A punchless, uninspired effort came on display for the Colorado Rapids at the worst possible time as they dropped a 1-0 decision to the San Jose Earthquakes. It was the biggest game of the last remaining regular season stretch, one in which the Rapids never looked to pose a serious threat.
Going into the game, it seemed like a realistic outcome was a draw considering it was a road game against a surging opponent that has flummoxed the Rapids historically. A draw would have held the Earthquakes at bay. Colorado played as such, not like it was seeking a victory like it did against Seattle. And it showed.
Wednesday's defeat by the Rapids allows the 'Quakes to re-enter the postseason picture with two games left for each team. What looked to be a clear path to the postseason for the Rapids following their 5-1 dispatch of the Seattle Sounders transformed on Wednesday evening into a very precarious stance toward the playoffs.
Here's how both teams stack up with a pair of games remaining.
San Jose Earthquakes
Games remaining: @ L.A. Galaxy, vs. F.C. Dallas
The skinny: Colorado's best hope now is that L.A. keep pace with their 5-0 beatdown of Chivas USA from last weekend and put forth a similar effort against the 'Quakes at the StubHub Center. Trouble is, San Jose will have much more to play for than L.A. If both teams battle it out to a draw, Colorado can take take the reins with a victory in their next game. If San Jose wins, Colorado is in serious trouble. Whereas it looked like Colorado once controlled its postseason destiny, it surrendered its position to a strong San Jose squad. If San Jose beats L.A., then it's an ugly proposition for Colorado as San Jose closes out the regular season against a flagging Dallas squad.
Games remaining: vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, @ Whitecaps
The skinny: Vancouver was fading fast from the playoff picture, but then caught a suddenly-weak Seattle Sounders team at its friendly confines and destroyed the Cascadia Cup rivals 4-1, just one goal off the pace of Colorado's takedown from last weekend. So are the Whitecaps hot? And how might that affect the Rapids? Since last year, Colorado has generally outplayed the Whitecaps but haven't always gotten results against their rivals. Many predicted weeks ago that Colorado's postseason chances would come down to this two-game series against Vancouver. The Whitecaps cling to postseason dreams, so expect them to play Colorado tough in both games.
The bottom line: Look, Colorado's dream season is in serious risk for a nightmare outcome. Like we said earlier, the Rapids could have punched their ticket to the postseason on Wednesday night, but instead let San Jose back in the mix with two games left to go in the season. Now it's San Jose's results the rest of the way that will be more meaningful than Colorado's outcomes. If San Jose loses to L.A., things looks alright. If San Jose ties L.A., it's troublesome for Colorado. If San Jose beats L.A., the warning sirens will blare in Commerce City, regardless of how the Rapids fare against the Whitecaps in the last regular season game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Sorry, Colorado. You controlled your destiny going into San Jose, but you didn't play like it. Now you rely on San Jose losing games the rest of the way to secure your entry into the post season.