Professional sports organizations make decisions that they hope will benefit their team. Whether it is signing new players, upgrading stadiums, or making the fan experience better--teams always try to improve and get better with the ultimate goal of winning a championship. In the case of the Colorado Rapids it was on full display this past Saturday.
The final (regular season) home match of the year featured many of these improvements at a sold out Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City. Colorado Rapids (almost) clinched a playoff berth with a 3-2 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Rapids were led by their first ever Designated Player, Gabriel Torres, who had a brace and one of their two Rookie of the Year candidates, Deshorn Brown, with a beautiful second half chip. These improvements have led a (nearly) bottom of the table team in 2012 to a team, with one match left, who has a shot at the top of the Western Conference.
Here is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Week 34:
Gaby, Gaby, Gaby - So, he might be good eh? After the terrible result in Panama while on International Duty for Torres, he did the one thing he could do to get over the result--fire the Rapids to a playoff berth. He sharply took a penalty kick in the first half (yes, Vancouver, it WAS a foul on Drew Moor) and his second half strike was pure class and should be goal of the week. Torres was sensational all night whether playing the lone striker in the first half or sitting behind Edson Buddle in the second. Torres will be a key factor in how far the Rapids go in the post season.
Sloppy defense - The Rapids certainly did play well on Saturday, but the defensive breakdown that allowed Vancouver to score in the first half simply cannot happen. And in the second, I understand why Shane O'Neill made the tackle, but how a defender (Jordan Harvey) can be allowed to dribble into the penalty box is beyond me.
A Tough Road - The Rapids currently sit fifth in the table and while I am extremely proud of this team and all that has been accomplished, they need to take care of their business and put pressure on LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders. A win for the Rapids (against Vancouver on Sunday) means at worst a fourth place finish and a home game. A loss means a tough midweek game on the road. A win could set up a potential conference semifinal battle against arch-rival Real Salt Lake (if other results go our way) . A win could also mean missing the play-in game all together.
Since starting the year 0-3-2, the Rapids have gone 14-7-7 and now are in prime position to make some noise in MLS Cup Playoffs. It is a credit to the professionalism and quality that this organization has built this year. It is a proud moment to bleed burgundy, but there is work to be done to claim our second MLS Cup Championship.