2012 MLS Playoff Race: East Heats Up, West Less Complicated

2012 MLS Playoff Race: East Heats Up, West Less Complicated

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On September 4, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Playoffs, 2012 MLS Season, Features

Chicago and New York are battling for playoff positioning in the East. (Getty Images)

The MLS Playoff race is hot folks. As we head into the final two months of the season, both conferences have different but good races going on as we try to figure out who will be the ten clubs that go to the post season dance.

As you may recall, MLS changed the playoff format this season to where five clubs from each conference would make the post season. The top three are automatic qualifiers with the forth and fifth place sides squaring off in a one-game wild card match. No longer is it about the best 10 clubs in MLS, but the best five clubs from each conference.

Right now each conference has their own races going on, out West four clubs are pretty much a sure-bet at getting into the post season with the fifth place spot up for grabs between Vancouver and Dallas. In the East, it is almost a five-team race for the 2-5 spots. Not bad considering everyone had very low expectations of the East going into this season.

For today’s purposes I’ll only focus on those two races. Later on I’ll do an update to my previous Supporters’ Shield race post from back in the summer. 

Eastern Conference

New York Red Bulls  (13-7-7, 46 points, 7 games remaining – 5 home, 2 away)

The Red Bulls in a way are still in the running for the Supporters’ Shield but I’ll get to that part later on. Currently second in the East and trailing Sporting Kansas City by four points, the Red Bulls should have no issues staying in the playoff picture even with four of the five clubs below them only having two-to-four points less than they do in the standings right now. What sets the Red Bulls apart is the amount of home games coming up in September that should help them break away from Chicago, Columbus, D.C. and Houston.

They do have two tough home games coming up with Columbus on Saturday and SKC the following week. But with the last two road games in New England and Philadelphia – both winnable games – the Red Bulls should be fine to push SKC.

Chicago Fire (13-8-5, 44 points, 9 games remaining – 4 home 4 away, 1 friendly)

Two of the three road trips are to places the Fire can win at (Toronto, New England). The home slate is going to be tricky because it is against teams that they are in competition for a playoff spot with. They get Montreal and Columbus in back to back weeks. The Impact visit should be a win, the Columbus game won’t be so easy. Same goes for October visit from  D.C. United.

Chicago has a tricky but doable road to the playoffs. Given their form they should navigate it fine but it will be a question of what place will they end up at in the end? 3rd? 4th? 5th?

Houston Dynamo (11-7-9, 42 points, 9 games remaining – 4 home, 3 away, 2 CCL)

The extra two games in the CCL make for a bit of fun for Dominic Kinnear’s club. A month ago I thought this team was looking good and possibly in contention for a Supporters’ Shield run but the depth issue is causing concern right now as they head into the busy final months of the season.

September is packed with games in and out of the league. Lucky for the Dynamo they have no more trips outside of the US for their remaining CCL games. That helps in a big way. Salt Lake and New England come to town this month with trips to SKC and Philadelphia.

October is very generous to the Dynamo with three of four (that’s including the one CCL game) at BBVA Compass Stadium. That should help before a season finale at Colorado.

Columbus Crew (12-8-6 42 points, 8 games remaining – 4 home, 4 away)

A balanced remaining schedule. Columbus has tough road trips coming up against Chicago, New York and D.C. United. If they can get three points in New England tomorrow that will help boost their road confidence even more than it already is at this point.

The home slate is decent here too as Chivas USA, Philadelphia and Toronto all come to town. Nine points there will go a long way in making up for any stumbles on the road in tough venues like Red Bull Arena or Toyota Park.

The thing about the Crew right now is how hot they are. Keeping it up in the final two months of the season is never easy after a big month of August but in a league that runs on momentum, when you have it, sometimes you have to do everything you can to not let it get away. After seeing their last two games, they are doing their part in not letting the momentum die.

D.C. United (12-10-5, 41 points, 7 games remaining – 3 home, 4 away)

The schedule is simply not friendly to D.C. United at this point – and neither is their current form. Thankfully the next two home games are very winnable against Chivas USA and New England. If they fail to get all six points there it won’t be easy with road trips to Portland and Chicago left on the schedule.

On paper United has doable schedule – even with the amount of road to home games left. The form that United is on is where it becomes tricky as they haven’t played well lately at all.

Western Conference

Vancouver Whitecaps (10-11-7, 37 points, 6 games remaining – 4 home, 2 away)

The Whitecaps really have no excuses. Four of the final six at home and if they knock off FC Dallas on the road next weekend the playoff race will pretty much be all in their court to lose.

But the current form that they are on is putting them at this point and has created a race with Dallas. Of the four at home, two will be tough as Seattle and Portland both visit to finish out the Cascadia Cup for the season. Neither of those will be easy. Getting Colorado and Chivas in town should be an easy six points though.

The Caps finish their season with a tough trip to Salt Lake – definitely a rough way to finish out the year.

FC Dallas (8-12-9, 33 points, 6 games remaining – 2 home, 3 away, 1 friendly)

Just four points back of Vancouver and a win next week against them get it to within one point. It just won’t be easy though after that home game as they hit the road for three straight. Dallas nearly pulled off three straight road wins last month but stumbled in the third and final game. The road trips to Chivas, Seattle and San Jose won’t be easy at all.

In the end it could be too little too late for Dallas even if they do beat Vancouver next week. Still, this race will come down to the wire, you can count on that.

  • Too bad you’re not including Portland in this. If they win at Colorado and WHEN they beat Seattle, they’ll leapfrog Dallas, with 3 games in hand on them. May be hard pressed to get ahead of Vancouver, but they’ve got just as god of a shot was FCD, considering their recent form.

    • Games in hand are nice for the Timbers but road games at Colorado, San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver are left will not be easy. Home games with D.C., Seattle and San Jose aren’t give-mes either.

      But saying all of that, weirder things have happened in MLS.