everything we saw last year against the Whitecaps, because it sounds familiar in the worst way. One draw (last second) and two losses, both losses coming in the 'dominate, be unable to finish and lose on an assgoal' fashion. With the finishing problems we've had this year, let's hope that doesn't happen again. Of course, having Gaby Torres and Vicente Sanchez (Or, uh, one of them) probably won't hurt that, and the Rapids defense at home has been great, unlike our leaky defense of last year.
Prediction: 1-0 win
August 31st @ Sporting Kansas City: The game against Salt Lake is going to be a toughie, but I don't think it's hard to argue that SKC away is going to be the biggest test of the month. Few teams ever get results in the blue hell that is Sporting Park, and, assuming the Rapids can get their results earlier in the month, they'll see Colorado as a Supporters' Shield rival, giving them that extra bit of incentive to win it.
Prediction: 2-1 loss
2-1-1 is my final prediction for August, and that would be enough to keep the Rapids near the top of the Western Conference. With three quite tough match-ups in September, there's plenty of reasons why we can say August has the potential to be the most important month this season.