We know a few things about the Western Conference. Suddenly, the conference appears tougher than the East. There could be five playoff teams that come from the Western Conference, which seemed completely out of the question just a month or so ago.
But Chivas USA woke up, Real Salt Lake maintained their slow-and-steady pace while FC Dallas and Colorado also decided to try and make something out of their 2008 seasons.
With Houston all but certain of walking away with the Western crown, spots 2-5 are up for grabs. Only second and third place will be guaranteed a postseason berth, of course, so those are the spots teams want.
How will it sort out? I tried to handicap the field here.
Chivas USA 39
- at San Jose
Playoff chances: Strong. Chivas did what needed to be done and that was to win games. Three points per game is the best way to assure playoff opportunities for yourself and Chivas have done well to attain victories. The club has won five of its last six games which translates to 15 of a possible 18 points the club has attained since Aug 30. With three games left, one win might be enough to get a playoff spot, especially if it comes against Colorado. Since the teams trailing Chivas (RSL, Dallas, Colorado) all play each other it will be hard for two of the three teams to overtake Chivas.
Real Salt Lake 35
- New York
- FC Dallas
- at Colorado
Playoff chances: Within reach. RSL should already be all but celebrating their first trip to the postseason. RSL blew leads to LA and New England in recent weeks and those four dropped points would be huge right now. Still, not all is lost for RSL, thanks in part to their massive win at San Jose a couple weeks back. RSL has a major advantage over Colorado and Dallas - their new stadium. Opening up new digs is reason enough to feel giddy but to do so in the midst of a playoff chase should charge up the club and the RSL faithful. RSL should take care of New York on Thursday, which would mean perhaps a win or even a pair of draws would be enough to get RSL through.
FC Dallas 34
- Toronto FC
- at Real Salt Lake
- at LA Galaxy
Playoff chances: Toss-up. At one point, FC Dallas appeared dead in the water. A coaching change led to some turmoil and a rough stretch of games without any victories before FC Dallas won consecutive games on two occasions to get back into the playoff picture. FC Dallas has a difficult task left, though. A home game against a beatable opponent awaits but FC Dallas will close out the season with two road games, both of which will be difficult. Yes, the game against the Galaxy will be difficult - anyone remember an out-of-it Galaxy squad that whipped FC Dallas to close out the '06 season? Probably what FC Dallas' season will come down to - should the Hoops beat Toronto - will be the game at RSL. It's possible that could decide third place in the Western Conference, which of course is a coveted spot in that it guarantees a playoff ticket. If that's the case, FC Dallas will have to overcome their 3-5-5 road record to possibly get a playoff ticket.
- at LA Galaxy
- at Chivas USA
- Real Salt Lake
Playoff chances: Toss-up. Colorado may be able to determine their own fate. With wins over Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA, Colorado would figure to be in a pretty good position to get into the postseason. Still, first things first. Colorado will play consecutive games at Home Depot Center beginning Sunday as the Rapids visit the Galaxy. Colorado will face the Beckham- and Donovan-less Galaxy so the Rapids' task in that match is not as challenging as it could be. Still, the odds are against Colorado mostly because of what happened last weekend. Colorado fell at home and now must win at least one of its two remaining road games to have a shot at the postseason. And although Colorado's last road game ended in a 5-4 victory, the Rapids have lost eight of their 13 road games this season.
San Jose and Galaxy...
Playoff chances: uh... none. Wait... make that almost none. Technically they each have a pulse but that's about it.