Playoff Picture: Still in the Hunt

FC Cincinnati earned a big 3 points and took down Charlotte Independence, the number 2 team in the East. Coach Koch and the boys in Orange and Blue did their part. Most of the other results were positive for Cincinnati, though New York and Orlando both kept pace with FCC.

Let’s check out where things stand for the playoffs, look for threats to Cincinnati’s playoff potential and take a look at what games will have the most influence on their standings.

Who’s In and Who’s Out?

Quite a lot changed over the last weekend.

Louisville only managed to get a point out of their game against Rochester, but it was enough to cement them as the top team in the East and lock them in as the #1 seed in the playoff bracket.

Charleston also only managed a single point from their match up with Ottawa, but it was enough to pass Charlotte in the standings, based on goal differential, and to secure their participation in the playoffs. Charlotte, of course, already secured their playoff spot, but their loss to FC Cincinnati could cost them in playoff bracket seeding.

New York and Orlando both earned 3 points and raised the bar required to earn a playoff position. 41 points is now required to participate in the post-season. This eliminates Harrisburg, Saint Louis, Pittsburgh and Ottawa, and of course, Richmond and Toronto, who were previously eliminated. Saint Louis and Pittsburgh could achieve 41 points but can’t knock out New York based on the first tie breaker condition, games won.

This leaves 6 teams vying for the remaining 5 playoff spots. With the 6 teams having 2 or 3 games remaining, and a point spread of only 6 points, there is an opportunity for all.

Making the Playoffs

For the 3rd straight time since this series began, FC Cincinnati remains in 6th place and is in the playoffs. The story remains the same.

Looking below FCC at teams trying to knock them out, 2 teams have “games in hand.” Bethlehem and New York both have one extra game to play. Assuming they win that extra game, they will both pass Cincinnati in the standings and knock FCC down to 8th place. That is still good enough to make the playoffs.

This means the Orange & Blue’s fate is still 100% in their own hands. Coach Koch’s squad aren’t relying on other teams to fail or fall. The only real threat is Orlando. If Orlando passes us in the standings, we’ll have to rely on some other teams to help us into the post season, but as long as we play as well as Orlando in our remaining games, we’ll make the playoffs.

A Playoff Game at Nippert

A home playoff game is still a long shot. However, the odds, at least, improved a little this weekend. With three first round home playoff games up for grabs, there are 4 teams above FC Cincinnati all contending for those spots. Charlotte lost their game with Cincinnati giving all 3 points to the Orange and Blue. The remaining teams, Charleston, Tampa Bay and Rochester, all tied and only earned a single point.

The gap has tightened up, but for FCC to pass 2 of the teams above them while not allowing another team to pass them is going to be very difficult especially when so many of the remaining games seem to involve all of these same teams. For instance, New York plays both Rochester and Tampa Bay in upcoming matches. Helping us by knocking down Rochester and Tampa may allow New York to pass us and take the home playoff spot for themselves.

Cincinnati is going to need some help and some luck to get a first round home playoff game.

What Should Fans Watch For?

At this point, fans should be focused on getting into the playoffs, since that is what is in the control of the team. First and foremost, FCC needs to win their remaining games. 6 points guarantees a post-season for the Orange and Blue. If Coach Koch and the team do their job and earn 2 W’s, they can’t be denied a playoff spot.

Beyond that, fans should look for dropped points from New York, Bethlehem and Orlando to give Cincinnati some breathing room. Keep an eye on the following upcoming matches:

Wednesday – New York at Tampa Bay

A win from New York allows them to pass Cincinnati in the standings. However, if FCC wants to keep a first round home playoff game within reach, a Tampa Bay win makes that more difficult. Best scenario is probably for both teams to drop points with a draw. If that doesn’t happen, best to secure the playoff position and give the win to Tampa Bay.

Friday – Bethlehem at Toronto

Easy scenario for FCC fans. Toronto for the win. Bethlehem is currently outside the post-season looking in. Keeping them outside protects Cincinnati’s position.

Saturday – New York at Orlando

Both are teams that sit behind Cincinnati in the standings but contending for a playoff spot. Best scenario is probably another draw. If that doesn’t happen, FCC Fans should be looking for a loss for Orlando. As mentioned above, Orlando is the team to watch for FC Cincinnati. If they lose or draw, this sets up the Orange and Blue to clinch the playoffs with a victory in Ottawa on Sunday.

@billwwolf for @CincySoccerTalk

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