This is the most hectic time of the MLS season. Most teams have only five or six games left to secure their playoff spot. Houston and FC Dallas are both in crisis (could both Texas teams miss the playoffs?). San Jose may sneak into the postseason with a -20 goal differential. Atlanta is surging up the Eastern Conference standings, and Vancouver is desperately trying to hold on to the #1 seed in the West. We’ve got eight midweek games tonight, and some of them could have huge implications for the playoffs.
Best game of the midweek: Seattle Sounders FC v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Wednesday, September 27, 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
This is by far the biggest two game stretch of the season for Vancouver. They have to travel to rival Seattle on Wednesday before flying east to Kansas City to take on Sporting KC on Saturday night. Vancouver currently sits atop the Western Conference, something many didn’t expect, but this week could make or break their chances at earning a first round bye. The Whitecaps have played Seattle twice at home, beating the Sounders 2-1 in April and drawing with them 1-1 in August. While a win is certainly ideal, a draw would be a fine result for the Whitecaps tonight. The Whitecaps are in the midst of a seven game unbeaten streak, whereas the Sounders are coming off a tough 2-0 road loss to a surging RSL team. The Sounders are only four points back of Vancouver, but they’ve played one more game. If the Sounders want a first round bye, three points tonight are a must.
Worst game of the midweek: Orlando City SC v. New England Revolution – Wednesday, September 27, 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
This is pretty much the only game tonight that has zero playoff implications for either team. Neither New England nor Orlando City have a chance to make the postseason, as they sit eighth and tenth in the Eastern Conference standings respectively. Really what’s most at stake in this game is Jason Kreis’ job. He hasn’t been at Orlando City very long, but this was supposed to be the year they finally broke through and made the postseason. Instead they’ve regressed to one of the worst teams in the East and have a -18 goal differential. When you have Cyle Larin and make a multimillion dollar deal for another striker midyear, a tenth place finish isn’t going to get it done. For the Revs, they’re just trying to get through the rest of this year. They’ve already fired coach Jay Heaps, and they’re going to enter rebuilding mode this offseason. A win would be a good moral boost, but that’s about it.
Wednesday, September 27
Atlanta United FC v. Philadelphia Union – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
For the sixth straight game, Atlanta United is taking the field at their new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Over the past five games, ATLUTD is 4-0-1 at MBS, outscoring opponents by a stunning 19-3 over that time, with the three goals allowed coming in their 3-3 draw with Orlando City. Star midfielder Miguel Almiron will be out of the lineup for at least three weeks with a hamstring injury, but even so I see no reason that Atlanta’s hot streak won’t continue tonight against Philly. The Union were able to sneak out a draw against ATLUTD 2-2 at Talon Energy Stadium in August, but going on the road to Atlanta isn’t like anything the Union have experienced this year. Josef Martinez and Yamil Asad will pick up the slack for a missing Miguel Almiron, and Atlanta will roll past Philly before (finally!) heading on the road to take on New England this weekend.
Toronto FC v. Montreal Impact – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
It’s always fun when Toronto and Montreal face off. Unfortunately, this one may be a bit less fun than normal, though. Toronto are far and away the best team in MLS, and at this point there’s really no chance of Montreal making the playoffs. What that means is the only thing on the line in this one is bragging rights. Even so, it’s a midweek match with both teams having games just a few days later, so we may not get a full-strength starting XI out of either side (especially Toronto). Toronto beat the Impact 3-1 at Stade Saputo just a few weeks ago. Given that this game is being played at BMO Field, I fully expect TFC to take all three points. It may be a bit closer and a little more sloppy than it would be if Toronto’s regular starting XI played, but the Reds shouldn’t have too much trouble with Montreal.
