The New York Red Bulls are the only team in the MLS playoffs. (Getty Images)
Leave it to a typically wacky October weekend to further muddle the MLS playoff picture. What we know is this: New York is in the playoffs. Several other teams are in the mix. The rest? It’s all up for grabs heading into the final three matches of the season.
New York, Sporting Kansas City in the race for top spot in the East
Houston’s victory over Montréal on Friday night increased the chances that either the Red Bulls or Sporting will finish atop the East. New York either dropped a pair of points or gained one over the weekend, depending on your take on the wild conclusion to the 2-2 draw with New England. Sporting holds a game in hand, but it will use it against the Dynamo on Wednesday night.
At this stage, the Red Bulls will probably finish in the top spot with a pair of victories in their final two outings. Sporting possesses a decent chance of overhauling them if it vanquishes its playoff nemesis in midweek. Houston and Montréal (even with a game in hand) must rack up victories and search for missteps in order to push their way to the summit. Both teams would likely settle for a top-three spot – and the direct berth into the Eastern Conference semifinals – at this stage.
Race for final three East places favors Houston, Montréal — and one other
The two combatants at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night finished the weekend feeling relatively comfortable about their playoff futures. The remaining four challengers likely face an almighty scrap for one berth, barring some series of missteps by the Dynamo or the Impact somewhere along the way.
Philadelphia enjoys the inside track at the moment after Kléberson (yes, that Kléberson) rescued the points against Toronto FC on Saturday. Chicago faces a pair of winnable games over the next fortnight (at FC Dallas, home to Toronto FC) to bolster its own playoff chances. New England probably needs a point in Montréal to revive its hopes ahead of a season-ending home-and-home with Columbus. Brian Bliss’ side must win its remaining two games against the Revolution and pray for carnage in order to snatch the fifth spot.
Seattle still on track for Supporters’ Shield, Western Conference top seed
Sigi Schmid’s outfit suffered a rather humbling 5-1 defeat at Colorado on Saturday, but that setback will not harm the Sounders’ chances of claiming top spot and securing the Supporters’ Shield. Seattle currently holds two matches in hand on Real Salt Lake – including Wednesday’s Cascadia tilt with Vancouver – and one on third-place Portland. If the Rave Green take care of business (a point at Portland on Oct. 13 would help considerably), then the top seed beckons.
RSL likely must win its remaining two matches (at Portland, home to Chivas USA) to keep its Supporters’ Shield hopes alive. Portland still harbors realistic dreams of vaulting both teams given the looming head-to-head matchups and Seattle’s difficult final day test against LA Galaxy.
Colorado, LA Galaxy take big steps with weekend thrashings
It will take some doing for the Galaxy and the Rapids to slip out of the postseason reckoning after their respective victories over the weekend. Colorado, in particular, created some breathing room with that trouncing of Seattle to ease any lingering nerves about the season-ending home-and-home with Vancouver. Both teams will hope Portland, Real Salt Lake or Seattle veer off course along the way to increase their hopes of a top-three place.
Martin Rennie’s side – fresh off the frenetic 2-2 draw with Portland on Sunday – must prolong Seattle’s misery and then snatch six points from the final two games against the Rapids to mount a belated postseason charge. FC Dallas and San Jose face a similar brief to survive: win or else.