Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOSE M. ROMERO
Four teams in the MLS Western Conference have clinched playoff spots, with the San Jose Earthquakes having clinched the No. 1 seed.
That much is known. From there, seeds 2 through 4 are up for grabs between the L.A. Galaxy, Real Salt Lake and Seattle. And no team wants to be No. 4 and be forced into the play-in game.
The Sounders are in the best position to claim the No. 2 seed, with three games to play and 52 points to their credit. Win out over RSL, FC Dallas and the Galaxy, and the Sounders are No. 2. Seattle controls its own destiny with head-to-head matches against RSL and the Galaxy, one at home and one on the road.
But the Sounders also have a CONCACAF Champions League match in between those games, though it is at home.
RSL sits at 55 points at the international matches break, and a week from Wednesday plays at Seattle. After a CCL match in Utah, RSL hosts Vancouver on Oct. 27 in what could be a key game for both teams. If RSL wins out, even wins one of its last two, Jason Kreis’ team gets second place in the West. Draws or losses mean help from other teams.
The Galaxy have 50 points and need to win out against San Jose and Seattle and get some help from FC Dallas and/or Vancouver to move to the second spot. L.A. can finish no worse than fourth, however. A tie between the Galaxy and either Seattle or Real Salt Lake gives the higher seed to L.A. because of the goals-for tiebreaker. The Galaxy have 56 goals this season; Seattle has 48 and RSL 46.
Of course, the Galaxy offense could go cold and the Sounders could explode to change that, but it doesn’t seem too likely. The Galaxy also have the disadvantage of having to go to Central America for a CCL match on Oct. 25, however.
The real drama lies in Vancouver. Can the second-year Whitecaps make the postseason? They face a winnable game against Portland on Oct. 21 at home, but the Timbers will be playing with purpose — they can capture the Cascadia Cup with a victory.
Vancouver ends the season in Utah. It leads FC Dallas by four points in the standings, 42-38, and can lock up the fifth spot with at least a win in its last two matches. FC Dallas needs Vancouver to, at the very least, draw twice while it wins its last two games at Seattle and Chivas USA to take the final playoff spot.
That would leave both teams tied at 44 points but FC Dallas would more than likely win the goals-for tiebreaker.
In Canada, the Whitecaps like their chances. They made playoff tickets available to season-ticket holders on Wednesday, despite the fact that even if the team qualifies, it will play the one-off play-in game on the road.
How do you see the Western Conference seedings playing out? Think Vancouver too confident about its chances? See Real Salt Lake holding on to the No. 2 seed?
Share your thoughts below.