The Premier Arena Soccer League Northwest Division playoff race is down to the final few weekends of action. The tight race to grab a top-four finish could eventually be decided by league tie-breakers. (see here.)
The top four teams after eight matches will make the playoffs. Then it will be #1 hosting #4 and #2 hosting #3 on February 15 with the winners moving on to the division final on Sunday the 17th at the home of the highest remaining seed. That match winner is the division champion and represents the PASL NW in the national playoffs.
Here’s a look at where all nine clubs stand as the season hits its climax.
SOUTH SOUND SHOCK – (5-0-1, 16 points, currently 1st place) The Shock have clinched a top four spot but of course would love to finish strong and seal the top seed so they would have home field choice in the division playoffs. Not that it might mean much, as the Shock have used several home venues over the last two seasons. Remaining matches: February 2 @ Oregon Blacktails FC, February 9 @ Marysville Ruckus. Prognosis: The Shock will be favored to win their final two matches. If they can, they will finish first for the season.
KITSAP PUMAS – (4-1-1, 13 points, currently 2nd place) The Pumas can clinch a playoff spot this weekend. Then the goal is to keep the pressure on South Sound and at least finish second to avoid the Shock in the first round of the division playoffs. The Pumas have a draw and a loss against the Shock so far in 2012-13. Remaining matches: January 26 @ Tumwater Pioneers, February 2 Snohomish Skyhawks. Prognosis: The Pumas will be favored in their last two games and if they come through they will end up just behind South Sound in the regular season.
SNOHOMISH SKYHAWKS – (3-2-0, 9 points, currently 3rd place) The Skyhawks have been a team of highs and lows, but they have key players healthy and look like a sleeper club in the late season. The schedule is tough so they’ve got their work cut out to make the playoffs. Remaining matches: January 26 @ WSA Rapids, February 2 @ Kitsap Pumas, February 9 WSA Rapids. Prognosis: The fate of the Skyhawks is intertwined with that of another up-and-down team, Bellingham’s WSA Rapids. They play twice in the coming weeks, home and away.
WENATCHEE FIRE – (3-2-0, 9 points, currently 4th place / tie-breaker) If getting hot at the right time is important, then the Fire can feel good about where they are after reeling off three straight wins, two of those coming over WSA and Snohomish. Remaining matches: January 27 @ Arlington Aviators, February 2 Tumwater Pioneers, February 9 Arlington Aviators. Prognosis: The Fire have to like the way their schedule plays out, with two expansion clubs left on the docket. They will be slightly favored Sunday at Arlington, and will be big favorites at home the rest of the way.
WSA RAPIDS- (2-3-0, 6 points, currently 5th place / tie-breaker) The Rapids (defending division champions) were pre-season favorites to compete for the title. Can they overcome their slow start and make the top four? Remaining matches: January 26 Snohomish Skyhawks, February 2 Marysville Ruckus, February 9 @ Snohomish Skyhawks. Prognosis: Beating the Skyhawks is the only way forward for the Rapids. That makes Saturday’s match in Bellingham crucial.
OREGON BLACKTAILS FC – (2-3-0, 6 points, 6th place / tie-breaker) The first-year Blacktails have lost two straight after starting out by winning two of three. Oregon will face fellow expansion cousins in two matches and will need to win both. Remaining matches: January 26 @ Arlington Aviators, February 2 South Sound Shock, February 9 @ Tumwater Pioneers. Prognosis: Two away matches and a home tilt against the first-place Shock have the Blacktails on the outside looking in for a playoff spot.
ARLINGTON AVIATORS FC – (2-3-0) 6 points, 7th place / tie-breaker) The Aviators surely wish they could have a ‘do-over’ against rivals Marysville. That late one-goal loss weighs heavy on their playoff hopes. Remaining matches: January 26 Oregon Blacktails FC, January 27 Wenatchee Fire, February 9 @ Wenatchee Fire. Prognosis: If the Aviators can beat both Oregon and Wenatchee in Arlington this weekend, then they at least have a shot to remain alive going into the final weekend in February.
MARYSVILLE RUCKUS FC – (2-4-0, 6 points, 8th place) The Ruckus have one more win right now than all of last season and it appears they will play a spoiler role in the playoff race. Remaining matches: February 2 @ WSA Rapids, February 9 South Sound Shock. Prognosis: The Ruckus have two tough matches remaining and can help determine the race for others with an upset or two.
TUMWATER PIONEERS – (0-5-0, 0 points, 9th place) It would be nice for the Pioneers to get a win or two in their first season. It’s a well-run club that is still finding its legs on the pitch. Remaining matches: January 26 Kitsap Pumas, February 2 @ Wenatchee Fire, February 9 Oregon Blacktails FC. Prognosis: Unless a major upset takes place before then, it looks like the best chance to win a match this season will be the Pioneers’ home finale February 9th against Oregon.