A week ago: Who can beat Colorado Rapids?
The Rapids are one of four teams with the potential to challenge MLS for a playoff spot, but the Rapids have to win on Saturday to avoid the possibility of falling behind the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers for the No. 4 seed in the playoffs.
The Rapids have been in the postseason for the past four years, but their first playoff appearance came in 2016.
There are several teams in the playoff picture in the Western Conference, including the Los Angeles Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake and New England Revolution.
But the Rapids are a team that has not finished in the top three in the West in each of the past three seasons, and it is difficult to imagine them being able to compete in the conference finals with the three top seeds in the East and the Houston Dynamo.
They will face the Dynamo on Sunday and the Sounders on Tuesday.
Colorado will play the Portland on Sunday after their bye week and the Rapids will play Sporting KC on Tuesday after the Portland trip.
Sporting KC has the best record in the MLS, winning 10 of their last 11 games.
Houston has won 11 of the last 12 games in the rivalry, but that is not a playoff-caliber team.
For the Rapids, the Rapids home opener is Sunday, March 4 against the San Jose Earthquakes.
If they win, it will be their third consecutive home opener.
“We’re excited to come back,” Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni said.
“It’s going to be a great opportunity to start this year.
It’s one of the biggest games in our history.
We’re going to make sure we put our best foot forward and we’ll try to win it.
That’s what we do every game.”
The Rapids (9-4-4, 41 points) have been without midfielder Michael Harrington since the end of January after suffering a hamstring strain.
He has been limited to just four appearances this season, and he will not play again until March 10 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Despite their injuries, the Timbers have been playing well in their first four matches.
Portland has won four straight and is 11-0-3 at home, including wins against the Seattle Timbers, New England Revs, and LA Galaxy.
However, the Quakes are unbeaten in four road matches, with two wins and three draws.
After Saturday’s match, Mastroenceni said that he will be more cautious in the future.
Injuries and suspensions have been a problem for the Rapids.
On Monday, Mastropeni said he has spoken with the team about the issue and that he believes there is a way to fix it.
“The injuries and suspensions are an issue that has been around for awhile,” he said.
Mastroeni, however, has also addressed the issue of how many players will be available to play on Saturday.
“(I’m) very optimistic that we’ll have enough players to play,” he told reporters.
Asked whether the Rapids would play without Harrington, Mastrogeni said: “Of course.
You never know.”
Morty, who is out for the season with a knee injury, will return Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
Brett Levis and Ryan Hollingsworth, both injured in the loss to Houston, are out for now with hamstring injuries.
Ahead of the match against Portland, Mastroceni said a decision would be made about whether to call a bench for the final minutes of the game.
What to watch: The Portland Timbers have won seven straight and seven of their past eight matches.
The Rapids have won six of their first seven matches.
Portland’s goal is their first of the season.
Vancouver is 0-3-3 in the last five meetings with the Rapids and has won six in a row.
How to follow the game: ESPN and the Sporting KC Blog will provide live updates throughout the match.
Live blog coverage will be provided by MLSsoccer.com and The Sporting KC blog.
Follow Brian Straus on Twitter: @BrianStraus.