Earning just a draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday night didn't feel all that great to D.C. United or its fans. United failed to generate much pressure on the opponents' goal, aside from a penalty kick. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't still a good result. Because even though we watched as the Columbus Crew gained ground in the MLS standings, the magic number for United is now down to SEVEN (points won by D.C. or lost by Columbus).
The schedule remains favorable for United as the team will keep to the road and pay a visit to Toronto FC this weekend. And with the Crew coming to RFK Stadium after that, United needs just four points in the next two matches to essentially clinch a playoff spot. Four points in our next two matches would guarantee that the Crew could do no better than equal United's point total at the end of the season, and its incredibly doubtful that the Crew can make up their nine goal gap in the first tiebreaker: goals scored.
Under one scenario, a win in Toronto would mean that United would only need to tie the Crew on Oct. 20 to secure that playoff spot, regardless of any other matches. Similarly, a draw in Toronto might feel disappointing, but would still give United the opportunity to clinch a return to the playoffs with a victory over Columbus at RFK Stadium, where D.C. is still undefeated since March.
Its also possible that the DCU-CLB match on the 20th will be almost irrelevant. Columbus hosts the Eastern Conference leading Sporting Kansas City this Saturday. A Columbus loss combined with a United win over TFC would give D.C. a six point lead, meaning that the Crew would have to win their next two matches by at least nine goals to catch United in the playoff race.
If the next two matches don't go United's way, things get much more difficult in the final week of the season. The Crew get the fortunate circumstance of facing Toronto, while United will have to travel to the unfriendly home of the Chicago Fire.
Vamos United! Let's go Sporks!