Photo: Paul Rudderow
After Saturday’s action, four points are all that separate the top six teams in the Eastern Conference.
Philly sits in fourth place, two points behind the leaders but only one ahead of New York and two ahead of DC United. United crushed Real Salt Lake Saturday and New York got by Portland thanks to a Dane Richards golazo.
Philadelphia and New York hold the final two playoff spots, but DC and Portland are within striking distance.
DC has played 28 games, Philly has played 29, New York and Portland have played 30.
The path to the playoffs
NYRB – @TOR, LA, @KC, PHI
New York has put themselves in a difficult position. After traveling to Toronto, they welcome the Galaxy to Harrison. LA is one of only two teams (Seattle) in MLS with a winning road record. The Red Bulls will be hoping the Galaxy has already wrapped up the Western Conference by then, something LA can do with a win over RSL and a Seattle loss or tie with New England on October 1.
NYRB also faces KC at Livestrong Sporting Park before Philly makes the bus ride up to New Jersey to close out the year.
DC United – @PHI, @CLB, @VAN, CHI, POR, KC
Head coach Ben Olsen better have a good rotation policy in place because October is a crowded month for United. After traveling up I-95 this Thursday, they fly out to Columbus for a Sunday match. A ten day break before heading to Vancouver is the last chance DC will have for a rest until the season closes.
After the October 12 match with the Whitecaps, DC closes out the season with three home games in succession: October 15 against Chicago, October 19 against Portland, and October 22 against KC. Those last two will be knock-down-drag-out affairs, as both opponents will likely be in the hunt for those final playoff spots.
Sporting KC – CLB, @SJ, NY, @DC
With four games remaining, Sporting Kansas City is a long way from securing a playoff spot. Two of the four remaining games are on the road, at San Jose (yawn) and a season-closing match at DC. Sporting has not been a good road team all year and they will likely need points from at least one of those matchups.
The two remaining home games will require full concentration as well. This Wednesday, KC and Columbus play in a match that pits the two teams tied for second in the East against each other. Think it’ll be intense? After traveling to San Jose, KC invites NYRB to Livestrong Park for a match that could very well determine whether New York will still be in the playoff hunt when the face Philly.
Columbus Crew – @KC, DC, @NE, @CHI
After heading out to KC, the Crew welcome DC to town. This sets up two matches on the road to close out the year. First, Columbus will try to grab three huge points in New England. Then they hop down to Chicago for a trap game against the resurgent Fire. If the Crew can pull off two big wins on the road they are all but guaranteed to make the postseason.
Houston Dynamo – CHI, @POR, LA
Although they appear to be sitting pretty on the top of the heap, the Dynamo have a lot to worry about. With only three games remaining, any slip ups can mean they lose control of their own destiny. Luckily, those three games aren’t as dangerous as what many other contenders are facing. Houston has a home match against Chicago followed by a flight to Portland. The Timbers game is clearly the bogeyman on the Dynamo schedule, with Portland needing to win at home if they have any chance of sneaking into the postseason. Houston closes the season with a home match against LA, who are sure to have wrapped up the Western Conference by then and will likely be in cruise control.
Philadelphia Union – DC, @CHV, @SEA, TOR, @NY
There is nothing simple about the rest of the Union’s season. Two home games against DC and Toronto threaded between away matchups with Chivas, Seattle and New York. Yikes.
A win over DC on Thursday will go a long ways towards easing the burden of the final four games. Traveling to Chivas won’t be easy, as the presumptive bottom-feeders are hanging around the fringes of the playoffs thanks to the low point totals of the teams in the east. Going to Seattle will be an enormous challenge. The Sounders will not have second place in the west secured by then so points will still matter to them.
Then the Union welcome a Toronto team to town that is much changed from the one that Philly embarrassed earlier this year. TFC may be out of the playoff hunt but they will definitely have a chip on their shoulder. And if the Union haven’t either won out or crashed and burned, the season will end with an unmissable match against New York in New Jersey.
These are your contenders for playoff spots in the east. Three teams will make the full playoffs, up to three could grab wild card spots (assuming FC Dallas does not continue to free fall). Both Colorado and Portland from the west will also be looking to snag a wild card spot.
How do you think it will play out?