With FC Dallas now in first place, a lot of people will start schedule watching. The western conference can be pretty insane, and it seems to bring something new each week. Here we will break down seven teams in the west and D.C. United to see why Dallas has a good chance for the Supporters’ Shield. We will re-visit this after the bye week Dallas has in a few weeks.
We will start with FC Dallas since that is the team most of you care about. Dallas has 13 games left with six at home and seven on the road. Two of those road games are against teams in the east so that will help out if Dallas takes care of business. The schedule stays pretty safe with only three of their next eight games not being played on Saturday and it appears Dallas is very hard to beat when they get in a usual pattern of training. Dallas really does not have a difficult stretch until the end of September when they have back to back road games at Sporting Kansas City and then the Los Angeles Galaxy. The difficult stretch continues as Dallas have to play Houston and Vancouver in a three day stretch then followed by Vancouver and Real Salt Lake just a week after that. That’s the bad news of it. The good news is Dallas can afford some road losses as long as they take care of business at home given that they’re top of the table and have a game in hand over the majority of the west and two games in hand over L.A. Galaxy and D.C. United.
Vancouver sits in second place, but Dallas has a game in hand on them. Vancouver might be the oddest team in the entire league as they have shown to be an average home team, but a really good road team, getting wins at L.A., at Real Salt Lake, and a draw at Portland. They will get Darren Mattocks back from the Gold Cup, and David Ousted is regarded as the best keeper in the league today. They survived a brutal five game road trip by winning three of the five, but they have Champions League coming up, and their group is pretty rough. They have Seattle in the group and Olimpia, which is the best team in Honduras. They also have a couple of Canadian Championship games left against Montreal. They have a pretty rough schedule late as well with eight out of their fourteen games against teams that are in the top seven of the west.
Los Angeles Galaxy
A lot of stock was put in this team after drumming San Jose 5-2 only to get drummed by Houston 3-0. What do we know about L.A. besides a ton of high-dollar signings? Well, they’re terrible on the road. They have a record of 0-6-5 on the road with a -13 goal differential. Galaxy have a huge problem outside of Champions League games coming up. Dallas has two games in hand on a them, and Dallas is already four points ahead of them. The Galaxy will have to do something they have not done all year, and that is win on the road. The schedule is really rough on them with road games at FC Dallas, at Seattle, and at Sporting Kansas City. They have the talent to get first or second in the west, but unless they figure out how to win on the road fast, the Galaxy’s chances of getting the top seed in the west are slim.
Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City is the only team outside of Dallas that controls their own destiny in getting top seed in the West as they have two games in hand on Dallas. That does not mean it will be easy for them to catch up the five points they’re currently behind. They have a big road trip at the end of August into September which features a Wednesday game at Portland followed by a Sunday game in Orlando. A cross country flight will be difficult. Where Sporting can be dangerous is they do have home games against Dallas, Seattle, and L.A., so they can make a run.
To say this summer has been unkind to Seattle is an understatement. Seattle has only gotten three points out of a possible twenty one in their last seven games as they have missed the firepower Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins. Dempsey should be returning to the lineup this week while Martins is looking at a possible return in two weeks. Seattle has the same group of Champions League that Vancouver has and still games at L.A. and at Kansas City. Seattle also did not take advantage of getting points against poor teams such as Philadelphia and Chicago. Seattle has the talent when fully healthy to make a run, but the margin of error is slim.
If Portland can fix their slump right now as they have only got seven out of their last eighteen points, they can linger for a top spot in the west. Their advantage is they have an even split of home and away games left. Their disadvantage though is most of their difficult games are on the road such as at Seattle, at L.A., and two games at Real Salt Lake. There is no Open Cup or Champions League so they only have to focus on the playoffs. Even though they still have a shot of a top seed, making the playoffs is their main goal right now.
Real Salt Lake
RSL has won two straight games where both of them felt like their playoff chances were on the line. Now they get Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando back. They will need to find a new goal option though as Alvaro Saborio is gone to D.C. United. RSL likely will not contend for a top two seed as they’re focused on making the playoffs. RSL is going to have a difficult time getting above the fourth seed in the west with Champions League and Open Cup still going. They have the ability to, but that many games will likely catch up to them.
They get a break playing in the east and they also get a break with their only remaining games against teams from the West being RSL, San Jose, and Colorado which will help them in making a run for the Supporters’ Shield. They will need to continue a strong pace even with Champions League games as Dallas has two games in hand on them and Kansas City has four games in hand on them.