MLS Table Talk - Starting the Playoff Prattle

The Crew have clinched. Everybody's still alive in the playoff hunt. KC took one giant step forwards, while the Rapids are struggling to pull their boots free of the mire. I don't remember a playoff race this exciting, wide-open, or topsy turvy, can you? So let's break the race down a bit. What do we know so far?

* The Crew are the #1 seed in the East.
* The Revs and Fire will finish 2 & 3 in the East and will play each other in the first round of the playoffs. All that's left to be decided is who gets the first match at home.
* Houston and Chivas will finish 1 & 2 in the West, but the order is still to be decided. Chivas could theoretically be caught on points by RSL, but Chivas hold the head-to-head tiebreaker courtesy of winning two of their three matches this year.

After that, things are completely open. Everybody is still alive at this point, but some are on life support. TFC, LA, and San Jose can't lose. If they do, they're done. If KC, NY, and RSL win matches, that pretty much puts them out as well. The permutations are too numerous at this point with nine sides competing for just three spots. In next week's edition of Table Talk, we'll lay out all of the scenarios for the teams that are still alive.

How about some numbers? Can the Crew catch the Gals in the race for the highest goal production? LA is still top at 1.89, while Columbus are closing at 1.71, and former challengers DC United have dropped off the map altogether courtesy of their recent woeful run. Of course, said woeful run has also propped up their challenge for the most porous defense as well, with their 1.75 goals against average still trailing LA's 2.04 by a country mile.

The Quakes' goal production has dried up of late, dropping them down to just a goal per game, a figure that puts them solidly at the bottom of more than just the table. Two goals from the Crew were enough to finally elevate the Fire's defensive average to one goal per game as well. Does this mean that San Jose vs. Chicago would result in a number of 1-1 draws? Close. The Fire won 1-0 early in the season before the two sides drew 0-0.

Goal difference is also sliding into line, but it's astounding that only four sides in the league have a positive mark. The Crew, of course, are the clear leaders at +15, with Houston and Chicago weighing in at +9. They're followed by two teams who've hit equilibrium courtesy of different roads. The Revs started well but have fallen off of late, while Chivas were in all kinds of trouble before mounting their current charge. The only anomalies in this order are Dallas, whose +6 belies their non-playoff-bound league position. It's a bit disconcerting to look at Dallas in 9th at +6 and contrast that to United, just one spot and one point behind in 10th but sporting a -8.

So there you have it. We've run the numbers and kicked the tires. Five of the playoff spots have been claimed, leaving just three more spots for nine contenders. I'll leave you with a poll. Obviously, we'll know more about the Quakes' chances after tomorrow night, but I'll run this poll up until Thursday Night Futbol helps us decide DC's fate.

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