It is amazing how fast a soccer season goes. It seems like the March opener was just yesterday and here we are with twelve games left and the Houston Dynamo are on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. Houston is currently locked in a battle with FC Dallas, the Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake to see who can claim the final two playoff spots. Since winning six of eight to start the season the men in orange have done an about face winning just three of their last sixteen matches. Can they turn it around and make a playoff push? Let’s take a look.
At first glance, it appears Portland may have the best shot of any of these teams to improve their lot. Currently, they hold down the final playoff berth. The Timbers (9W 4D 8L GD +3) have the most games remaining at thirteen with eleven at home. Four of those eleven are against four of the worst in the MLS so let’s give them 12 points there. Assuming they win four of the remaining seven at home and split their two road matches, the Timbers will finish with a total of 58 points.
FC Dallas (9W 6D 8L GD +5), sixth in the Western Conference standings with 33 points has the fewest matches to play at 11 remaining. Five of the eleven are against current playoff bound teams. Three of those are at home so give them six points plus a home win against Houston and FC Cincinnati adds another six. On the road, give them two wins and a draw for seven more points and FCD will finish with 52 points, which has been the magical spot for playoff making teams.
RSL (9W 4D 9L GD-0) may have the toughest road having to face eight current playoff bound teams. Having said that five of those seven opponents will travel to Rio Tinto Stadium. Give them wins against San Jose and NYCFC for six points and a draw with Houston makes seven. On the road, give them two wins and two draws for 8 more points. Add 15 to their current 31 points and they fall short at 46 points.
Now for the Houston Dynamo (9W 3D 10L GD -3), the enigma of Major League Soccer. They get six playoff teams in their final 12 with four of them on the road. After starting 6-2 in their first eight games, Houston has tumbled winning just three of their last fourteen regular season games. Give them 10 home points in their remaining matches at BBVA assuming they can put out the Fire on tonight and the fate of their season rests in the team’s ability to find road magic. Having to face the NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, FCD, LAFC and RSL on the road, it seems unlikely that they do better than a win and a draw for four points. Add those 14 points to their current 30 and they finish what once looked to be a very promising season on the outside looking in again. (Click the link to read a story written at this very same point in the 2017 season and don’t be surprised to see deja vu).
Dose of reality
The Houston Dynamo are consistent at being inconsistent. One week they are looking like world beaters crushing the New York Red Bulls 4-0 and then going on the road to be crushed 5-0 to Atlanta United.
They have, or at least it seems they have, everyone on a rotation system and it doesn’t matter who the opponents may be. This has been at least in my humble opinion the biggest downfall for the squad. At the very least, leave the backline alone and let it solidify itself in front of keeper Joe Willis. You need consistency in the defensive third especially for a squad that is minus 3 in goal differential.
Finally, if Houston is to make a turn around and possibly save Wilmer Cabrera’s job, Memo Rodriguez, Tomas Martinez and Mauro Manotas need to play 90 percent of the remaining minutes this season. Without those three, the Dynamo will be languishing once more near the bottom of the conference.
The final whistle
Portland climbs to the sixth spot while FC Dallas claims the final berth followed by Real Salt Lake and .......... I hope I’m wrong come early October. If not you can say you read it here first.