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Five Games Left: Playoff Race Heating Up for Toronto FC

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Each week Sven87 breaks down the Eastern Conference playoff race, with a special emphasis on Toronto FC, and how each match relates to their quest for a first ever playoff spot.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Three points. That's what separates the top four teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race. While TFC is currently sitting outside of the top four, should they manage a victory against Chicago on Saturday afternoon, they will momentarily find themselves five points out of first place in the east. Five... points.

Position Club Points PPG GP W L T GF GA GD
1 New York Red Bulls 48 1.71 28 14 8 6 49 32 17
2 Columbus Crew 47 1.57 30 13 9 8 49 49 0
3 New England Revolution 46 1.53 30 13 10 7 43 41 2
4 DC United 45 1.5 30 13 11 6 37 37 0
5 Toronto FC 40 1.38 29 12 13 4 49 50 -1
6 Montreal Impact 36 1.33 27 10 11 6 38 38 0
7 Orlando City SC 35 1.17 30 9 13 8 37 51 -14
8 New York City FC 34 1.13 30 9 14 7 44 50 -6
9 Philadelphia Union 33 1.1 30 9 15 6 38 47 -9
10 Chicago Fire 27 0.93 29 7 16 6 36 46 -10

One week ago Toronto FC supporters were all but giving up on a 3rd or even 4th place finish (and the home playoff match that automatically accompanies it). While some... shall we call them... realists still maintain that submissive stance, others are hanging onto the glimmer of hope that TFC's rain-drenched victory over Colorado provided this past weekend. With the win, accompanied by a DC United home loss to Columbus, the Reds now sit five points back of 4th place DC and only six back of 3rd place New England, with a game in hand on both clubs.

The Montreal Impact, Toronto's hated rivals to the east, did TFC a favor this past Saturday evening, putting a halt to New England's eight game unbeaten streak (with authority) as they thoroughly trounced the Revolution 3-0 at Saputo Stadium.

While that result finally allowed Toronto FC to gain some ground on the sides above them, the Impact win also served as a glaring reminder that the Reds should keep one eye on the rear-view mirror. The Impact, still in 6th place in the East, are but 4 points back of Toronto, with two games in hand.

Speaking of the Impact, three points are also what separates their current 6th place position from 9th place Philadelphia Union. With their backs up against a wall, the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th place teams in the East all managed wins on the weekend (rather impressively).

Summing up the current situation: games in hand aside, it's a tight battle both for 1st place in the East as well as for the final playoff spot (with TFC wedged in between both wars).

But we can't simply discount games in hand. The rational fan would likely conclude that the New York Red Bulls, especially given their current run of form (just two losses in their last eleven), are unreachable for Toronto FC.

Ready for a bold proclamation? Both DC United and the Columbus Crew, however, are still very much in reach.

Sure, Columbus (home vs. Portland) and DC (away vs Montreal) appear to have winnable games against opponents in the bottom half of conferences this week. But with the Impact's Didier Drogba proving particularly effective and Portland desperately looking to remain in the playoff picture in the west (and break a four game winless streak), those two games are anything but decided as we head into the weekend.

Unfortunately for Toronto FC, New England's home game (Saturday) against Philadelphia, on the other hand, should result in an easy victory for the hosts- Philadelphia will likely be resting starters for their US Open Cup Final on the 30th. And with New England's relatively toothless slate of remaining opponents (Chi, Mtl, NYC), they will be a difficult side to catch up to.

Ultimately, the Reds should simply approach the remainder of the season one game at a time, trying to eke out as many points/results as they possibly can. But with Toronto FC players being human and all (disregarding the MLSE hype machine's claims about Sebastian Giovinco), it's only natural for them to watch the table, hopefully with the belief that they can catch, at the very least, DC United.

Toronto FC should also be wary, however, of the teams below them- with the franchise's history, there will never be enough room for comfort until a spot is clinched.

With the win against Colorado, a glimmer of hope remains for TFC- the dream of a 3rd or 4th place finish is still not over. A win for Toronto on Saturday would be a tremendous step toward getting fans excited, again, about the team's chances of hosting a playoff game in Toronto.