If they want to have any hope of matching last year’s run to the MLS Playoffs, the Colorado Rapids need to start winning. Like, yesterday. On Saturday at 2 p.m. MDT they’ll have a chance to end their five-game losing streak against USMNT regular Chris Wondolowski and the San Jose Earthquakes.
The biggest question entering every Rapids game this season has been this: Can they score enough goals to win? That question has only been answered in the affirmative one time this season, in the season opener against the New England Revolution. The Rapids offense seemed to get the memo last week against the Vancouver Whitecaps after mustering only one shot on goal and three total shots in their previous game at Orlando City. They took a season high 15 shots against the Whitecaps after showing a much more attack-minded style of play. The problem is that they only managed to get one shot on net.
The pace at which the Rapids attacked the Whitecaps is what fans had hoped to see. Something that fans may not have expected but were surely appreciative of was the fact that 2016 leading scorer Shkelzen Gashi played the entire 90 minutes for the first time all season. Gashi was one of the many attackers playing with a sense of urgency against the Whitecaps. He constantly pressured the Whitecaps’ defenders when they had the ball, looked for shooting opportunities and seldom misplayed the ball in the Rapids’ 1-0 loss. If Gashi can just reel in his accuracy a tad for the match against the Earthquakes, we could see his first goal this season.
But to get his first goal of the season Gashi will have to beat the Earthquakes’ goalkeeper David Bingham and the stingy San Jose defense. Bingham currently sits fourth in the league in goals against average and has allowed just one goal per game. Seeing as the Rapids have scored only five goals in eight games this season, they’ll have to muster up a special performance in order to outscore the Earthquakes, who have scored 12 goals in 10 games this season.
The leading goal scorer for the Earthquakes is the aforementioned Wondolowski. He’s a one-stop shop for offense and leads the team in goals and assists with four and five, respectively. Jared Watts and the Rapids’ defense, who will likely be without Axel Sjoberg again, will also have to deal with midfielder Jahmir Hyka, who has two goals and three assists on the season. Tim Howard looks to have his hands full on Saturday, yet something tells me that the long-time USMNT goalkeeper will be ready.
The Rapids need to take advantage of the home stretch they’re on if they’re going to save this season. They’re in last place in the MLS after reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2016. Seven of their next 10 games come at home, and the Rapids didn’t lose a game at home all year during the 2016 regular season. If they can regain their winning form at home and gain some confidence along the way, they may yet still have a chance at salvaging the 2017 season.