MLS post-season picture is set
Print out those brackets and scour the office for a pen: the postseason field is just about set in MLS.
Sure, there are a few pertinent details still to sort out in terms of seeding (and league goal-scoring records, for those following Chris Wondolowski's exploits), but all of the playoff pieces are now in place after a dramatic and tension-filled weekend. D.C. United, Houston and New York sealed the three remaining Eastern Conference berths on Saturday evening. Vancouver completed a truly peculiar Sunday night by clinching the final playoff spot in the Western Conference race after FC Dallas' 3-1 defeat to Seattle.
Those developments shift some of the focus away from the final weekend and toward the impending postseason fare. While the Eastern Conference remains as muddled as ever with no playoff seed certain heading into the final weekend, the Western Conference knows the slate already. Let the debate about San Jose's chances against Los Angeles or Vancouver and the likely outcome of a second consecutive playoff meeting between Real Salt Lake and Seattle commence.
For now, there are still a few regular season items to monitor. FOX Soccer glances over a few of those issues in the latest edition of the Power Rankings:
19. CHIVAS USA: Investor/operator Jorge Vergara will likely rip apart this franchise and futilely try to put the pieces back together during the offseason. Just ask the folks in Guadalajara how smoothly that process will unfold.
18. TORONTO FC: The first step for Paul Mariner during the winter: find more players.
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS: Lifting the Cascadia Cup won't cure the ills from this campaign, but it will at least provide one highlight in an otherwise frustrating season.
16. COLORADO RAPIDS: Tough to say that a simple victory over Chivas USA on Saturday night puts much of a gloss on this season.
15. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: This group posted more wins at home (7) this season than the 2011 outfit did at all venues (5).
14. PHILADELPHIA UNION: John Hackworth's side can send New York crashing into the play-in match with a victory at PPL Park on Saturday afternoon.
13. MONTREAL IMPACT: Marco Di Vaio will receive a hearty welcome when the Impact visits Bologna as part of a two-game tour of Italy in November.
12. COLUMBUS CREW: A pulsating defeat at RFK Stadium won't dull the pain of failing to claim a postseason berth for the first time under Robert Warzycha.
11. FC DALLAS: Too many injuries, too many instances of indiscipline to make the postseason.
10. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: In a really big spot against Portland, the Whitecaps came up awfully small. That fact doesn't bode well for a one-off playoff encounter against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center at next week.
9. HOUSTON DYNAMO: A return to tried and true principles yielded a 3-1 victory over Philadelphia on Saturday night and yet another postseason berth.
8. NEW YORK RED BULLS: Red Bulls fans will hope the home draw against Sporting Kansas City does not foreshadow another frustrating postseason campaign.
7. D.C. UNITED: United can thank its sterling home form (12-1-4, +20 GD) for its first playoff berth since 2007.
6. CHICAGO FIRE: If other teams adhere to the template New England used on Saturday night to quell Chris Rolfe, then the Fire won't last long in the postseason.
5. LOS ANGELES GALAXY: How will opposing teams cope with the Galaxy midfield when the playoffs start? One answer: bypass it completely and heap pressure on that makeshift back four.
4. SEATTLE SOUNDERS: A professional 3-1 victory over FC Dallas on Sunday night set up a second consecutive postseason date with Real Salt Lake. Start the countdown now.
3. REAL SALT LAKE: Do not discount the importance of the CONCACAF Champions League decider against CS Herediano on Tuesday night. That match could dictate how the in-form Claret-and-Cobalt enters the postseason.
2. SPORTING KANSAS CITY: Good teams grind out results when they do not play well. Sporting fulfilled that brief at New York on Saturday night.
1. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: Forget about the intriguing 2-2 draw with the Galaxy and Chris Wondolowski's 26th goal of the season (now one goal shy of Roy Lassiter's single-season record of 27 with one match to play). Sunday will be remembered for the 6,256 people that gathered to break ground on the Earthquakes' new stadium.