I'm not sure I'd call the Rapids product that we've been seeing this year a cup caliber squad. Even with the new additions of Mac Kandji and Brian Mullan the team is probably good for a playoff appearance and perhaps a win or two in the post season, but probably not enough to get all the way to the cup. Of course, it's obviously useless to talk about what the potential finishing power of this team is in the playoffs if the team can't even make it that far. The Rapids are, after all, a team unfortunately known for stumbling down the homestretch. So will they make the leap to the post season?
The playoff cut off will be around 43 points most likely, with the Rapids sitting at 37 right now; they barely missed the playoffs last season as they ended with 40 after losing to Real Salt Lake on the last day of the season. The schedule is a bit tough going into the home stretch, but the Rapids faithful can look up and feel pleased at a possible playoff berth because the six points that the Rapids require to make the postseason are ripe, juicy and sitting there for the plucking on the pitch at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
The two games in question are September 29th against the Philadelphia Union and October 2nd against DC United. The Rapids have completely dominated at home this season, especially recently where in their last four games they've gone 4-0-0 while allowing no goals and scoring a whopping ten goals. With the Union and United both having awful seasons, these games should provide the cover that the Rapids need to make the playoffs with 6 points.
The problem is, a draw or loss in either of them could spell disaster. The rest of the Rapids schedule is against several cup contenders as they meet the current champions Real Salt Lake twice, the LA Galaxy once and recently surging FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park. A loss or draw to Philly or DC could require a win and a few draws out of that tough gang of teams, something the Pids faithful would probably rather not want to depend on. Two wins at home and suddenly the team has more freedom against the tougher opponents and can focus on just getting a couple extra points to boost their final standings rather than try and scrape their way in from the bottom.
The biggest question will be of fatigue by the time those games show up. Colorado has an unfortunate situation of playing three games in eight days starting with Saturday's game against Real Salt Lake, a rarity for the usually well rested Rapids due to their lack of cup play and friendlies. Fortunately, very little travel will be involved as they only have to go from Utah back home, where they will remain for two games.
It feels silly to call two games against the worst teams in the league "must win games" but those games might very well be at that point.