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The Road to the Playoffs: Four Games to Go

Dominic Oduro #8 scores the equalizer in a draw against Dynamo at Robertson Stadium in Houston. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
Dominic Oduro #8 scores the equalizer in a draw against Dynamo at Robertson Stadium in Houston. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images)
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Our hopeful words earlier this week notwithstanding, the Portland Timbers have a steep road to the playoffs after the home draw with San Jose and the loss to the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Last week Will Conwell wrote about the four teams potentially vying for the 9th and 10th spots of the playoffs. This week we've expanded that list to six, five of whom are currently ahead of Portland.

With Will and Geoff presently on the road to Vancouver, I'm filling in for them on this update and the preview/match thread tomorrow. Team by team breakdowns after the jump.

DC United

38 points, 29 matches played
Remaining Schedule: Columbus Crew (A), Vancouver Whitecaps (A), Chicago Fire (H), Portland Timbers (H), Sporting Kansas City (H)

With the largest number of matches left to play, DC United are the hardest to predict. Currently one point ahead of the Timbers, they still have a reasonable chance at the Eastern Conference title but could just as easily find themselves out of the playoffs altogether. DC's win against Real Salt Lake was a shock to the home side, but the loss to their division rivals was a disappointing setback. Aside from the away match against Vancouver, all their remaining matches are against teams that still need wins to make the playoffs.

Houston Dynamo

43 points, 32 matches
Remaining Schedule: Portland Timbers (A), LA Galaxy (H)

Last week Will reported that Houston had the most difficult remaining schedule. With their victory against Dallas last weekend and their draw today with Chicago, that is no longer the case. Still, they will be facing a Timbers squad that absolutely cannot afford to give up their last three points at home. They will then face a team that might well be vying to become the first MLS team to finish a season with 70 points. The Los Angeles Galaxy will likely already have the Supporters Shield locked up, though, so many of their starters will almost certainly be rested.

Colorado Rapids

42 points, 31 matches
Remaining Schedule: FC Dallas (H), Real Salt Lake (H), Vancouver Whitecaps (A)

With their 1-1 draw against San Jose last weekend, the Rapids are officially at risk of missing the playoffs. However, they also have a breeze of a schedule, with matches against two teams currently treading water and one side that's almost a lock for the wooden spoon. So it's a pretty small risk. Still, they'll need to win at least one of those matches to advance.

Columbus Crew

41 points, 31 matches
Remaining Schedule: DC United (H), New England Revolution (A), Chicago Fire (A)

Aye Columbus! On August 20, the canaries had 40 points to their name and a comfy spot at the top of the Eastern Conference. Since then they've collected one solitary point in six matches, plummeting to 9th place. Their home match against DC today has to be considered a must win for them, as they will need at least one win in their last three matches to qualify for the playoffs. And they won't want their playoff hopes to rest upon the result of the last game of the season at Toyota Park.

New York Red Bulls

39 points, 30 matches
Remaining Schedule: Toronto FC (A), LA Galaxy (H), Sporting Kansas City (A), Philadelphia Union (H)

The NYRBs did themselves a huge favor by beating the Timbers last weekend. But their remaining matches will be some of the toughest of their season. Toronto has relished its role as the spoiler in recent weeks, and their remaining opponents will need points and be looking to knock Thierry Henry & Co from a chance at the Cup. That their easiest remaining match might well be against the Galaxy is surely an uncomfortable thought for the New Jersey faithful.

Portland Timbers

37 points, 30 matches
Remaining Schedule: Vancouver Whitecaps (A), Houston Dynamo (H), DC United (A), Real Salt Lake (A)

The Timbers needed impressive performances in their last two matches and did not get them. Their match tomorrow in Vancouver is a must win to keep them in contention, but the real tests will come against Houston and DC, two teams that will also consider those matches must-wins. Then they'll face RSL, in a match the Timbers faithful have to hope will not be meaningful for the home team.

Chicago Fire

37 points, 31 matches
Remaining Schedule: FC Dallas (H), DC United (A), Columbus Crew (H)

Chicago has been on Fire lately! (Insert groan here.) With their draw against Houston this afternoon, along with their impressive run in recent matches, Chicago has become a surprise contender. However, their schedule is perhaps the most difficult of any of the teams vying for the last two spots. Dallas still has a chance at the Western Conference top three, while DC and Columbus will both be playing for their lives. As invincible as they've looked lately, Chicago will still need several miracles to make the cut.