In a few free moments at work this week, I pulled up the MLS standings to do some Supporters' Shield math and try and figure out the key games down the stretch.
Briefly, the reasoning went that if the Red Bulls beat FC Dallas Sunday and the Seattle Sounders drop points away against the LA Galaxy, next week's Red Bulls-Sounders game is the biggest of the year. Of course, I left out Real Salt Lake, who sit between the Red Bulls and the Sounders in the standings and welcome the San Jose Earthquakes to Salt Lake City this weekend. I left out the Montreal Impact, too, who, despite having just 45 points have two games in hand. Sporting Kansas City, too, are on 45 points with a game in hand and the Colorado Rapids right there, too.
I quickly decided that's too many parameters and permutations. Way too many, really.
It became obvious that with just five games left, it's senseless to circle dates. Each week's game is the biggest game of the year.
The Red Bulls can still very much win the Supporters' Shield, even if the math doesn't give them the best chances. They just have to, you know, win. Yeah, the Sounders are (allegedly) the hottest team in MLS and in the drivers' seat with two games in hand, but that just means the Red Bulls will need some help, but it's doable.
They just have to beat whoever is in front of them.
That makes Sunday against Dallas the biggest game of the year. Until next week against Seattle. Until next week against the New England Revolution. Etcetera.
With the parity in MLS, there's still a ton of margin for error each week, meaning "breaks" -- the Red Bulls getting a favorable draw here or a loss there on the out-of-town scoreboard -- aren't so much breaks as they are a team just not getting it done.
And five games -- seven in the case of the Sounders and Impact -- leaves a lot to "chance."
So while Red Bulls-Dallas might not be a glamourous match-up, get up for it, because it's the biggest game the Mike Petke and company will play all year.
Until next week.