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Do or die for desperate Colorado in trip up to Vancouver

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – The stakes are obvious and the objective is simple for the Colorado Rapids on Sunday against Vancouver (7:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).

Win, and their playoff hopes grow from slim to marginal. Lose or draw, and it’s time to start planning for 2013.

It’s the crystal clear reality for the Rapids as they battle fifth-placed Vancouver at BC Place, where Colorado’s season likely comes down to this one match.

“We have to [win on Sunday]. That’s the mentality. That’s the last chance for sure,” Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja said. “I think everybody knows.”

The math – which currently places the Rapids eight points behind the struggling Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the West – would become nearly insurmountable should they fail to walk away with three points. A loss would leave Colorado 11 points out with four games to go, and a draw would have the Rapids eight points back with only four games left on the season.

That leaves Colorado exactly one option: victory, or the Rapids can forget about a third straight postseason appearance.

“It’s one of those things that if you don’t win, it’s a bigger effect if you don’t win in terms of how much space you’re leaving yourself to catch [the teams ahead],” defender Drew Moor told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “If you win, you continue to believe, you get closer, especially against a team like Vancouver, who is ahead of us right now. In terms of that, yeah, I’d say it’s a must win.”

Trends, however, aren’t offering the Rapids much in the way of hope. Colorado will drag into Vancouver a franchise record-tying nine-game road losing streak, including a 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy last Friday. The Rapids have but two wins on the road all season – March 18 at Philadelphia and May 6 at Dallas – but aside from those two matches, Colorado has failed to collect a single MLS point away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park all season.

If Colorado can defy the odds and claim three points, though, that would leave them just five points back with four games to go, and three of the Rapids’ final four games are at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“It’s the 30th game of the season. If guys aren’t up for it, that’s not a good sign,” Moor said. “These are the important ones. These are the ones that we need. These are the ones you look forward to at the beginning of the season.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.