Match Preview: Houston Dynamo vs. Colorado Rapids
When the Colorado Rapids step onto the field at BBVA Stadium on Sunday afternoon, they will be playing their 18th and final game of the 2020 regular season, 253 days after opening the campaign at D.C. United, writes Richard Fleming.
In this most unusual of years, the journey to the season end has been long and arduous. The Rapids have played the equivalent of a game every 14 days, and yet they face Houston Dynamo on the final day as one of the freshest and fittest teams in the league.
After being forced to go 31 days without a game, their reintroduction was humbling, with Sporting Kansas City sending them packing with a 4-0 drubbing at Children’s Mercy Park on October 24.
A Lalas Abubakar own goal in the dying moments in Minnesota meant more misery, though this time by just a 2-1 reversal, since when they have rediscovered their mojo. This has been highlighted with consecutive victories over the teams who – when faced – were sitting on top of the Western Conference.
They dismantled Seattle Sounders 3-1 at home, with a season-high 10 shots on goal. They then went to Portland Timbers and bagged another maximum with a 1-0 win. That was only their second-ever win in Portland in 11 visits and secured their place in the postseason for the first time in four years.
That first game back against Sporting KC was the third time the Rapids had resumed play, and on each occasion they have gradually eased into the form we saw at the very start of the year, which began with back-to-back wins.
They head to Houston knowing there must be no let-up. Momentum heading into the playoffs is vital. They defeated the Sounders and the Timbers but must not allow their focus to wander as they face the bottom team in the West.
This is a second meeting of the season with Tab Ramos’s side. Their previous encounter ended 1-1 at DICK’S Sporting Goods Park on September 9. In a contest dominated by the home side, it took a stoppage-time goal from Abubakar – his first for the club – to salvage a point.
Houston had been on a roll heading into that match, and were third in the standings. The draw in Commerce City extended their unbeaten run to six games. They have since dropped like a stone, winning only one of the last 12. Their playoff dreams were ended last weekend with a 3-0 loss at FC Dallas.
Robin Fraser must decide whether to start the goal-scoring hero from Wednesday night, Kellyn Acosta. He will be crucial in the playoffs and the Portland outing were his first minutes since September 23. If Fraser does opt for Acosta, then Cole Bassett will likely make way.
With Alberth Elis now at Portuguese side Boavista, the main Houston threat comes in the form of Darwin Quintero. He has seven goals and 10 assists, though the Rapids must remain mindful of Memo Rodriguez, Mauro Manotas, and Darwin Ceren.
Houston may be down and out, but this is their final game of 2020, and it is at home. First season head coach Ramos is unlikely to field a bunch of fringe players, as has been seen from other clubs in previous years. The Rapids should expect a full-strength Dynamo. They should also expect a battle, which is something they ought to relish as they prepare for the race to MLS Cup.
Coverage of Houston Dynamo versus the Colorado Rapids is on Altitude and AltitudeNOW from 4.30pm on Sunday.