DL - Thin red line - Sept. 26

The Thin Red Line: Fire, Union, Crew looking to make up ground on Revs, Dynamo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – You can only control what you can control.

From the Revolution’s perspective, that has to be the approach heading into the final weeks of one of the closest playoff races in MLS history. Take care of business in their own games and they’ll be fine. If players and coaches were constantly focused on other results around the league, it would only serve as a distraction.

But from a fan’s perspective, following the progress of – and vehemently cheering against – the other contenders is part and parcel of a playoff race. It gives almost every game, every weekend meaning. It’s thrilling.

That’s the situation Revolution fans find themselves in now as five teams (the Revs, Houston Dynamo, Chicago Fire, Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew) appear set to battle for just two playoff spots through the final five weeks of the regular season.

So while the most pivotal game this weekend will pit the fifth-place Revs (11-11-7, 40 pts.) against the fourth-place Dynamo (12-10-7, 43 pts.), it would also be wise to keep an eye on the sixth-place Fire (11-12-6, 39 pts.), seventh-place Union (10-10-9, 39 pts.) and eighth-place Crew (11-14-5, 38 pts.).

Friday, Sept. 27
Sporting Kansas City (14-9-6, 48 pts.) vs. Philadelphia Union (10-10-9, 39 pts.)
Sporting Park, 8 p.m. ET
NBC Sports Network

With one month remaining in the regular season, three teams – the New York Red Bulls, Sporting Kansas City and Montreal Impact – appear to have separated themselves from the pack at the top of the East. It’s conceivable that at least one of these teams could be caught in the final weeks – the Revs do play both the Red Bulls and Impact head-to-head – but it’s unlikely, so I’m keeping my focus on playoff spots four and five.

With that in mind, I think the Revs would be best served here by a Union loss – difficult as it may be to cheer for Sporting KC. Philly is currently nipping at New England’s heels, trailing by just one point in the standings, so just one result could see the Union leapfrog the Revolution.

The good news is Revolution fans can follow this one on national television (NBC Sports Network) beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Friday night.

Saturday, Sept. 28
Chicago Fire (11-12-6, 39 pts.) vs. Montreal Impact (13-9-6, 45 pts.)
Toyota Park, 8:30 p.m. ET

From a Revolution perspective, Saturday night’s meeting between the Fire and Impact shapes up much like Friday night’s showdown between Sporting KC and the Union.

While both teams are Eastern Conference rivals, Chicago is a primary playoff threat as the Fire currently trails the Revolution by a single point in the standings. Again, as difficult as it may be to get behind the Impact – especially since the Revs visit Montreal in two weeks – a Fire loss is likely the most beneficial outcome.

Sunday, Sept. 29
FC Dallas (10-9-10 40 pts.) vs. Columbus Crew (11-14-5, 38 pts.)
Toyota Stadium, 8:30 p.m. ET

This one’s pretty straightforward. FC Dallas, while still alive in the Western Conference playoff race, is not in a direct battle with the Revolution. Columbus, however, sits two points back of the Revs and could jump ahead of New England with a victory on Sunday should the Revs fail to beat the Dynamo.

Of course, the home-and-home set between the Revs and Crew to close the regular season will probably have a lot more to say about which team finishes ahead of the other in the Eastern Conference.