The Colorado Rapids attempt to extend their nine-game unbeaten run and stay near the top of the Western Conference standings when they host the improving and rested Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday evening.
After making the playoffs as a Cinderella story last year, the Rapids' improvement has reached the point where this Wednesday's 2-2 draw on the road Portland felt disappointing.
Colorado (12-4-7, 43 points) twice gave back the lead within four or fewer minutes of going ahead, and conceded Sebastian Blanco's equalizer in second-half stoppage time.
A win would've moved third-place Colorado into a tie with second-place Kansas City, and only one point back of West leaders Seattle with two games in hand.
"We just appear to be a little bit naiuml;ve tonight in a couple of situations," manager Robin Fraser said after the game. "And certainly, it's a disappointing draw given how long we were a man up and the fact that we were leading twice."
That result shouldn't obscure the fact the Rapids have played like one of the league's elite clubs.
Michael Barrios leads Colorado with seven goals after scoring against Portland, but it's more of an offense by committee. Five Rapids players have scored at least three goals, and eight have scored at least twice.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps (7-8-8, 29 points) are coming off a disappointing home loss to Portland on Sept. 10 that interrupted a four-game winning run following the arrival of a new star.
Summer signing Ryan Gauld has two goals and two assists since his Vancouver debut seven matches ago, and more importantly has helped bring a dramatic improvement in team form.
The Whitecaps' four-game winning streak was also Gauld's first four games playing at least 45 minutes in attacking midfield.
Now Gauld and Vancouver face the challenge of playing in the Mile High City, needing all the points they can get to make up ground on the seven playoff places. But they do so following nine days of rest after they were idle in midweek.
"We know that the conditions are going to be a little different," interim manager Vanni Sartini said. "So probably we can't be on the front foot pressing for 90 minutes. We need to be intelligent in order to keep our compactness."
--Field Level Media