Throw the champagne back in the fridge and lock your cigar in the humidor- despite their win over the Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC failed to clinch a playoff spot Saturday evening.
|1||x- New York Red Bulls||51||1.7||30||15||9||6||53||38||15|
|2||x- D.C United||48||1.5||32||14||12||6||39||40||-1|
|3||New England Revolution||47||1.47||32||13||11||8||45||45||0|
|7||Orlando City SC||41||1.28||32||11||13||8||44||54||-10|
|8||New York City FC||37||1.16||32||10||15||7||47||53||-6|
With the Montreal Impact's 2-1 loss in Orlando, Toronto FC did not manage to clinch a top 6 finish and their first ever MLS playoff spot. Orlando City can still catch the Reds if the Lions post a perfect finish to their season and Toronto goes pointless over their remaining three games.
Although the celebration is now on hold, the Orlando result should be seen as a positive for fans wanting more than a simple clinched playoff spot. With Montreal's defeat, the Impact drop to four points below Toronto FC, albeit with a game in hand.
While Toronto supporters would surely have been thrilled to see the team finally clinch a playoff spot, increased distance between the 5th place Reds and their Canadian rivals in 6th provides a comforting cushion.
Being a full four points ahead of the Impact may help to avoid the demoralizing prospect of Didier Drogba and company leapfrogging TFC before season end. Plus, let's be honest- cheering for the Impact to succeed just didn't feel right Saturday night.
While fans will have to wait a little longer to see that "x" beside Toronto FC's name in the standings, other results over the weekend put TFC in an interesting position heading into their last three matches of the season.
2nd place DC United (who were 4th as the weekend opened) finally managed to turn their fortunes around as they defeated expansion side New York City FC at home by a score of 2-1. David Villa had a number of chances to keep the visitors in the playoff hunt, but was unfortunate as several close calls refused to find the back of the net.
While DC United remain two points ahead of Toronto FC, the NYCFC loss means that Manchester City's neglected young stepbrother can no longer catch Toronto FC in the playoff race (although they can still better the Impact for the final playoff spot if everything goes their way).
3rd place New England Revolution lost (amusingly) to Eastern Conference bottom feeders Chicago Fire 3-1, conceding three unanswered goals after scoring first in their Saturday night match-up. Former Red Gilberto had another Gilberto-like game for the Fire, hitting two posts before finally converting an acrobatic insurance marker for the home side. The loss left New England just one point above TFC, with a game in hand for the Reds.
4th place Columbus Crew failed to overcome an inspired New York Red Bulls side, losing 2-1 in New Jersey Saturday evening. With the loss, Columbus find themselves in the same position as New England, just one point above Toronto FC with one more game played.
So where does that leave Toronto FC? Well, with their fate in their own hands, of course! Good thing that's always gone well for the Reds (part-time supporters, search "Toronto FC, 2009, Energy Drink meltdown" to understand the implicit sarcasm)...
All kidding aside, Toronto FC are still in a very good position to not only make the playoffs, but possibly even jump up a spot or two before the end of the campaign. TFC have a break until two Wednesdays from now, when the Red Bulls visit BMO for a midweek evening fixture. With Orlando City also not playing until the following Friday, a single point against the Eastern Conference leaders in the Wednesday match would clinch that elusive playoff spot for Toronto FC. One... single... point. And we have three shots at it. How hard can that be?
Of course, an Orlando loss or draw in their last two matches would also secure a playoff spot for Toronto FC. Orlando City play host to New York City FC in a battle of the expansion sides on Friday the 16th- hopefully Villa, Lampard and Pirlo can finish off the Lions that evening so that TFC can breathe easy even if they don't get their Wednesday result.
By the time TFC's next game comes around, the Montreal Impact will have played two more matches- visiting the New York Red Bulls and the Colorado Rapids. With two wins the Impact could, theoretically, be ahead of TFC when the Red Bulls come to town- a dreary thought (so let's just ignore that scenario altogether).
Looking ahead of Toronto in the table, DC United sits two points ahead, while both New England and Columbus are in striking distance with just one more point than the Reds. TFC also have a game in hand on all three. Below are the remaining schedules for the three clubs ahead of Toronto:
DC United - home against Chicago, away against Columbus
New England Revolution - home against Montreal, away against New York City
Columbus Crew - away against Toronto, home against DC
I'm not going to start listing out all the possibilities- but feel free to hypothesize different results and see how the season could end for TFC's close competition.
Where does that leave us? To recap: Toronto FC only need one more point over their final three matches to clinch a playoff spot. Similarly, a tie/loss for Orlando in their remaining two matches would also secure the playoffs for the Reds. Toronto could still realistically finish anywhere between 2nd and 7th in the Conference (first is a bit of an optimistic stretch). These next couple of matches, hosting the Red Bulls and Columbus Crew, are of paramount importance for the franchise- hopefully Toronto FC can lock up a comfortable spot before the 25th and avoid an all-too-meaningful final encounter at Saputo Stadium.