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MMCB: Time to Talk Playoffs

On this edition of Monday Morning Centre Back, we take a look at the looming reality that is the coming MLS Playoffs.

That's right people. Playoffs!

The Dynamo have eight regular season matches left on their 2012 schedule. It seems like only yesterday it was March and the season was kicking off, now we're sitting here roughly five months later staring at the butt end of the season and wondering where the time went. Fortunately, things is Dynamo land are stable and making the playoffs seems like a good bet, though nothing is for certain at this point.

Houston sits in their precarious third place roost in the Eastern Conference, a nice place to be but only three points from being out of the playoffs. Hence precarious. This weekend's home draw against Toronto FC was hardly the end of the world, but given how close everything is at the moment, you can see why most of us are a bit concerned about the two points left on the table.

The remaining schedule (we'll get to that in a moment) is one that the Dynamo should be able to do well with but it's definitely front loaded with challenges. Two of the next three league matches on are on road, with both being massively important games against Chicago and Sporting Kansas City. Add to that a home match against Real Salt Lake sandwiched in between and that's a difficult nine point run. There's a case to be made that the Dynamo could only get one point out of those games and find themselves in a really tough spot. There's also a case to be made they could get five or more points.

Here's the remaining league schedule: 9/2 at Chicago, 9/6 RSL, 9/14 at SKC, 9/23 at Union, 9/29 New England, 10/6 Montreal, 10/20 Union, 10/27 at Rapids.

That's it. Four home, four away. 24 potential points that will decide the season. Of course, intermixed in between all those games are three remaining CONCACAF Champions League matches. Fortunately, the last away CCL match is this week, so after that, all home games, which is a bonus.

Now, here's the standings in the Eastern Conference after this weekend's matches.

# Club Points Games Played Points Per Game Goals For
1 Sporting KC 47 26 1.81 32
2 NYRB 45 26 1.73 44
3 Dynamo 42 26 1.62 38
4 Fire 41 25 1.64 32
5 DCU 40 25 1.6 41
6 Impact 39 28 1.39 42
7 Crew 36 24 1.5 29
8 Union 25 23 1.09 24
9 NE 23 25 .92 30
10 TFC 21 26 .81 29

I've included 'Goals For' because that's the first tiebreaker now.

Because MLS is a scheduling disaster, the numbers of games played is all over the place, even this late in the season. For all the things MLS does right, their ability to create a schedule borders on a group of drunken monkeys throwing poo at a wall and hoping it makes sense by the end of the calender.

Thus, we have to look at the 'Points Per Game' stat as a decent indicator of where the team are likely to end up. Based on current performance and making the wild assumption that form will hold, here's the team's currently with the best shot of making the playoffs from the East (in the order of their predicted final points total): SKC (61.48), NYRB (58.84), Fire (55.76), Dynamo (54.96) and DCU (54.4).

If the numbers hold (which, let's be honest, they probably won't) Houston would likely be playing the wild card match against DC United. In the playoffs, but not in the place you want to be. Thus the importance of these final eight matches. The more three points games you can accumulate, the better chance you have of breaking the math and finishing in the top three.

As clear as mud.

This leads me to a survey question and one we can discuss in the comments. What would be an acceptable season for you?