Playoff Picture: MLS Cup Playoff race enters a decisive week

Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano breaks down the chase for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs

zardes celebrates vs. chivas usa, 10/6/13

Photo Credit: 
Robert Mora/LA Galaxy

As we draw closer to the end of the 2013 MLS regular season, LA Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano will break down the playoff chase from both conferences each week as we look ahead to the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs.

CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s quest for a berth in the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs has come down to the final three games of the regular season.   

The Galaxy continued their push toward a postseason berth on Sunday with a commanding 5-0 victory over Chivas USA. The win keeps LA tied for fourth place with the Colorado Rapids, who destroyed Seattle Sounders FC 5-1 last Saturday. If the season ended today, LA would host Colorado in the Knockout Round game as the fourth seed having outscored the Rapids 51-42 this season. Goals scored is the first tiebreaker used in determining seeding for the MLS Cup Playoffs with goal differential, which the Galaxy also have an edge on the Rapids in (+14 compared to +10) being the second tiebreaker.

As a result of Seattle’s humiliating defeat to the Rapids, Real Salt Lake claimed sole possession of first place in the Western Conference with a 1-1 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers continued to hold the conference’s third position by virtue of their 2-2 draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The last team out of the playoff hunt, the San Jose Earthquakes were idle this week and now sit four points behind the Rapids for fifth in the West. San Jose will battle for the playoff lives on Wednesday when they host the Rapids at Buck Shaw Stadium.

The Galaxy are idle this week, but by the time that they take the field at StubHub Center next Wednesday  against the  Montreal Impact, at least one of the first postseason berths in the Western Conference will likely have been claimed. RSL, Seattle, Portland and Colorado all have chances to punch their postseason ticket with favorable results in the coming days.

A Colorado victory or draw over San Jose will allow RSL to clinch a postseason berth and will also help Seattle to book a ticket in the playoffs. However, that result could prove meaningless to the Sounders, who can lock down a playoff spot themselves by winning either of their matches this week. They host Vancouver on Wednesday night and then travel south to Portland to face the Timbers on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, the Timbers can seal a playoff spot for the first time ever by beating Seattle and having Colorado get at least a point from San Jose on Wednesday. Portland can also qualify with a draw against Seattle combined with a Colorado win over San Jose and a Seattle win or draw with Vancouver on Wednesday. In addition, the Rapids can earn their first postseason berth since 2011 with a victory over San Jose and either a Seattle win or draw against Vancouver.  Such an occurrence would also eliminate the Whitecaps from postseason contention. Dallas also holds faint playoff aspirations, but FCD currently sit on 41 points, which is seven behind the fifth and final postseason berth. They host Chicago knowing that anything less than a victory will put an end to their postseason dreams.

In the Eastern Conference, the New York Red Bulls became the first team in MLS to clinch a postseason berth thanks to their late 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution. The draw keeps New York in first place in the East, two points ahead of Sporting Kansas City, who defeated the Columbus Crew 1-0, but pushes the Revs further behind in the playoff chase as they now sit three points out of a spot in the Knockout Round.

The Houston Dynamo made the largest jump this week as they defeated the Montreal Impact 1-0 last Friday and leapfrogged the Canadian side into third place in the East. With still four games left to play, the Impact are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and if the season ended today, they’d host the Philadelphia Union, who defeated last place Toronto FC 1-0 on Sunday, in the Knockout Round.

Sporting and Houston will have a chance to clinch a berth in the playoffs in this weekend’s action. Kansas City can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the Dynamo on Wednesday, but would also earn a spot in the postseason with either a loss or draw from the Chicago Fire or the Union in their matches on Saturday.  Houston reaches the postseason with a win over Kansas City, a Fire loss or draw to FC Dallas on Saturday or a Union defeat to the D.C United.  

If the season ended today:

Western Conference Knockout round: LA Galaxy (Fourth seed) vs. Colorado Rapids (Fifth seed).

Western Conference Semifinals:

Semifinal No. 1: Real Salt Lake (First seed) vs. Knockout Round winner (Lower seed hosts first leg)

Semifinal No. 2: Seattle Sounders FC (Second seed) vs. 3. Portland Timbers (Third seed)

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Eastern Conference Knockout round: Montreal Impact (Fourth seed) vs. Philadelphia Union (Fifth seed).

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Semifinal No. 1: New York Red Bulls (First seed) vs. Knockout Round winner (Lower seed hosts first leg)

Semifinal No. 2: Sporting Kansas City (Second seed) vs. 3. Houston Dynamo (Third seed)

Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com