As we approach Saturday's must-win match against FC Dallas, we're struck with one single question.
What match now isn't a must-win?
OK, there are plenty of questions that do come to mind, but when we're looking at the things we're focused on this season — making the playoffs, competing in the Supporters Shield race — this is the big one.
More importantly, what will it take for us to make the playoffs? The answer is that it shouldn't take much. Our chances of making the playoffs are rated at 99.6 percent probability, which means we're really not in a position where we should be worrying about that too much. As a result, we can turn our focus to more cerebral efforts, like winning the Supporters Shield. After all, just a few weeks ago, it seemed possible, right?
Actually, it's looking increasingly unlikely. It's at the point now that it's only slightly less likely that we'll not make the playoffs. Sports Club Stats shows us with a magnificent 1.8 percent chance at the shield. As a point of comparison, DC United has an 11.9 percent chance.
Now, obviously our chances will increase if a few key results go our way — Colorado putting it to LA Galaxy, us beating Seattle Sounders, DC United losing it a bit — but that's putting it wholly in the hands of those against us. With Seattle in generally scintillating form and LA looking every bit the LA we hate, we just don't have the luxury of being in control.
We might wonder where it went, and we might decry a loss or two. But the success of both teams in capitalizing on their games-in-hand has been remarkable, and taking much away from that is unwise. They've deserved to be in these spots. (Heresy, yes.)
Instead, we should be focusing on improving our standing relative to the Eastern conference. We're ahead of everyone but DC United. Remember at the tail end of last season how excited we were all to be playing in Kansas City instead of Salt Lake City? Or perhaps how much we weren't excited for that?
It stands to reason that we'd want to avoid the ignominy of having to travel again, and perhaps of ending in a bit of trouble for using improper codes to buy our tickets. (Whoops.) We'd put ourselves in the best shape to play a game at Rio Tinto Stadium in the final if we're just ahead of everyone else.
It's putting the cart before the horse a little bit, obviously. We need to get past the Western Conference portion of the playoffs. But if we've proved anything over the past few seasons, it's that we can hang with the best of them, and even if Seattle is in good shape, we know we can pick them off if the opportunity presents itself.
The Supporters Shield might be fading from view, but our playoff opportunities are only now starting to present themselves.