Playoff spots likely to be determined at the wire

No matter how many different angles you take to attempt deciphering the MLS Cup Playoff chase and trying to figure out which teams will claim the five available spots in each conference, just know this - nothing is likely to be decided until the final weekend. The clubs still jockeying for position in the crowded Eastern Conference are all capable of beating each other at any time on any day. Take for example the Philadelphia Union. Winless in their last five matches (0-3-2), the Union went into Kansas City on Friday night, got outplayed for most of the match and still came away with all three points in a 1-0 victory. Here's a look at each of the Eastern Conference competitors and where they may end up.

New York Red Bulls

Games remaining: 10/5 v New England, 10/20 @ Houston, 10/27 v Chicago

The Red Bulls have been up and down this season but seem poised to capture the top spot in the East. They're not only leading the Conference but they're somehow currently in the lead for the Supporter's Shield with 52 points. I can see New York coming up with a win, tie, and win in their final three matches to lock down the East on 59 points.

Sporting Kansas City

Games remaining: 10/5 @ Columbus, 10/9 @ Houston, 10/18 v DC, 10/26 @ Philadelphia

Sporting just isn't the same club without Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara. Claudio Bieler has also fallen off the grid since the first few months of the season and all of a sudden SKC has just as many issues as everyone else does. Losing to Philadelphia at home on Friday night exposed their inability to finish chances consistently. If they can finish with an unspectacular TLWT, they'll end up with 53 points and a battle with Houston for the third spot.

Montreal Impact

Games remaining: 10/4 @ Houston, 10/12 v New England, 10/16 @ Los Angeles, 10/19 v Philadelphia, 10/26 @ Toronto FC

They've got at  least one game in hand on everyone but they've been floundering as well over the last month. The Fire let them off the hook on Saturday night. They've lost their last two league games at home in ugly fashion so nothing is for sure here either. Regrouping down the stretch to finish LWLWW seems realistic but you just never know. That would place them second with 55 points.

Houston Dynamo

Games remaining: 10/4 v Montreal, 10/9 v Sporting KC, 10/20 v New York, 10/27 @ DC

They always seem to be there one way or another and they're likely to get in again this year. It's possible they can make the Final as a 4th or 5th seed, just like they did last year. They've got some tough games remaining but playing at home should help. It's also possible that Houston can win out but it's more likely that the other top contenders will steal some points in Texas over the next three games. WWTW gets them to 54 points and a sure spot in post season.

Philadelphia Union

Games remaining: 10/5 v Toronto FC, 10/12 @ DC, 10/19 @ Montreal, 10/26 v Sporting KC

Winning in KC was huge for them since the next two games are certainly winnable. The last two matches could be trouble however. They're arguably less talented than Chicago and New England and possibly even Columbus but they may have ground out enough ugly results to claim the five spot. Two wins, a loss, and a draw would leave them with 49 points and a last weekend dogfight.

Columbus Crew

Games remaining: 10/5 v Sporting KC, 10/19 @ New England, 10/27 v New England

Left for dead just a few weeks ago, wins over Chicago and Montreal revitalized them after ditching Robert Warzycha. They're 4-1-0 since firing the manager on September 2 but only have three games left. Drawing with Sporting and splitting with New England would leave them with 45 points and short of a playoff appearance. They managed to get Houston at the right time, Montreal on the skids, the Fire a man down, and a weak FC Dallas squad to get back into the race but they'll still need to win out to even have a chance.

New England Revolution

Games remaining: 10/5 @ New York, 10/12 @ Montreal, 10/19 v Columbus, 10/27 @ Columbus

Trips to Montreal and New York over the next two weeks may do them in. After starting the season being unable to score, they've resurfaced thanks to a good stretch with Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo, and Saer Sene getting hot to crawl back into the picture. They'll need to score often to stay alive. I can see a LLWL to close out the year on 44 points but a win over New York or Montreal wouldn't shock me either.

Chicago Fire

Games remaining: 10/4 @ DC, 10/12 @ FC Dallas, 10/19 v Toronto FC, 10/27 @ New York

Even as they continue to find ways to drop points at home and on the road, the next three games still seem winnable. DC United plays Real Salt Lake in the US Open Cup Final tomorrow and they rested starters this past weekend in an embarrassing loss to Toronto FC. Bouncing back with a full first choice eleven three days later doesn't seem likely so one would have to believe Chicago will win that match-up. FC Dallas seems to have packed it in with three consecutive losses after allowing 4 goals at home to Columbus. Toronto FC is....well Toronto FC. The final match in New York may determine the Fire's fate even if they do manage to gain maximum points over the next three games.

