"Don't grieve. Everything you lose comes round in another form."-- Rumi
It's officially happening: The playoff hunt is ending for one team after another. Chicago bit the dust midweek, followed by Orlando City and Vancouver on the weekend. The 2016 season has been unkind to all three, and all three for different reasons.
For the Fire it was a rebuild too large and too haphazard to come together all at once, while Orlando City and Vancouver were both undone by great expectations, discipline issues and leaky defenses. So it goes.
The 2017 season begins now for all of the above. The next month, and whatever practice time is allotted afterward, has to be used for a winnowing of current rosters and an identification of core pieces moving forward. It has to be used in the acquisition of assets -- TAM, GAM, SuperDraft picks and the like. Learn names like Jeremy Ebobisse, Abu Danladi, Jackson Yueill, Miles Robinson, Nick DePuy and Russell Cicerone. Learn your academy's stars. Learn a little bit about Argentinean No. 10s or Dutch No. 9s in the final season of their current contracts.
Colorado and NYCFC both show this year, and so many have shown in past years, that there are myriad ways to climb up the standings.
Onto next year for those four. Seventeen teams remain to contest the final month of this season.
Vancouver's 2016 season summed up in one clip:
Blas Perez, legend. But not a precog. pic.twitter.com/sbWjbe4jfG— Matthew Doyle (@MLSAnalyst) October 3, 2016
Back in the day RSL kept the field small and the game tight not just because it maximized the strengths of their best players, but also because it hid their weaknesses. You had to blow that diamond apart in order to beat them, but two years into the 4-3-3 era and their current look falls to pieces with a bit of nice combo play up the gut.
A few more things to ponder...
9. In addition to the one-goal win at Vancouver, the Sounders picked up an ugly 1-0 win against Chicago on Wednesday and now seem a pretty safe bet to get into the playoffs. Theirs is, however, only the second-best turnaround of the season...
8. D.C. United were in eighth place as recently as nine days ago, and finished the weekend one point out of fourth place. They went two months, from the start of June to the start of August, with one win and eight goals in nine games, and have gone 5-1-4 with 26 goals in the 10 games since then. It's been mid-season acquisitions, and veteran wingers, and midfield newcomers and grizzled old defenders who never get enough love.
Their 3-0 win over Columbus midweek was exceptional for the way they ground Crew SC down for the first hour, and then their 2-1 win at TFC on Saturday was a masterpiece of resiliency and opportunism (and a worrying defeat for the Reds, who were also held 0-0 by Orlando City on Wednesday).
New York are now unbeaten in 18 across all competitions. The Union, meanwhile, are winless in five and have slid all the way down to sixth place in the East.
Are the Union in danger of missing the playoffs? Maybe a little bit. They're getting zero production from center forward C.J. Sapong, they've been in a rut defending set pieces, and Keegan Rosenberry has run smack into the rookie wall over the past month. It's a bloody mess.
Nonetheless, both of Philly's final two games are at home, and a single win will punch their ticket. The Union may not last long once the playoffs begin, but they'll almost certainly be there for at least a little bit. For this franchise, that's real progress.