The last time the Rapids made the playoffs, they still wore blue and black as their colors and still played in the middle of the Denver Metro area. A lot has changed with both the team and its identity as they take on the Columbus Crew tonight in the first ever playoff game to be hosted in the beautiful Dicks Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.
Columbus has not been at their best late in the season, with fatigue and lack of depth catching up to a squad that has played not only 30 games of MLS but a full US Open Cup run to the final and several continuing CCL matches besides. Goalkeeper William Hesmer was also lost to a shoulder fracture in the Crew's last game of the season, leaving only backup goaltender Andy Gruenebaum to be in net for them, a man with not a single minute of MLS game experience. He did start most of the teams cup matches this season so playoffs may not be as big a deal for him as expected.
Colorado's star striker tandem of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings has produced over 25 goals together this season, they'll look to continue that success against a weakened goaltending and center-back defense of Columbus. The playoff experience that the new players on the team bring could be immense help as well in giving the newer Rapids a chance to shake off the pressure.
A win today will give Colorado an advantage in the home/away two legged playoff series, a good start considering the still somewhat questionable road form of Colorado - something that has been quelled by recent results away at FC Dallas and Los Angeles but could still be a concern - and a fairly easy road to get to the semifinals against either the New York Red Bulls or the San Jose Earthquakes.
The game is at 7 PM Mountain Time tonight on ESPN2.