Sacramento Republic became the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff spot this week with a 2-1 win against Orange County. A slip by OKC Energy opened things up in the fight for the 4th place position in the table, while failures to win by Swope Park and San Antonio have left who will sneak into the playoffs up in the air.
Western Conference Strength of Schedule Projected Standings:
1 (Last Week - 1) Sacramento Republic (52.7)
It took a second half comeback, but Sacramento was the first team in the West to officially clinch a spot in the playoffs. They will now turn their attention to trying to lock up a home game as they prepare for back to back games against their La Galaxy II rivals.
2 (3) Rio Grande Valley Toros (52.0)
With the help of some impressive goalkeeping, the Toros extended their unbeaten run to ten games and can make the argument that they are the best team in the West right now. They should be able to continue their strong run of play against an ailing Portland Timbers 2 team this week.
3 (5) Colorado Springs Switchbacks (47.6)
The Switchbacks became the most recent beneficiaries of a slumping Los Dos side last week and now are showing signs of rebounding to their early season form. The Switchbacks play Whitecaps 2 this weekend in what may prove a critical match to decide who finishes the season in the top four and who starts the playoffs on the road.
4 (4) Vancouver Whitecaps 2 (47.1)
The Whitecaps suffered a stunning last minute loss to Seattle and have now been able to turn in just two wins in their last ten games. Revenge in a Monday night rematch will be the easiest game this week for the Whitecaps, as the match against the Switchbacks over the weekend is a fight to see who gets to host a playoff match.
5 (2) Oklahoma City Energy (47.1)
The streak of the Energy being able to handle bottom of the table teams came to a crashing end against Portland Timbers 2, who went off on the Energy to the tune of a 4-0 win. Oklahoma City will need to quickly bounce back against playoff hopeful Seattle, or they will be doomed to traveling for the first round of the playoffs after sitting near the top of the table since April.
6 (6) Los Angeles Galaxy II (43.9)
Los Dos have now lost six of their last eight games, and are in danger of falling out of the top six. They host Sacramento this weekend, a team that they have never beaten at home.
7 (8) Swope Park Rangers (42.9)
Swope Park fell victim to the Keeper of the Year material play from Rio Grande Valley's Callum Irving this past weekend, but due to play from other teams, have held pace for making the playoffs. The Rangers get a chance to rebound this week as the play the basement-dwelling Roughnecks side.
8 (7) San Antonio FC (41.1)
San Antonio held on to a playoff spot this week, but lost ground after only taking one point out of a possible six in their two games against Swope Park Rangers and Arizona United. San Antonio is still on pace to be able to hold a playoff position, but will need to rebound against Saint Louis next week to hold onto their postseason hopes.
9 (9) Real Monarchs (38.3)
A disappointing draw against Tulsa cost the Monarchs a golden opportunity to close the gap on the playoff teams last week. A game against Orange County this week will be the first of four straight matches to end the season against teams who are near the playoff bubble, where good results can see the Monarchs play their first postseason game in club history.
10 (13) Seattle Sounders 2 (37.6)
A stoppage time winner over Vancouver Whitecaps 2 kept Sounders 2's dim hope of making the playoffs alive. Seattle will get a chance to take another match against the Whitecaps this week, before matching up against another playoff bound team in Oklahoma City. If Seattle wants to make a run it's now or never.
11 (10) Orange County Blues (37.5)
Despite grabbing a goal just before the half, the Blues saw their lead slip away in the second half as they lost the season series to Sacramento late in the game. With the loss, Orange County will now need to end the season hot and get plenty of help in order to make the playoffs. A battle against another playoff hopeful in the Monarchs can make or break the season of either club.
12 (11) Arizona United (35.1)
After losing all three points to Los Dos, Arizona was held to a draw in San Antonio. Arizona needs to start getting some wins, and will have a week off to prepare for what may be a must-win game against Portland the following week.
13 (12) Saint Louis FC (33.8)
Saint Louis was able to salvage a point from a strong Oklahoma City team, but with no time left to make a move it will feel like a loss. They are now in desperation mode, needing to win out and get some help from other teams to have a shot at making the playoffs.
14 (14) Portland Timbers 2 (32.8)
While it may be unrealistic to see the Timbers playing in October, last week's drubbing of the Energy has left it as a possibility. Portland will need plenty of help, but will also need to help themselves by beating Rio Grande Valley next week.
15 (15) Tulsa Roughnecks (21.7)
While they have been statistically eliminated from the playoffs for over a week, Tulsa still found a way to impact the bubble by taking a point off the Real Monarchs. The Roughnecks can shake up the bubble once again in their match against Swope Park this week.
Easiest Strength of Schedule to Date: Oklahoma City Energy (1.30 points gained/game)
Hardest Strength of Schedule to Date: Portland Timbers 2 (1.41 points gained/game)
Easiest Strength of Schedule in Future: Swope Park Rangers (1.08 points gained/game)
Hardest Strength of Schedule in Future: Saint Louis FC (1.65 points gained/game)
With the playoff race heating up, Los Dos continue to slip towards the bubble. With three of their remaining four games against the top two teams of Sacramento and Rio Grande Valley, we may very well see three playoff spots up for grabs in the final weeks of the season.
So far, only Tulsa has been eliminated from the playoffs. With fourteen teams still mathematically in the battle, and only Sacramento having guaranteed a playoff spot, anything can happen in the final weeks of the season.
Who do you think will make the playoffs? What teams will fall in the coming weeks? Let us know in the comments!