Early last week, with no league matches on the immediate schedule, D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen said he did not plan to monitor games directly affecting his team’s bid for an MLS playoff berth. Close the laptop, turn off the phone, enjoy the weekend.
“It’s too early to scoreboard-watch,” he said. “We have to look at our scoreboard, keep looking at Audi Field’s, and make sure we have more goals than them.”
If we take Olsen at his word, here is what he missed:
The Montreal Impact (40 points) dropped two points at home and settled for a 1-1 draw with New York City FC, which is winless in six straight.
The New England Revolution (35) dropped two points at home and settled for a 2-2 draw with the last-place Chicago Fire.
Toronto FC (30) lost at the New York Red Bulls, 2-0, leaving the reigning champions on the brink of elimination.
The Philadelphia Union (46) defeated visiting Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, strengthening its case for the fifth of six postseason berths in the Eastern Conference.
Whether or not Olsen and his players were watching, United could take comfort in that, while catching its breath for the stretch run, it did not lose much ground in the playoff chase and has played fewer matches than the other contenders.
The race for the sixth and final position:
|Team||Matches||Points||Points per game|
|New England Revolution||29||35||1.21|
With enormous stakes, Montreal and D.C. will clash Saturday night at Audi Field. It’s not a must-win for United, but it’s pretty darn close. A draw would maintain the status quo, with one fewer opportunity to gain ground, while a defeat would realistically require D.C. to win at least four of its last five and rely on help from Montreal’s opponents.
United also must take into consideration the first tiebreaker. If, by chance, it finishes with the same number of points as Montreal, most victories will decide it. Right now, the Impact has 12 wins, United nine. The next tiebreakers are goal difference (D.C. is even, the Impact is minus-5) and goals for (D.C. has 48, Montreal 42).
The remaining schedules:
Montreal: at DCU Sept. 29, vs. Columbus Oct. 6, vs. Toronto Oct. 21, at New England Oct. 28.
D.C.: vs. Montreal Sept. 29, vs. Chicago Oct. 7, vs. Dallas Oct. 13, vs. Toronto Oct. 17, vs. New York City FC Oct. 21, at Chicago Oct. 28.
New England: at Toronto Sept. 29, at Atlanta Oct. 6, vs. Orlando Oct. 13, at Real Salt Lake Oct. 18, vs. Montreal Oct. 28.
Toronto: vs. New England Sept. 29, vs. Vancouver Oct. 6, at DCU Oct. 17, at Montreal Oct. 21, vs. Atlanta Oct. 28.
United’s two games in hand on Montreal are Oct. 13 and Oct. 17 — dates when the Impact is off. Before that stretch arrives, D.C. will want to make up ground over the next two weekends — an outlook enhanced by two home dates, including one against eliminated Chicago, and Montreal’s stern test against a quality Columbus side.
United’s game in hand on New England is Oct. 21. The Revolution’s path is complicated by two difficult away matches: MLS Cup favorite Atlanta and Real Salt Lake, which has lost just once at home.
In terms of current form, Montreal and D.C. are trending up, while New England is trending down. The Impact is 3-1-3 in its past seven games; United is unbeaten in four and 6-2-3 over its past 11 matches. The Revolution has not lost in its past four outings (1-0-3) but is in a 1-6-4 rut.