The Dynamo have five league matches remaining in their 2012 MLS schedule and sit in fourth place, four points clear of the Crew in sixth. In looking at the Dynamo's chances for the playoffs, there are two big things to consider. First, games played and second the actual schedule. One is in Houston's favor, the other is not, at least on the surface.
Here's the updated standings after this weekend's action:
|#||Club||Points||Games Played||Points Per Game||Goals For|
Lets look at games played first. The Dynamo have played one more match than every team in the playoffs race except the Impact. Since Montreal is at best a long shot to make the playoffs, I'm not too concerned with them. This is both an issue and not an issue in that yes, every other team fighting for position has points on the table that they could still get. However, most of the games remaining in everyone's schedule are against likely or confirmed non-playoff teams
For example, in the coming weeks Chicago plays Columbus, Sporting KC, New York and DC United. Crew still have to play DC and New York and SKC have a match as well. The point is that teams around the Dynamo will be taking points off one another, while the Dynamo have no matches left against any of their potential playoff foes except the Impact.
That leads us to the schedule. Here's the remaining games for Houston (I'm including CCL games so you can see the schedule congestion issues):
9/20 FAS (CCL), 9/23 at Union, 9/29 Revs, 10/6 Impact, 10/20 Union, 10/23 Olimpia, 10/27 at Rapids
Thursday's match against FAS is huge for Houston. A win will set them up well going in to their final match against Olimpia in late October and if FAS can trip up Olmpia when they play again, it might make the final CCL match relatively meaningless. Either way, those games are there and must be dealt with.
As for MLS opponents, you probably couldn't ask for a better run of games. While the Revs and Union will be looking to play spoiler, those are teams that Houston should be able to get full points from, especially at home. To put it bluntly, if the Dynamo can't take all 12 points on the table before the Olimpia match, they really don't deserve to make the playoffs. Sorry to be harsh, but Houston are the better team and they need to play as such.
Let's say things go perfectly for Houston and they get all 15 points left on the schedule. That would give them 61 points and for sure have them in the playoffs. Catching Sporting or Chicago at this point is probably out of the question, but if New York slips up, they could sneak in to third. In reality, the Dynamo will probably finish in fourth and have to play the one off wild card match against either DC or Columbus. Staying in fourth is vital as that would mean being able to host the game.
Of course, a lot can change in a month and a half. Teams can go cold and the Dynamo could manage to climb higher, but we'll just have to wait and see. At this point, just making sure we're in the playoffs is the goal, getting out of the wild card game would be a bonus.