With the latest international break in the books, we turn back to the conclusion of the MLS season. All of the teams in the league have two games to go, except for the Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union, who have three left to play. Nearly all of the playoff spots have been wrapped up, with only one spot unofficial in the West and four teams playing for three spots in the East.
Of course, we know that Chivas USA are out of the playoff picture, and have been for quite some time. But there still are some stakes left in the season for the Goats. Some could provide consolation to end the season, while others are looking ahead to 2013. But make no mistake, the final two games against the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas certainly have consequences for Chivas.
First, is Chivas permanently rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference? By no means. In fact, only two points separate Chivas in ninth place from Colorado in seventh, and considering these teams meet each other, the game Saturday is one of those proverbial "six-pointers." If Chivas beat Colorado and the Portland Timbers (sitting in the middle in eighth place) lose this weekend, Chivas will be back in seventh. Sure, it still isn't as high as fans would like, but it could prove that the team in fact has a little fight left this season. Bear in mind as well that if Chivas get maximum points in the last two matches, they could climb no higher than seventh place overall.
If Chivas win one more game, they will match their wins total from the past two seasons, with eight. As it stands, Chivas' seven league wins this season is second-worst in club history, with only 2005's four win haul being worse. As a point of comparison, every year Chivas have gone to the playoffs they have had double-digit wins (2006: 10 wins; 2007: 15 wins; 2008: 12 wins; 2009: 13 wins). Although it is certainly possible to win at least 10 games and miss the playoffs, Chivas' history has not indicated that is their style. And since the maximum possible wins Chivas can get this season is 9, that trend will continue at least another season.
Despite the wins mark, Chivas cannot possibly change their historical record for points this season. The current points total of 29 is third-worst in club history, behind 2005's 18 points and 2010's 28 points. The total directly ahead of this year's mark is 36 in 2011, and Chivas cannot match that total in the final two games.
Ok, let's suppose Chivas don't get any more points this season (that is certainly possible). What are the stakes of a season that would end with one point in the final 10 games? Chivas would get the second overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, by virtue of finishing the season 18th overall and the fact that there are no expansion teams entering the league next season. Can they even get the top pick in the draft? No, because Toronto FC is currently sitting on 22 points, and the maximum they can get is 28 this season. Chivas, of course, are sitting on 29 points, so the number one pick is out of reach. Again, if Chivas were to win both games, they could climb as high as 15th overall (that is if the teams ahead of them fail to get maximum points), which would give them the fifth overall SuperDraft pick. There's still a solid chance they'll stay at 18th, but they could move up as many as three places if the results go their way. Of course, the difference in players available at second and fifth could be significant. I am not advocating for the Goats to tank the last two games in order to preserve their SuperDraft position, but it could be a potential upshot to what's been a terrible finish to the season.
Above all, there isn't a great deal of consequence to finish the season for Chivas. Yet it isn't as though there is nothing to play for, either for this season, next season, or the club's historical record. And of course, the players ought to be playing for their future places on the roster. We will all be expecting some big changes coming up in the weeks ahead, but in the meantime, don't forget that there are a couple of matches left in the MLS season for the team.
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