Going into the final stretch of the MLS season, the Quakes are staring at a fifth-straight season without playoff appearance, which would equal Chivas USA for the second-longest playoff drought in MLS history
The Quakes are in competition with Sporting Kansas City, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas, and Real Salt Lake for the final playoff spots in the West. Only three of the five will make the cut. The following is a forecast of each of these teams based upon strength of schedule, as well as remaining home/away games, to predict the total points each team may have by season’s end.
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting KC have a very lenient remaining schedule against very beatable teams, including four home games against the winless-on-the-road New England Revolution (who was just Mayweathered by Atlanta 7-0), the ninth place L.A. Galaxy, Vancouver, and a poor road team in the Houston Dynamo. They also go on the road to play tenth place Minnesota, Houston, and eighth-place Real Salt Lake. SKC should earn wins against New England and the Galaxy, and probably at earn at least a draw versus Houston. Vancouver could also be a draw, giving SKC at least eight home points. On the road, SKC should take home three points against Minnesota, will probably lose to Houston, and earn at least a draw versus RSL for four road points. Thus Kansas City should see 12 more points, and finish with 53 total points.
The Houston Dynamo have seven games remaining, three of which are on the road (San Jose, NYCFC, Sporting KC). Based upon Houston’s 1-8-5 road record, it’s unlikely the Dynamo will see any major points, probably no more than three points total (a win in San Jose, or hard fought draws). Their home record is much easier, with games versus the ninth-place L.A. Galaxy, tenth-place Minnesota United, third-place Sporting KC, and second-in-the-East Chicago. Houston also has just one home loss all season. Expect wins versus L.A. and Minnesota, with possibly a win and a draw against either SKC or Chicago for ten home points. The Dynamo should finish the season with 13 more points, for a total of 51 points.
FC Dallas are in a free-fall, having failed to win any matches in their previous eight games (0-5-3). Dallas has four road games (Minnesota, Orlando, Colorado, and Seattle), and three home games (Seattle, Colorado, Los Angeles) to finish the season, so their competition is fairly light, minus their home/away matches against Seattle. If Dallas can turn it around (and fans should expect them to given their history of tough play down the stretch), Dallas should be able to post a win and a draw versus Minnesota and Colorado, and may post a draw against the equally free-falling Orlando City SC for five road points (don’t expect points in Seattle). At home, Dallas should beat Colorado. The L.A. Galaxy are a feisty road team, so expect draws versus the Galaxy and Sounders for five home points. Thus expect Dallas to finish with 47 points total.
San Jose Earthquakes
The Quakes just finished a tough three-game road trip, and have just six games to earn as many points as possible. The Quakes play four quality teams: Houston at home, Chicago at home, Portland at home, and Vancouver on the road. The good news for San Jose is that four of their six remaining games are at home, and two matches on their remaining are against REALLY poor teams: at D.C. United and Minnesota United at home to close the season. The Quakes should win their season finale versus Minnesota, and possibly take five points versus Houston, Chicago,and Portland for a total of eight home points. On the road, the Quakes could win in D.C., but probably won’t win in Vancouver, for three more road points. 11 points to close the season would give San Jose 47 points, and potentially be tied with Dallas. If it went to tie-breaks, San Jose could hold the edge in overall wins with 12. However, any loss at home would certainly kill any hope of playoffs; the Quakes must win at least two at home and draw the other two to have any chance. Given San Jose’s tenacity at home, it’s doable.
Real Salt Lake
RSL is steadily moving up in the Western Conference, but they are behind the 8-ball in terms of schedule. RSL only have five games remaining in their schedule, including three at home versus Portland, Seattle, and Sporting Kansas City. RSL would be lucky to earn five points against these quality teams. On the road, RSL have a much easier schedule, going on the road to play last-place Colorado and ninth-place-and-we-suck-at-home L.A. Galaxy. Expect wins for both road games, giving RSL a total of 11 points to finish the season, and 46 points overall.
When the dust settles, Sporting Kansas City and Houston are in, with FC Dallas and the Quakes battling it out for sixth. However, despite having a -17 goal differential compared to FC Dallas’s +1, the Quakes would hold the first tie-break in overall wins with 12, while FC Dallas would have 11. However, if FC Dallas were to win on the road against Orlando, or manage to beat both Minnesota and Colorado on the road (which is very feasible), Dallas could sneak past San Jose and earn that final playoff spot with 49 points.
Bottom line: the Quakes need to hope Dallas does not earn two wins against two very beatable teams on the road to have Dallas finish with just 47 points. San Jose also needs to win in D.C. and NOT lose at home. If the Quakes are unable to produce a win on the road or hold serve at home, San Jose would probably finish the season with nine points, and 45 total points to finish eighth in the West.