Comment: Rapids Must Focus On The Here And Now
So now we know. The Portland Timbers will head back to Commerce City for the second time this season for a Western Conference Semifinal contest with the Colorado Rapids.
In the last five meetings with the Timbers, the Rapids are 2-0-3.
They are 7-2-4 against the Timbers at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park.
In those 13 games in Commerce City, the team from Oregon has been shut out five times, including on their most recent visit on October 23.
But when the teams stand on opposite sides of the center circle on Thursday afternoon none of what has gone before will be a factor.
Yes, folks like me will mention the numbers. We will talk long and loud about the trends, and positive patterns pertaining to the Rapids.
No doubt players will be asked about previous games against the Timbers, and how much of a bearing they will have on the preparation and potential outcome of this one-off encounter.
Again, the form, the results, the individual battles won, and the dominance on home soil should all be viewed as signs that the Rapids have enjoyed success inside DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, but it is absolutely no guarantee of glory on Turkey Day.
For a reminder of how recent results count for nothing in the playoffs we need only wander back five years to the Western Conference Championship series with the Seattle Sounders.
The Rapids had won the previous three games against the Sounders, including both in 2016 and two on the road. They lost both legs of the playoffs to a Sounders side hitting their stride when it mattered.
Form and results over the 34-game season may afford fans a warm fuzzy feeling, or perhaps an additional shred of self-belief, but the truth is, anything can happen in the knockout format and the Rapids know they will have to be at their very best to beat a very good Portland side.
Yes, the Rapids will be rested, having not played a competitive game in 18 days.
But then, the Timbers will be sharper for their 3-1 win over Minnesota United on Sunday afternoon.
Yes, the Rapids are playing at altitude and have not lost in the last 16 in Commerce City.
But the Timbers will be sharper for their 3-1 win over Minnesota United on Sunday afternoon.
Yes, the Rapids rightly finished top of the Western Conference - best in the West - for the first time in their franchise history.
But the Timbers will be sharper for their 3-1 win … you catch my drift.
The Rapids must match the intensity shown in their last game, which produced a pulsating 5-2 win over the playoff chasing LAFC on November 7.
Much celebrating was done after that win, and rightly so, but they must guard against that moment in time being all they have to cheer about.
The regular season has gone. New heights were reached, both personally and collectively, but ultimately the club has nothing to show for it other than some impressive numbers, that bring with it zero silverware.
And that, my friends, is what will stand the true test of time. The numbers may, or may not, be improved upon but the goal is to lift that trophy. Previous results do not give them any headstart in Thursday’s game. If anything, they may give the Timbers an additional incentive.
Refreshed the Rapids will be. They will have to reset. And they must be ready to go.
About the author: Since 2013, Richard Fleming has been the TV commentator and host, covering the Colorado Rapids in Major League Soccer. During 16 years with the BBC, he covered two FIFA World Cups, five Africa Cup of Nations, a FIFA Confederations Cup, and a European Championship. He has also covered UEFA Champions League, English Premier League, and football at all levels of the game during more than 30 years covering the sport.