It's that magical time of year that trails only the actual playoffs in excitement; the weekly nail biting look at the playoff picture. Just like last year I'll be giving you the full playoff picture, who is in, who helped their case, and who did the exact opposite.
Anything can happen in the MLS Cup playoffs, so despite the comforts of home field advantage, the ultimate goal of the Chase is to make the playoffs. After that sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride. This first edition of The Chase will give a full run down of how to decipher The Chase, but will be much shorter in future weeks. I promise.
The Magic Number - 61
At this point the ultimate goal is to earn more points than the 6th place team can earn if they won out all their games, thus locking in a spot to the 2014 playoffs. Each week we will track what this number is and where each team falls on their journey to the Magic Number.
Based on the highest possible point totals, New England currently holds down the 6th spot, and can accumulate a possible 60 points. That means that all teams who are "Above The Line" (aka currently in a playoff position) are trying to reach that number to guarantee they can't be on the outside looking in. Teams who fall in the "Chasers" (aka below the playoff spots") will be trying to earn points and lower the possible point total for those above them.
- Above The Line -
1. DC United - 43 current points, 24 games played, +13 goal differential
Form (Last 5 Results): W-L-L-W-W
Week That Was: 1-0 Win vs Waterhouse (CCL), 3-0 Win @ Sporting KC
Week To Come: 8/27 @ LA Galaxy (10:30pm - MLS Live), 8/31 vs NYRB (2:30pm NBCSN)
Recap: The current leaders of the Conference had a very productive week. A win in their opening CCL match along with a thumping of second place Sporting KC will give them plenty of confidence. However, a very packed upcoming schedule will test their depth. Will they choose to focus on progressing in the CCL, or will the chance at the Supporter's Shield take the priority? This week's matches are equally as important with a trip to the West coast in mid-week and hosting a New York Red Bulls squad in the thick of a playoff hunt.
2. Sporting Kansas City - 42 pts, 25 gp, +10 gd
Week That Was: 1-1 Draw @ Real Esteli, 0-3 Loss vs DC United
Week To Come: 8/29 vs Houston (8pm - NBCSN)
Recap: A draw on the road in the CCL will be a minor victory, but a crushing loss to DC United when they had a chance to go 5 points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference will hurt their pursuit of a Supporter's Shield, but is only a speed bump on their quest for the playoffs. A one game week, against a desperate opponent trying to climb out of a hole will be a welcome break from their busy schedule.
3. Toronto FC - 33 pts, 23 gp, -1 gd
Week That Was: 2-2 Draw vs Chicago Fire
Week To Come: 8/30 vs New England Revolution (5pm - MLS Live)
Recap: The fewest amount of games played in the conference and starting to fall away from the leading pack for the Supporter's Shield. A draw with Chasing Chicago leaves the pack in touching distance. With only one game this week they will not get the chance to use a game in hand to open up a gap. A loss to New England could mean they fall into a tie for 5th, or worse.
4. Columbus Crew - 33 pts, 25 gp, +3 gd
Week That Was: 3-0 Win vs Houston Dynamo
Week To Come: 8/30 @ Montreal Impact (7:30pm - MLS Live)
Recap: Two wins in a row has Columbus fans feeling good about their position in the Chase. A trip to Montreal is a real chance for them to push that winning streak to 3. They don't have USOC or CCL to crowd their schedule and can focus on the playoff push completely.
5. New York Red Bulls - 31 pts, 24 gp, +3 gd
Week That Was: 4-2 Win vs Montreal Impact
Week To Come: 8/26 vs FAS (CCL) (8pm - Fox Sports 2), 8/31 @ DC United (2:30pm - NBCSN)
Recap: NYRB took care of business this week and have a new adventure starting in mid-week. Hosting FAS gets their CCL campaign going, just when the Chase is really heating up. The continental tournament is a great opportunity for them to show they can compete with the big dogs in CONCACAF, but their attention will be split as they can't slip up in league play. A trip to DC will be a real test.
- The Chasers -
6. New England Revolution - 30 pts, 24 gp, -5 gd
Week That Was: 1-0 Win vs Chivas USA
Week To Come: 8/30 @ Toronto FC (5pm - MLS Live)
Recap: The breaking news of Jermaine Jones joining their ranks will be a huge boost as they are still on the outside looking in. They took care of business against lowly Chivas and will look to land a blow to Toronto's chances of staying out of the Chase this weekend.
7. Philadelphia Union - 30 pts, 25 gp, -1 gd
Week That Was: 4-2 Win vs San Jose Earthquakes
Week To Come: Bye week
Recap: The week off is much needed for a Union side that earned a big victory, continues to show they can have an explosive offense, and welcomed new keeper M'Bolhi to the field. They will need to get the team rested and back to full health before taking on another 3 games in 8 days stretch in the near future, one of those being a US Open Cup Final.
8. Chicago Fire - 26 pts, 24 gp, -6 gd
Week That Was: 2-2 Draw @ Toronto FC
Week To Come: 8/30 vs FC Dallas (8:30pm - MLS Live)
Recap: The teams around them are starting to round into form and a draw against Toronto is not a bad result, but they need to start collecting 3 points to keep up. Hosting FC Dallas will be a major test. One that could be a statement game, or leave them in a major hole.
9. Houston Dynamo - 25 pts, 24 gp, -20 gd
Week That Was: 0-3 Loss @ Columbus Crew
Week To Come: 8/29 @ Sporting KC (8pm - NBCSN)
Recap: It has been a roller coaster season
and the ride continues. After a win against Philadelphia the week prior, Houston went to Columbus and came back with nothing to show for it, except 3 more negative goals to their goal differential. They are in the same boat as Chicago as they look towards a potential statement game, but could also find themselves in a major hole.
10. Montreal Impact - 17 pts, 24 gp, -20 gd
Week That Was: 3-2 Win @ FAS (CCL), 2-4 Loss @ New York Red Bulls
Week To Come: 8/30 vs Columbus Crew (7:30pm - MLS Live)
Recap: Mathematically they are still in the Chase, but that is about it. A win on the road against FAS was a bonus in continental play, but the loss to New York reminded them of how bad this season has been. They'll have a slower week with only one game against Columbus. The focus will most likely be shifting to the CCL and scouting potential number 1 draft choices this winter.
Game of The Week: 8/31 DC United vs New York Red Bulls - 2:30pm, NBCSN
These rivals face off on national television with very different goals at stake. DC is looking to maintain their chase of Seattle for the Supporter's Shield, while New York just wants to hold on to their playoff spot. Both teams are coming off wins in CCL play as well as big wins in league play. Something has to give in this one and it could mean some big fireworks in the attack.
The matchup to watch in this one is Fabian Espindola vs Bradley Wright-Phillips. While they won't be matching up against each other, they are leading their teams and the races for major awards. Espindola has his eyes on the MVP, while Wright-Phillips has a 4 goal lead on the Golden Boot. Which offensive leader can set the tone and lead his team to 3 points?