Are the Playoffs Out of Reach?

FRISCO, TX - JULY 21: The Timbers have been seeing a lot of this recently. They will need to cut that out to make the playoffs. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

So, clearly this season is screwed, right? Or is it?

With the Timbers on nineteen points (and seemingly intent on staying there), they are now fourteen points and 22 goals behind the fifth place LA Galaxy. It would take a miraculous run for the Timbers to make the playoffs. Of course, there is another option. The Galaxy could completely and utterly self-destruct.

Should the Galaxy (or Sounders, or Whitecaps) totally fall apart, what would it take for the Timbers to get into the playoffs?

In this ideal situation, we will be assuming that the San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake, the Vancouver Whitecaps (ugh), and the Seattle Sounders (ugh, again but more so) are going to win against every team ranked below the four of them, other than the Timbers. With Seattle and Vancouver each only a point ahead of LA it could easily be either of them falling off the pace, but for now we will concentrate on LA.

First, let's look at the Timbers' remaining schedule with possible "six pointers" in bold:

  1. vs FC Dallas
  2. at Toronto FC
  3. at New York Red Bull
  4. vs Vancouver Whitecaps
  5. vs Colorado Rapids
  6. at Colorado Rapids
  7. vs Seattle Sounders
  8. at San Jose Earthquakes
  9. at Real Salt Lake
  10. vs DC United
  11. at Seattle Sounders
  12. at Vancouver Whitecaps
  13. vs San Jose Earthquakes

Clearly, the Timbers no longer have their fate in their own hands, having been swept by both the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA and with only three games remaining to keep their direct competition for the basement of the western conference from gaining points.

Next, we will take a look at the best possible scenario for the Timbers over the rest of the season in hopes of overtaking LA.

August

LA Galaxy (Start: 33 pts, End: 33 pts) - Lose to Seattle, Lose to Chivas, Lose to Chivas, Lose to Columbus, Lose to Dallas

Chivas USA (Start: 26, End: 33) - Beat LA, Beat LA, Tie Colorado, Lose to Seattle, Lose to New England

Colorado Rapids (Start: 22, End: 24) - Tie Dallas, Tie Chivas, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Portland

FC Dallas (Start: 22, End: 26) - Lose to Portland, Tie Colorado, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Salt Lake, Beat LA

September

LA Galaxy (Start: 33, End: 33) - Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Colorado, Lose to Toronto, Lose to Colorado

Chivas USA (Start: 33, End: 33) - Lose to San Jose, Lose to Seattle, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Columbus, Lose to DC, Lose to Salt Lake,

FC Dallas (Start: 26, End: 26) - Lose to Seattle, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to San Jose,

Colorado Rapids (Start: 24, End: 30) - Lose to Portland, Beat LA, Lose to Colorado, Beat LA

October

LA Galaxy (Start: 33, End: 33) - Lose to Salt Lake, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Seattle

Chivas USA (Start: 33, End: 33) - Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Dallas, Lose to Colorado, Lose to Dallas

Colorado Rapids (Start: 30, End: 33) - Lose to San Jose, Beat Colorado, Lose to Houston

FC Dallas (Start: 26, End: 32) - Beat Chivas USA, Lose to Seattle, Beat Chivas

Under this set of results, with the Timbers winning each of their last three "six point" games, Portland would have a minimum of 28 points, putting them only two more wins away from fifth place and the playoffs.

All that is, of course, very optimistic. For each game that any of the teams listed wins, the Timbers will need to win one as well. With the Galaxy on a bit of a tear, going undefeated in their last five games. Conversely, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders, after strong starts to the season have been on much more shaky footing recently. Vancouver has one win in their last six games, while Seattle have only managed two.

Let's take a look at the remainder of the season with first Seattle then Vancouver in the place of LA.

Here is Seattle:

August

Seattle Sounders (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to LA, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Chivas

Chivas USA (Start: 26, End: 29) - Lose to LA, Lose to Colorado, Beat Seattle, Lose to New England

Colorado Rapids (Start: 22, End: 26) - Lose to Salt Lake, Tie Dallas, Beat Chivas, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Portland

FC Dallas (Start: 22, End: 23) - Lose to Portland, Tie Colorado, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Salt Lake, Lose to LA

September

Seattle Sounders (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to Dallas, Lose to Chivas, Lose to Portland, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Vancouver

Chivas USA (Start: 30, End: 33) - Lose to San Jose, Beat Seattle, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Columbus, Lose to DC, Lose to Salt Lake

Colorado Rapids (Start: 24, End: 24) - Lose to Portland, Lose to LA, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to LA

FC Dallas (Start: 23, End: 26) - Beat Seattle, Lose to Vancouver, Lose to San Jose

October

Seattle Sounders (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to Portland, Lose to Salt Lake, Lose to Dallas, Lose to LA

Chivas USA (Start: 32, End: 33) - Lose to Vancouver, Lose to Dallas, Lose to Colorado, Tie FC Dallas

FC Dallas (Start: 26, End: 33) - Beat Chivas, Beat Seattle, Tie Chivas

Colorado Rapids (Start: 26, End: 29) - Lose to San Jose, Beat Chivas, Lose to Houston

And here is Vancouver:

August

Vancouver Whitecaps (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to Salt Lake, Lose to Dallas, Lose to Seattle, Lose to Portland

Chivas USA (Start: 26, End: 26) - Lose to LA, Lose to Colorado, Lose to Seattle, Lose to New England

FC Dallas (Start: 22, End: 26) - Lose to Portland, Tie Colorado, Beat Vancouver, Lost to Salt Lake, Lose to LA

Colorado Rapids (Start: 22, End: 26) - Lose to Salt Lake, Tie Dallas, Beat Chivas, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Portland

September

Vancouver Whitecaps (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to LA, Lose to Dallas, Lose to Colorado, Lose to Seattle

Chivas USA (Start: 26, End: 26) - Lose to San Jose, Lose to Seattle, Lose to San Jose, Lose to Columbus, Lose to DC, Lose to Salt Lake

FC Dallas (Start: 26, End: 29) - Lose to Seattle, Beat Vancouver, Lose to San Jose

Colorado Rapids (Start: 26, End: 29) - Lose to Portland, Lose to LA, Beat Vancouver, Lose to LA

October

Vancouver Whitecaps (Start: 34, End: 34) - Lose to Chivas, Lose to Portland, Lose to Salt Lake

FC Dallas (Start: 29, End: 31) - Tie Chivas, Lose to Seattle, Tie Chivas

Colorado Rapids (Start: 29, End: 30) - Lose to San Jose, Tie Chivas, Lose to Houston

Chivas USA (Start: 26, End: 32) - Beat Vancouver, Tie Dallas, Tie Colorado, Tie Dallas

The final standings don't see a big difference between the possible failures of LA, Seattle, and Vancouver, but despite the lower possible point total for LA, by a whopping one point, Vancouver crashing and burning gives the Timbers the most flexibility with regards to how bad their other opponents need to be. Additionally, if either Vancouver or Seattle were to falter in their chase for the playoffs, they would proved two more six-point games that would give the Timbers further control of their own destiny. If the Timbers took all five six-point games they would end up with thirty four points, tying them with either Vancouver or Seattle, or even putting them ahead of LA.

Now, why not hope for all of these teams to lose, lose, lose? Simply, the Timbers need two of the three teams to consistently take points off of the team that falters. If the worst of the three teams can get only a couple points (or if any of the lower ranked teams can take some unexpected points), the mountain that the Timbers have to overcome will become too great.

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