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Eight Games Left: Toronto Slip into Fifth, Playoff Hope Remains

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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.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC flew home this past weekend one spot lower in the Eastern Conference playoff race. With Toronto's narrow 2-1 defeat in Seattle, the Reds now find themselves 5th place in the East, still comfortably in a playoff spot but further away from a home playoff game that many consider the measuring stick for a successful (or even acceptable) 2015 campaign.

Position Club Points PPG GP W L T GF GA GD
1 D.C. United 44 1.57 28 13 10 5 35 34 1
2 New York Red Bulls 42 1.68 25 12 6 7 43 28 15
3 Columbus Crew 41 1.46 28 11 9 8 45 47 -2
4 New England Revolution 40 1.48 27 11 9 7 38 36 2
5 Toronto FC 37 1.42 26 11 11 4 45 44 1
6 Montreal Impact 31 1.29 24 9 11 4 34 37 -3
7 Philadelphia Union 30 1.07 28 8 14 6 35 45 -10
8 Orlando City SC 29 1.04 28 7 13 8 33 50 -17
9 New York City FC 28 1.04 27 7 13 7 38 46 -8
10 Chicago Fire 27 1 27 7 14 6 34 42 -8

The New England Revolution made easy work of expansion side Orlando City SC on Saturday, blanking their visitors 3-0 at Gillette Stadium and leapfrogging Toronto to move into 4th place. Toronto FC still have a game in hand on the Revs, and are only 3 points back of the perennial Eastern Conference contenders.

Ahead of New England, in third place in the East, sit the Columbus Crew. Although they were missing leading scorer Kei Kamara, Columbus suffered a shocking 3-0 loss at home to Dallas over the weekend, where the Crew enjoyed 67% of possession and were even gifted a penalty kick that Federico Higuain put wide of the net. The loss keeps Columbus in third place for the moment, four points ahead of Toronto FC but with two more games played.

Directly below Toronto lie their Canadian rivals, the Montreal Impact. The Impact relied heavily on new designated player Didier Drogba Saturday evening, narrowly defeating Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers Chicago Fire 4-3 at Stade Saputo owing to a Drogba hat trick.

Of note to TFC fans, former Red Gilberto tallied his first goal in a Chicago uniform in La Belle Province over the weekend. The Impact now find themselves 6 points behind Toronto with 2 games in hand as they prepare for their upcoming game in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Right on the Impact's heels are the Philadelphia Union, the new 7th place team in the East. After a surprising away victory in San Jose, coupled with Orlando's defeat in Foxboro, the Union are now only four points back of the Reds (although TFC have two games in hand).

So what's the magic number to clinch a playoff spot? As of today, 49 points. No team currently outside the playoff picture can accumulate more than 49 points by season end (and of course that would require winning through, an unlikely possibility for any side).

TFC, in theory, need 12 more points, 4 wins, to celebrate their first ever playoff appearance. Of course most fans won't be satisfied unless TFC finds themselves in at least 4th place in the East- a necessity to host a home playoff match.

Toronto FC's schedule this week has them hosting the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon. A TFC win would push them back up the table into 4th place by virtue of number of wins (first tie-breaker). While Greg Vanney claims Giovinco could be good to go for the weekend, only time will tell whether the MLS MVP contender will indeed suit up when the Revolution come to town.

Next week the Reds will be looking at two very winnable matches. On Wednesday, the Reds visit expansion side New York City FC, where Toronto should at the very least be able to collect a point on the road. The following Saturday, Toronto play host to the Colorado Rapids, who currently find themselves in 9th place in the Western Conference.

A match against the team immediately ahead of them, and then two against non-playoff opponents. Four points back of third. The next two weeks provide a huge opportunity for Toronto FC to both gain ground on the clubs below them, and potentially jump up one or two spots in the East. Will the Atomic Ant be back soon enough to make a difference in Toronto's playoff hunt? Will TFC manage to take advantage of their easy schedule next week? Time to sit tight, cheer on your Reds, and see what TFC can achieve.