Montreal Impact v. New York City FC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
The Impact will sure be glad to be back home after their 2-0 loss at the hands of Atlanta United, but they’ll have to take on the #2 team in the East in NYCFC. This is pretty much a must-win if Montreal have any hope of making the playoffs, which is already slim-to-none. MTL sits three points behind RBNY having played one more game. The Impact were able to draw with NYCFC at Yankee Stadium early in the year, so a win isn’t totally out of the question. NYCFC will have added motivation, though, with a surging ATLUTD shooting up the Eastern Conference standings. NYC has already clinched a playoff spot, but Atlanta are suddenly within range of grabbing that #2 spot and the first round playoff bye. NYCFC need to earn as many points as possible to fend off an in-form Atlanta side and keep the #2 seed.
New York Red Bulls v. D.C. United – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
This historic matchup may not have the luster it once did, but it’s still a good rivalry and should be a fun match. No, D.C. United isn’t really relevant right now, as they sit dead last in the East with a mere 31 points. But, they can play spoiler to RBNY’s season, which many D.C. fans would love. New York sits sixth in the East right now with 42 points, just above the red line. A home game against a struggling D.C. team should be an easy three points, but strange things happen sometimes in MLS. RBNY already beat D.C. at Red Bull Arena 2-0 earlier in the year, and while a similar score line may be the most likely outcome, D.C. could come out motivated to play spoiler to the Red Bull’s 2017 campaign, which has already ended in disappointment after they couldn’t beat Sporting KC in the U.S. Open Cup final.
FC Dallas v. Colorado Rapids – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
How many of you thought that with only a few weeks left in the season a home game against Colorado would be a must-win for FC Dallas? Certainly not I. But, here we are. Dallas hasn’t won in an astounding ten games, and their most recent outing against MNUFC may have been their worst of the year. The 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Loons showed that FC Dallas has entirely lost its way. Pareja’s job may not be on the line, but FC Dallas supporters will be angry if the team many thought was the best in MLS and reigning Supporters’ Shield champions misses out on the playoffs altogether. For the Rapids, there’s not much to say other than it’s another game to fight through. They lost on the road to Vancouver last week 2-1, and even though Dallas has been in terrible form as of late, a loss on the road seems likely for the Rapids.
Houston Dynamo v. LA Galaxy – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
Houston is in a somewhat comparable situation to FC Dallas. No, people didn’t think the Dynamo were among the league’s best teams before the season started, but they did start off the year hotter than just about any team in MLS. They’ve slowly but surely regressed as the year went on, and now they find themselves in the desperate situation of trying to jump San Jose ahead of them while fending off Dallas behind them. This is not a good situation for the Dynamo. Thankfully, they’re fantastic at home at 9-1-3 on the year, and they’re playing the team that’s in the most distress in the entire league. LA enter the game after losing on the road to Sporting KC 2-1 in what was perhaps one of the flattest, most disinterested performances I’ve ever seen by a soccer team. Romain Alessandrini was the only member of the Galaxy who looked like he wanted to be on the field, which is perhaps why he was the one who scored the Galaxy’s lone goal. LA has won five times on the road this year, but nothing over the past few weeks makes me think they’ll go to Houston and earn a result.
San Jose Earthquakes v. Chicago Fire – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
It’s been a while since an Earthquakes v. Fire matchup had huge playoff implications for both teams. As mentioned earlier, San Jose has found themselves in a position to sneak into the postseason despite their -20 goal differential. With both Houston and Dallas right behind them with a game in hand, the Earthquakes need to take every single point at home, including all three tonight. Chicago is not in danger of missing the postseason, but they are in danger of losing their home field advantage in the knockout round of the playoffs. They’ve already been jumped by Atlanta United, and they’re only one point ahead of the Columbus crew (albeit through one less game). This isn’t a must-win for Chicago to keep the #4 seed, but a result would certainly help.
Hot take of the week: It’s strange that this is considered a “hot take,” but FC Dallas is going to beat Colorado at home. I am not sure they’ll make the playoffs, but I think they’ll finally snap what’s now tied for their third longest winless streak in club history.
GIF of the week: It seems the New York/Connecticut Football Club experiment didn’t go very well…