As we continue the stretch run 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. While the playoff picture remains clouded and final seedings likely won't be decided until the final day of the season, the entire 10-team postseason field could be set by the end of this weekend with eight teams in position to clinch playoff berths this week.
CARSON, Calif. – The chance to qualify for the 2013 MLS Cup Playoffs will be staring the LA Galaxy in the face this week as they undergo a crucial five-day stretch that will see them host their final two games of the regular season.
Despite being idle last week, the Galaxy remain in a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference and would host the Colorado Rapids at StubHub Center in the Knockout Round if the season ended today due to their having recorded one more win than the Rapids while also having scored more goals and registered a better goal differential. In a case of a tie, the first tiebreaker is wins, followed by goals scored and goal differential. LA can lock down a postseason berth with a victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, but could also clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Montreal Impact on Wednesday and either a draw against San Jose or a Vancouver Whitecaps FC victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday. If the Galaxy can manage two victories this week, it improves their odds of avoiding a second straight appearance in the Knockout Round.
Seattle Sounders FC, who seemed to be favorites for the MLS Supporters’ Shield just a few short weeks ago, is in a free-fall. A pair of defeats to bitter Cascadia rivals as well as their own poor recent form has knocked them down into third place in the West. The Sounders dropped two chances to qualify for the postseason this week, losing 4-1 at home against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday and then suffering a 1-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Portland’s win allowed them to catapult past Real Salt Lake—who were not in action last week—and Seattle into first in the West and into a tie with New York for the Supporters' Shield.
Further down the table, the Rapids’ playoff hopes suffered a blow as they fell 1-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. Due to their defeat, Colorado is just a point ahead of the Earthquakes with both teams having just two games remaining. The Rapids and the Earthquakes aren’t the only teams in the postseason conversation however as Vancouver Whitecaps FC remain just three points out of the West’s fifth spot. Through a quirk in the league’s scheduling, Vancouver and Colorado will face each other in their final two matches with Colorado hosting Vancouver on Oct. 19 before traveling to BC Place on Oct. 27.
The first place Timbers can qualify for the postseason this week with either a win over RSL on Saturday or either a San Jose loss to LA on Sunday or a Rapids defeat to Vancouver on Saturday. If RSL defeat the Timbers, they will clinch a postseason berth outright; however, they can also qualify with Galaxy and Colorado victories this weekend. Victories by LA and Colorado would also allow the Sounders to qualify for the playoffs while also eliminating Vancouver and San Jose from postseason contention. Salt Lake will also earn a spot in the playoffs with a draw against Portland and either of the following events: a Colorado loss or draw, a San Jose loss or draw, or for the Galaxy to fall in both matches this week.
Seattle could also earn a playoff berth by defeating already eliminated FC Dallas on Saturday. There is an even longer way for the Sounders to advance, however, as they can go through with a draw with Dallas and one of the following events occurring: a Colorado loss or draw to Vancouver, a San Jose loss or tie to LA or the Galaxy losing both of their matches this week.
In the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City joined the New York Red Bulls in the postseason as SKC locked down a postseason place after the Philadelphia Union earned a 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Saturday. Sporting had an opportunity to earn the spot without assistance with a win over the Houston Dynamo, but could only manage a scoreless draw on the road at BBVA Compass Stadium. As Houston solidified their postseason standing, the Impact continued their tumble with a 1-0 road defeat to the New England Revolution.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire clawed their way into the fifth spot in the East with a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas, which eliminated Dallas from postseason contention. Chicago bypassed the Philadelphia Union, who only managed a draw on the road against D.C. United. The chase for places in the East is just as intense in the West as only three points separate the third place Houston Dynamo and the seventh place New England Revolution.
Three Eastern Conference teams can clinch a berth in the postseason this week as Houston can lock down a spot with a win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday and either a Montreal draw or loss on Wednesday as well a defeat or draw by either Chicago or New England. Montreal can earn a postseason berth with a win over the Union on Saturday and a Revolution loss or draw in their match against the Columbus Crew on Saturday. Although those are the simple scenarios for Houston and Montreal, both teams can also qualify through a more complicated series of events, which involve a combination of three or more results.
Meanwhile, the fifth place Fire can lock down a postseason berth by beating Toronto FC while also seeing Montreal beat Philadelphia and a loss or a draw by the Revolution.
With two weeks left in the season, it goes without saying that every game matters.
If the season ended today:
Western Conference Knockout round: LA Galaxy (Fourth seed) vs. Colorado Rapids (Fifth seed).
Western Conference Semifinals:
Semifinal No. 1: Portland Timbers (First seed) vs. Knockout Round winner (Lower seed hosts first leg)
Semifinal No. 2: Real Salt Lake (Second seed) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (Third seed)
Eastern Conference Knockout round: Montreal Impact (Fourth seed) vs. Chicago Fire (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