Rapids Playoff Needs: No Room to Falter

The race for the Western Conference playoffs is tight; one slip, and the season could be gone
by Greg Moss   |   Thursday, September 26, 2013

Mile High Club – column on Colorado Rapids & the Denver area and Colorado soccer scenes.

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach right before the climax of a thriller movie? The feeling that twists you into a jumbled mess like a Rubix cube? You aren’t sure of how the ending will be, and all you can do is hope it goes in a direction that allows you to sigh in relief. But for now, you’re stuck on the edge of the seat with your hands glued to your face doing your best to consciously keep them from covering your eyes.

It comes down to hope.

Colorado in contention

It surprises most Colorado Rapids fans that their team is even in playoff contention this season. With the traffic jam of teams piling up on each other, one after another, like rush hour in a metro city, the Colorado Rapids find themselves in the middle of the horn honking festivities. They sit on the fence in 5th place, but only 5 points out of 1st, and 3 out of 2nd. 1 win, if all goes according to Colorado’s plan, they could find themselves sitting closer to the throne, resting in 3rd, or even 2nd.

On the negative side, sitting in 5th can be a dangerous place. Vancouver and San Jose loom in 6th with a gracious 4-point gap giving Colorado a tiny window of forgiveness if they were to slip up. Though Vancouver has a game in hand on Colorado, the Rapids play them twice more in their final 4 matches holding their own destiny in the palm of their hand to reach the coveted playoffs.

The Road to the playoffs

As it happens each season, crunch time is upon us, and Colorado, among other teams, has some work to as to not tumble off the cliff that is within arm’s reach.

I’m going to ramble off a few “musts” for Colorado in what I believe will assure them a spot in the playoffs, of course outside of just winning the rest of their matches.

Vancouver is the key: Of course the remaining 4 matches are all important games, 2 against the Whitecaps,         1 against San Jose and 1 against Seattle. These all have a direct impact on Colorado’s playoff fate. I’m convinced that if Colorado can win both matches against Vancouver, it would keep them in at least 5th. The 4 teams in front of Colorado will all be beating up on each other as well, and won’t all, if any, come out with 12-15 points. By taking 6 points from Vancouver, it would most likely assure that the Whitecaps won’t be a threat to push Colorado out of contention.

Creative play: As most know, Colorado lost to Portland in their last match. They started a rusty Martin Rivero, who hadn’t started in several months and has been in and out of play all season due to unfortunate injuries. The recent success of Vicente Sanchez was absent from the pitch because of a sore hip, and the match was on turf.

Colorado has relied on old fashioned, traditional football to be successful, but that sort of play can only work when supported by a hearty defense, which Colorado has proven they have, but one man out of position could cost them three points. Sanchez and Rivero must perform at their peak level to keep the attack on the opponent’s side of the field. Unpredictability has been a strength of the Rapids since the beginning of the season. That must be a staple in their play.

Torres and Buddle: Recently acquired designated player Gabriel Torres has scored for every team he’s played for except Colorado. He must find his feet at altitude and be the scoring threat that he was brought to be for Colorado to be successful in the playoffs. With Torres playing silently, Edson Buddle has found a groove with the creativity of Sanchez, and has to continue to “ride the high” as well as stay healthy to keep the Rapids on the upside of the score when the final whistle blows.

Chris Klute: The previous points all boil down to one factor: attacking. Colorado’s defense has been the strongest and most consistent group all season long only allowing 31 goals, which is tied for the 2nd least in the Western Conference. The play of Chris Klute has been stellar, surprising not only coaches and fans, but probably Klute himself. He continues to play it “cool” with all the hype surrounding him. The defensive aspect of his play has been of no concern. But when he’s shut down driving forward on the wing, Colorado doesn’t seem to attack as fluidly. It leads back to creative play. Sanchez has found a relationship with Klute on the left side of the field, freeing him up to drive the ball down the sideline and set up the strikers for goals.

If Colorado can manage to put even two of these four points into play, the Rapids will make the playoffs. Adaptability has been their ally, and they will have to implement that ability each and every game to find themselves higher on the table. Coming in 4th or 5th is always a difficult place to start a playoff run. Ending higher on the table will be an obvious benefit to their playoff success.

NEXT UP: October 5 – Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. 10 p.m. EST, NBC Sports.

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Greg MOSS

Nationality:
USA
College:
Concordia College
Club Domestic:
Colorado Rapids
Club Foreign:
Everton
Producer of "From the Pitch" with Marcelo Balboa and a personal Rapids podcast. All personality with a face for radio and profile pictures. Born a midwesterner, thankfully transformed into a Rocky Mtn dweller. Covering Colorado Rapids with words and voice
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