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The Rapids 2018 schedule: A month-by-month preview

The 2018 schedule is out! What should we look out for?

John Babiak, @Photog_JohnB

The 2018 MLS schedule is here. Occasionally I see fans complain when the new schedule is released: some folks think they have too many difficult away games, while some fans object to the unbalanced scheduling of a league where a Western team plays more games against foes in the West than in the East. Mostly, folks are happy. Rapids fans have three main desires:

  • they want to see a couple of the big Eastern conference stars,
  • they want games to be held on Saturday evenings so they don’t have to battle traffic or pick between their kid’s youth game and a Rapids game, and
  • they want a Fourth of July home game.

But dig a little deeper, and one thing you definitely want is a schedule that favors your team. That means no extended road trips with midweek games in between. And that also means not facing the leagues best teams all in a clump, one after another.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Donnie G. and the MLS scheduling gurus have dealt us for this year. I rated them, ski mountain style, by degree of difficulty. Get it? Because Colorado, and mountains, and it’s winter right now, and the Rapids did a thing with their schedule and fourteeners and ...

I’ll just get on with it.

Degree of difficulty is based on last year’s record and my subjective observations about their roster right now. We can’t know now what changes teams will be making, so this is a rough estimate based on their 2017 results, and assumes that most teams will get only a little better or a little worse.

February

Opponents

February 20 vs. Toronto FC

February 27 @ Toronto FC

Opponents 2017 W/T/L Record: 20-9-5

Degree of Difficulty:

There’s no way around it: we start off with probably one of the biggest challenges possible. The 2016 Rapids gifted the 2018 Rapids a CONCACAF Champions League slot, and through the magic of the CCL draw, the soccer gods decided the Rapids should face, literally, the best team in MLS history. TFC won Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup, and the Canadian Championship in 2017. They want to win CCL, too. They’ll have to get past the Rapids to do it.

Can Colorado, last year’s third-to-worst team in MLS, win a two-legged battle versus an opponent that made mincemeat of Western Conference champs Seattle just a month ago? It depends on how fast Anthony Hudson can get a new system to work, how fast he can get the new players to gel, and how in shape (or out-of-shape) TFC players are after the short break due to their playoff run. Two and out would be a rough start to the year for the Burgundy Boys. Or maybe the ‘Pids can catch the Canucks napping, steal a road goal, and sneak their way into the quarterfinals.

March

Opponents:

March 10 @ New England Revolution

March 24 vs. Sporting Kansas City

March 31 vs. Philadelphia Union

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 36-28-38

Degree of Difficulty:

Starting the ‘regular’ season, the Rapids play three middle-class MLS teams. Both New England and Philadelphia were weak in defense, and SKC struggled to score goals. This is a much better start to the year than last year when the Rapids battled the Red Bulls in week 2. Getting nine points here is a real possibility.

April

Opponents:

April 7 @ FC Dallas

April 14 vs. Toronto FC

April 21 @ Real Salt Lake

April 29 vs. Orlando City SC

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 44-37-40

Degree of Difficulty:

Guys, Dallas ain’t comin’ back in 2018 like they left 2017. They were a shambles at the end of last season, and I have to assume that Oscar Pareja is not having that again. Orlando have already made two big moves they needed to improve their team. First, they let Kaká retire in a move that will be addition by subtraction, as they were pretty bad with him on the field last year. Second, they brought in Sacha Kljestan to run the midfield.

Toronto is good and that’s already been established.

And our first Rocky Mountain Cup match is an away game. We probably will squeeze some points out somewhere, but we might also end this month with the fan base starting to panic a little.

May

Opponents:

May 5 @ Sporting Kansas City

May 12 vs. New York Red Bulls

May 19 @ New York City FC

May 26 vs. Portland Timbers

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 57-40-41

Degree of Difficulty:

That’s four playoff teams from 2017, including the Western Conference champions and the Eastern Conference runners-up, all clumped together. Not great, Bob! My hope for this one is that we get revenge on NYRB for the physically brutal match from last year, and that we go to Yankee Stadium and surrender fewer than the five goals we gave up in 2016. Seven points here would be amazing, but I’d settle for four.

