Magic Number: 55
Even with New York sitting in the 5th and final spot, Toronto has a better points per game with a game in hand. Columbus and Toronto sit in the last spots based on maximum possible points.
DC can become the first team in the Eastern Conference to book their post season spot this week. A win or a tie against Sporting KC would be enough or they can do with either New York Red Bulls and Houston Dynamo tie on Saturday or Toronto FC dropping any points against LA on Saturday. If all three of those scenarios fail to play out, it will be nearly certain to happen next week.
** ABOVE THE LINE **
1. DC United - 51 Points, 30 Games Played, +12 Goal Differential
Week that was: 2-0 Win vs Tauro (CCL), 1-0 Win vs Philadelphia Union
Recap: First they clinched their spot in the CCL quarterfinals, then got back on track in the league with a win that pushes their lead to 6 points in the East. A pretty good way to end the month.
Week to come: 10/3 vs Sporting Kansas City (8pm, NBCSN)
Outlook: A week of rest will be a treat to a tired DC roster. A big game against a struggling Sporting Kansas City team will be one of the ones to watch this week. Can DC start a winning run to build momentum right before the playoffs?
2. New England Revolution - 45 Pts, 30 GP, +2 GD
Week that was: 3-2 Win @ Sporting Kansas City
Recap: Going into KC and coming out with a win was a big statement and New England is a team no one wants to run into right now. Jermaine Jones has been a huge addition and is pushing them to bigger and better things.
Week to come: 10/4 vs Columbus Crew (7:30pm, MLS Live)
Outlook: Another game against a team in playoff contention and they will be looking to prove their only loss in the last 8 matches was a fluke. A win this week and DC will be on alert in the top spot.
3. Sporting Kansas City - 45 Pts, 30 GP, +8 GD
Week that was: 2-3 Loss vs New England Revolution
Recap: Nothing is going well for SKC right now. After a 4 game winning streak, they have only won 2 in their last 9 and not even home field advantage helped against New England. They're moving in the wrong direction.
Week to come: 10/3 @ DC United (8, NBCSN)
Outlook: It doesn't get any easier. DC is rounding into form and has an eye on New England who is a threat for the top spot. The two extreme outcomes have very different implications for the rest of the season. A win and Sporting is within 3 of the top spot of the East. A loss and they could be dropped to the play-in game and within 3 points of dropping out of the playoff spots completely.
4. Columbus Crew - 43 Pts, 30 GP, +7 GD
Week that was: 2-0 Win vs Montreal Impact
Recap: All you can do is beat the teams on your schedule, and that is exactly what Columbus did. Columbus lucked out to get a late season home game against Montreal.
Week to come: 10/4 @ New England Revolution (7:30pm, MLS Live)
Outlook: A completely opposite game as this past week. Traveling to face a red hot New England Revolution will be a true test. They may have won the last match up but repeating the feat will be unlikely. Plenty of teams nipping at their heels though.
5. New York Red Bulls - 41 Pts, 30 GP, +2 GD
Week that was: 0-0 Draw @ FAS (CCL), 4-0 Loss @ LA Galaxy
Recap: The packed schedule was bound to catch up sooner or later and it came crashing down this week. A draw against an inferior continental opponent means elimination from the CCL and a rout at the hands of Landon Donovan & Co. keeps New York holding on to a playoff spot by a thread.
Week to come: 10/4 vs Houston Dynamo (6pm, NBCSN)
Outlook: New York will get their first full week of rest in almost a month. Their game this weekend though is no walk in the park. Houston is desperate and finding decent form of late. Toronto is coming up fast in the rear view mirror.
** THE CHASERS **
6. Toronto FC - 40 Pts, 29 GP, -3 GD
Week that was: 3-2 Win vs Portland Timbers
Recap: The last second winner from Michael Bradley is being considered the biggest goal in TFC history and if they can climb back into a playoff spot this will be a pivotal moment. A good win against a good Western Conference team will go a long way in building momentum.
Week to come: 10/4 @ LA Galaxy (10:30pm, MLS Live)
Outlook: The last Eastern Conference team to go into LA left with a 4-0 beating. Toronto will look to do better than that and keep up with the playoff chase so they can use their game in hand to its fullest. This is a tough match up though and a draw would be a bonus.
7. Philadelphia Union - 38 Pts, 30 GP, +1 GD
Week that was: 1-0 Loss @ DC United
Recap: While the loss is one that hurts the playoff chances, the offense lacked any purpose for a second straight week, which is more worrying. Plenty of crossed balls, but none really looked likely to lead to a shot to beat Hamid. Could have been much worse without some Carlos Valdes heroics.
Week to come: 10/2 vs Chicago Fire (8pm, ESPN 2)
Outlook: No excuses at this point in the season. A team below them in the standings is a must win game and they have put themselves in this position of desperation. A loss against Chicago will spell disaster.
8. Houston Dynamo - 36 Pts, 29 GP, -15 GD
Week that was: 2-0 Win vs Chicago Fire
Recap: From here on out it is must win game after must win game and they took care of business this past weekend. They are unbeaten in 5 games now and would be in a better position if they could have turned two draws into wins, but that wasn't a concern against Chicago. They knew what they had to do and took care of business.
Week to come: 10/4 @ New York Red Bulls (6pm, NBCSN)
Outlook: New York is coming off a tough week and Houston will look to pile on. How far can momentum take Houston? A win will put them within 2 points of New York and could leap over Philly depending on results. The season is far from over for Houston, but could come a lot sooner with a loss in the Big Apple.
9. Chicago Fire - 31 Pts, 29 GP, -8 GD
Week that was: 2-0 Loss @ Houston Dynamo
Recap: A tough loss to swallow as their playoff dreams are slipping away. Still mathematically alive, but this result puts one foot into an early offseason.
Week to come: 10/2 @ Philadelphia Union (8pm, ESPN 2), 10/5 vs Montreal Impact (5pm, MLS Live)
Outlook: No time to dwell on the Houston loss. A trip to Philadelphia in midweek and then hosting Montreal this weekend gives them a chance for 6 points and probably their last lifeline. A full 6 points will at least keep them in the chase, but dropping any points and wins for teams in the playoff spots will see Chicago eliminated.
Game of the week: DC United vs Sporting Kansas City (10/3, 8pm, NBCSN)
This game will have a major impact on how the Eastern Conference shapes up for the remaining 3 games of the season. A DC win and the gap is 6 or 9 depending also on the New England result, but a Sporting win and the gap is just 3. A big 6 pointer that both teams will be desperate to win. Their form is moving in opposite directions, but this game could go a long way to turning those fortunes around.