The Dynamo clinched a playoff spot on Saturday night, but there's more work to be done. Olimpia comes to town tomorrow and there's a chance Houston could improve their place in the table in the season's final weekend
Welcome to another edition of Monday Morning Centre Back.
Well Dynamo fans, we made it. For the sixth time in seven seasons the Dynamo are in the playoffs. It wasn't always certain, it definitely wasn't always pretty, but we made it. We still don't know exactly who and where we will play, there's several contingencies that will have to play out next weekend, but the Dynamo are looking at three possible playoff fates, which we'll get to in a minute.
The strangest thing about this season is that in just squeezing in to the playoffs, this Dynamo team has set a single season points record for the franchise. 53 points and for the moment that's only good enough to fifth place. Of course, this is down to a couple things. First, MLS is playing more games now as the league has expanded and second, the Eastern Conference is a hell of a lot better this season than last. Of course, point totals really don't matter once you're in the playoffs, it's all about getting results, something Dominic Kinnear and his teams are typically very good at.
Can this team get results? Can this team replicate it's run to the MLS Cup final from last season? Just looking at the data, the answer is probably not. We all know of course that data is largely irrelevant in the playoffs. Plenty of better statistical teams have failed to win championships or even play for them. Regular season under achievers are regular participants in the finals of all major sports, just look at baseball in recent years.
What ultimately matters is playing your best soccer when the playoffs arrive, something Houston was certainly doing last year. While the Dynamo certainly looked better on Saturday than they had in previous games, this doesn't feel like a team peaking at the right time. Maybe they are and it's just hard to see it, but I think there's a fog of realism around this squad at the moment. There are defensive weaknesses, offensive inconsistencies, plenty of reason why this team could be one and done...but who knows, we're in the playoffs and anything can happen.
As for who and where the Dynamo will be playing, here's the three possibilities. If Houston lose or draw against Colorado next weekend, they'll finish fifth and play a win or go home game at either New York or Chicago. If they win and New York either draws or loses their match against the Union, we'd move in to fourth place and host New York. There's even a chance the Dynamo could move all the way up to third place should we beat the Rapids and the Fire lose to DC United. There are some potential tiebreaker issues possible, so if you're curious and want to do some math, go look at the Goals For totals for each team as that is the first tiebreaker this season.
In the end, beating Philly and getting a huge assist from DC beating the Crew has worked out great for Houston. They know they are in the playoffs, so the Rapids game is all about taking a shot at improving their position. They even had the added advantage of playing after both New York/Philly and DC/Chicago. They'll know if they have a shot to move up or if the door is shut by the time they take the field.
Why does this matter? Because there's still a massive CONCACAF Champions League match against Olimpia tomorrow that the Dynamo need a result from to advance to the knockout round. It also matter because if there's no chance to get out of fifth place by the time they play the Rapids, Kinnear can rest some key players and avoid risking injuries.
We'd all rather be in first place of course, but considering everything, there are a lot worse places the Dynamo could be today. Just ask the Crew.