If only Hans were as good at substitutions as he is at math.
The New York Red Bulls first win since July 6 could not have come any sooner as missing the 10-team MLS playoffs would be a real humiliation for the team, manager and Red Bull organization. New York hasn't been the only team underperforming as of late. Philadelphia not only snapped a four match winless streak this weekend, but they beat fellow Eastern Conference contender Columbus who has been outscored in their last four matches 13-6. DC United, with two games in hand compared to the Red Bulls, has been playing inconsistently well, but is starting to suffer from the loss of key players and squad depth to injury.
Houston cannot be counted out but the Dynamo will still have to get as many points as possible from their four remaining matches- away against FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers and home against the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy. A game-winning goal from Will Bruin in the 80th minute against San Jose over the weekend gave Houston a much needed three points to stay in contention in the crowded East.
Four of Sporting Kansas City's five remaining games are against Eastern Conference Playoff contenders (Columbus, Philadelphia, New York, and DC United). The first three Kansas City will play at home before they travel to RFK for their last match. Oddly, SKC scheduled a friendly at home against Guadalajara October 12, three days before hosting the Red Bulls. It's a bit painful to see MLS clubs that desperate to generate revenue by cramming in money making friendly matches in the last weeks of the season, but the additional exhibition should not get in the way of Kansas City making the playoffs.
In the Western Conference, the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, and Seattle Sounders are starting to pull ahead, and FC Dallas' home loss against the Red Bulls was a big blow to any lingering hopes of capturing the Supporters' Shield. Even though Dallas may not earn one of the Western Conference's three automatic playoff spots, unless they completely fall apart in the next few weeks, count on seeing them as a wild card.
The good news for the New York Red Bulls is that because of the late season matchups it's unlikely one team in the East will pull ahead from the pack. Hans Backe said the club would need to reach 45 points to make the playoffs by his calculations, and that looks to be just about right. What Backe left out, wisely dampening expectations, was that 48 points would likely earn the Red Bulls an Eastern Conference playoff spot as opposed to one of the four wild cards, and might even put them in close contention to win the East.
Projecting the Playoffs:
1) LA Galaxy
2) Real Salt Lake
3) Seattle Sounders
1) Sporting Kansas City
2) Philadelphia Union
1) FC Dallas
3) New York Red Bulls
4) DC United
2) Portland Timbers
Does New York have it in them to make a late season push? The team will need to equal its win total from the last four months in the next four weeks. Never say never, but New York will be very lucky to just make the playoffs at this point, never mind competing to win the East. Any chance Houston or Portland have playoffs in their near future?