After missing out on an opportunity to grab points against a team below them in the table, it's fair to say things look a bit gloomy right now. Mathematically it's not impossible to make the MLS Cup Playoffs. Anything could happen. But things just got a lot harder for the Burgundy Boys. It was heartbreak at the death as Houston scored in stoppage time on Saturday night to the tie game, 1-1. In a must win game, Colorado came up short.
Currently the Rapids are only two points behind the playoff line. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Wrong. The Rapids have one exactly one game on the road this season. The four teams ahead of Colorado in the standings are tough opponents. Not to mention that the Rapids have struggled against the teams below them in the standings all season long. Up next they've got Philly, Nashville, and DC for a three game road stretch. Then, home to Vancouver, San Jose and finally a potentially big showdown on Sept 17 at LA Galaxy. It's a massive push going into October and any potential MLS Cup run. Eight total league matches remain in the season where the expectation is five wins are needed to secure a playoff spot. Adding to the pressure is the availability of key players through injury concerns like Jack Price, Diego Rubio, and Keegan Rosenberry while Bryan Acosta misses the next match due to suspension. We can add question marks to two players who went down in Rapids 2 action on Sunday; Max Alves and Anthony Markanich.
Head Coach Robin Fraser's postgame comments after the loss to Houston were spot on and more on the nose that usual.
"There were some harsh discussions. [It] was a harsh discussion. And the fact of the matter is we've shot ourselves in the foot several times this year, and if we keep doing that, then our season is going to be really short. And at some point, we all have to take responsibility. We have to take responsibility for choices we made as a coaching staff; the players have to take responsibility for decisions and execution or lack of execution within the game.
“So I don't feel like it was an overly emotional response, but I do think that we needed to talk about some things. I even said, ‘I know that we don't want to talk tactics after the game, everyone's emotional, but there are things that need to be better. Period.’ It wasn't going to do any good to wait until Monday to make those comments, like those comments need to be made now. In our days off, guys need to reflect. We need to reflect and we need to show up again next week, and again, we keep talking about resolve, and I mean, our backs are pretty flat against the wall now so we have to stand up."
When looking at the xG numbers compared to last season, it does illustrate a story. Things were really bouncing their way last season- not that the team didn't play well because they did. Meanwhile, this season they can't seem to catch a break and 100% do not have luck on their side. You could say the Rapids overperformed a little last season and have underperformed this season. The squad is weaker on paper this season compared to last season's squad. Several individual players have not performed at the same level as they did last season. Key injuries have plagued the team. Set piece goals finally dried up. It's been said before, but it's been a lot of little things not one big thing that has been problematic for this club.
On the flip side, one of the biggest positives in recent weeks has been new signing Felipe Gutierrez. The Chilean has filled the creative midfield role brilliantly, delivers a fantastic dead ball and has even covered defensively when asked. Another way to look at things optimistically would be to say that Portland and Seattle are struggling right now. They're ahead of Colorado in the standings but are faltering at the right time. This could leave an opening for the Rapids to exploit.
Moving forward the players and the staff have to put it all behind them. The mental side of the game is huge and this group could use a reset before a character defining road trip to the east coast. Early kickoffs are in store for the upcoming road trip where the Rapids next game takes place in Chester, PA at 5:30pm MT.