Tim Howard says a Colorado Rapids playoff run is possible: "We believe"

Colorado Rapids GK Tim Howard at MLS All-Star training - 7/31/17

CHICAGO – It’s been a difficult year for his Colorado Rapids, but Tim Howard isn’t giving up hope on the 2017 season.

Colorado’s 1-0 loss at San Jose and Minnesota’s 4-0 win over D.C. United on Saturday vaulted the Loons over the Rapids in the standings, leaving Howard and his teammates in last place in the Western Conference and 21st in MLS.

The magic of the 2016 season, when Colorado rode their league-best defense to a surprising second-place finish in the Supporters’ Shield and dispatched the LA Galaxy in the playoffs before falling in the Western Conference Championship to Seattle, has completely evaporated. The backline is tied for third in the West with 29 goals conceded this year, but an anemic attack – the Rapids have just 20 goals, second-worst in the league – has Colorado at 6-12-2, 10 points behind Vancouver for the conference’s final playoff spot.

Still, belief persists in the Rapids locker room, with Howard saying Monday from the MLS All-Star team’s training session that he thinks a run at the postseason is a real possibility.

“Everything’s been difficult for us this season so far in Colorado, but one of the things that has given us hope going into the second half of the season is we’re not far off the pace, believe it or not,” the US national team goalkeeper told MLSsoccer.com. “Even though we’re in last place at the moment we feel like we’re one or two wins away from really pushing for a playoff spot. It might take us 'til the last weekend of the season, but we feel as if we have the ability to continue to push. I know that’s hard for some people to believe, but we believe.”

There is some precedent for a potential Rapids turnaround. The Seattle Sounders were 6-12-2 when they replaced Sigi Schmid with Brian Schmetzer last summer, and they tore through the league to qualify for the playoffs en route to their MLS Cup.

But while their record through 20 games is identical to last year’s Sounders, these Rapids aren’t exactly the 2016 Rave Green. Colorado are down a pair of influential midfielders from 2016 in Jermaine Jones and Sam Cronin, and they don’t have the overall level of talent Seattle had last season.

Their attack has been hamstrung by a series of injuries this year, but they did just add a reinforcement in German midfielder Stefan Aigner, who was signed last week using Targeted Allocation Money. His arrival, plus the eventual returns of midfielder Bismark Adjei-Boateng and attacker Shkelzen Gashi from injury, could give Colorado a boost as they head down the stretch.

“I think in MLS there’s not a lot of room for error and I think one or two players can make a very big difference,” Howard said. “We’ve had a little bit of change in the offseason, which happens, it’s normal. But we just made a pretty key signing for us in Stefan Aigner and we think that’s going to certainly help boost us, as well as getting some players fit."

“We’ve had a heck of a tough time in the first half of the season, but there hasn’t been a lot of guys hanging their heads," he added. "We’ve got very few egos in that dressing room and to be able to come to work, even though it’s been tough, guys have been upbeat.”