Andy Gruenebaum
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MLS Cup Playoffs Outlook: Week 33

This is an excerpt from Sirk's Notebook. Read the whole notebook here.


After Houston tied with Montreal last Saturday, the Crew briefly regained control of their own playoff destiny. They surrendered that control on Sunday when they tied the Sporks. Gaven’s late equalizer was still helpful, as it lessened the amount of help the Crew would need. If Columbus wins out, they would advance if Houston drops any points at all. Before Gaven’s goal, they would have needed Houston to lose a game or to tie both.

Crew vs. Toronto FC
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“That’s why that goal was huge,” said Gruenebaum. “That’s why it kind of helps playing on Sunday, so you know what’s going on with the other teams playing on Saturday.”

The Crew’s players are now doing some scoreboard watching, even though they know that they have to take care of their own results in order for it to be a worthwhile endeavor.

“We’ve been watching everything,” said defender Julius James. “We really want to make the playoffs. We want this push to be special for us.”

“It’s important.,” Gruenebaum said. “It’s our livelihood. We invest so much of ourselves in the season, and it’s such a long season. I don’t think you’ll find one guy in this room that’s not paying attention to what’s going on.”

Here are the remaining schedules for the Crew and the teams that they can catch:

Columbus: at DC, vs TOR
Houston: vs PHI, at COL
D.C. United: vs CLB, at CHI
New York: vs KC, at PHI

Not that the math is complicated, but here are some playoff roadmaps for the Crew. I am going to assume, for the sake of not being ridiculous, that the Crew are going to lose every possible goals scored tiebreaker. This means that I am excluding scenario like, “or if the Crew beat D.C. United 5-1 and Toronto 13-0.”  So with that said, here are the scenarios…

If Columbus wins both games, the Crew make the playoffs if any of the following happen…

* Houston fails to win both of their remaining games.
* New York finishes 0-2-0 or 0-1-1.
* D.C. United finishes 0-2-0.

If Columbus wins one and ties one, the Crew make the playoffs if…

* Houston loses both, ties both, or ties one and loses one.

If Columbus wins one and loses one, the Crew make the playoffs if…

* Houston loses both, or ties one and loses one.

If Columbus ties both games, the Crew make the playoffs if…

* Houston loses both games.

If Columbus loses one and ties one, or if they lose both, the only way the Crew make the playoffs is if…

* Houston suddenly gets moved back to the Western Conference where they belong.

Of course, all of this would be a lot simpler if the Crew’s two games against the Dynamo weren’t a six-point swing in Houston’s favor. The Crew led both meetings after the 80th minute, but settled for a pair of 2-2 draws. Had the Crew hung on to those leads, they’d have 53 points to Houston’s 48, and would have all but clinched a playoff spot.

Then again, this is also a team that has rescued 11 points in the 86th minute or later since late August, so in a big picture sense, it may be silly to quibble about points dropped earlier in the year. But it’s also the reality. The standings are the bottom line.

“I think we are winning the points now, but it’s the points we didn’t win earlier in the season,” said Milovan Mirosevic.”It’s going to be hard. We almost are not in the playoffs at this moment, but we have to keep fighting like we have been doing. Once we get to the playoffs, anything can happen, but the most important thing is getting there.”

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