The race to the postseason continues as Colorado Rapids took another major step towards capturing a berth in MLS Cup Playoffs. A 1-0 victory over the two time defending MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy was fueled by the playmaking of Vicente Sanchez, a superb strike by Edson Buddle and excellent goalkeeping by Clint Irwin. The Rapids now sit fourth in the Western Conference with a record of 11-8-9 and have lost once in the last ten matches.
Time for The Good, The Bad, The Ugly--Week 28 edition.
Buddle and Irwin--It is the story of two players. One who did not want to be here and one who was hoping for a chance. Buddle was not overjoyed with his move to the Rapids and has spent the bulk of the year getting into form and learning his new team. It seems it has taken the arrival of Vicente Sanchez and Gabriel Torres for Buddle to find that fire again. Three goals in three games. How do you not start him on Saturday against FC Dallas?
The other was someone who was just hoping to make the team as the number three keeper behind Matt Pickens and Steward Ceus. What Irwin has done is nothing short of tremendous. A tenth clean sheet and six vital saves have kept the Rapids in a playoff spot and he is the story of the year. How far can the Rapids go? Unknown, but it will be on the back of strong defense and Irwin.
Midfield Possession--For whatever reason in the last two matches the Rapids have lost the midfield battle. Hendry Thomas has been paired with Nathan Sturgis (against Sporting Kansas City) and Dillon Powers (against the Galaxy) so the assumption would be that possession would still be in the Rapids' favor. Perhaps it is the terrible pitch and conditions (against SKC) and the Galaxy working for an equalizer. But the Rapids tend to have more success if they are able to control the possession battle in the midfield.
Six Left and Nine Points--Six games left and the Rapids are (realistically) going to need (at least) nine points to make the playoffs. They have three home games, and taking all three from each of those will be critical. With winnable road games in San Jose and Vancouver and three remaining home matches, the points are there for the taking, but the Rapids have to continue this run to get to the playoffs.
There is a ways to go before a playoff berth can be confirmed, and the Rapids have a very difficult schedule ahead, but all of their remaining matches are against playoff hopeful teams. Can they do this? Can they defy every skeptic who said they would not make the playoffs, let alone the bottom of the Western Conference? With continued strong play from the defense, improved midfield possession and scoring from Buddle, Sanchez and Gabriel Torres--anything is possible.