FC Dallas have an edge at the top of the table, but the Colorado Rapids just might be in the driver’s seat in the race for the Supporters’ Shield.
Dallas currently lead the league with 56 points, two more than the Rapids and five ahead of both New York clubs. Like FCD, the Red Bulls and NYCFC both have two matches remaining – their chances of finishing first, while still alive, are looking pretty remote.
It’s a different story in Colorado. The Rapids aren’t just the surprise of the season – they’re one of the biggest shocks in MLS history. Widely predicted to finish last in the Western Conference and miss the playoffs for a third straight year, Colorado have already clinched a postseason berth and have the second-best points per game average in the league, narrowly trailing only Dallas.
Just who has the best shot between Dallas and Colorado to claim the Shield? Let’s dive deep:
Remaining MLS games: vs. Seattle (10/16), at LA (10/23)
We’ll start with the leaders. Dallas have that five point cushion, but they also only have two games remaining in the regular season.
And what a brutal two games they are. Dallas will host red-hot Seattle in their next match, welcoming the Sounders to Toyota Stadium on Oct. 16. After a midweek trip to Guatemala to take on Suchitepequez in a do-or-die CCL encounter on Oct. 19, Oscar Pareja and Co. will close the regular season at LA on Oct. 23.
One of the deepest, most talented teams in all of MLS, Dallas certainly have the horses to win both matches. Things aren’t exactly trending in their favor, however.
Winners of four in a row and in the midst of one of the biggest turnarounds in MLS history, the Sounders have been the best team in MLS since Nicolas Lodeiro debuted on July 31. They’re flying, surviving a Lodeiro suspension and a Brad Evans red card to win 2-1 at Vancouver last weekend and move into fifth in the West. The Dallas match will mean plenty for Seattle, who, if things fall in their favor, could conceivably climb as high as third heading into the playoffs.
The Sounders are a buzzsaw. They will test Dallas, but it’s still reasonable to expect FCD, who are 11-1-4 at home this year, to grab at least a point at Toyota Stadium.
The only problem with that? With a trip to LA looming, a point against Seattle might not be enough for FCD to win the Shield.
The Galaxy are in a bit of a rut at the moment, but they’ve been uncommonly dominant at home in recent years, losing just six of their last 66 games at StubHub Center. Dallas did win at LA in the Open Cup semifinal in August, knocked off the Galaxy 1-0 at home last weekend and watched LA lose their last home match on Sept. 25 against Seattle, but this game is, at best, a tossup for FCD.
A point at StubHub would be a good result. Whether or not it’d be enough for Dallas to win the Shield is an entirely different matter, one that’s hugely dependent on how the Rapids close the season.
Remaining MLS games: 3-2 at Houston (10/8), vs. San Jose (10/13), at Portland (10/16), vs. Houston (10/23)
There’s some legitimate concern about how their ultra-defensive approach will translate in the playoffs, but the Rapids might not even have to wait until the postseason to a win a trophy. Though they trail Dallas by two points in the league table, Colorado have one game in hand on the Texas club and are in excellent position to claim the Shield.
The Rapids have a much, much easier remaining schedule than FCD. None of their three remaining matches are against teams currently above the red line and two of those contests will be played at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, where the Rapids are an outstanding 10-0-5 this year. If they can replicate their record from their last four matches – 2-0-2 with a win at Dallas, draws against San Jose and at Vancouver and a home win against Portland – over their final four contests, they might just end the regular season with the best record in MLS.
Colorado will return home for their next match, an Oct. 13 clash with the San Jose Earthquakes. Currently six points below the red line, San Jose will be fighting for their playoff lives at Colorado. But, like Houston, I’m having a hard time seeing the Earthquakes’ league-worst attack putting anything together against the Rapids. I expect another shutout for Colorado in this one and, since they’ll be at home, a full three points, too.
I’m not as optimistic about their Oct. 16 match at Portland. The Timbers, currently two points back of Kansas City for the West’s sixth and final playoff spot, will be clawing for the playoffs and are a really, really tough out at Providence Park. Portland are 11-3-2 at home this year and will likely be favored to take that win total to 12 against the Rapids.
Colorado will come home again for the finale, where they’ll host Houston on Oct. 23. Again, this one should be pretty straightforward. Houston have had major issues all year on the road, posting a 2-9-4 away record in 2016. Colorado will be big favorites to take all three points against Houston.
What It’ll Take
Colorado trail, but they control the race. If the Rapids win out, they’ll win the Shield with 63 points, one more than Dallas’ maximum of 62.
Taking all three of their remaining matches will be a tough task, however. Realistically, I think we’re looking at a race to 59 points. If Dallas can get there – and they need only one win to do it – they should be able to grab the Shield. They’d hold the total wins tiebreaker over Colorado if both teams finish with 59 points, meaning the Rapids would have to win at least three of their final four games to take the Shield if Dallas emerges victorious in either of their final two MLS matches.
The door will open a bit wider for Colorado if Dallas don’t win either of their final two contests. If FCD pick up two total points against Seattle and LA, the Rapids would need to finish 2-0-2 or better – a slightly difficult, if reasonable outcome – to win the Shield. If Dallas manage just one point (which would put the Red Bulls and NYCFC back in the race), the Rapids could go 2-1-1 and grab the trophy.
The only certainty in this thing is that it’ll be a fun, tight race, one that should come down to the final day.