While addressing rumors of a coaching change, anything less than a win in DC will likely doom post season chances so any thought of a coaching move with three games remaining seems ridiculous. Expecting a new coach to come in and win out with a road game in New York to close the season seems like something only a desperate franchise would do. Something like that would certainly defy logic. Just like issuing editorials calling out fans for being too negative flies against any thread of common sense.

But I digress. A final four record of WWWL would put the Fire on 49 points and a tie with Philadelphia for the five spot. The first tie-breaker is most wins, followed by goals for, and goal differential. Anything can happen and it may be a bit of a reach to expect three consecutive wins over the next three weeks but the Fire have done it once this season and against better competition to boot. Wins over Colorado, Columbus, and San Jose in June/July is proof of that.

Of course, I will probably print this out next Monday, crumple it up, place all the team names in a hat, and choose randomly to determine the order of finish.

Standings

Eastern Conference

# Club PTS GP PPG W L T GF GA GD HG HGD RG RGD
1 New York Red Bulls 52 31 1.68 15 9 7 48 37 11 27 15 21 -4
2 Sporting Kansas City 48 30 1.6 14 10 6 43 29 14 28 13 15 1
3 Montreal Impact 46 29 1.59 13 9 7 48 44 4 29 11 19 -7
4 Houston Dynamo 44 30 1.47 12 10 8 38 37 1 23 9 15 -8
5 Philadelphia Union 42 30 1.4 11 10 9 38 39 -1 21 5 17 -6
6 Columbus Crew 41 31 1.32 12 14 5 40 41 -1 19 8 21 -9
7 New England Revolution 41 30 1.37 11 11 8 42 34 8 26 12 16 -4
8 Chicago Fire 40 30 1.33 11 12 7 38 45 -7 28 7 10 -14
9 Toronto FC 26 31 0.84 5 15 11 29 45 -16 22 0 7 -16
10 D.C. United 15 30 0.5 3 21 6 20 52 -32 14 -9 6 -23

 

The current odds.....http://www.sportsclubstats.com/USA/MLS.html

The Fire clock in at a whopping 15.6%

Filed under: 2013 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • Chicago needed to win last week. The week before and the week before. It's not going to happen now.

  • The Fire at a minimum needs to win at least 3 out of the last four games, 2 ,under ordinary circumstances, should be gimmies.
    That means we'll have to pick one up against either Dallas or RedBS, not impossible, and that still isn't a guarantee.
    With 4 wins we should be in.
    At this point I don't know if I want the club to make the playoffs, all it would do is continue the current insanity we have watched all season, and could extend into next season as well.
    This club clearly needs new leadership and a new direction. The only thing making the playoffs may do is give Frank another year.
    From a talent perspective, the team should have been a lock for making the playoffs, but for some reason this team never jelled and played as a organized unit on a continuing basis. Whether, it was Frank, the players, or the combination of the two, who knows, but it is clear major changes need to be made if the Fire are going to become a competitive club.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    Not having Arne Friedrich and trying to implement two new central midfielders (Lindpere was terrible to start) played a huge part in the slow start. The loss of Friedrich was a massive blow.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I didn't expect the drop in talent at the CB position to be as drastic when Backy took over for Friedrich, but it's been exponential in my opinion. I hate to say it, but regardless of the result this season, this club has wallowed in the mire for the past 3 seasons and the common denominator from those 3 seasons needs to go. Unpopular as it may be, it may be the best possible scenario outside of an ownership change.

    GR, we may need to get this Sting train rolling if this continues beyond this season...

  • In reply to c0quito18:

    They're still 9-5-6 since acquiring Soumare. He hasn't been great and he's had a handful of bad outings but he hasn't been as bad as the general perception of him has been. Part of the problem is the natural comparison to what people remember Friedrich doing last season and expecting him to produce in that manner. Soumare's been just ok at best but not completely awful.

    The 2-7-1 start makes every mistake seem even worse down the stretch now with no room to breathe. Last season wasn't bad, they won 17 games so I wouldn't necessarily call that wallowing in the mire either. The bigger problem has been the continual pursuit of "just better than mediocrity" rather than the ambition to finish at the top of the table.

