From aspiring to win the supporter's shield at the beginning of the season to the club's general manager Erik Soler being "worried, not terrified" about making the playoffs, 2011 has been a major disappointment for the New York Red Bulls so far.
With Portland beating Chivas 1-0 last night, the Timbers have pulled even with New York at 32 points for the tenth and final MLS playoff spot. The first tiebreaker of goal differential would still make the Red Bulls playoff bound as New York leading the league in goals scored with 41 but also has let in the third most goals at 37 (Portland has an expansion-side worthy -8 goal differential).
If it were only as easy as goal differential against Portland, however. Chivas and DC United are also right behind the Red Bulls with 31 points and much stronger goal differentials than Portland. In addition, DC United has played two fewer league matches than New York and is in a position to make up some points down the stretch.
The teams behind DC and Chivas (there are teams behind DC and Chivas?) are San Jose, Chicago, New England, Toronto, and Vancouver. San Jose plays six of its last nine against likely playoff bound teams and has a poor goal differential. Chicago and New England have played relatively better their last couple of matches, but that doesn't change the fact that New England has won just one match since May 14 and Chicago is juggling the U.S. Open Cup and a friendly scheduled between two league matches against beatable San Jose and Chivas.
Next week we'll take a closer look at the teams ahead of the Red Bulls, but in the meantime check out our first MLS playoff projection bracket.
West (Team, current points, possible points)
1) Los Angeles Galaxy (51, 75)
2) Seattle Sounders (45, 69)
3) FC Dallas (43, 67)
East (Team, points, possible points)
1) Columbus Crew (40, 67)
2) Philadelphia Union (34, 64)
3) Sporting Kansas City (36, 63)
Play-In Teams (Team, points, possible points)
1) Real Salt Lake (36, 69)
2) Colorado Rapids (41, 62)
3) DC United (31, 61)
4) New York Red Bulls (32, 56)
Philly will most likely qualify as one of the three top teams in the East ultimately. Real Salt Lake and Colorado are safe bets for wild-card spots, which leaves the Red Bulls, DC United, and Houston fighting for two play-in spots with Portland and Chivas close behind.
Think New York can do it? Are there any other teams you see making a late season run or collapsing down the stretch?