East chases West as MLS playoff race nears final stretch

SanJoseKansasCity (Getty)

By TRAVIS CLARK

As the cool air descends on MLS stadiums across the country, the race for a coveted playoff spot is certain to keep heating things up on the field.

The recurrent theme of Western Conference superiority in 2010 is reinforced with a quick glance at the playoff standings. Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas and the Galaxy all look good for a playoff spot, with three Western counterparts also in strong standing. If the postseason were to start today, six teams out West would qualify, leaving just the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew representing the East.

That's not to say there aren't other Eastern Conference teams in the hunt. For clubs like the Chicago Fire, Toronto FC and Kansas City Wizards, the chase is on to wrestle one or two of the spots away from the likes of Seattle and San Jose, both tied at 32 points for the last two spots.

Given the tumultuous nature of MLS play, Colorado can be added to that mix. The Rapids have won two straight, but must play Real Salt Lake twice and Dallas once — although face easier matches against D.C. United, Philadelphia and New England as well.

The good news for Colorado is that the strike duo of Conor Casey and Omar Cummings is getting back into a groove, with the two combining for all three goals during last weekend's 3-0 win over Chivas USA. With those two on song, the Rapids could do some damage — without them, another late season collapse is likely.

As is no surprise, San Jose and Seattle hold the advantage over the three sides chasing in the East. The Earthquakes will face both Toronto, Kansas City and Chicago before the season is out, and early indications are that new Designated Player Geovanni will help them get over the hump. Winners of three of their last four, the Earthquakes have made a stand while battling numerous injuries throughout the season.

There still is plenty of time for those in the hunt — Toronto has seven games left, Kansas City eight, and Chicago nine. For the Reds, winning on the road is essential. The Canadian side has managed a meager 1-8-2 record away from BMO Field, and must do better while also competing in CONCACAF Champions League group play. Everything might come down to their last game on October 23, against bottom side D.C. at RFK Stadium — sound familiar?

Also balancing Champions League play are the Seattle Sounders. A hot Fredy Montero has carried them to this point in the regular season, and the Colombian will have to be at his best as the team faces group matches, a U.S. Open Cup final and the remaining league challenges. Thursday night's visit of Real Salt Lake, a Supporters' Shield contender, will give Sigi Schmid an appropriate barometer to see where his team is at the moment.

Meanwhile, Kansas City appears to have shaken off a wretched mid-season slump that saw the club go winless in 12 of 13 matches, to bounce back and into contention. Winning at home for the Wizards is a must — they have 12 points available from home games, and can't leave any on the table and make the playoffs.

Scoring goals has been a challenge for the Wizards, and if the problem isn't rectified in these final months, they'll be left behind by the rest of the pack.

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Which teams will make the playoffs? Think Seattle and Toronto can cope on all fronts? Think New England could sneak in?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Colorado Rapids, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- San Jose Earthquakes, MLS- Seattle Sounders, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Toronto FC. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to East chases West as MLS playoff race nears final stretch

  1. Jtd says:

    Nice write up. I’ve been jonesing for some mls playoff hunt breakdown.

  2. john.q says:

    off-topic:
    the boys of DC-United modeled for this labels spring lookbook. slick stuff
    link to wolfvsgoat.com

  3. Jose says:

    I can’t wait for play offs to starts i think the finaly should have been held in rba.

  4. DCdividedLOL says:

    As a Red Bull fan, Can I offer any DC fans a Hurtz Donut?

  5. Chief Seattle says:

    Toronto and Chicago didn’t do themselves any favors last night. Right now, I see six teams getting in from the West, with Seattle, San Jose, and probably Colorado grabbing the last spots. The Seattle game against Chicago on Sept. 26th seems critical to me. The Sounders have a very narrow margin, but I think they will be fine. Tonight’s game will be interesting.

  6. giaco says:

    You always want to be able to punch your own ticket to the post season, instead of relying on the wins of your enemies against other enemies. To be honest, Chicago’s chances took a real blow last night against Toronto. Full points were needed for Chicago. While a draw wasn’t optimal for TO’s playoff chances, a draw was better than nothing (duh). Now Chicago must win out and hope for help from other teams, and big wins against other playoff contenders in order to leapfrog themselves into the post season.

    With the way the offense is creating opportunities, the chance is there, but the way the offense is finishing….well, it seems emblematic of our season out here….agonising at best, maddening at worst.

    The Fire could sneak in to the playoffs (a la NYRB from a few years back), but it seems we are destined for another first/second round exit–even if we do make it in.

    I hope I’m wrong, but until the team really proves it, it’ll be hard to believe. Supporters’ lives are rollercoasters of faith.

  7. I see San Jose and Seattle holding onto the last two playoff spots. The only threat from the east I see is Kansas City. Toronto can’t seem to get results away from BMO field. Chicago looks flat in the final third, they really could have used Pappa last night. Castillo is looking better with every game, but still needs time. I’m surprised at how well the Earthquakes have done with so many injured players. I hope they can get a healthy squad ready for the playoffs.

  8. Charles says:

    Seattle plays Toronto, Chicago and KC still.

    The competitiveness of MLS rocks.

    I am going to the game against SLC tonight, then Columbus-LA over the weekend…are you kidding me ?