After a glorious return of the Rocky Mountain Cup to the Centennial state, the Colorado Rapids now have a chance to make this season even more memorable. Namely that they are within striking distance of the of a top seed in the Western Conference and a puncher's chance of winning the Supporters Shield. The latter is the only accomplishment in MLS that Colorado has never put a stamp on. Some see these goals as too lofty but this season the Rapids have convinced me they can compete against anybody. Here are some reasons why:
The 3 games we played against Real Salt Lake were really dominated by the Rapids. The Rapids had most of the chances in the first game draw in Salt Lake as Deshorn Brown missed two golden opportunities. The rematch two weeks later was the Dillon Powers coming out party when he got the best of Kyle Beckerman again in the Rapids' 1-0 victory. In the rubber match, Colorado came back twice and secured the Rocky Mountain Cup, finishing the season series with one win and two draws. These are the Supporter's Shield leaders in the West! The second half proved to me that Oscar Pareja either gives Chelis-like halftime speeches or Pareja and Co. can execute tactical maneuvers at halftime only Patton can match.
Two time defending champions LA Galaxy are a little different story. The Rapids have won at home and lost on the road to the Gals this year. Neither time has Landon Donovan or Omar Gonzalez played. If the second match was any indication, then the Rapids want to host this team in the playoffs. The last game in the series will be played on September 7th in LA. Considering the current playoff seeding and how close the entire conference is in the standings, this and every game will be must win or draw for the Rapids. The good news is that the Rapids have the least amount of games left in the league. But it is also a positive that they only play one Wednesday night game. That game is following a 14 day layoff and, after the next game four days later, the Rapids don't play for ten days. So while the other teams have the grind of 3 games in nine or ten days, the Rapids will be resting their starters and not traveling a lot. Hopefully that will transfer into better results late in the season.
The only road game where the Rapids were clearly outclassed was the visit to Jeld-Wen Field and the Portland Timbers. The 3-0 loss was marked by the poorest effort on the season. The two teams first meeting was a 2-2 draw which featured Colorado giving up a two goal lead. So the story of this Rapids season is that they compete with every team. Most season series within the Western Conference are about even. The three games (2 at home) against Vancouver and how the rubber matches play out against Portland and LA will determine the Rapids playoff fate but maybe the supporters shield. Having meaningful home games in September and October is what the MLS is all about. We missed it last year. So have expectations changed? Yes, very much for the better.