How Saturday's games helped the Dynamo clinch a playoff spot
Friday night's 2-0 win against Portland felt like it clinched a playoff spot for the Dynamo, but there was still plenty of math, tiebreakers, and scenarios separating Houston from officially being in the postseason.
Entering Saturday's action, the Dynamo had already clinched finishing ahead of the Chicago Fire but needed to clinch finishing ahead of two other teams to secure a playoff spot. Due to the potential for a massive tie at 46 points and the potential for that tie to be broken by the unpredictable goal differential, the Dynamo needed certain results to go their way.
One of the early games helped Houston, as Kansas City beat New York to rule out the possibility of KC being tied on 46 points; instead, New York remains capable of finishing on 46 points, and the Dynamo tied both games against New York.
In the later games, Columbus (another team that holds the tiebreaker over the Dynamo) won to surpass 46 points. Even though that result hurt Houston's chances of finishing higher in the Eastern Conference, it actually helped the Dynamo's chances of officially clinching on Saturday because the Crew could no longer be part of a multi-way tie for the last playoff spots.
That left the wild, woolly finish to the Chicago-D.C. United game. The Dynamo needed D.C. United to lose or tie, and it looked like Houston would have to wait when Dwayne De Rosario scored a 90th-minute penalty kick to give D.C. a 1-0 lead at RFK Stadium. But Chicago, playing for its own playoff life, rallied with two goals in stoppage time, including an empty-net tap-in by Diego Chaves on a play D.C. United protested was offside, for a 2-1 win. Both teams remain alive - the Fire could still finish tied for the last playoff spot at 43 points, while D.C. United's maximum point total is 44 - but neither is favored at this point.
The D.C.-Chicago result means that even if all results go against the Dynamo down the stretch, they would still finish in a four-way tie for the final three playoff spots with 46 points, matched by Colorado, Portland, and New York. In that scenario, Colorado would advance with a 4-0-2 record against the other tied teams. Then the Dynamo would be compared with New York and Portland in a three-way tiebreaker, with Houston (2-0-2) advancing just ahead of New York (1-0-3). Finally, New York would edge Portland for the final spot by virtue of its 1-0-1 record in the head-to-head series. Once in the playoffs and compared directly with Colorado and New York, however, the Dynamo could be seeded 10th due to their 0-1-3 record against those two teams.