Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Rapids Season Run-In Analysis

Originally written for the C38 blog

With 11 games to go the Rapids sit in the top spot in the Supporters Shield race (by pts/game), a place they’ve never been before.  Our focus naturally goes to the rest of the season and what we will face to see where the critical points are.

Colorado has actually just started their most important run of games.  Saturday in LA was the first of 5 games that will probably determine our position when we hit the post season.  Looking at that group first:

8/13 @LA – Draw
8/20 – Orlando
8/26 - @FSL
9/3 - @NE
9/10 - @Dallas

That’s our longest road trip (NE), two games against our rivals for the top spot (LA, Dallas), a Rocky Mountain Cup match, and our one home game in that stretch.  The key in this group of games is to keep pace with Dallas and not let the Galaxy gain ground on us.  The draw in LA was a good start, especially with Dallas also drawing Saturday night.  Obviously this week at home is a must win against a weak team.  Then we have 3 tough road games in a row.  We need to get at least a draw in Sandy, not only for our Shield chances but also to win the Rocky Mountain Cup.  Obviously we need at least a draw against Dallas to keep pace with them but we don’t necessarily need a win if the next 3 games go well.  Any points off the long road trip to New England (where they play on turf) would be good but a loss here wouldn’t kill us.

The reason that group of 5 games are the critical ones is because the last 7 games of the season are very favorable:

9/17 – SJ
9/24 - @Vancouver
10/1 – Portland
10/8 - @Houston
10/13 – SJ
10/16 - @Portland
10/23 – Houston

That’s 7 games against 4 teams in the bottom half of the conference.  Houston is already all but eliminated from the playoffs and we get them twice.  San Jose is the best of the teams (at 1.35 pts/game) but we get them at home both times and they have a total of 1 road win this season.  We’ve seen Vancouver twice recently and they don’t look particularly scary.  The toughest game in the group will be @ Portland because it will be on short rest and on turf, and Portland is a pretty good road team.  The good news is that they don’t have a road win yet so we should be in good shape for their trip here.

Two particularly important games are the trip to Houston and the second San Jose game as those represent the two games “in hand” we have on Dallas.  Houston and Colorado are the only teams playing the weekend of 10/8 as the rest of the league is taking the weekend off for the international break and the San Jose game is the one midweek game we still have on our schedule.

We should expect to win all of our 5 remaining home games if we expect to be in realistic contention for the Shield. That’s 15 points.  Combined with our current 42 points that gets us to 57.  If we can average a point a game on the road in our 6 road games that’s 63 points.  That should probably be enough as long as we don’t lose to Dallas since 2 of Dallas’ and LA’s last 3 games are against each other and they should take points off of each other as well.  Of course that plan I just laid out means going on another double-digit undefeated streak, not something we can reliably expect.  So we will probably lose a road game or two and maybe draw a game or two at home.  I think we can make those points up though in places like Vancouver and Houston.

In the end the schedule sets up very nicely for us to make a late run to the Shield, a CCL place, and home field throughout the playoffs, including hosting MLS Cup if we make it that far.  The key to all of that is in our next 4 game though.  We need at least 5 points and we can’t lose to Dallas.

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