The only good thing about the weekend shakeout is that the Rapids still hold their playoff destiny in their hands. The problem is, they have been doing that for many weeks now and they still need a win in their final game on the road against arch rivals Salt Lake to achieve it. Gary Smith said a few weeks ago, from memory after the home tie against San Jose, that God forbid it would come down to another end of season climax with Salt Lake. Well, it has, and the Rapids will require a herculean effort, not a little luck and loads of offensive skill to get what they need.
I am in agreement with Gary Smith that this time cannot be faulted for lack of effort. The way they train, the work rate during games. This team works hard, every one of them. The bitter truth is, however, that all the injuries to wide midfielders have exposed a lack of depth on the wing and service to Cummings and Casey has suffered as a result. As much as it pains me, my mind has gone back this weekend to the bitter defeat in Chicago. Yes, the Rapids did win two games immediately after that, at home to Toronto and Houston. But, both those games were won by tight 1-0 margins. And what has happened since then? Defeats and draws only. In the Chicago game, the team looked far more penetrating offensively and I don't see any coincidence in that Jacob Peterson and Jamie Smith played that day. When the team is more penetrating, it gives Cummings and Casey more confidence to take the opportunities they will get. When such opportunities are so few and far between, it can add to too much pressure on too few scraps.
The Chicago game also cast a black cloud over the team. As much as they had to put it behind them (and they did with the two victories immediately afterwards), what would they give now to have kept that 2-0 lead with less than 20 minutes to go? If they had held onto that lead, they would be in the playoffs now. Ifs and buts, I know, but that was one traumatic defeat and it would be hard for a human being not to think about that when so much is on the line this Saturday.
The one piece of further good news is that nearly all the playoff aspirants are on the road Saturday. Minus Real Salt Lake, of course. RSL could still squeeze in with a victory against the Rapids and results elsewhere, unlikely as it is, going their way. That is the bad news. Dallas looked speedier than the Rapids Saturday and hungry after their amazing run in recent weeks. Real Salt Lake would likely have been an easier prospect than Dallas until the results at the weekend gave them just a glimmer of hope.
Realistically, the team as it is cannot be expected to go past the first round of the playoffs even if they make the postseason. But to make the playoffs is still very important for this team going into next season. After those two victories against Houston and Toronto, it seemed almost a given that the Rapids would get in the playoffs. But four points in six games and an attack weakened by so many injuries have clouded the issue and made October 24 across the Rocky Mountains another date with destiny. Imagine what spector that would be to carry on your shoulders if the team doesn't make it into the playoffs when so few points were needed as long as six weeks ago.