    I love me some Sting. They're the reason I started following soccer, but let's be honest. An NASL team here would be great but they're not going to gain much traction from today's casual fan. MLS doesn't get much consideration here....imagine being a minor league team in what most media folks consider a minor league sport already.

    They'll gather some support but not nearly as much as some believe.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I know I've beaten this to death this year, but it's the FO's fault that they weren't prepared for Friedrich's injury. I do fully acknowledge that he was an enormous loss, and one that they couldn't fully recover from, but the organization f^($(#ed up and "earned" that horrible start by not going into the season with proper defensive depth.

    As for Baky, what happened to him? Serious question. A few years ago he was a top 11 MLS player, now he's a borderline starter. I can't remember any major injuries or anything...

    I agree with G.'s comment below about the offensive playmaker. Now that we have Magee, that's the most important position to fill. I'd love a 2nd, top end striker, but I think we'll see a much bigger lift with an offensive playmaker first.

    Finally, regardless of how this season plays out, I just really hope that the FO heads into next season with a full squad rather than relying on the summer transfer window to fill big gaps. It's great to use that to upgrade and all, but I'm tired of going into the season knowing full well that we are shorthanded and what our weaknesses are that went unaddressed for no good reason. It's no way to run a franchise.

  • In reply to Drew:

    +1 to all of that

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    "They're still 9-5-6 since acquiring Soumare."

    And they're still 1-2-2 over their last 5 so, is it Jekyl or is it Hyde?

  • One of the problems is that they've still be incredibly inconsistent after those first 10 games. Making the playoffs at this point would be a teaser, because they still lack the game-to-game consistency to do any real damage in a playoff run. The team itself is talented enough to produce results, even without a game-changing target striker, but they continue to spin their wheels under formulaic substitutions and tactics that rely on a central playmaker that isn't there.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    That central playmaker is still a glaring weakness. Playing with two holding mids in the middle of a 4-4-2 really limits what you can do offensively. It also forces Magee deeper into midfield to retrieve the ball.

  • My second Fire game will be my second DC game this season, too. After a trip to Chicago and TP for the USOC semifinal, I'm dreading the possibility that I will see DC dash our hopes twice in a single season.

  • DC won't dash our hopes, the Fire can do it on their own.

  • The best passes in second half came from Rolfe. He has the ability and vision to make great passes to set up others for open shots. I would move him to a central midfield role some way. I like having Alex in the middle as well. Not sure how the Fire can get Rolfe, Nyarko, Duka, and Alex on the field with Rios too.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Rolfe has said he isn't very comfortable in the center mid role. He can play outside or in the underneath forward spot.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I understand, but the problem is when he comes inside, that is when he makes his best passes. I think if he is an attacking CM, then he will be successful. Of course he doesn't like it, but his skills on the ball are better than anyone else except Alex or Rios.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Joel Lindpere also thinks he's a center mid. ;)

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Maybe about 10 years ago when Joel Lindpere could run faster than my 17 year old. Now, not so much.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    How strange it must be for Lindpere to be playing reserve games in the parking lot practice field with 19 year olds.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    From reserve game to World Cup qualifier. I guess that means the Fire is better than the Estonia national team?

  • Interesting NBCSports article about MLS's use of Opta Stats. The article says that the stats are used by MLS in player acquisition, but there is no specific discussion of how stats are used by different teams for scouting.

    I guess it wouldn't matter for the Fire, since Opta probably is not collecting data for the Belgian and Peruvian 2nd divisions.

    I do seriously wonder how the team is or is not using stats. On the one hand, I can sort of see Hauptmann as being a big Moneyball kind of guy since he's interested in bargain players. But on the other hand, I can see him not really caring what the stats say if his ego tells him that a move is the right one. At a certain point you have to give in to the stats even if you don't agree with them.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    They do use stats in scouting and player procurement. I believe ProZone is one of the software programs they utilize. I'm sure they look at the Opta stuff as well.

  • If I had the choice. I too would have taken last place and a US Open Cup Championship Trophy.

  • In reply to waamsy:

    without a doubt. take a trophy whenever you can, that's the point.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Brimstone Cup next weekend baby!!!!

  • In reply to Doug:

    As long as we don't drop it. :)

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