Before the CONCACAF Champions League shifted to the new 'three teams per group' system, there was a very easy way to guarantee you would end up in the knockout round: Win every game at home and fight for whatever you could on the road. That's what Gary Smith told us he was going to do to get us in the top two teams of the group we were in back in 2011. He was lying and instead played a hilariously weak back-up squad in every single game, but the idea remained a good one.
That's exactly the same idea that the Rapids need to have if they're going to shake off that Chivas USA result on Sunday and get themselves into the playoff race for good. Losing that Chivas game probably killed off their incredibly small Supporter's Shield dreams, but that's not what's important. This team, especially with Gabriel Torres in the mix to help out that finishing issue, has proven that it's ready to try and make an MLS Cup run as soon as this year.
They'll need to get into the playoffs first though, and 12 points from their final four home games will be vitally important. This isn't going to be a repeat of the hilariously pathetic Western Conference battle for the playoffs that we saw last year. A team with 43 points will not be getting into the playoffs this time around. Hell, a team with 53 points might have to look over their shoulders by the time the season is on its final day.
Seattle is going to get into the playoff picture if they keep up anything even remotely resembling their current form, simply because of the enormous number of games in hand they have on everyone, especially the Rapids. That means that one of the other teams in the top five right now will have to drop out, and the Rapids are the prime candidate at the moment.
Unless, of course, they can get six points off of Vancouver in their home matches, and hold off struggling FC Dallas, below the Rapids in the table right now, in one of the other ones. The final home match against the streaking Sounders needs to be a win as well, as it represents the best opportunity the Rapids have to knock a top team off of their perch. (Make no mistake, the Sounders will be a 'top team' by the time that game comes around.)
That road slate is very tough to look at ahead. Away to Portland, Kansas City and Los Angeles are all tough asks. If Colorado gets 12 points at home though, they'll have 48 with five other games to go. A single win and a draw or two in those games should be enough to force the playoff issue. Super home form is what got them into the playoffs in 2010, after all. If they lose next week's match against Vancouver though, some very tough questions are going to come up regarding the team's chances at the big show.