Match Preview: One Final Push As Rapids Chase Top Spot
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. LOS ANGELES FC Sunday, November 7 | DICK’S Sporting Goods Park | Altitude TV
With third spot in the Western Conference the worst they can finish, the Colorado Rapids head into this Sunday’s final game of the regular season still wanting more, as they await Bob Bradley’s LAFC.
Third is assured but the Rapids could still climb to second, or even take top spot, something they are yet to do in their 26 seasons. The best they have previously managed was second in the West, which they did so in 2016.
First things first, the Rapids need to win and then hope that both Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City fail to beat Vancouver Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake, two teams - like LAFC - fighting for their place in the playoffs. (STANDINGS)
Yet, while many inside the stadium and across MLS will be closely monitoring the ever-changing scorelines around the Western Conference on Decision Day, Head Coach Robin Fraser will not be one of them.
He told me: “I won’t ask. I don’t care. If we want to win the division, we know we need to win, and that’s really the only thing we can control. And if the other two teams win, then so be it, but our mindset is that we know we have to win.”
That will be the same message Bradley sends his players out with as well. LAFC sits two spots and two points outside of the playoff places, and so anything but a win will end their season on Sunday night. LAFC also need favors from others if they are to join the postseason party.
The Rapids know that they have reached new heights in 2021, with a plethora of club records smashed. Ahead of this contest, Fraser’s side sits on 58 points, which equals the most they have ever amassed over a 34-game season. A point from Sunday’s affair would give them the most points but also the most points per game in their history.
But this will be a desperate LAFC side marching into Commerce City. They are unbeaten in the last six games, and cling to the hope of squeezing in on the last day. Their season hit problems in the summer when they went eight games without success (0-5-3).
The California club, playing their fourth season in MLS, has been without star man Carlos Vela for long stretches, and saw Diego Rossi disappear to Turkish club Fenerbahce in September (Rossi faced Rapids homegrown defender Sam Vines in the UEFA Europa League).
Vela is edging his way back - he has come off the bench in the last two games - and so LAFC has relied heavily on Colombian attacker Cristian Arango, who has raced to 13 goals in just 16 appearances since signing at the start of August.
Like the Rapids, Sunday’s visitors have struggled for consistency in the players they start. The Rapids have fielded the same 11 in consecutive games on only three occasions. LAFC have done so just twice.
Keegan Rosenberry and Braian Galvan may not feature in this game. Both have sat out recent encounters due to injury, but Kellyn Acosta should be available and no doubt eager to see some action before heading off to join up with the national team for the next round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye could be key for the Rapids, on and off the field. Having arrived from LAFC at the end of July, his insight into Sunday’s opponents could offer a little extra as the Rapids go in search of only their second win against the Black & Gold. That win was the last meeting in Colorado, when a Danny Wilson header was the difference, and on a night when Vines kept Vela in his pocket for much of the match.
With one game to go, a few questions have been answered. We know the Rapids will make the postseason, and that they will start with a home game. Opponent and date of that game will become apparent after a drama-filled Decision Day Sunday.
There is extended pregame coverage on Altitude TV, starting at 3.30pm MT. The game will kickoff at 4.25.
About the author: Richard Fleming is in his ninth season 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.