One of the biggest absences for the Colorado Rapids this season has been reigning MLS Cup MVP Conor Casey. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Burgundy Wave's Chris "UZ" White details the Colorado Rapids' journey from defending MLS Cup champions to just happy to still be playing.
The Colorado Rapids have gotten to the playoffs this season in much the same fashion that they did last season, though their chances of hoisting the MLS Cup this year are significantly lower, Eastern Conference or not. It's been a season full of awful injury woes for Colorado, with two of the stars of their MLS Cup winning squad last year out in Anthony Wallace and MLS Cup 2010 MVP Conor Casey. With Pablo Mastroeni also potentially out with a still lingering concussion, the Rapids look unfortunately fragile heading to their wild card round game the Columbus Crew.
The season started strong for Colorado with three straight wins - albeit against non-playoff teams - but quickly started to slide as injuries began to pile up all over the pitch. Colorado only wound up playing with their first choice MLS Cup winning Starting XI a single time in the 34-game season, the home opener against the Portland Timbers. Right from that point, Casey and Mastroeni picked up knocks and soon almost everyone else on the team followed suit. The Rapids remained a strange team through the center of the season with a nine-game draw streak, which tied the longest ever in MLS history and quickly destroyed the Rapids already slim hopes of taking home the Supporters' Shield. Meanwhile the Rapids offense began to crash and burn as new signing Caleb Folan couldn't find the net to save his life and "star" Omar Cummings began to play terribly whenever he was without his usual partner Casey.
Colorado's playoff run last year began after a trademark Rapids summer crash with a late couple of trades that led to a great boost of form near the end of the season which led to results against top teams LA Galaxy, Dallas and Salt Lake. This season saw the same summer crash by Colorado after a menagerie of injuries to Casey as well as most of their strike force and midfield at times, but a boost of health and the pick up of Guadaloupean left back Miguel Comminges to quell the LB issue that had plagued them all season gave the Rapids some late fire once again, giving them another couple of late season results this time against FC Dallas, Salt Lake and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
After bottling the hell out of their CONCACAF Champions League appearance by playing almost exclusively backups every single game, the Rapids will at the very least be quite rested for the playoffs, something that worked to their advantage last season when they only played two total non-league matches all season long. The question of the cup coming back to Denver is likely out of the question with the offense playing as badly as it has this season - the Rapids leading scorer was a defensive midfielder with seven goals, after all - but as Colorado proved last season and Salt Lake proved the year before, you just never can tell with the playoffs.
Chris "UZ" White is the managing editor for Rapids blog the Burgundy Wave. Follow him on Twitter @BurgundyWave.