The Colorado Rapids flew under the radar last season en route to capturing their first MLS Cup championship.
Despite holding that distinction, the Rapids find themselves in a similar position in 2011. The defending champions are again quietly still very much alive after defeating the Columbus Crew in Thursday night's wild card match to advance into the Eastern Conference bracket. Granted, the circumstances around this year's team and last year's are a bit different.
For one, Conor Casey's extended injury absence has taken its toll on the team's ability to get consistent play from its front line. The team's depth has also been stretched after a CONCACAF Champions League run that came up short of the knockout stage.
Captain Pablo Mastroeni has been out of action recently as well, dealing with a concussion. It's possible that he'll return when the Rapids go up against an in-form Sporting Kansas City side in the conference semifinals. While SKC won the top seed in the East, though, Colorado finished with just two fewer points over the course of the year, and the two clubs played to 1-1 draws in both of their meetings this season. In fact, the Rapids haven't lost to any of the remaining teams in the Eastern Conference bracket, going 1-0-1 against both Philadelphia and Houston.
With all that said, how far do you think the defending MLS champs can go? Cast your vote after the jump:
How did you vote? How far do you see the Rapids going in their title defense?
Share your thoughts below.