Week 24 Preview

As the end of the season approaches, we’re beginning to get a clear picture of what the playoffs might look like. Well, in the Eastern Conference at least. With three teams tied at 37 points and six points separating first and seventh place, what happens in the Western Conference is anybody’s guess. This week there are a few matchups that could help clear separate things a bit. Whatever happens, it’s sure to be an exciting home stretch in MLS!
 
Best game of the week: Sporting Kansas City v. FC Dallas – Saturday, August 19, 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
Sporting KC lost on the road to Seattle last weekend in a hard fought 1-0 match. SKC fans probably weren’t surprised at the result considering that the team was coming off a 120 minute plus PK matchup in the U.S. Open Cup semi-final matchup just three days prior, and the lineup Sporting put out wasn’t nearly the first team. Regardless, Seattle took an important three points that ultimately led to three teams in the west being tied at the top of the standings with 37 points: Seattle, Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo. FC Dallas are right on their heels, though, with 35 points and two games in hand. FC Dallas had a great opportunity to make up points on the conference leaders hosting Colorado at home last weekend, but they could only manage to get one point as they drew 0-0 with the Rapids. A win against Sporting KC would go a long way toward FC Dallas making their way to the top of the standings, but three points for Sporting KC would help keep them out of reach from FCD for the time being.
 
Worst game of the week: Colorado Rapids v. D.C. United – Saturday, August 19, 9:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Two of the worst teams in MLS facing off this late in the season without much to play for doesn’t make for the most exciting matchup. It’s even worse when those two teams also have the two worst offenses in the league. Four teams in MLS have scored more goals than both D.C. United and Colorado COMBINED… that’s not great. D.C. looked like they might be an exciting team for half a second after the transfer deadline passed, but then they lost to RSL. At home. Colorado may be in an even worse state right now as they fired head coach Pablo Mastroeni this week. It’s clear that neither of these two teams are going anywhere or doing anything this season. If you watch this game, well, my condolences.
 
The rest:
 
Wednesday, August 16

 
Montreal Impact v. Chicago Fire – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
This game actually has some potentially big consequences for the Eastern Conference playoff race. Montreal is fighting to get above the red line and sneak into the sixth playoff spot. They currently have 30 points, which is five behind Atlanta United who are in sixth with 35 points. It will be tough for Montreal to catch ATLUTD, especially with the amount of home games Atlanta has left, but they do have a realistic shot at catching Columbus, even though technically Columbus is in fifth place right now. Columbus has 35 points and owns the tiebreaker with ATL right now due to having won one more game. But, Columbus has played three more games than both Atlanta and Montreal, which gives both a huge advantage in the last part of the season. Montreal will need to get points out of nearly every game to make up five points with 12 games to go, but it’s certainly doable. Earning at least a point at home against Chicago would be huge. The Fire are fighting for playoff seeding. They’ll make the post season, but they’re jockeying for position with NYCFC for the second place spot in the East—and a coveted knockout round bye. The Fire are two points behind NYCFC but have a game in hand. If they can pull out three points on the road (something that has been difficult with only two road wins on the year), they’ll be sitting pretty.
 
Friday, August 18
 
Portland Timbers v. New York Red Bulls – 10:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1
 
Portland got embarrassed on the road last week in their 4-1 loss to Toronto FC. Granted, Toronto is the undisputed best team in MLS right now, but for a team who’s fighting for a playoff spot you’d like to see a bit better of a performance, even on the road. The good news for Portland is they head back home to Providence Park where they’re 6-2-4 (W-L-D) on the year. They’re also facing a Red Bulls team on just three days rest after going to extra time in the U.S. Open Cup semi-final against FC Cincinnati. We saw how tired Sporting KC was after nearly identical circumstances, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happens to the Red Bulls here. It’s hard enough to win on the road in MLS (although RBNY has done it four times this year), and Portland is one of the toughest places to play. If the Red Bulls get out of this one with a point, they’ll be happy.
 
Saturday, August 19
 
Montreal Impact v. Real Salt Lake – 7:30PM, MLS Live
 
As mentioned before, the Impact are in the midst of a hunt for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot. Weirdly, RSL have an outside shot at getting the last Western Conference playoff spot. Their defense is still awful, as they’ve allowed 44 goals this year and have a goal differential of -13 on the season. But somehow RSL is only three points back of San Jose, who is currently in sixth in the Western Conference. RSL has played one more game than the earthquakes, so it’ll be tough to make up those three points, but it’s not impossible. They’ll have to stop both Nacho Piatti and Blerim Dzemaili of the Impact, though, which as bad as RSL’s defense has been seems like it may be too much of an ask.
 
