With 12 games left in the season the Colorado Rapids are within reach of the playoffs. Looking ahead though they will need more than just results, wins will be required especially when 8 of the final 12 games are against teams that are currently ahead of them in the standings. Starting tomorrow against the Los Angeles Galaxy five of the eight games against playoff teams are at home.
Lets first look at the immediate threat: LA Galaxy. The Rapids play LA twice over the final 12 games, once at home and once in LA. LA is currently just two points ahead of the Rapids in the standings which means a win tomorrow would jump the Rapids to tied with Portland for second (depending on what happens in their game).
The last time the Rapids faced LA; the Galaxy played without Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane. However, the Rapids were also without Edson Buddle, Martin Rivero, Matt Pickens and a handful of other players that the Rapids figured they would be depending on this season. The Rapids nearly escaped LA with a draw, but Drew Moor was handed a red card and gave up a penalty kick in the 50th minute that led to the only goal of the game. With both teams now at full strength it should be interesting to see what develops.
Next weeks game the Rapids face off against Real Salt Lake in the final leg of the Rocky Mountain Cup. The Rapids currently hold the edge in the RMC with a win in the last match up and a draw in the first. Real Salt Lake is a different team now however. RSL is currently in first place in the Western Conference and leads all of MLS in points as well. Colorado is fully healthy this time however. Can the Rapids take home the RMC? With the final game of the Cup at home and with RSL being in first; this game should have huge implications on where the Rapids finish in the standings.
The Rapids also play both FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers once; hosting Dallas and traveling to Portland. Both performances against Dallas have been agonizing for Rapids fans this year. The first game of the year the Rapids lost to Dallas because Steward Ceus made a horrible call coming out for a ball that ended up in the back of the net. The second game saw a crazy 10 minutes that saw 4 goals in rapid succession. Dallas has come back to earth after their great start and are currently just 1 point ahead of the Rapids. Granted that game is 7 games away and things could change a lot in that time. But at this point the Rapids need every point that they can.
The two Portland games so far this season have been even worse than the Dallas results though. The first game the Rapids gave up a 2 goal lead, and in the second got shut out 3-0. That means Portland has scored 5 straight goals against the Rapids. Portland looks like they might be for real this year and the Rapids are an enigma right now. With no one really knowing what the Rapids can do week in and week out this could be a surprise of a game.
The last current playoff team that the Rapids face is the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Rapids face them three times over these final twelve games, two of which are back to back in the last two games of the season. These three games will mean the most to the Rapids and their playoff push. Vancouver is in a very similar position as the Rapids are right now. The biggest thing that is in the Rapids favor in these matchups is that 2 of the 3 games are at home. The Whitecaps have a -6 road goal differential so far this year; this stat should work best into the Rapids plan going toward the end of the year.
At the start of the year not many would have thought the Rapids would be in their current position. But with 12 games left and the playoffs in sight, the Rapids have a real chance of making it into the playoffs. And, with the addition of Panamanian striker Gabby Torres the Rapids may have just added the spark they need to make a run once they get in the playoffs.