With the Sounders off this week, this was a potentially frightening weekend for the Rave Green's MLS playoff hopes. Luckily, most of the breaks went our boys' way.
The only result that was problematic was the Quakes' 1-0 win in the California Clasico. The win over the Galaxy moved them into a tie for the No. 6 spot with two games in hand. The Quakes are currently sporting a rather robust 1.53 PPM and appear to have weathered a rough patch as they've now won two straight, both of which were shutouts.
The other results were far more helpful and now leave the Sounders safely nestled in the No. 8 position by PPM and virtually tied with Colorado according to that metric.
I'm not sure how much stock to put in my Form Projected Standings, but the Sounders are looking good there as well. They currently reside in the No. 7 spot, roughly a point behind No. 6 San Jose and about eight points clear of No. 9 Colorado. If current form holds, the fight for the final playoff spot will be much less dramatic than it looks now. Chicago would claim the final spot with roughly 41 points, while Colorado and Toronto would continue to fade, finishing with 37 and 36 points, respectively.
I'm pretty inclined to discount FC Dallas' FPS (a Supporter's Shield winning 59 points), but it does illustrate just how good they've been since the the World Cup break. FCD is currently riding an 11-match unbeaten streak and has won three straight. Their post-break form is 2.33 PPM, which if maintained for the rest of the season, would give them a decent chance of overtaking Columbus, Los Angeles and Real Salt Lake.
I'm assuming most of you are like me, though, and would rather see how the other half of the playoff table will shake out.
Whether or not you consider the Red Bulls as a Tier 1 or 2 team, they seem pretty well entrenched as a playoff team at this point. They have yet to turn into the unstoppable force some have predicted, but they are picking up points at a good rate. Current form has them finishing second in the East by an 11-point margin over Toronto.
The Quakes, as was alluded to earlier, appear to have weathered a storm that saw them lose two straight. Of their remaining 11 matches, I think six of them can reasonably be qualified as tough. Those six are crammed in their next seven matches, though, with a home date with Philadelphia providing the only real relief. I think 10 points in their next seven could be reasonably classified as enough to keep them breathing as they head head into a stretch run that has them playing home matches against Houston and Chivas USA and road matches at DC United and Kansas City.
The Sounders are the next team in our FPS and have a huge home match with Chicago on Saturday. Anything less than a win will really increase the pressure for a strong stretch run that includes home matches against RSL and Toronto and road matches at Columbus and Chicago.
Chicago is still the hardest team to get a handle on, I believe. They still have at least two games in hand against all the relevant teams, but haven't really shown an ability to string impressive results together. Nearly two-thirds of the way through the season, they have won consecutive matches just once and haven't done so since April. When they host Seattle on Sept. 25, they'll have just finished a run of matches that should tell us a lot more. Starting next Saturday, they'll play at Seattle, host Los Angeles and Toronto, then play at Philadelphia and RSL.
Up until Saturday's 3-1 loss to Columbus, the Rapids had managed to go the entire season without losing by more than one goal. The Rapids have played a league-high 11 one-goal matches, winning six of them. They have been playing at .89 PPM since the break and that form would leave them well outside the playoffs. With home matches against Houston and Chivas USA next up on the schedule, a turnaround still seems possible.
Losses in consecutive matches to the Red Bulls have essentially ruined any realistic hopes of finishing second in the East for TFC. A home match against RSL next Saturday suddenly looks like a must-win as the Reds will head on the road to Dallas and Chicago after that. Three of their remaining six road games are very winnable, but they only have one home match that should be an automatic three points (vs. DCU).
Kansas City's peripherals suggest a team capable of making a run, and after visiting Los Angeles next week, they have a run of three very winnable matches. If they can grab nine points in the next four, they would be a team that we need to take seriously.
You would think a three-month winless drought would have completely ended Houston's hopes of making the playoffs, but their win over Chicago on Saturday left them five points short of the No. 8 spot. Winning at Colorado next Saturday would suddenly make them worth our attention.
New England's two-loss week probably ruined any chances they had of making the playoffs.
I would also like to note that DC United won this week, which means they won't set the record for least points in a season.
to 44 ppm