We've already taken a stroll down the memory lane of historic rallies to the postseason. Now it's time to flip that coin to look at the uglier side.
For most every stirring season-salvage job pulled off by one club, there has been at least one thoroughly numbing free fall from a seemingly enviable position that left some team incredulously looking in when the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs party kicked off.
And so, just like we celebrated those great comeback stories, we're now here to lament the most epic season collapses in MLS history. These epic belly flops came in all sizes: some stretched over months of play, while one in particular was crystallized in infamy in less time than it takes to have a pizza delivered.
The Rapids made yesterday's happy list for a late 2005 surge to the playoffs, but just four years later they cemented a spot with the bummer set. On September 5, Colorado were leading a four-team dogfight for the seventh of eight available playoff berths and had easily one of the softest remaining schedules in the league.
Seven rounds later, they were left wondering how it all fell apart. The Rapids closed with an 0-3-4 slump, but still held the last playoff slot heading into their closing-day derby tussle at Real Salt Lake. Robbie Findley scored twice in the first half as the Rio Tinto gang never looked back, swiping away that final postseason ticket with a 3-0 victory that put Colorado in the cold by mere goal differential. To pour even more salt in the wound, RSL went on to win that year’s MLS Cup.
FC Dallas (2017)
Coming off a Supporters Shield/Open Cup double from the year before, the Texans started the new season in expectedly fine form. Thanks to a 6-0-3 burst out of the blocks, FC Dallas stood atop a tightly packed West deep into July. From there, it all came apart at the seams.
Starting with a galling 4-0 home loss against Vancouver, Oscar Pareja's men suddenly lapsed into a stunning 1-7-6 coma for which there would be no cure. Despite a ruthless Decision Day rout of the Galaxy, the Big D bunch fell a point shy of the playoff line, finishing behind a San Jose side with a -21 goal differential for the season.
Sporting KC (2005)
It had been quite the roller coaster campaign for the then-Wizards, but a four-game August win streak had the team a point off the East summit and just a few off the Earthquakes' Supporters’ Shield lead with eight games left to play.
Little did anyone in Kansas City know that the fun was officially over for the year at that point. They went a decidedly un-wizardly 0-4-4 the rest of the way to finish on the short end of a three-way tie for the last two playoff berths, one itty bitty point short of making the cut.
LA Galaxy (2018)
As stated above, sometimes the greatest crashes happen not over stupefying weeks, but in a relative flash. Such was the case with last year's G-Men, who looked like sure bets to make the postseason with barely over a half-hour to play on Decision Day. At home. Against a team with absolutely nothing to play for.
Thanks to a strong 3-0-1 run, the Galaxy were in a Decision Day position to clinch sixth in the West with a win over a Houston side meekly playing out the string. A first-half Ola Kamara brace put the hosts in the catbird seat, but as it so happened, playoff qualification was anything but fait accompli. After Romell Quioto halved the lead near the hour (and the Galaxy squandered a couple of golden chances to put the game away), Mauro Manotas struck twice in a six-minute span to send LA and their fans home in utter shock.
New York Red Bulls (2002)
Then known as the MetroStars, the Big Apple boys led the East pack into August. However, they finished with a 2-7 slide that included a pair of losses to Atlantic Cup rivals/league bottom feeders D.C. United. The run was capped by a 3-0 closing-day defeat at New England that saw New York miss the playoffs by a single point.
It was actually worse than it sounds, as the two clubs that hopped past them on the season's final weekend were almost as bad down the stretch as the MetroStars. Chicago snapped a four-game losing streak by winning the last game of the season, while Kansas City managed but one lonely win in their last seven games.