Even though they had a bye-week, the New England Revolution had little concern regarding their position in the Eastern Conference's Playoff race when the results from this weekend's games came in. That's because prior to this round of matches, the Revolution were just one win shy of third place.
The weekend's results are now in, and the Revolution (5-5-5, 20 points) have fallen behind a tiny bit, now five points from third place, though they could go into a tie for fourth and fifth with a win at Chivas USA on Saturday.
That the Eastern Conference is so competitive with more than half the season remaining is proof that securing one of the five playoff places will be a dog fight for most of the year. The Revolution have a .500 record, but are within striking distance of teams like New York and Kansas City, who were expected to dominate the conference this season from start to finish.
New York, currently in third, has been shocked by the emergence of Montreal, who hold a four-point lead in first place despite having played at least two less games than the other four teams in playoff position. Meanwhile, Kansas City have been under-performing and are currently on a four-game losing skid.
The story with the rest of the playoff contenders is consistency, or lack thereof. Houston and Columbus, like Kansas City, have been up and down. Philadelphia, though in second place, looking fragile since they haven't won more than two games in a row this season. On the up-and-up is Chicago, who started the season with just two wins in ten games, but are currently on a hot streak and closing in on the top five.
Then there's the Revolution, who are within reach of not just a playoff place, but of a high position in the conference standings. The Revolution have been inconsistent too, but things may be changing for the better. They saw an impressive five-game unbeaten streak come to an end last week (which also included two elimination wins in the US Open Cup), though the Revolution will be favorites to secure a playoff place if they can continue playing the same soccer they played during that run.
What's more, New England have also shown that they can compete with other teams that are locked in the playoff race. The Revolution have played every team in, or one point out, of playoff position except Montreal and Columbus and have amassed a serviceable 2-2-2 record. The Revolution should be able to at least keep that record balanced, since six of 11 games against those same teams will be played at home.
At the start of the season, it looked as though the Revolution would have to fight to make the fifth and final playoff spot. The Revolution may currently be out of playoff contention, but the competition between teams has opened up many possibilities for them to possibly snatch a higher seed come October. There's no clear-cut front-runner in the Eastern Conference, even if on paper some teams appear to be stronger than others.
With plenty of time to establish themselves, the Revolution stand to blow the East's other inconsistent sides out of the water if they can maintain their positive edge. The odds look like they're in New England's favor. According to Sports Club Stats, a website that calculates a team's playoff chances, the Revolution have a 73.2% chance of making the playoffs. That calculation is made by considering the New England's form, their opponents' forms, and the schedule.
Number games aside, the Revolution look like they'll be one of the Conference's stronger sides in July during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. No Revolution player was listed on a preliminary roster for the tournament, while other MLS teams will be weakened as their players participate.
New England's offensive form has recently changed for the better as well. Combined with their impressive defensive record, the summer months could be the period in which they prove that their recent five-game unbeaten streak wasn't a fluke.
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