The Western Conference Playoff Picture: Where Will Portland land?

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With one quarter of the season left, which is about 7 games, Portland is currently in the playoffs. Will they be at the end of the season?

If the season ended today the Portland Timbers would be the last team to get into the playoffs. However there are still games to be played, about one quarter of the season, and this means there is still plenty of time to move up or down the standings for 8 out of the 9 Western Conference teams.

I used a committee (of one) to determine the outcomes of games and a very scientific approach (I had my 3 year old daughter point to which team will win, just kidding). Of course I will more than likely be wrong and you can tell me how wrong I was later but for now go ahead and argue with my choices and tell me why I am wrong in the comments.

Here are the current standings:

# Club PTS
1 Real Salt Lake 48
2 Seattle Sounders FC 46
3 LA Galaxy 43
4 Colorado Rapids 42
5 Portland Timbers 42
6 FC Dallas 40
7 Vancouver Whitecaps 37
8 San Jose Earthquakes 37
9 Chivas USA 25

The only team not in the playoff picture is Chivas USA. Which means each game played between two Western Conference teams is a battle for the playoffs(MLS HQ has to be very happy about that fact). Even though 8 teams are in currently in the playoff picture the 8 teams all have wildly differing remaining schedules.

Remaining Schedules

Colorado Vancouver Dallas LAG Portland Seattle San Jose RSL
FC Dallas at San Jose at Colorado At DC united At Chivas RSL Vancouver at Seattle
at Portland at montreal at New York Seattle Colorado at LAG Montreal San Jose
Seattle RSL Columbus at Portland LAG New York at RSL at Vancouver
At San Jose Portland at RSL Chivas at Vancouver at Colorado at Chivas DC United
Vancouver at Seattle Chicago Montreal Seattle

Vancouver

Portland

Colorado FC Dallas
at Vancouver at Colorado Seattle San Jose RSL at FC Dallas at LAG at Portland
Colorado at San Jose at Seattle at Chivas LAG FC Dallas Chivas

As you can see the Portland Timbers have a fairly balanced schedule and play all of the tough opponents at home. Colorado on the other hand plays only teams currently in the hunt for the playoffs and plays three tough road games. The LA Galaxy not only have their MLS regular season games but they also have CCL games intermixed. In fact they play 10 between now and the end of the season and over the next 18 days they play 5 of them (the last of those 5 is against Portland on the 29th of September).

After looking at the schedules I wanted to look at the max number of points each team could earn if they won all their remaining games.

Team Points games games left max points
RSL 48 28 6 66
Seattle 46 26 8 70
LA Galaxy 43 27 7 64
Colorado Rapids 42 28 6 60
Portland 42 27 7 63
FC Dallas 40 27 7 61
Vancouver 37 27 7 58
San Jose 37 28 6 55
Chivas 25 28 6 43

Portland and Colorado have to earn 2 more points and Chivas will be eliminated from the playoffs. Seattle could win the SS if they won all their remaining games and Colorado would finish outside the playoffs. Of course this could not happen because a lot of the remaining games occur amongst the western teams, which means if you want to predict the final standings you need to predict the results of the remaining games.

San Jose

San Jose result
Vancouver tie
Montreal tie
at RSL loss
at Chivas win
Colorado win
at LAG loss
FC Dallas loss
8 points (12 max 6 min)

San Jose has a tough schedule but they could win all of their home games and this could mean they earn 12 or so points over their final 7 games. I just don't see them winning at RSL or LAG but they could earn a draw in the second one.

Vancouver

Vancouver Result
at San Jose tie
at montreal loss
RSL tie
Portland tie
at Seattle loss
at Colorado loss
Colorado win
6 points (Max 8)

Talk about a team in a free fall right now, over their last 10 games they are 3-5-2 and two of those wins were are the beginning of the 10 games. Take those two games out and they are 1-5-2 over their last 8 games. I just don't see Vancouver pulling out wins against RSL and Portland at home and all of their road games are in places were it is difficult to earn a result.

FC Dallas

Dallas
at Colorado loss
at New York loss
Columbus win
at RSL loss
Chicago win
Seattle tie
at San Jose loss
7 Points

FC Dallas has struggled on the road all year and in their final seven games of the season they have to play teams that have combined to win 33 games at home, the lowest win total of their road opponents is Colorado with 7. They have two winnable games at home (Columbus and Chicago) and one game which is a toss up (Seattle) which they could end up losing. In the end their road woes doom them and they struggle to earn 7 points.

Portland

Portland Result
At Chivas Win
Colorado Win
LAG Win
at Vancouver tie
Seattle tie
RSL tie
at Chivas Win
15 points (9 Min and 18 Max)

Portland has arguably the easiest schedule out of the 8 teams and this is mainly because they have Chivas USA twice. The other reason is they have all of the playoff contenders but Vancouver at home where they are undefeated since the loss to Montreal way back in March. They are also catching LA at the end of a congested time in their schedule and I see Colorado having a tough time earning a result here in Portland. The RSL and Seattle games can swing either way depending on the health of certain players which is why I think it could be as high as 18 points or as low as 9 points. Which is why I settled on 15 points as a possibility.

Colorado

Colorado Result
FC Dallas Win
at Portland loss
Seattle tie
At San Jose loss
Vancouver Win
at Vancouver loss
7 points (6 points min and 9 points max)

They have the toughest schedule out of all 8 of the teams. Their road games are difficult places to play and I fully expect them to struggle to earn points. Their last game against Vancouver could be for a playoff spot or it could be a meaningless game for one/both team(s).

LA Galaxy

LAG Result
At DC united Win
Seattle Tie
at Portland Loss
Chivas Win
Montreal Win
San Jose Win
at Seattle loss
13 points (Max 15)

On paper their schedule looks like it is easier than Portland's schedule but they have three CCL games intermixed with their seven remaining games. Two of those CCL games alternate with the first three games of their remaining seven. Which means they play 5 games in 18 days. After that the congesting is less pronounced but still might set them up to have dead legs entering the final 4 games of the season.

Seattle

Seattle result
RSL tie
at LAG tie
New York Win
at Colorado tie
Vancouver win
Portland tie
at FC Dallas loss
LAG tie
11 points (Max 15)

Seattle's toughest part of the season was the first third and their easiest was the middle third. The final third of the season will be for playoff positioning and it won't be a cake walk. Out of their 8 games 6 of them are against teams currently in a playoff position and one of those games is a Cascadia Cup game. Any of the games that end in ties could go either way and you could see Seattle win the SS shield if they win those games or you could see them fall to third place in the standings. I went with the middle ground and have them earning 11 points over the final 8 games of the season, especially with the other teams needing to earn points.

RSL

RSL Result
at Seattle tie
San Jose win
at Vancouver tie
DC United win
FC Dallas win
at Portland tie
Chivas win
15 points (min 12)

RSL is the only team in the league that has a positive goal differential on the road. Which means games at Seattle, Vancouver and Portland are games in which they could earn a result. The games they have at home are all winnable games, especially against DC and Chivas, and I full expect them to win all of them. This means RSL wins the West and possible the Supporter's Shield depending on what happens in the East.

Overall standings

Here is where I think all of the teams will end up based on looking at the remaining schedules of each team.

Team Predicted points Predicted total
RSL 15 63
Seattle 11 57
LA Galaxy 13 56
Colorado Rapids 7 49
Portland 15 57
FC Dallas 7 47
Vancouver 6 43
San Jose 8 45

Portland will make the playoffs this year and I think as the third place team in the conference. This sets up a date with Seattle in the conference semifinals.

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