The Colorado Rapids have been among the biggest surprises in MLS this season, currently residing third in the Western Conference table.
But whether or not Robin Fraser's group should be considered a threat to parlay their regular-season success into a deep Audi MLS Cup Playoffs run has become a recent subject of debate surrounding the club.
The Extratime crew took stock of Colorado's chances again in their latest episode, giving thoughts on exactly where they fit into the hierarchy of postseason contenders going into the season's stretch run.
"I would say contenders, sure, but they're not going to be favorites or expected to get to MLS Cup," said co-host Calen Carr. "Which you would say for a team that's going to finish first or second through the regular season, that they would be. And part of it to me is this double-edged sword that you kind of don't know exactly what to expect from them, because this week it's a headed goal from [Michael] Barrios and then the week before it's [Dom] Badji coming in late with sort of a breakaway, then the one before it's [Andre] Shinyashiki with kind of a scrappy goal or it's a set piece.
Building off of that, Matt Doyle pointed to what sees as a specific hole: The lack of a true, carry-the-load, lethal No. 9, which is something that history suggests most MLS Cup contenders need to have. With few exceptions, most of the champions in league history have featured a center forward that can be counted on as a match-winner in the biggest moments.
"I think if they had a Chicharito or a Josef [Martinez] or a [Raul] Ruidiaz or a Gustavo Bou or a Taty Castellanos type of center forward, then we might be talking about them as [MLS Cup contenders]," Doyle said. "If they had a center forward who was putting the ball in the net and you had confidence in to continue to put the ball in the net, then they might be at the very top of the list. But we see year after year after year you need to have that type of guy to be an A-tier MLS Cup contender.
"The last team to win MLS Cup without that type of guy was 2016 Sounders. Colorado, I think that they have all the pieces to be an A-tier MLS Cup contender, but they don't have a guy that can go out and get you 15-20 goals and we've seen it for 25 years now. Man, you need one of those guys if you're going to win MLS Cup. Otherwise you just have to catch lightning in a bottle and hope for the greatest save in MLS history in a gigantic moment."
Yet there's a reason why the Rapids have found themselves near the West's top spots all season. They're deep, experienced, cohesive, defend well and are one of the league's more proficient road teams with a 6W-3L-2D record away from Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Those are all qualities that lend themselves to making noise in the postseason, even without as much firepower as some of their Western Conference counterparts.
"For the Rapids, they will need 15-16 players on their game every playoff game," said co-host David Gass. "Which isn't easy, but at the same time, they have a high level of talent across the roster where they're capable of that. So that's the question mark coming into this."