With Toronto FC in with a chance of claiming a historic Supporters’ Shield with five games remaining, speculation becomes an exercise in happiness. Can the Reds put together a run of form good enough to overtake FC Dallas for their first major trophy in MLS?
Your conclusion at this point, of course, depends on your own optimism or pessimism but mathematically it is a very real possibility. Here is the top end of the current league table:
While Dallas currently enjoys a five-point advantage over TFC, if the Reds can win their game in hand they are suddenly looking at just a one-game swing to move into first place. To assess the chances of that happening, let us dig down into the remaining fixtures of each of the contenders.
The Reds are in an enviable position in that they play four of their last five games at BMO Field having lost just twice at home all season. Consider, too, that all of TFC's remaining opponents sit fourth or lower in the Eastern Conference and there is no reason to believe they cannot collect a significant chunk of the 15 points on offer.
TFC's sole road game is in Montreal, and while the hostile environment will undoubtedly present a challenge they have already left Stade Saputo with three points earlier this season. Home games against the Philadelphia Union, Orlando City, D.C. United and the Chicago Fire are all winnable, though Orlando and D.C. are both are both fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Eleven points from five games.
Total: Fifty-eight points, goal differential of at least +15.
THE NEW YORKERS
The New York Red Bulls have a favourable three home games out of four in the form of a home-and-away against Philadelphia and visits from the Montreal Impact and the Columbus Crew. Jesse Marsch’s team has been trending upwards and if not for Toronto’s game in hand, you would worry about the Reds’ grip on top spot in the East.
Prediction: Ten points from four games.
Total: Fifty-five points, goal differential of at least +15.
New York City FC, meanwhile, has made plenty of noise in their second season and are battling for supremacy in their own city. NYCFC has the luxury of not playing a team that currently sits in a playoff spot, with home games against bottom clubs Chicago and Columbus bookending road games against the Houston Dynamo and D.C. United. Patrick Vieira's men should at the very least be a home seed in the playoffs.
Prediction: Eight points from four games.
Total: Fifty-three points, goal differential of at least +1.
THE WESTERN POWERS
FC Dallas sit atop the MLS standings with a four-point advantage on the Los Angeles Galaxy and a mouthwatering home-and-away between the two clubs to come. Dallas also faces a trip to Utah to take on Real Salt Lake and a home game against a desperate Seattle Sounders team, making their schedule one of the most challenging of the Supporters’ Shield contenders.
Prediction: Seven points from four games.
Total: Fifty-nine points, goal differential of at least +9.
The Galaxy’s route to the end of season is slightly easier, with the same home game against Seattle and a road trip to the basement-dwelling Houston Dynamo lying ahead. Two years without an MLS Cup would be something of a drought these days in L.A. but Landon Donovan’s return has given them a timely boost.
Prediction: Nine points from four games.
Total: Fifty-seven points, goal differential of at least +19.
THE SURPRISE PACKAGE
After finishing dead last in the Western Conference last year, the Colorado Rapids have combined a strong defence with an attack that may not score often but often scores when it needs to. Colorado has six games remaining, four of which are accounted for in home-and-aways with the Portland Timbers and the Houston Dynamo. With a road game in Vancouver and a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes completing their season, the Rapids are a serious contender thanks to their four games against the bottom three teams in the West.
Prediction: Eleven points from six games.
Total: Fifty-eight points, goal differential of at least +7.
Despite their tricky run, my predictions leave Dallas winning the Supporters’ Shield by a single point over Toronto and Colorado. It promises to be a closely run race but whatever the outcome, after 10 years of ups and (mostly) downs the Reds are finally within striking distance of silverware.