Even though the last week clearly set the team back, DC United is in no way out of the MLS playoff picture. With four games still available on the schedule, the most of any team in MLS, United could finish anywhere from first to sixth in the Eastern Conference.
Fortunately for United, they control their own destiny, in every sense. 12 points from their last four games would guarantee a playoff spot for D.C., and 10 points should be a safe bet to make it as well. Short of that though, we'll need some help.
Unfortunately for United, the only team in the playoff chase that United holds a head-to-head tiebreaker against is Real Salt Lake, although they'll also own a tiebreaker over the Portland Timbers with a win or draw next Wednesday. United is at a disadvantage against the Philadelphia Union, Houston Dynamo, Colorado Rapids, and potentially Sporting Kansas City with anything short of a win in the final match of the season.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't still be keeping our eyes on the out-of-town scoreboards. Starting with the Seattle Sounders vs. Philadelphia Union tonight. Let's look at the competition, with a little help from MLSsoccer.com.
Sporting Kansas City - 45 points - 2 games left (@NY, @DC) - clinch playoffs with a win in New York.
Philadelphia Union - 44 points - 3 games left (@SEA, @TFC, @NY) - clinch playoffs with a win in Seattle, nondraw in Houston vs. Portland game, and the Red Bulls lose to SKC.
Columbus Crew - 44 points - 2 games left (@NE, @Chi) - clinch playoffs with a win in New England, nondraw in Houston vs. Portland game, and the Red Bulls lose to SKC.
New York Red Bulls - 43 points - 2 games left (SKC, Phi) - can't clinch in the next week.
Houston Dynamo - 43 points - 2 games left (@Por, @LA) - can't clinch in the next week.
Portland Timbers - 40 points - 3 games left (Hou, @DC, @RSL) - can't clinch in the next week.
D.C. United - 38 points - 4 games left (@Van, Chi, Por, SKC) - can't clinch in the next week.
Chicago Fire - 37 points - 3 games left (FCD, @Clb, DC) - eliminated with loss to Dallas, Houston win, or New York result.
So then, what should we as D.C. United fans be rooting for? Seattle tonight, New England next Saturday against the Crew, and surprisingly Portland on Friday against the Dynamo at JELD-WEN. And even though it would make our outside shot at first place in the East even less reachable, we should be rooting for the Sporks to take care of business against the Red Bulls next Saturday. Rooting against the Red Bulls just feels the most natural anyway.