With just three games remaining on the 2015 regular season schedule, FC Dallas find themselves in an unfamiliar position, but a great one nonetheless: first place in the Western Conference.
One thing already guaranteed for our boys in red and white is an all-important Western Conference playoff berth. That much we know. However, with FCD still holding a game in hand, a few different scenarios can still play out over the next few games.
Another thing we know, which is probably the most crucial piece, is that a win on Wednesday at home against Vancouver would secure a first round home match when the playoffs start. Vancouver, with only one game left after Wednesday’s match, would be four points back and unable to catch FCD.
And when you look at FCD’s home goal differential (+15) versus their road goal differential (-6), you can see why playing that first playoff game at home would be crucial to their playoff hopes.
That would leave only LA and Sporting KC with the ability to surpass FC Dallas on points. This is where it gets a bit more interesting.
Within the structure of the MLS playoff system, there is a massive advantage to be gained from finishing first or second in your conference. Both the first and second seeds get, for all intents and purposes, a bye in the first round.
Seeds three through six face off in a winner take all, one match playoff in which the winners go on to face the one and two seeds. This is what happened last year as FC Dallas hosted Vancouver in the first round of the playoffs. Even though last year’s edition worked out well, it’s a game you want to be able to avoid.
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With that being said, FC Dallas can also clinch at least a second place finish this week if they get a little help from Sporting KC. If FCD win on Wednesday and the Missourians lose on Friday, we will clinch a top two finish. Even if we manage a draw, there’s still a relatively good chance that, barring a catastrophic collapse, we would finish above Kansas City if they lose Friday.
On the other hand, we have to look at the scenarios if FC Dallas draw or lose on Wednesday night.
If we were to draw Vancouver, we would still stay in first place in the West, but wouldn’t distance ourselves from anyone in the process. A draw would leave us five points above fifth placed Seattle, who would conceivably still be in position to overtake us.
A loss is pretty much the same. We remain in first, winning the first tiebreaker over LA by virtue of having one more win than they do, but we fail to put any distance between us and the rest of the Western Conference.
With Wednesday’s game being played at home in front of what should be a relatively larger crowd than usual, you have to expect Oscar Pareja and FC Dallas to come out guns a-blazin’ (sorry Greg Hardy, we stole your phrase and used it more appropriately).
Considering a draw and a loss are essentially the same in this case, FC Dallas will probably chase the game and look to break it open early. Let’s hope so, because FCD could use a spark at the moment.
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