In MLS, West is best

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

With last weekend's loss to New York, Toronto FC's quest to finish in the top two in the Eastern Conference -- and earn a guaranteed playoff spot -- effectively ended.

With only 10 games to play, the Reds are 14 points behind Columbus and eight back of the Red Bulls.

So, it's clear that TFC will have to try to finish ahead of the sixth-best team in the West. At the two-thirds mark of the regular season, it looks as if all four wild-card spots will go to teams in the West.

If you think the West's advantage over the East is huge in the NHL and NBA, check out MLS.

Toronto, which sits third in the East with 26 points out of 20 games, would find itself seventh in the West.

Last season, Real Salt Lake got the final wild-card spot, crossed over into the East, beat all comers, and defeated Los Angeles in what was an all-Western MLS Cup.

In MLS, the top two finishers in each conference get guaranteed playoff slots.

The other four places go to the next-best records in the league. So, right now, Toronto is on the outside looking in.

In the West, the big three, Los Angeles, Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas, are all uncatchable.

That means, if TFC is to keep a playoff dream alive, it needs to leapfrog either Seattle, San Jose or Colorado.

The Sounders and Quakes are each three up on the Reds. Colorado has a two-point bulge.

It will likely get worse. Real Salt Lake has lost just one MLS game since May. The defending champs visit Toronto on Saturday.

Last season, RSL won the title because the club finally came together in the last month of the season and played the way the experts had predicted it was supposed to from the start of the campaign.

This year, the club has been a juggernaut from the outset. It's a better team than the one who won the MLS Cup last year, simply because Costa Rican striker Alvaro Saborio, who has twice won player-of-the-week honours, has been a massive upgrade over Yura Movsisyan, who left RSL to play in Denmark.

The weekend after RSL, the Reds, with their one lone road win, travel to Texas to face FC Dallas, a team that has lost just twice all season.

And, to add to the Reds' misery, the game coincides with a date on the international calendar.

Canada plays Peru at BMO Field, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that TFC could be without central defenders Nana Attakora -- who is missing the Real Salt Lake date due to suspension -- and Adrian Cann, leading scorer Dwayne De Rosario and midfield linchpin Julian de Guzman.

It would take an optimist to think that Toronto would have more points after Labour Day than it does now.

Even though the Los Angeles Galaxy opened up a big lead in the West thanks to a hot start to the year, Landon Donovan and co. aren't playing the best soccer in MLS right now.

RSL and FC Dallas are, right now, the two best teams in this league -- and, if the U.S. homer vote subsides, RSL's Javier Morales and FC Dallas' David Ferreira should be neck-and-neck for league MVP.

By the time Labour Day rolls around, Chicago, which has two or three games in hand on most of the teams it is chasing, could be the only MLS team in the East outside of the top two with a realistic chance at the wild card.


Videos

Photos