Cue the white suits and disco balls! It's been a long, long wait for a victory, but with their backs against the wall and only 30 minutes to save the season, United finally provided the finishes that have gone MIA of late. The 2-1 victory over a Revolution side in a death-spiral puts United temporarily in the playoff places. But we'll get to that in the wrap-up--let's hit those talking points . . .
* Doe with some special deliveries. A couple of clinical finishes from the Liberian were the difference, and you've got to say that if he can continue to grow in confidence and become more consistent, we've got a player that I'd have some hesitation leaving exposed when the expansion draft rolls around. He had a few other moments of danger as well, and if I'm the FO, I've got my eye on some of the more expensive foreign talent when it comes down to who I place on the "protected" list.
* Danger at both ends. While tonight's lineup was a complete 180 from the decidedly defensive outfit we ran out against Houston, and while it did manage to create many more chances, we saw the dangers inherent in the system. The Revs, without the creative prompting of the injured Ralston, managed to get more shots on target than we did, and their goal was typical of the horrors we've had to endure. Too many get caught upfield, not enough bust a gut to get back. Even if we do make the playoffs, that's not going to get it done against either Columbus or Houston, one of whom will be our first round opposition.
* Time, time, time, is on our side, yes it is. With the entire season potentially resting on next Sunday's match, and needing both ourselves and Saprissa to win out for there to be any chance of advancing in the Champions' League, does anybody honestly think we won't run out as many reserves as are fit to take the field against Cruz Azul? Yes, we've got the weekend off, and the final league match is on Sunday, but do you take a chance at picking up injuries? I'd expect to see some of the starters get time just to keep them sharp, particularly those returning from injuries (or having been saddled with suspensions), but if Tommy throws the kitchen sink at the Mexicans, I say we drop the giant anvil on his head.
* Speaking of Tommy . . . I'm decidedly uncomfortable with what I'm going to see next Sunday. Yes, Columbus is probably playing just to avoid injury at this point, but they'll also want to send a message if United look likely to be their first round opponents in the playoffs. Also, owing to MLS's fantastic scheduling, United will know exactly what result they need to get into the playoffs. And that's the big worry. It's not 100%, but Tommy's teams generally seem to come out in big games that they absolutely need to win and look decidedly flat. True, they often recover in the second half, but by then it's often too late. Also true, this doesn't always happen. But Tommy hasn't proved himself a master motivator to this point, and given that we're likely to need a result of some sort away to the best team in the league next weekend, I've got to say that my confidence isn't high.
Well, here we are then. Just one game left, and somehow the boys have fought back from the brink and circled the wagons. We've got a temporary hold on a playoff spot, though nearly all of our rivals will be able to catch us this weekend. So what needs to happen?
Colorado could draw level with a win this weekend, but we hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. RSL and Dallas can both surpass us, but fortunately, they play each other this weekend. Unfortunately, they both hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over us. Also, owing to MLS guaranteeing a playoff spot for the #3 in each conference, at least one of that trio is going to get in, regardless of whether they pass us by or not (technically, the Gals are still alive as well, but come on!). What do we want then? Colorado to lose against Chivas, effectively guaranteeing that they can't catch us courtesy of head-to-head results, and RSL to thump Dallas. Sure, RSL scoots past us on the table, but that doesn't really matter does it, since the #3 from the West qualifies automatically? I'd rather have RSL ahead and Dallas farther behind, than both of them level or just behind us.
Oh, isn't it just delicious that the Swamp Things have shot themselves in the foot . . . yet again? Look, we need to finish ahead of either KC or New York, if not both (depending on what goes on out West). Somewhat mysteriously, head-to-head tiebreakers won't matter with either side as the season series and goals have been split evenly (0-2, 2-0 results against KC and 4-1, 1-4, 0-0 results against NY). That brings us down to goal difference, where we're trailing a bit going into the weekend. Both sides are at home this weekend, and both play against sides that don't really have anything to play for but pride. Of course, you could also say that their opponents are playing without pressure as well. Here's hoping for the Crew and Quakes to do some road damage!
(call off the gravediggers, we're not dead yet!)