It is the middle of the week, which means it is time once again for a Quick Burns segment here on Big D Soccer.
This week our panel is taking a break from talking about FC Dallas to discuss some thoughts from around Major League Soccer. Our question this week is on the subject of our current leaders in the standings, the Colorado Rapids.
Ben Lyon - Contenders but not favorites
The Colorado Rapids will make the playoffs this year, and that’s largely due to the addition of Jermaine Jones. Jones may be a square peg for a round hole wherever you put him in the midfield, but it’s a peg that guarantees a bludgeoning similar to this. He’s uniquely disruptive and influential and was a brilliant add by Crapids. Does anybody really think he was delusional noting how much better New England’s results were with him?
Unsurprisingly, he’s vastly improved Colorado’s fortunes (they’re unbeaten in the seven games he’s played this season), and it’s a good thing he (along with Shelkzen Gashi and Kevin Doyle at the Euros) will miss June due to the Copa America. I think it’s possible he starts to tire as the season wears on, but it’s important to remember that he missed the first six games due to suspension. The international absences and regression to the mean will bring Colorado back to the pack some, but I won’t be discounting their chances of winning the Western Conference just yet. They’re not favorites yet, but they’re certainly contenders.
Nathan Hill - Home field advantage is their answer
In short, yes.
Here's why. Colorado is always a tough place to play no matter what their roster looks like. They have a way of grinding our results against better teams at home even when they are obviously disjointed and tactically a mess. The altitude absolutely helps. They certainly are not perfect. I have little confidence in their head coach, who certainly has plenty of experience on the field, but seems to spend more time preparing his wardrobe and game day look than preparing his team. Their roster looks kind of like an assorted box of donuts. If FC Dallas fans think things are bad, they should be thankful we don't have the Colorado front office. With all of that said though, adding Jermaine Jones, an obvious difference maker, Tim Howard, a huge veteran for their defense, their other odd assortment of playmakers who look solid, like Shkëlzen Gashi, and young, potential stars (like Axel Sjöberg and Dillon Powers) is at the minimum a recipe for home victories. And in this league, we say it all the time, if you win your home games and grab some points away from home (which Colorado is already doing), you will definitely be in the playoff mix. And anything can happen in the playoffs.
Edin Halilovic - Momentum will die down
I do think that they're for real in the sense that they're serious candidates to make it to the playoffs this year, but whether or not they have the potential to challenge for the MLS Cup or not remains to be seen. That, though, pretty much goes for every team in the league simply because it's only May and too early in the season to really assess the trajectory of everyone's seasons. Let's put it this way. If the playoffs started next week, then they'd certainly be a strong pick to win it all. However, since that's not the case, a lot can still change between now and November so too early to call their chances just yet.
Personally, I don't think they'll be able to keep up this momentum throughout the entire season. Their defense is bound to hit a rough patch at some point while it's difficult to rely on their low scoring forwards or an aging Jermaine Jones to consistently bail them out every other week. I see them finishing in a playoff spot, maybe even the top four with some luck, but not ahead of the likes of FCD, LA Galaxy, or RSL come the end of the regular season.
Drew Epperley - Schedule plays a large part
I've been asking this question for the better part of two months now. When their current run first started I thought, okay, maybe it is just some good early results. Now it is starting to become a trend. Like mentioned above, their home field advantage is playing a big part in their success this season. The other part is their schedule is fairly balanced, similar to how FCD's was a year ago. They're not at home for any massive stretches and they aren't on the road for any long periods of time. That goes a long way with a team like this.
But are they for real? Yes. Jones makes them for real. Tim Howard also makes them legit and that is even without talking about their league-leading defense which somehow got better when they lost Drew Moor. They do need to start scoring more to make me believe they are a title contender though.