Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sorting out the Western Conference

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
- Colorado
- Houston

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.

Colorado 34
- 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.


ELAC said...

Houston looks poised to make a run at a three-peat. I can't see Columbus or the Revs stopping them.

soy said...

chivas still have a good shot of repeating as West Champs- only down 4 points and facing houston one more time.

i realize houston still has 4 games left opposed to our 3, but its still very possible.

L.B. said...

Houston hasn't won a Western Conference yet. Last year Chivas won the west and in 06 it was FC Dallas who won the west. We'll see how Houston does when they are the top seed and have to face some shit team that barely made it to the postseason, as was the case with Chivas a year ago and KC. I think they'll have a tougher time than many would think. I also think Chicago is dangerous and that if the East comes down to Chicago at Columbus, I might not bet against the Fire.

I think the best thing for Chivas would be to finish second and beat Houston in the process. They might not feel so much pressure if they are number two as if they were number one.

ELAC said...

Good point about no.1 versus no.2 in the playoffs.

Houston looked good against Pumas, came home and still won.

just another one of you said...

Whoa, let's relax there a bit Mr. Bueno. The Western conference is by no means tougher than the east. If we look at the standings we see that in the battle for the last two available playoff spots there are 5 teams in (reasonable) contention, and 3 of them are in the East. Let's say that the Quakes win the game they have in hand (even though it is against Houston) that still leaves both conferences even.

From the looks of it the West has caught up with the East and is basically on par. Still, to think that there is one more serious contender for the cup in that conference is ludicrous. While in the East you have 3 teams that make strong cases to be 'on-paper' contenders. If Columbus, NE, and Chicago got to play the bottom 4 in the West as much as Houston, Chivas, and RSL do the records for all three eastern teams would be much better.

In the end the teams that are in contention for the last 4 spots are crap anyway. San Jose would have been interesting if they had gotten their act together sooner.