Week 33 held out the possibility of six teams booking trips to the postseason, and three others being mathematically eliminated from playoff contention.
But, apparently, the author of the 2013 season is not finished wringing suspense out of the tale: Only two of those nine potential resolutions came to pass, as Sporting Kansas City advanced to the postseason following a 1-1 draw between D.C. United and Philadelphia, and FC Dallas were eliminated from the Western Conference playoff chase after a 3-2 loss to Chicago.
Portland snatched a tense 1-0 win over their archrivals Seattle, stopping the Sounders from clinching a playoff berth, winning the Cascadia Cup, and tying the New York Red Bulls on points for first place in the Supporters’ Shield standings – yet still not clinching a postseason berth for themselves. (Portland did go to the top of the West standings.)
New England, Philadelphia, and Chicago took turns shuffling into the fifth and final playoff spot in the East, with Chicago clutching the berth, for the time being, when the dust settled on this round of playoff-like action.
But with two weeks to go, there are still eight postseason spots up for grabs and 13 teams vying for them (though Columbus are only mathematically alive). In short, we don’t know which teams, exactly, will fill out the playoff picture.
There is one team bringing up the rear of the Eastern Conference bottleneck, though, that the Postgame would love to see make the playoffs. That’s the New England Revolution, and here’s why:
Staying the Course
The Revs haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009, and they started off this season looking unlikely to break that string, going 2-4-4 out of the gate. But a three-game winning streak in the spring – including a 5-0 thumping of the LA Galaxy – got them back on course, and they’ve been competitive ever since.
Now, they’re peaking at the right time, having gone unbeaten in their last four, including Saturday’s huge 1-0 win at Montreal, and climbed to within a point of the playoff places. They’re only three points away from third place in the East, and their season-long goal difference is a healthy plus-9, third-best in the conference.
New England have turned on the style along with the positive results, fielding an array of youthful attacking talent, including 18-year-old Diego Fagundez (12 goals, seven assists in 26 starts), 20-year-old Juan Agudelo (six goals, one assist in nine starts), and 21-year-old Kelyn Rowe (seven goals, seven assists).
Not quite as young, but equally effective, has been the skillful 27-year-old midfielder Lee Nguyen, who’s racked up four goals and six assists.
Their backline has been instrumental, too, led by Defender of the Year candidate Jose Goncalves – who scored the winner against Montreal – and 21-year-old Andrew Farrell, who has fully lived up to his billing as the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft.
At 28, Goncalves was the oldest player in coach Jay Heaps’ exciting starting XI on Saturday – it’s a group that, with the exception of Agudelo, who’s leaving for Stoke City in January, could make waves for seasons to come in MLS.
Of the other bubble teams in the East, only the Fire – who rallied from a 2-7-1 start – have been more compelling than New England.
Montreal have lost three straight at home and are winless in their past five. After leading the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings for much of the season, the Impact have been hit by injuries, fatigue and poor form, and have slipped into a late-season tailspin.
Philadelphia have pulled off some impressive results in 2013, including back-to-back 3-0 wins over Columbus and New York in the summer, and a 1-0 win at Kansas City on Sept 27.
But they’ve only broken even in the goal-difference department, their leading scorer went on an 18-game scoring drought and … is still their leading scorer, and their pedigreed Brazilian DP has been riding the bench for most of the season.
No offense to the resilient Conor Casey or the rest of the talented Philly side, but we can’t shake the feeling that New England would be a more entertaining entrant in the postseason.
New England also have a sidelined teammate to play for, as talented attacker Saer Sene (five goals, five assists in 14 starts) suffered a dislocated ankle and a broken leg on Saturday, his second season-ending injury in as many years.
Whether it’s a quest for consolation for an injured teammate, their attractive, freewheeling style and risting stars, or their perseverance, there are several compelling reasons to pull for New England to be above the red line come Oct 27.