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Playoff danger: LA Galaxy flirting with road play-in game scenarios

Are the Galaxy on a collision course with a road play-in game in the playoffs?

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Galaxy fans are used to not worrying about much this time of year. The Galaxy are shoe-ins for the playoffs, and Bruce's playoff magic will take it from there. That's the general mood among fans regarding the LA Galaxy and their current place in the standings. Recent changes to the playoff system, however, make this line of thinking rather flawed. With a tie to Montreal and a loss to RSL, the Galaxy have actually put their MLS Cup chances in danger. Let me explain.

The top two teams in each conference get a first round bye. The remaining 4 teams in each conference play in a single elimination play-in game. With the Galaxy's road form being so dismal, getting one of the first round byes or procuring the 3rd or 4th spot and thus the ability to host the play-in game, is absolutely crucial. With the Galaxy's recent results, however, the chances are increasingly slim that LA will finish in either first or second.  Here are the remaining schedules and a few possible point scenarios from Dallas and Vancouver to demonstrate this.

FC Dallas

Schedule: LA away, Houston home, Vancouver away, Vancouver home, RSL away, San Jose home

With Houston and San Jose at home, you have to figure that Dallas has good chance of getting 6 points from those games. While the LA and Vancouver road games are likely losses, they still have 6 swing points on the table and a lead over the Galaxy in the standings.

Dallas currently has 47 points. Here are some point scenarios

Points from remaining schedule

Final points

8

55

9

56

10

57

11

58

Vancouver Whitecaps

Schedule: NYCFC home, SJ away, Dallas home, Dallas away, Houston home

You have to think that Vancouver will get 6 points from the NYCFC and Houston games.  You also have to think that, with their road form; they will get some points on the road, and will be favored to beat Dallas at home.

Vancouver currently has 48 points. Here are some point scenarios.

Points from remaining schedule

Final points

8

56

9

57

10

58

Now let's look at the Galaxy and why it's unlikely they'll catch either team and procure a first round bye.

LA  Galaxy

Schedule: Dallas home, Seattle away, Portland home, SKC away

Points from remaining schedule

Final points

6

53

7

54

8

55

Unless the Galaxy run the table with wins, it's unlikely they'll get a first round bye. More worryingly, when you look at remaining schedules, there is actually a decent chance that LA finds itself finishing in the dreaded 5th position which would see LA having to play an elimination game on the road—a near death-blow to the team's MLS Cup hopes. For this to happen, SKC and Seattle would have to pass LA, but this is not at all out of the question.  Here are the point scenarios.

Seattle Sounders

Schedule: Kansas City away, LA home, Houston away, RSL home

Seattle is on 45 points and in good form. It is extremely unlikely that Seattle gets anything less than 4 points from their final two games and 6 is a real possibility. It also wouldn't be a crazy upset for Seattle to force a draw in Kansas City, and with LA's road form and Seattle's home form, they will be favored to get the three points against the Galaxy. This puts them in fairly good position to pass the Galaxy.

Points from remaining schedule

Final points

7

52

8

53

9

54

10

55

Sporting Kansas City

Schedule: Houston away, Seattle home, Portland away, San Jose away, Colorado home, LA home

The home game to Colorado is the only game that you can flat out hand to SKC, however, there are also no games that you would expect them to lose. Getting points in Houston is very possible for SKC. Portland will be harder but a tie would not be a shocking result. Points in San Jose are also a possibility, and with LA's road form, it's unlikely they'll lose that game.

Sporting Kansas City is on 44 points but their games in hand put them in decent postion to pass LA. Maybe not as good as Seattle's, but certainly something which is doable.

Points from remaining schedule

Final points

8

52

9

53

10

54

11

55

54 Points: a line in the sand

When comparing LA's schedule to Seattle's and Kansas City's, it looks like 54 points is the mark LA needs to make or surpass if they want to host the play-in game. While 54 points is not a guarantee, results would have to go exceptionally well for both SKC and Seattle to pull ahead. To get 54 points, LA needs to win both of their remaining home games and get a tie on the road.  If LA wins their home games, but losses both road games, they'll finish the season with 53 points and 15 wins (wins being the first tie-breaker), creating the following scenarios.

  • Seattle would need only 8 points to pass LA thanks to the tiebreaker.  Seattle has a very good chance at getting at least 8 points going forward, so this should be filed under likely if LA fails to get the job done on the road.
  • SKC would need 10 points to pass the Galaxy. The clearest route for them to do this would be to win their 3 remaining home games and get at least a point in their 3 road games, however, this would require beating Seattle and thus making it impossible for Seattle to get 8 points, which could force them to get a win in Houston to reach 9 and pass LA. SKC has so many games in hand, however, that they can also reach 10 points without beating Seattle, so this is hardly a saving grace for the Galaxy.

Bottom line, LA needs to win their home games and get at least a one tie on the road. If they fail to do so, they could very easily find themselves needing a road win in the playoffs to advance.