With the end of the 2016 season suddenly seeming close, it is time to take a look at the run-in to the playoffs. At a glance, the Portland Timbers do not have an easy road ahead of them, but what about the other teams vying for the last playoff spots in the Western Conference?
Sporting Kansas City
38 points, 28 games played
vs. Houston Dynamo (0.96), vs. LA Galaxy (1.54), at San Jose Earthquakes (1.23), at New England Revolution (1.00), at Real Salt Lake (1.59), vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1.23)
Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.26
Kansas City currently lead the pack for the last two playoff berths and just so happen to have the weakest remaining schedule out of all the teams that we are looking at today. SKC might have the fewest remaining matches in the regular season, but three of their remaining six are at home and despite some recent difficulties, Sporting seem like a good bet to stumble in above the red line. One difficulty for the team formerly known as Wiz, comes in their four potential six-pointers as they take on the San Jose Earthquakes twice, as well as the two teams just above them on the table: the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake.
35 points, 27 games played
at FC Dallas (1.78), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.59), vs. Philadelphia Union (1.48), at Houston Dynamo (0.96), at Colorado Rapids (1.72), vs. Colorado Rapids (1.72), at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.15)
Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.49
The Timbers might have a three point buffer between them and seventh place, but they also have one of the toughest remaining schedules in MLS, let alone this tightly packed group. Facing each of the top three teams in the West — including the Rapids twice — the Timbers will not have an easy time of it as they look to stay above the red line. There is some solace to be had in the fact that the Timbers will face Dallas when they are missing a bevy of players due to international duty, Colorado have lost as many times in the last five games as they did in the first twenty (twice), and the whole season wraps up at the Timbers’ home away from home: BC Place in Vancouver.
San Jose Earthquakes
32 points, 26 games played
vs. Seattle Sounders (1.19), at Colorado Rapids (1.72), vs. Sporting Kansas City (1.36), at Montreal Impact (1.42), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.59), at Colorado Rapids (1.72), vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (1.15), at Sporting Kansas City (1.36)
Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.44
Like the Timbers, the Quakes have some strong opposition in their final matches of the season, taking on SKC and Colorado twice each in their final eight games. However, despite having a game in hand over the Timbers, San Jose only have three home games to go and have struggled on the road as much as anyone (except the still winless Timbers) in the league, so making up ground will not be easy.
31 points, 26 games played
at San Jose Earthquakes (1.23), vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (1.15), at LA Galaxy (1.54), vs. Chicago Fire (0.92), at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.15), vs. Houston Dynamo (0.96), at FC Dallas (1.78), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.59)
Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.29
For their part, the Sounders seem like an able enough team, but Sunday’s first-half demolition speaks to some significant weaknesses in the side that have yet to be addressed. Four points out of the last playoff spot, the Sounders have a relatively weak schedule to finish out the season, facing teams below the red line in five of their remaining eight games. Closing out the season with matches against FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake will not be easy, but the Sounders should be able to collect a fair number of points before then and will hope that the higher playoff seeds have been decided by then.
31 points, 27 games played
vs. New York Red Bulls (1.48), at Columbus Crew (1.04), at Seattle Sounders (1.19), vs. Colorado Rapids (1.72), vs. Seattle Sounders (1.19), at San Jose Earthquakes (1.23), vs. Portland Timbers (1.30)
Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.31
Like the Sounders, the Whitecaps have a relatively easy schedule to close out the season. Unlike the Sounders, the Whitecaps have been on a decidedly downward trajectory, playing decent defense, but still failing to put together any sort of consistent attack as they continue to be without a go-to striker. The Whitecaps are the last team among this group to have two remaining matches against Eastern Conference sides: hosting the Red Bulls and traveling to Columbus in their next two matches, neither of which should be a simple match. The Red Bulls are on fire, but will be missing assist-machine Sacha Kljestan, and the Crew seem to be improving and looking for a late-season push of their own.