The Fire's fate is back in their own hands once again. Wins in their final two matches of the campaign will ensure a second consecutive post season appearance. With the first two spots in the Eastern Conference seemingly settled the final three are still up for grabs. The Houston Dynamo appear to have on spot nearly locked up but we've learned over the last several weeks that nothing is for sure.
It's time to take another look at the final weeks of the regular season and assess what the Fire's chances are of staying above the red line. Here's the rundown on each of the contenders:
New York Red Bulls
Games remaining: 10/20 @ Houston, 10/27 v Chicago
The Red Bulls are holding on to the top spot as Sporting played to a listless 0-0 midweek draw in Houston while New York was idle. They're still in the race for the Supporter's Shield as well, tied on 53 points with Portland. It appears they'll still have something to play for when the Fire visits on the last weekend of the season. A tie and a win will leave them with 57 points to end the regular season.
Sporting Kansas City
Games remaining: 10/18 v DC United, 10/26 @ Philadelphia
Only one point behind New York they've still got a shot at the top spot and the Shield so there's plenty to shoot for yet. The draw in Houston was boring but it wasn't a terrible result considering that Zusi and Besler were missing. DC at home should be a win and a draw in Philadelphia would put them on 56. Beating the Union will not only push Sporting past New York if these predictions hold true but it will also help Chicago.
Games remaining: 10/20 v New York, 10/27 @ DC United
They're closer to the Fire than they are to Sporting and New York but they appear poised to cinch the three spot if the simply beat DC United at home. Getting at least a point out of a home game with the Red Bulls this weekend is also realistic. I'm sure no team is looking forward to playing them in the first round considering what they've done in the playoffs during the last two seasons. A tie and a win puts them at 52 points and either third or fourth place.
Games remaining: 10/16 @ Los Angeles, 10/19 v Philadelphia, 10/26 @ Toronto FC
The only contender with three games left is in free fall and full downward spiral. After sitting near or at the top of the East for most of the season the Impact is in serious danger of missing the playoffs altogether. Losing to the Galaxy won't kill them but their current form suggests that points against the Union and TFC to close the year aren't a given. The Fire would/should be ahead of them if not for that late equalizer a few weeks ago. A loss followed by two wins would put them at 52 points but I wouldn't chalk those up just yet.
I remember someone saying that Montreal would fade at the end of the season on an early Fire Confidential Podcast. I wonder who that was?
Games remaining: 10/29 v Toronto FC, 10/27 @ New York
They took care of business beating DC and Dallas in the last two weeks and they have another apparent "W" on the horizon with Toronto FC coming to Toyota Park this weekend. A victory there would put the Fire at 49 points and give them a chance to clinch a spot by simply getting any result in New York if predictions hold true with the other contenders. They've got their fate in their own hands but it won't be easy - nothing ever is. Injuries to Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka will test their depth but Chris Rolfe and Joel Lindpere are capable MLS players. Lindpere playing against his old club on the last weekend of the season for a chance to cinch a playoff spot would be an interesting angle.
Of course there is a very plausible scenario that has the Fire clinching a berth with a win against Toronto FC. Should Chicago pick up all three points as expected, Montreal defeats Philadelphia, and New England loses or draws with Columbus then the Fire incredibly lock up a spot before the final weekend.
Games remaining: 10/19 @ Montreal, 10/26 v Sporting Kansas City
A few weeks ago winning in Montreal seemed unlikely but given their current form, the Impact can't win at home either it's entirely possible that the Union could get a result at Stade Saputo. They've got another difficult match to end the season with Sporting coming in. A loss in Montreal and a draw against KC would leave them at 47 and on the outside looking in. They also have some ground to make up in tie-breaker situations.
New England Revolution
Games remaining: 10/19 v Columbus, 10/27 @ Columbus
The Revolution close the season with a home and home series against the Columbus Crew. That's a whole lot of hate wrapped up in two games for Fire supporters and it's possible that these two could end up eliminating each other. Splitting the two games would leave them at 48 points and right on the heels of the heels of Chicago. It's also conceivable that a continued Montreal tailspin could lead to the Impact being replaced in the playoffs by New England.
Games remaining: 10/19 @ New England, 10/27 v New England
They're mathematically still alive but let's face it. They're done. Winning out would put them at 47 points.
|1||x - New York Red Bulls||53||32||1.66||15||9||8||50||39||11||29||15||21||-4|
|2||x - Sporting Kansas City||52||32||1.63||15||10||7||44||29||15||28||13||16||2|
|7||New England Revolution||45||32||1.41||12||11||9||45||36||9||26||12||19||-3|
So what ends up happening?
It's MLS so anything is possible but I think New York, Sporting KC, Houston, Montreal, and yes - Chicago get in.
How do the numbers look now? Chicago now has a 61% chance of qualifying and it looks like the play-in opponent will be Montreal. That's the way it looks this week anyway.