The penultimate week of the MLS regular season is here, and…the only real change from last week is that Dallas is mathematically eliminated. 15 of 19 clubs are still in playoff contention. The top club in the West — now Portland — could still miss the playoffs entirely.
The story, though, is Seattle, which is on a 1969 Cubs-like race to the bottom. Just four weeks ago they would have had to suffer the biggest choke ever to put themselves out of Supporters Shield contention. Well, guess what?
Now the scenarios for their missing the playoffs are scary — If Seattle loses both remaining games and either San Jose or Vancouver wins out, they’re out. On the plus side, winning just one of two ensures…well, a one-game “wild card” playoff.
Not to take away from the Wild Wild East, where Les Impactines have taken a slower but just as precipitous tumble, and now sit in the Danger Zone with Chicago, Philly and New England, all within a single point of each other. Montreal still has un jeu in hand, but we saw how well that went for Seattle.
Oh, and for stat geeks like me, it was awesome that last Saturday three different clubs held the fifth East playoff spot within the same day: first New England after their win over Montreal, then Philly after their draw in DC, and finally Chicago, leapfrogging the both of them after also mathematically eliminating Dallas.
The most disappointing part of all this: as of Seattle’s loss in Portland (which featured the pretend fight between Oswaldo “Elbows” Alonso and Will “Smack Talkin” Johnson), no team will win more than half its matches this season. A table of mediocrity? You decide…
(Winning clubs with best combined record)
Portland vs. Salt Lake (Combined 28-15-21)
Despite being in the upper reaches of the table for some time, Portland hasn’t had a Top Match due to its underwhelming winning percentage. That changes today. And in a stroke of great timing, it’s now that we can finally give the Trees the 2013 Silver Meh Award as the club with the most ties.
Meanwhile, the Actuals have quietly (thanks, Seattle!) slid into a bit of mediocrity themselves, winning only one of their last four. Does it sound like I’m excited? Wait, there’s more…
(Losing clubs with worst combined record)
I’ve checked ahead to next week, and that’s it — we’re all out of Bottom Matches for the season. A season of MLS
mediocrity competition that caused 16 clubs to simply take turns beating on DC, Toronto and Chivas while playing more or less even with the rest of the league means we can no longer enjoy a good Battle of the Losers, because there just weren’t enough losers. It’s like the equivalent of a grade-school track meet.
There’s always next year, I guess.
(Clubs with least points-per-game differential)
Portland vs. Salt Lake (0.03 PPG differential)
Hey, Portland, don’t say we never give you anything.
Another Fun Factoid™: MLS yet again changed the first standings tiebreaker in the midst of the season this year, making wins the most crucial commodity. That means Portland is especially vulnerable, as all of its ties will get them nowhere should they pull up even for the Shield or a playoff spot. Even sixth-place San Jose would pass them if they managed to win out while the Larches lost out. No word on whether the Timbers Army will unveil a protest tifo in the final home match, although I guess draws are technically more authentic…
El Burrito Grande
(Clubs with greatest points-per-game differential)
Kansas City vs. DC (1.13 PPG differential)
Sing it with me: Because DC.
They may not have enough competition for a Bottom Match, but we still have the Burrito. And there would only be two clubs who could Burrito DC better than KC (whose city abbreviation is not — I repeat, is NOT — “SKC,” at least until the sign on the freeway is changed to “Welcome to Sporting Kansas City”).
After managing to eke out a draw last weekend, the Joiners unfortunately won’t finish tied for the most losses in MLS history, but they’re only two non-wins away from the record for the fewest victories in a season. Think about that: DC fans have seen the joy of a victory in league play just 3 times — one-fifth of the celebrations in KC, New York, Salt Lake and Seattle and a good 10 fewer than Montreal, Chicago, Philadelphia, Portland, LA, Colorado and San Jose.
Good thing the US Open Cup victory ensured Ben Olsen’s job renewal, huh?