Orlando City SC v. Columbus Crew SC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
I know there’s still ten games left for Orlando City and nine for Columbus, but this is a must win game for both teams. I’ll go ahead and call it right now: Whoever loses this game is out of the playoffs. Orlando is five points behind Columbus with a game in hand. If the Crew win and OCSC go down eight it’s game over for the boys in purple in 2017. If OCSC wins, suddenly they’re only two points down with a game in hand and Montreal hot on the Crew’s heels as well. Columbus beat Orlando City 2-0 earlier in the season at home, and that was when Orlando looked like one of the better teams in MLS. Orlando City Stadium has become a fortress of sorts for OCSC, as they’ve only lost three times there this year, but they may be without their $1.6 million man Dom Dwyer who is recovering from nose surgery. Even if they do have Dwyer in the lineup, he and Larin are still trying to figure out how to play together up top. Oh, Orlando City will also be without Kaka who will be serving a red card suspension for his “violent conduct” toward Aurélien Collin last week. This one may be tougher than most Orlando City fans would hope.
 
Chicago Fire v. Toronto FC – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Another huge matchup this week with playoff implications. For a while Chicago was right on the heels of Toronto FC, giving them a run for their money in the Supporters’ Shield race. The Fire have fallen off just a bit and are now a full six points behind Toronto. Catching up to TFC, even with a game in hand, my be a bit of a stretch, but surpassing NYCFC for the second place spot in the East is huge. Depending on how their midweek game at Montreal goes, this could be as close to a must win for the Fire as they’ve had in a while. The difference between second and third in the standings is perhaps the most significant, as one gets a bye week and the other must play a knockout round game. Toronto handled Chicago the first time they played this year with a 3-1 home win back in April. With Giovinco and Co. having not lost a game since July 1 and the Fire losing 3-1 last week to the Crew, this could be a tough one for Chicago. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a draw in this one.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Houston Dynamo – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
This is the last of the Week 24 matchups between two teams in the midst of a playoff position race. Houston is fighting to stay atop the West while the Whitecaps are fighting to surpass San Jose and take over the sixth spot in the West. The good news for Vancouver is that Houston is absolutely terrible on the road. They have an abysmal 1-7-4 (W-L-D) record, which is only better than New England (10th in the East), Colorado (10th in the West) and Minnesota (11th in the West). Not great. Houston will have to get points on the road in the final stretch of the season if they want to stay in first place. Last week, Houston got a big 3-0 victory against the Earthquakes while the Whitecaps fell 1-0 on the road in New England. Houston won the first matchup between these two teams 2-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium in May, but I’m not sure they’ll duplicate those results on the road.
 
San Jose Earthquakes v. Philadelphia Union – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
This late matchup isn’t exactly the most exciting, but it’s not completely irrelevant. San Jose needs to earn points fast if they want to continue holding off the Whitecaps. They were embarrassed on the road last week in their 3-0 loss to Houston, one of many poor defensive performances by the Quakes this year. San Jose ranks 19th in MLS in goals for at 26 and 16th in the league in goals allowed at 38. Their goal differential is a horrible -12. That’s not going to cut it if you want to be a playoff team. Philly has been out of the playoff picture for a while and did essentially nothing in the transfer window. But hey, that Chief Tattoo Officer is cool, right?
 
Sunday, August 20
 
New York City FC v. New England Revolution – 6:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
NYCFC is probably feeling pretty good heading into this matchup. They’re 3-1-1 (W-L-D) in their last five games, with the loss and draw coming at the hands of Toronto FC. NYC has been virtually untouchable at home with an 8-1-3 record, and New England has been even worse on the road at 0-8-3. Strangely, one of those three road draws was traveling to Yankee Stadium to play NYCFC earlier this season in May, but NYCFC has only gotten better while the Revs have gotten worse since then. Sure, New England added Hungarian international Krisztian Nemeth in one of the most talked about transfers of deadline day, but offense really isn’t New England’s problem. The Revs are in the bottom third of the league in goals allowed, and they’ll be facing arguably the best offense in MLS. I don’t think Revs fans should expect another draw.
 
Seattle Sounders FC v. Minnesota United FC – 9:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
 
I’m not sure how, but somehow Seattle is tied for the best Record in the Western Conference at 10-7-7 (W-L-D) with Houston and sits behind them only because of goal differential. This is the second year in a row that Seattle has made a late season push, and they’re even hotter this year than they were last. The Sounders just took down another Western Conference power Sporting KC 1-0 at home last week, although it was hardly SKC’s best lineup. Now the Sounders have the much less daunting task of taking on the Loons of Minnesota at Century Link Field in Seattle. As much as we at Total MLS wanted the Loons to be good this year, it was just not meant to be. MNUFC is dead last in the West, and they lost 4-0 when the Sounders visited Minneapolis at the beginning of August. Sorry Loons fans. This won probably won’t be much better.
 
Hot take of the week: Seattle wins the West. I’m calling it now. Looking at their remaining schedule, they do have a couple tough matches left against FC Dallas, but other than that they have a very favorable schedule. FC Dallas, Sporting KC and the Houston Dynamo all have what I would consider tougher schedules. Can the Sounders pull of the unthinkable two years in a row?
 
GIF of the week: PRO to Orlando City fans after the VAR review…