Before we get into the topic of the post a quick news note. Tim Howard confirmed to the Denver Post that he'll be joining the National Team for their qualifiers next weekend and he'll leave after the Rocky Mountain Cup match on Friday. Jermaine Jones is still day-to-day and his availability to the National Team is unknown.
Now the main topic. With 10 games to go I thought that it would be time for another midseason review, since we're at the 2/3rds point (approx). Then I realized we all know where the team stands. Great, almost historic, defense, bad offense, questionable coaching. So instead I decided this was a good time to set our expectations for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. We could, theoretically, still finish anywhere from first to tenth in the West and the Shield is still a possibility. So what's reasonable to expect?
I'm going to break this down by finishing spot and go one by one.
10th-7th in the West, AKA missing the playoffs - Obviously this would be a complete failure and heads should roll. Honestly with the number of head-to-head matchups left int he West I'm not sure this is actually possible.
6th place - We'd make the playoff but on a really bad streak to end the season and without a home game. I'd call this a failure.
5th place - See 6th place but with an easier wild-card game. Failure.
4th place - We'd stumble to the end and get passed by LA and FSL (presumably). We'd get a home game that we'd be favored to win but then face Dallas most likely and be eliminated. Not a failure but certainly not good enough.
3rd place - Now we're getting into a situation where I could see us ending up. Anything lower than 3rd is pretty unlikely at this point as I don't see LA and FSL getting hot enough to pass us unless the wheels completely come off. If we end up in 3rd it means that a pretty hot LA caught us late int he season. We'd host the 6th placed team in the wild card game and then play that LA team as an underdog but it wouldn't be that big of a surprise for us to beat them. I'd call this result a bit disappointing and typical of the Rapids but certainly not a failure and overall a good season.
2nd place - Essentially this means we wasted our two games in hand and were unable to catch Dallas. I think this is the most likely result right now given our lack of offense. We'd get a bye into the first round and then have rest and home field advantage favoring us in the 2nd round before a probable match up with Dallas for MLS Cup. That would be a very good season but it would really need a MLS Cup run (at least to the final if not winning it) to feel like we took full advantage of our success this season.
1st place, no Shield - The math to end up in this scenario is unlikely but possible. A run that puts us over Dallas would probably keep us ahead of Toronto but stranger things have happened. Obviously this would be a successful season and set us up nicely for a MLS Cup run which we would likely host against anyone but Toronto. A first placed finish that didn't end up with a MLS Cup appearance would be a bit bittersweet however.
1st place, with Shield - Obviously the top of the mountain, ultimate success, whatever you want to call it. We've led the league, at least in pts/game, almost all season and you would hope this would be the result. The Shield winners have won 5 of 20 MLS Cups, better than any other rank in the final table so we would be favorites to host and win it.
I think anything under 3rd at this point would have to be considered a failure with 10 games to go. A reasonable expectation is a 2nd place finish with some optimism that we can win the West and likely the Shield. As far as a playoff run goes we should be expecting the conference finals. Even from the 3rd spot we shouldn't fear the 2nd placed team and if we're one of the top 2 we would be a favorite to make the final.