So now we know the secret to Vancouver Whitecaps’ success – if they want to improve their league positioning, they need to not actually play any games!
It’s been quite the bizarre year in the Western Conference. I’ve lost count of the number of times that a whole string of results, not just the odd one here and there, have helped the Whitecaps playoff positioning.
This weekend was no different in the wild, wild West.
The problem all season long has been that time and time again, the ‘Caps have squandered the opportunities presented to them by then stumbling themselves and not seizing their chance to have some breathing space and solidify their place at the top of the standings.
Now, as we head into the final weekend of the regular season, the Whitecaps know what they have to do – beat Houston at BC Place next Sunday. But exactly what that will get them, apart from a guaranteed home playoff game, is still a mystery.
You’ve got to love the excitement! It’s like Christmas Day when your beloved gives you a present that isn’t the shape of what you specifically asked and hoped for. Nervous times! How will you react?!
But before we get to that, let’s take a few steps back.
Heading into this bye weekend on the back of the disappointing, but not too unexpected, 2-0 loss at the now newly crowned 2015 Western Conference champions FC Dallas, Vancouver’s hold on their third spot in the table looked precarious to say the least.
Both Sporting KC and Seattle Sounders had the chance to jump over Vancouver, sending them plummeting to 5th in the West and in danger of missing out on a home playoff game.
Both faced tough, but very winnable, road games against teams below them in the table but fighting for their playoff lives. San Jose kicked the weekend off the way the ‘Caps wanted it on Friday night with a tense 1-0 win over KC. Houston blew a one goal lead in a 1-1 draw with Seattle on Sunday, ending the Dynamo’s playoff hopes for this year but keeping the Whitecaps in third.
Remarkable, but even more so, Portland went to LA and did what only the ‘Caps have done in the Galaxy’s last 37 games there – win. Actually, just saying win doesn’t do it justice. They came out for the second half a goal down then somehow scored five on the way to a massive 5-2 victory that moved them up to joint third with Vancouver, but below them on the first three tiebreakers.
So what can we take from all that? Are LA and KC on the slide and out of form? Have Portland hit their stride at the right time? Are Dallas the team to beat? Can Seattle hilariously miss out altogether? Will Vancouver get not only that sought after home playoff date but a first round bye? Can we throw any more questions in there? Probably, but we won’t.
There’s still one game to be played before the final round of matches next Sunday, as Sporting KC host Colorado on Wednesday.
Kansas City have slumped to sixth place in the West after the weekend’s results, edging San Jose by a point. By the end of Wednesday night they’ll either be third, fifth or sixth and Vancouver will either be third or fourth.
Colorado are currently sitting bottom of the West and second bottom of MLS. You have to feel they’ll be happy to lose their last two matches (they travel to Portland on Sunday) and secure the second pick in the 2016 SuperDraft.
That would leave KC and LA tied on 51 points and meeting each other in Kansas City on Sunday. It’s quite the perfect scenario for MLS in their first ever “Decision Day”.
After farcical circumstances of recent seasons that have seen teams kicking off the day after their rivals and knowing exactly what they needed to do, Decision Day made total sense and we welcomed it fully. All of the five remaining Eastern Conference games kick off at 2pm PT. The Western ones at 4pm.
Get your trannys at the ready! That’s transistor radios to avoid any confusion and the need to hit up Davie Street prior to the match.
It was a risk for MLS. It could have backfired big time if there wasn’t much left to play for. A damp squib. I’m sure they would have preferred the Conference champions to still be up for grabs, but instead they have (probably) the wonderful scenario of 2nd v 3rd match ups in both the East and West, with a first round bye on the line (based on KC beating Colorado).
It couldn’t have been scripted much better and it may help two Canadian sides big time in the process.
In the East, DC (51 points) travel to Columbus (50 points). A win for either side sees them clinch a first round bye. A draw though opens the door up for Toronto! If there is no winner between DC and Columbus, and Toronto can beat Montreal, then remarkably, TFC grab second place. A draw between the two Canadian sides at Stade Saputo give Toronto a home playoff game but if the Impact win, they claim one instead.
Exciting, but who really cares about the Eastern Conference?! The West is where it’s at.
So we finally come to the Whitecaps.
All we know 100% right now is that a win for Vancouver over Houston next Sunday gives the Whitecaps their highest ever points total in MLS, their most ever wins in MLS, their highest ever finish in the Western Conference, the number one seeding in next year’s Voyageurs Cup, and best of all, their first ever home playoff match.
It’s like last season’s final game of the season against Colorado with less pressure in terms of them already having their playoff place, but more pressure in what it could mean for the club in terms of postseason difficulty. What’s the odds on another Kendall Waston winner?
So there’s the certainty. Now the flights of fancy.
Vancouver could still finish anywhere from second in the West to sixth!
For the latter to happen the ‘Caps need to lose to the Dynamo and see every other result go against them. With the opposition those teams below them face, those other games could certainly go that way.
And if the ‘Caps were to fall to fifth or sixth, we don’t have to look back very far as to the games that have cost them. Hopefully it won’t come to that.
A draw would give the ‘Caps 51 points and could also see them finish anywhere from second to sixth, or third to sixth if KC get anything from their game against Colorado.
But with a win, Vancouver will finish at least fourth. They could finish second.
Here’s the ifs and buts.
The best case scenario is that no matter what KC do against Colorado, if they draw with LA, the ‘Caps finish second, by at least a point. First round bye baby!
The next best case is if KC lose or draw against Colorado and then beat LA. Same second place finish for Vancouver.
If KC beat Colorado and beat LA, they will finish second over Vancouver by one point and the ‘Caps will finish third, possibly with a home game against Seattle.
If LA beat KC, they will finish second and the ‘Caps will finish third.
So many permutations. No wonder Carl Robinson has to count them all out on his fingers above!
All of the above is based on the Whitecaps winning of course. Then it’s all down to Kansas as to what happens next. Time to dig out my ruby slippers and get clicking.