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The Path to the Playoffs: Four Games to Go

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MLS: Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS playoffs grow closer every week and the race for a berth in the Western Conference is now closer than ever. For their part, the Portland Timbers managed to put themselves in a good position to make it into the playoffs, knocking off the Philadelphia Union in their final cross-conference match of the season.


4. Real Salt Lake

44 Points, 30 Games Played

Results Last Week: 1-0 loss to Houston Dynamo

vs. FC Dallas (1.73/1.20), at San Jose Earthquakes (1.21/1.71), vs. Sporting Kansas City (1.33/0.71), at Seattle Sounders (1.25/1.79)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.38 (Down 0.01)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.35

The new kids on the block when it comes to discussing who might just end up fighting for their life in the final weeks of the season, RSL have struggled recently and could find themselves in real trouble if the Timbers can put together any sort of points on the road. What’s more, RSL have one of the harder schedules to finish out the year on points per game, getting no gimmies in their final four matches of the season.

5. Portland Timbers

41 Points, 30 Games Played

Results Last Week: 2-1 win over Philadelphia Union

at Houston Dynamo (1.04/1.62), at Colorado Rapids (1.68/2.29), vs. Colorado Rapids (1.68/1.07), at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.13/1.43)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.38 (Down 0.01)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.60

With three of their final four games on the road — and two of them against the Colorado Rapids — the Timbers have the strongest remaining schedule of any of the teams that we are looking at. Some might argue that the Rapids are in a bad spot, the Whitecaps are toothless, and the Dynamo have nothing to play for, but even if all of those things are true the Timbers still have not managed an away win yet and they may well need one to hold off the teams below them on the table.

6. Sporting Kansas City

40 Points, 30 Games Played

Results Last Week: 2-2 tie against LA Galaxy

at San Jose Earthquakes (1.21/1.71), at New England Revolution (1.20/1.67), at Real Salt Lake (1.47/2.00), vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1.21/0.71)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.27 (Down 0.07)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.52

Like the Timbers, SKC have three of their four remaining matches to be played away from home. Unlike the Timbers, SKC are facing off against the Earthquakes twice, giving them two opportunities to knock off a potential playoff contender and make up ground on the Timbers as they try to re-take 5th place. Of course, SKC have one particularly tricky opponent to face in the New England Revolution; a side that have been working their way up the table in the Eastern Conference and suddenly looking like they might have figured things out that had eluded them for much of the season.

7. Seattle Sounders

35 Points, 28 Games Played

Results Last Week: 1-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps

at LA Galaxy (1.60/2.07), vs. Chicago Fire (0.96/0.38), at Vancouver Whitecaps (1.13/1.43), vs. Houston Dynamo (1.04/0.67), at FC Dallas (1.73/2.27), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.47/0.93)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.32 (Up 0.01)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.29

Little has changed for the Sounders and their run-in to the playoffs since last week: their home games still look easy and their road matches still look hard. As such it looks like the make or break performances will come against the Vancouver Whitecaps on the road at BC place where the Canadians continue to struggle in comparison to other home sides, and at home against Real Salt Lake to close out the season.

8. Vancouver Whitecaps

34 Points, 30 Games Played

Results Last Week: 1-0 loss to Seattle Sounders

vs. Colorado Rapids (1.68/1.07), vs. Seattle Sounders (1.25/0.71), at San Jose Earthquakes (1.21/1.71), vs. Portland Timbers (1.37/0.43)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.38 (Up 0.06)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 0.98

Despite being six points out of a playoff spot currently, the Whitecaps have three of their four matches at home to close out the season and their one away match is against the San Jose Earthquakes who are in less-than-stellar form currently. It would take a big swing for the Whitecaps to reach the playoffs, but they are not out of contention yet.

9. San Jose Earthquakes

34 Points, 28 Games Played

Results Last Week: 1-1 tie against Colorado Rapids

vs. Sporting Kansas City (1.33/0.71), at Montreal Impact (1.31/1.47), vs. Real Salt Lake (1.47/0.93), at Colorado Rapids (1.68/2.29), vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (1.13/0.86), at Sporting Kansas City (1.33/1.88)

Average Opposition Points Per Game: 1.38 (Down 0.07)

Weighted Opposition Pointers Per Game: 1.36

The Earthquakes have had some significant struggles in recent weeks, failing to win any of their last five matches. Even with games in hand, the Quakes are facing a big deficit on some particularly uninspiring form. Still, the possibility is there and a win against SKC this weekend could change some minds when it comes to San Jose.