Five things we learned from Week 28 in MLS:
Kansas City still has a chance, but it's a slight one. Kansas City must win its last three and hope that Colorado doesn't so much as tie either of its last two. And good luck with all that.
So for argument's sake, let's say we already know the eight sides that will miss the postseason. The looming question with the sad-faced set becomes: Who has the most daunting rebuilding job ahead? Good cases can be made for several sides, including Toronto, Chivas USA and D.C. United.
Toronto is a headless wonder at the moment, a team on the hunt for a director of soccer and, most likely, a head coach. Once in place, the director of soccer will have a locker room mess to sort out. Player discord seemed to hasten the exit of former coach
D.C. United has a budding young star to build around, at least. Unless, that is,
Chivas USA might or might not have some talent on hand. It's just so hard to tell. The team had a direction under its former taskmaster boss, Preki. It may not have been a great one, depending on your point of view, but there was a visible direction and a plan.
Under current coach
Houston also has a rebuilding job ahead. But with Houston, it's really more about tough choices rather than drawing up a new plan. Coach
The Red Bulls would meet Colorado in a matchup of the league's top striker tandems. Red Bulls bigwigs
Columbus would meet San Jose in a series that has huge upset potential. The Crew are slumping. San Jose is rising under recent DP acquisition
Los Angeles would meet Seattle in what would be the highlighted matchup of the opening round. And what a whale of a series it would be. The Sounders' confidence is soaring thanks to sprightly play and to last week's successful U.S. Open Cup title defense. The Galaxy's confidence is climbing thanks to
Finally, Real Salt Lake would face Dallas in a series that could swing on Dallas' ability to get healthy. Dallas hasn't lost since May. RSL hasn't lost in MLS since July -- but that was to Dallas.
It's true that the men from Ohio have been ricocheting around the continent pretty good lately thanks to MLS and CONCACAF Champions League action. They just played 13 matches over a little more than six weeks. There is some merit to this too-much-motion notion.
Still, Seattle and Real Salt Lake are logging the frequent flier miles, too, playing as many matches -- and both of those teams are on the upswing, brimming with confidence at the right time, just as the playoffs approach.
The Crew, on the other hand, appear to be circling the drain. Last week's loss to Chicago (a team already out of playoff contention) looked alarmingly listless.
Six weeks ago, the Crew strutted into this busy stretch talking about a Supporters Shield. Now this looks like a team that needs a few sessions on the psychiatrist's sofa.
"We have to rest the body, rest the mind," defender
He's probably right. The question is, can they get the rest and then regain the sharpness and the lost confidence in time? The playoffs begin in a little more than two weeks.
Dallas has allowed seven goals in its last five matches. That's not horrible, but it's not the way Dallas constructed its league-record 19-game unbeaten streak. That came with Hartman and Hernandez on patrol. In 14 matches during the streak for which both men were available throughout, the side conceded the same number, just seven.
Hyndman has advised caution in the recovery chase for both players, just as he has for starting center back
In fact, it won't be easy at all to identify three finalists, which is the next step in the process.
The problem is that players keep introducing themselves to the MVP race. Colorado's
De Rosario nearly struck again over the weekend and was once again about all Toronto has going. But considering that an MVP winner has never come from a non-playoff club (and considering that silly check-writing stunt that so many voters may find distasteful), he has some pretty severe handicaps working against him.