The Colorado Rapids entered their Saturday evening match against the Vancouver Whitecaps with 15 points still available in the 2022 regular season. We may be at a point where the club needs all 15 to qualify for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Sitting above them in ninth in the West is Seattle Sounders FC; they have 39 points through 30 games. In eighth, the LA Galaxy have 40 points through 29 games. And currently occupying the final playoff spot is Real Salt Lake with 43 points through 30 games.
The best news is the Rapids won their game Saturday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps. If they win out, they’ll have 48 points. In 2021, RSL made the playoffs in seventh place with 48 points, edging out the Galaxy who also had 48 but one fewer win. In 2019, FC Dallas snagged seventh with – yep, you guessed it – 48 points.
The Rapids remaining schedule is Wednesday night against San Jose, Saturday in Los Angeles against the Galaxy, October first in the home finale against FC Dallas and Decision Day on the road in Texas against Austin FC. Four more games, 12 more points.
Up first, the San Jose Earthquakes, who find themselves in an unusual position. They fired manager Matias Almeyda back in the spring and have hired his replacement, former FC Dallas manager Luchi Gonzalez. But Gonzalez isn’t coaching the team right now. He’s still an assistant on Gregg Berhalter’s US Men’s National Team coaching staff. After the World Cup this fall in Qatar, Gonzalez will then take over as manager of the Quakes.
The Bay Area side sit at the bottom of the Western Conference in what’s become a lost season for team development. They have only seven wins, the fewest in the West and tied for the fewest in MLS, and have conceded the most goals in the league with 61 balls finding the back of their net. That’s an average of 2.1 goals conceded every 90 minutes. That’s a lot. But they do have individual players who aren’t as bad as their record might indicate. Striker Jeremy Ebobisse has scored 15 goals in what has become a breakout year for the young American.
So here’s what the Rapids need to do to get all three points and chase the playoff line:
Per mlssoccer.com's stats page, the Rapids lead the league in accurate long balls in 2022. They have hit 981. Seattle is in second with 955. Given the fact the Rapids are not a team that dominates possession the way NYCFC or Atlanta might, the number is even more impressive. The Rapids get the ball at the feet of defender Danny Wilson and he drops it on a dime to the feet of his attackers. It worked Saturday night as well. Two long balls from Wilson led directly to two goals. The first was a ball to Lewis who fired it into the middle where midfielder Felipe Gutierrez laid it off to forward Gyasi Zardes who promptly buried it. The second goal was a penalty converted by forward Diego Rubio but it was a second long ball to Jonathan Lewis who earned the penalty. The Rapids should be able to find more success with their accurate passing and speed out wide that will put Earthquakes defenders in compromised positions.
Slow Down Ebobisse
As mentioned above, Jeremy Ebobisse is having a great campaign. Fifteen goals in 29 matches equals out to an even better average than one-in-two. The Rapids can play flawlessly against 10 Earthquakes and still be undone by Ebobisse moments of brilliance if they’re not careful. At just 25 years old, he’s also not even in his prime, which is scary to think about. Likely on the outside looking in when it comes to going to Qatar with the U.S. Men’s National Team, he’ll walk into the final five games of his season with the mindset that they’re the final five chances for him to impress Berhalter. So even if San Jose is staring at elimination from the postseason, their most dangerous asset will be more than motivated to make his presence known.
The Out of Town Scoreboard
This isn’t a key for this game specifically, but it is officially a key and a factor for the rest of the season. Winning the final four games does not guarantee the Rapids a spot in the postseason. They need help from others to jump Seattle, LA and whomever else may be in their way when they reach the playoff line. Wednesday night, the Rapids will be rooting for Austin FC to dispatch RSL, and for Vancouver to defeat the LA Galaxy. Both Austin and Vancouver are at home which will help. At the weekend, the Rapids can help themselves by going to Carson, California and beating LA. And then hoping Cincinnati can go to Salt Lake and get a result while Vancouver host Seattle.