MLS Playoffs: Sizing Up the Eastern Conference Contenders
It's that time of the year again—the business end of the season. One week left and teams are scrambling to find their way into the postseason. It will be an exciting end to the season as there are are seven teams in the East still alive in the playoff hunt.
So without further ado, here are the Eastern Conference contenders listed from bottom to top. All numbers are courtesy of playoffstatus.com.
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The U.S. Open Cup runners-up are still mathematically alive enough to squeeze their way into the playoffs. It will be an uphill battle, though, as they do not control their own destiny and have an 87 percent chance of missing the playoffs. As I am writing this, they are down 1-0 to FC Dallas, so they will need to turn that game around, as well as win their remaining games away against D.C. United, and home against the the Crew.
Verdict : Sorry, Fire fans, but not this year. You should be proud of your Open Cup run, though.
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MLS coach of the year? While not in the playoff spots, D.C. United—riding on the back of their strong second half—are on the cusp of postseason soccer.
With a resurgent Dwayne De Rosario, a front runner for the MVP Candidate, United have manageable fixtures against the Fire, Timbers and Sporting, all at home. If United can take five points behind the last spot, United are going to have to take at least six points out of these three games.
Verdict: Seven points from their last three games are enough to sneak them into the playoffs, and make them a dangerous team in the first round.
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In the 10th and final playoff spot, the Dynamo face a tricky pair of games to end their season. First a trip up to Portland, then ending with a home game to Supporters' Shield winner L.A. Galaxy. The Dynamo are going to have to hope Brad Davis keeps up his form and Tally Hall is able to stand tall in the back if they are going to hold off the Timbers and D.C. United.
Verdict: The Dynamo will struggle in their last two games and only be able to take a point out of them, not enough to hold off the challenge from D.C. United.
New York Red Bulls
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Sitting ninth in the playoffs table, the Red Bulls are going to need more of the picture above if they hope to back their way into the playoffs. It would be an understatement that the Red Bulls have been more then disappointing this year. With all their high-price signing, the Red Bulls were excepted to do better then this.
With two games left on their schedule away against Sporting K.C. and a season finale against the Union, New York will have to do a good job to ensure their spot in the playoffs.
Verdict: The Red Bulls have too much talent to have their season end this early, four points in their last two games will put them at 47 and in postseason play.
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Currently in the third spot in the East even with a minus-three goal difference, the Crew have two away matches left to cement their spot in this year's playoffs.
Visiting New England then the Fire, the crew will have to take points away from home if they are to secure a berth and hold onto the third spot. After stopping their three-game losing streak with last week's home game against D.C. United, the crew will have a bit of The Big MO heading into the final stretch.
Verdict: Four points in their last two games will ensure them a spot in the playoffs and the second seed in the east.
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Called the surprise package of the East by some, Sporting find themselves currently sitting second in the East on 45 points. With two games left, a home tilt against the Red Bulls and a trip to D.C., Sporting have all but assured themselves a spot in the postseason and will be looking to take the eastern conference crown from the Union.
For a team that tried out Chad Ochocinco for publicity at the beginning of the year, Sporting has come a long way. The fact that Sporting Park is the best stadium around doesn't hurt either.
Verdict: Despite their recent form, I fear two points is all they will get out of their last two games, dropping them into the wild-card spot.
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Now ladies and gentlemen, I give you the first place Philadelphia Union.
Sitting in first at 47 points after a 2-0 win against home team Sounders, the Union can be pleased with their progress and will look to hold onto their place on top of the East in their final two games: home against Toronto, and away against the Red Bulls.
The Union will be looking at Le Toux to keep up his recent torrential form as the Eastern Conference title is within their grasp.
Verdict: Three points out of six would not be a bad haul for the union. 50 points will be enough to keep them at the top of the East.