June

Opponents:

June 1 vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

June 9 @ Houston Dynamo

June 13 vs. Chicago Fire

June 23 vs. Minnesota United FC

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 54-31-51

Degree of Difficulty:

Three teams that had a big 2017 rebound from bad seasons the year prior, and the Western Conference debutantes, plus we have three of these games at home. I think it possible for Chicago and Vancouver to experience some regression: David Accam turned into a pumpkin after July, Bastian Schweinsteiger will turn 34 years old next season, and Vancouver looked terrible in the playoffs last year. And the Rapids matches against Minnesota last year resulted in a tie and a loss—they need to put those noobs in their place.

Also of note, the Rapids play Chicago the day before World Cup 2018 kicks off in Russia, so expect some intrepid reporter to ask Schweinsteiger how the Fire look in their upcoming World Cup campaign.

July

Opponents:

July 1 @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC

July 4 vs. Seattle Sounders FC

July 7 @ Montreal Impact

July 14 vs. Houston Dynamo

July 21 @ Real Salt Lake

July 28 @ D.C. United

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 75-46-83

Degree of Difficulty:

The Rapids get two of the Eastern Conference’s weakest teams, Montreal Impact (record last year: 11-6-17) and DC United (record last year: 9-5-20). They also get those fair-to-middlin’ Western teams Houston, RSL, and Vancouver. And the always talented Sounders. It’s not a tough month in terms of record because these teams were a collective 8 games below .500 in 2017.

I wanted to say this month would be ‘easy’. But the thing that made me have to actually photoshop a damn blue square and a green circle together is the ‘where’ and the ‘when’. The Rapids have one of those three-games-in-seven-days stretches that can really tax a team, and four of the six matches are road games, and include some serious air travel. How we do in this month will be highly dependent on squad depth: the team will need the reserve guys to step in and play their best, and not just look like NCAA-level chum getting their first minutes in a 3-0 road blowout. The alternative of expecting 30-year-olds like Micheal Azira and Stefan Aigner to go ironman for 540 minutes is suicide. You want to get 12 or more points here, but under the circumstances, you’ll take nine.

August

Opponents:

August 4 vs. LA Galaxy

August 11 vs. San Jose Earthquakes

August 18 @ Los Angeles FC

August 25 vs. Real Salt Lake

August 29 @ LA Galaxy

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 42-29-65

Degree of Difficulty:

You could easily make the argument that this month-long run against the state of California should count as the easiest month on the schedule. LA Galaxy were a horrendous 8-8-18 last season, and we get them twice. LAFC are an expansion team, which should mean they’re on the easy side.

Except you and I both know that both LA teams are coming out guns blazing this year. The Galaxy absolutely blew up their team in the offseason, and I expect that they’ll get some of the pieces right in order to be better in 2018, along with the healthy return of Sebastian Lletget. LAFC have already grabbed three outstanding international players; Carlos Vela, Laurent Ciman, and Benny Feilhaber; and have a lot more building to do and money to spend. This team will not be a pushover. And the new and improved San Jose Earthquakes were better last year too.

So while the 2017 record says ‘cakewalk’, I think by the time August rolls around, it’ll be a lot tougher.

September

Opponents:

September 8 @ Portland Timbers

September 15 vs. Atlanta United FC

September 22 @ Columbus Crew SC

September 29 @ Seattle Sounders FC

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 60-35-41

Degree of Difficulty:

A collective 19 games over .500, all teams were in the 2017 MLS Playoffs, and three out of four games on the road—that’s tough. Also of note, it will be Atlanta’s first trip to DSGP, and it might be Colorado’s last trip to Mapfre Stadium. If the team is hanging on to the bottom of the playoff chase at this point in the season, this truly very challenging penultimate month will show us whether they’ve got the goods or not.

October

Opponents:

October 6 vs. Los Angeles FC

October 13 @ Minnesota United FC

October 21 @ San Jose Earthquakes

October 28 vs. FC Dallas

Opponents Cumulative 2017 W/T/L Record: 34-26-42

Degree of Difficulty:

You don’t get an easier final month than this. Minnesota was poor in 2017 and shows no signs of being significantly better in 2018, and San Jose and Dallas finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the conference. And the noobs from LAFC get their first-ever chance to experience the searing agony of your lungs begging for mercy in the 80th minute in the thin Colorado atmosphere. Even if the Rapids enter the month four points below the playoff redline, they still stand a chance of punching their way into the playoffs.