The Full 90

October 10, 2013

MLS Playoff Watch: Very little breathing room in post-season race

Despite last night's 0-0 draw with Houston, Sporting Kansas City is still in prime position for a playoff berth and still within reach of the Supporter's Shield.

The Full 90

Covering Sporting Kansas City and soccer throughout the Midwest and the world

Deep breaths. Inhale. Exhale. Repeat as necessary.

This is probably what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. And not just for Kansas City -- 16 of the league's 19 teams have at least a glimmer of hope to make the playoffs.

After last night's completely dreadful --

but ultimately positive

-- result in Houston, not a whole lot has changed for Kansas City. The playoff spot isn't clinched, but the Supporter's Shield hasn't drifted away either.

As of right now, a pretty catastrophic series of results would need to happen for KC to miss the playoffs. For starters, they'd have to lose to D.C. United (the worst team in the league and haven't won a road game in the league this year) and Philadelphia. Then, Chicago would have to win out its last three games AND overcome KC's +3 goals for advantage. Montreal would need to win two of its last four games; Houston would need to win both of its last games (or hope to draw one and over come KC's +5 goals for advantage); AND Philadelphia would need to win its last three games (or draw one and overcome KC's +5 goals for advantage).

On the other side of that, one win for KC in those last two games locks up a Top 3 spot in the East.

It's just silly. But not nearly as silly as the Supporter's Shield race. Nobody, it seems, really wants to win it.

Kansas City and Seattle had chances last night to make a case. KC picked up the draw, the Sounders got waxed 4-1 by Vancouver. (In its last two games, the prohibitive Shield favorite have lost by a combined score of 9-1.)

Which means the race is still unbelievably tight.

The New York Red Bulls lead the way with 53 points (on 32 games). Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake are one back (both with 32 games played too). Seattle has 51 (with 31 games played) and Portland is three back with 50 (and 31 games played). Montreal could be a wildcard, they've still somehow got four games left to play and 46 points.

There are a few key games to watch this weekend -- despite the international week.

Kansas City can clinch a playoff spot this weekend by getting the right result in two games. A loss or draw by Chicago (at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. on Saturday) OR a Philadelphia loss (at home to D.C. United, 6 p.m. on Saturday) would do the trick.

Also worth watching: Montreal vs. New England (1:30 p.m. on Saturday) and Portland vs. Seattle (8 p.m. on Sunday). The Montreal match could be a key factor in deciding KC's position in the East; the Seattle result could be big in the Supporter's Shield hunt.

Kansas City, Road Warriors

Peter Vermes seems to have learned from his previous adventures against Houston and went away from the possession-based approach Kansas City has employed all season. On the season, Kansas City have the following averages:

55% possession (2nd best in the league), 78% passing accuracy, 15 shots per game, 12 fouls per game, 68 long balls/game.

Against Columbus and Houston?

37.5% possession, 66% passing accuracy, 8.5 shots per game, 20 fouls per game, 59 long balls per game.

While it wasn't pretty, Kansas City just picked up four points on the road and allowed zero goals. On the season, Sporting KC's defense have allowed a bonkers 0.875 goals allowed on the road.

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