After 30 MLS games, the Rapids have four remaining - two at home and two away. The penultimate home game is Saturday against the Portland Timbers. With a win, the Rapids can clinch a spot in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and possibly surpass Sporting Kansas City in second place. No matter what happens, the Timbers, occupying fourth, cannot catch the Rapids for third place on Saturday.
The Rapids still have all their goals in front of them. And depending what happens between Seattle and Sporting KC on Saturday afternoon, they could finish the day within three points of the Sounders. At this point, it’s all about securing as many matches at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park as possible. A top-four finish would give the Rapids home field advantage to start the postseason.
The Timbers enter this one with their noses bloodied after giving away a 2-0 advantage and losing 3-2 at home to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night. You can bet that result stings. If it had held and the Timbers collected all three points, they’d be three points behind the Rapids and attempting to pass them in the standings.
But that’s MLS. It is chaotic. There’s no gravitational center dictating results. A game may be flowing one way and it ends up finishing in the opposite direction. A team outside the playoff picture may beat the first-place team on any given day. The soccer continues to improve every year, but the Mentos-in-a-Coke-bottle explosiveness remains. We love it.
Timbers in town. Time to put a little more distance between third and fourth place. Here’s how:
Get ‘em While They’re Down
Up until two games ago, the Timbers had an eight-game unbeaten streak. They scored 18 goals over that span. But they’ve hit a speed bump and have dropped their last two matches, coincidentally both against teams currently in a playoff spot, the Galaxy and Whitecaps. The Timbers haven’t lost three in a row at any point this season, and you can expect them to try and get all three points, given that every current playoff team behind them is within three points. They’ll be desperate to host a home game at Providence Park, but only the top four in the West earn that privilege. And we still don’t know exactly who that will be. It should lend itself to some expansive soccer with both teams going for it.
The Argentinian attacker is the most prolific player for the Timbers. When he’s on, he’s on. Don’t think of his four goals and five assists as modest; he didn’t even make his first start of 2021 until mid-August. And if you recall, he did score when the Rapids were at Providence Park back in September. He’s creative, industrious, deceptively quick and he’ll let a shot rip from anywhere. The Rapids can shut down the Timbers attack by shutting down Blanco. It’s easier said than done, of course, but it’s imperative they don’t give him time to operate and be creative. On the other end of the pitch, Blanco isn’t the world’s greatest defender. There should be opportunities for the Rapids to overload in certain situations and take advantage of that weakness.
Eyes on the Prize
The Rapids can have a really good weekend. Every team in the top four in the West is probably thinking the same thing, to be fair. But for Colorado, the two teams above them are squaring off in Seattle. Either they’ll both get one point or somebody’s going home with zero points. And for the Rapids, a win gives them three points (duh) and is essentially a six-point swing between them and the Timbers, the team just below them in the standings. So not only could they widen the gap between themselves and fourth place, the Rapids could also get two or three points closer to Sporting KC and the Sounders. Hosting a playoff game makes winning it immensely easier. All the goals the Rapids have set for themselves are still attainable. Go out and get three points and carry that good feeling to New England to take on the league-leading Revolution on Wednesday.