Sporting Kansas City had a chance last Friday to put some space on the pack below in the standings and keep pace with conference leaders D.C. United.
Instead, as you know, this happened.
Jermaine Jones’ strike stunned Sporting Park on Friday. It’s had the same effect on KC’s place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Sporting is stuck on 45 points and now faces the unenviable (and, just two months ago, fairly unthinkable) task of fighting not just for playoff position but for playoff survival.
Consider this sobering fact: The club is closer to the drop zone (four points clear) than first-place (six points back) right now.
Results in other matches this weekend didn’t help much either. D.C. United beat Philadelphia (pushing the Union two spots out of the playoff picture), Columbus dusted off Montreal and Toronto revived its entire season with a thrilling 3-2 win over Portland.
Houston beat Chicago and, it’s worth noting, neither has been eliminated yet thanks to a game in hand.
Thankfully, for Kansas City, the New York Red Bulls lost to Los Angeles late Sunday.
That loss means KC’s magic number to make the playoffs is now 8 points. (The magic number is how many points a team needs to ensure it makes the playoffs. In MLS, that number is based off the max points possible each team can earn in its remaining games.)
The max points available for each contender (with actual points in parenthesis): D.C. United 63 (51), New England 57 (45), Kansas City 57 (45), Columbus 55 (43), Toronto 55 (40), New York 53 (41), Philadelphia 50 (38), Houston 51 (36) and Chicago 46 (31).
All four of Sporting KC’s remaining games come against teams listed above: @D.C. United (Friday), vs. Chicago (Oct. 10), @ Philadelphia (Oct. 18) and vs. New York (Oct 26). Gaining those eight points — two wins, two draws OR three wins — might prove difficult.
Should Kansas City finish with 53 points — the max that New York can attain — KC currently leads in the first two tiebreakers with the Red Bulls: Wins (13 to 10) and goal differential (+8 to +2).