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Logjam: Seven Teams Fighting For Five Playoff Spots

A tightly packed conference playoff race is coming down to the wire. John Jenzeh makes some predictions and takes a look at how the final standings could shape up

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Having been on the outside looking in the entire season, Fire players and fans are feeling the playoff hunt pressure. Although the Men in Red are within an inch of a playoff spot, a crowded conference has made things difficult.

In reality the first eight teams in the standings (which includes the Fire) have a real chance at making the playoffs. Toronto FC and DC United are effectively out of the playoff chase. With injury woes, I debated leaving Columbus out as well, but ultimately left them in. Each team has anywhere from 8 to 10 games left. Let’s take a look at each team in the conference, the games they have left, and predict a possible outcome of where they will stand come seasons end, just so we understand where the Fire are with 10 games left.

*Predicted results

Montreal Impact (1st, 41 points) 10 games remaining

*Wins: vs Columbus (9/14), vs New England (10/12), @ Los Angeles (10/16), vs Philadelphia (10/19)

*Losses: @ New England (9/8), @ Chicago (9/28), @ Houston (10/4)

*Draws: @ Philadelphia (8/31), vs Vancouver (9/21), @ Toronto (10/26)

Final point total: 56 points

Fixture congestion won’t be kind to the old and weary legs of the veteran players, so Montreal will take a considerable dip. They do have a blend of youth to go along with a scorer like Marco Di Vaio, and they’ll be dangerous in the playoffs.

New York Red Bulls (2nd, 39 points) 8 games remaining

*Wins: vs DC (8/31), vs Toronto (9/14), vs Dallas (9/22), vs Chicago (10/27)

*Losses: @ Seattle (9/29), @ Houston (10/20)

*Draws: @ Houston (9/8), vs New England (10/5)

Final point total: 53 points

Red Bulls have a talented squad. With a lot of home games remaining they’ll take maximum points from most of them. The wildcard here is just how much the Revs heat up in time for their October 5 encounter. That could very well end up a loss.

Sporting Kansas City (3rd, 39 points) 8 games remaining

*Wins: vs Columbus (9/7), @ Toronto (9/21), vs Philadelphia (9/27), vs DC (10/18), @ Philadelphia (10/26)

*Losses: @ Columbus (10/5)

*Draws: vs Colorado (8/31), @ Houston (10/9)

Final point total: 56 points

Sporting have all but booked their trip to the CCL quarter-finals so rest will be afforded to their key players. Their depth will play dividends, and the best team in the East will rightfully sit atop the table on October 26.

Philadelphia Union (4th, 38 points) 8 games remaining

*Wins: vs Houston (9/14), vs Toronto (10/5)

*Losses: @ San Jose (9/8), @ Kansas City (9/27), @ Montreal (10/19), vs Kansas City (10/26)

*Draws: vs Montreal (8/31), @ DC (10/12)

Final point total: 46 points

The Union are starting to come undone especially after the 5-1 defeat to New England last week. Conor Casey has picked up some of the slack left behind from a slumping Jack McInerney, but unless Jack Mac get back into the swing of things it’s going to be a long 8 games for Philly.

New England Revolution (5th, 36 points) 9 games remaining

*Wins: @ Toronto (8/30), vs Montreal (9/8), vs DC (9/21), vs Columbus (10/19)

*Losses: @ Chicago (9/14), @ Montreal (10/12)

*Draws: vs Houston (9/28), @ New York (10/5), @ Columbus (10/27)

Final point total: 51 points

The Revs have put up a 5 spot twice this year, and have a solid backline. They seem to be heating up at the right time. Back to back games against Columbus to end the season are absolutely crucial.

Houston Dynamo (6th, 36 points) 10 games remaining

*Wins: vs Chivas (9/21), vs Montreal (10/4), vs New York (10/20), @ DC (10/27)

*Losses: @ Chicago (9/1), @ Columbus (9/4). @ Philadelphia (9/14)

*Draws: vs New York (9/8), @ New England (9/28), vs Kansas City (10/9)

Final point total: 51 points

Up until now, Houston has won 8 of their 10 games at home. Fixture congestion will be an issue for them as they continue to play starters in CCL competition. Dominic Kinnear’s style will be conducive to draws as the season drags on for this cup tied club. The season finale vs DC United might be what makes or breaks their year.

Chicago Fire (7th, 34 points) 10 games remaining

*Wins: vs Houston (9/1), vs New England (9/14), vs Montreal (9/28), vs DC (10/4), vs Toronto (10/19)

*Losses: @ Seattle (9/7), @ Dallas (10/12), @ New York (10/27)

*Draws: @ Toronto (9/11), @ Columbus (9/21)

Final point total: 51 points

If only the first two months of the season weren’t so horrendous. The 4-1 loss to Chivas in March is one result Fire fans will be quick to point to. The back to back losses against Philadelphia in May I find more painful over how cheaply the goals were conceded. A difficult remaining schedule may spell doom.

Columbus Crew (8th, 29 points) 9 games remaining

*Wins: vs Houston (9/4), vs Kansas City (10/5)

*Losses: vs Seattle (8/31), vs Kansas City (9/7), vs Montreal (9/14), @ New England (10/19)

*Draws: vs Chicago (9/21), @ Dallas (9/29), vs New England (10/27)

Final point total: 38 points

I felt a strange need to include Columbus on the list, given that they are still mathematically in the race. There have been two key injuries to Glauber and Eddie Gaven that really set this team back. They have a couple good pieces, but not enough to compete against a difficult remaining schedule.

Final Eastern Conference Table:

1. Sporting Kansas City 56 points

2. Montreal Impact 56 points

3. New York Red Bulls 53 points

4. New England Revolution 51 points

5. Houston Dynamo 51 points

6. Chicago Fire 51 points

7. Philadelphia Union 46 points

8. Columbus Crew 38 points

9. Toronto FC **

10. DC United **

** Points not figured - out of playoff race

I think the fears of many Chicago supporters become reality at seasons end, and the Fire either just miss out or once again grab a spot in the play-in game. Parity is what makes the league great though, and anything can happen.

Kansas City, Houston and Montreal all have CCL play to deal with and how that will affect their health and mental preparedness will have an enormous impact on the final standings. Sporting probably has the depth to withstand the numerous fixtures whereas the Dynamo have only done a decent job at best in squad rotation. Philadelphia will not have the red card advantages they had for most of this year, and their overreliance on one player will be their undoing. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong about the Fire, but next season will turn out to be the more accurate measuring stick on what this team is capable of.