If the MLS playoffs were to begin today the Fire would left on the outside looking in. Fortunately, the Fire have more than a third of their schedule remaining and some time to make up ground.
Dropped points on late goals in two consecutive road matches don't make the current table any easier to look at but the reality is that the Fire currently sit in 11th place overall. After defeating the Galaxy in Los Angeles on Saturday night, the Kansas City Wizards moved ahead of the Fire although they have played two more matches. The current table looks like this:
- LA 43 22
- CLB 41 22
- RSL 40 22
- NY 37 22
- FCD 37 21
- SEA 32 22
- COL 31 21
- SJ 29 20
- TFC 27 21
- KC 26 21
- CHI 24 19
- HOU 23 22
- NE 21 21
- PHL 20 21
- CHV 19 20
- DC 15 21
For the purpose of trying to nail down which teams will make the final cut of eight I'll assume that LA, CLB, RSL, NY, and FCD are going to be in barring some major monumental collapses. I'll also assume that DC, CHV, PHL, NE, and HOU are out by taking into account the almost unrealistic amount of ground they will need to make up just to qualify for the eighth spot with less than 10 matches to play for each team.
That leaves SEA, COL, SJ, TFC, KC, and CHI. Six teams fighting for three available playoff spots.
They have 8 matches remaining but they will also be juggling CONCACAF Champion's League and the US Open Cup as the season winds down. Remaining MLS matches: @NE, RSL, @CLB, @ CHI, TFC, @KC, CHV, @HOU. Five of their eight remaining matches are against playoff contenders and only three of those remaining games are at home.
They have 9 MLS matches remaining: CHV, @NY, NE, @RSL, PHL, DC, @FCD, @LA, RSL. Five of their remaining nine matches are against playoff contenders including two against defending champion Real Salt Lake.
The Earthquakes have only played one more game than the Fire and sit five points ahead in the standings. The September 29 match up in California will be huge for both sides. Remaining MLS matches: @HOU, FCD, PHL, @TFC, CHI, @CLB, @DC, HOU, CHV, @KC. Five of their remaining ten matches are against playoff contenders. They have a favorable closing month if they can survive September.
They will be trying to qualify for the postseason for the first time in team history. It won't be easy with six of their remaining nine matches on the road where they have been historically awful. Remaining MLS matches: @FCD, @CHI, DC, @HOU, SJ, @SEA, @CHV, CLB, @DC.
Five of their remaining nine matches are against playoffs contenders but their next three are against cellar dwellars. Their fortunes may be known in the next few weeks. Remaining MLS matches: @PHL, @CHV, HOU, FCD, @NY, SEA, @CHI, @NE, SJ.
With eleven matches remaining they are the only team with more than ten to play. Six of the eleven are at home, which hasn't been much an advantage over the last few seasons since the Fire has had a propensity for dropping as many points at home as they have on the road over the last few years. Only three of the eleven matches are against lower rung sides. Remaining MLS matches: LA, TFC, @PHL, @RSL, SEA, @SJ, @FCD, CLB, KC, DC, @CHV.
Who makes it? I'll say Seattle, San Jose, and Chicago qualify for the remaining three spots while Colorado, Toronto, and Kansas City stay home.
Here's an interesting site which uses statistical data to establish a percentage for qualifying. The Rapids are currently at 82.6% to qualify while the Fire are at 29.2%. The site's formula apparently can't account for road matches at New York, Salt Lake, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
One thing is certain. It will take a minimum of 43 points just to qualify for the eigth spot. The Fire can longer afford careless marking in the waning minutes or any minute for that matter.