Wednesday really started to solidify a lot of things we were pretty sure we knew. Atlanta and Chicago both clinched a playoff berth, joining Toronto and NYCFC in the East. D.C. United, Colorado and LA Galaxy were officially eliminated from the playoffs (shocking!). Meanwhile, no club in the West has clinched a playoff spot yet. That could very well change this weekend with lots of important matches taking place. Oh, and to complicate things further, teams will need to get as many points as they can this week before they lose players to international duty next weekend. Just another week in MLS.
Best game of the midweek: Sporting Kansas City v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – Saturday, September 30, 9:00PM ET, MLS Live
The importance of this game really can’t go understated. Whichever team wins this will sit atop the West once the game is over. Vancouver is currently in first with 48 points, while Sporting KC is tied with Portland and Seattle at 47 points (through two fewer games). Vancouver travel to Kansas City after playing a tough midweek match in Seattle against the Sounders. SKC fans were likely hoping for a draw in that match, but Seattle dominated the Whitecaps 3-0. Things won’t be any easier at Children’s Mercy Park for Vancouver, as Sporting KC is the only team in MLS yet to lose a game at home this season. The Whitecaps were able to get the best of Sporting KC in a 2-0 win back in May, but that was a different SKC team. Since the Dom Dwyer trade, the Sporting KC offense has come alive more than it was to start the year. SKC pretty easily beat the LA Galaxy last week at home, and they’ll look to continue their unbeaten home form Saturday night.
Both teams have a realistic chance at clinching a playoff spot this weekend. For Vancouver, it’s pretty simple: Win and you’re in. It’s a bit more complicated for Sporting KC. SKC clinches a playoff spot if:
- Sporting KC beats Vancouver AND Real Salt Lake loses or ties at LA Galaxy, or
- Sporting KC beats Vancouver AND Houston Dynamo loses vs. Minnesota United FC, or
- Sporting KC ties Vancouver, AND Real Salt Lake loses at LA Galaxy, AND San Jose Earthquakes lose or tie vs. Portland Timbers
Worst game of the weekend: Columbus Crew SC v. D.C. United – Saturday, September 30, 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
Yes, this game actually does have some significance for the Crew’s playoff hopes. They are fighting to clinch a playoff berth, although at this point it’s very unlikely they wouldn’t make it. However, D.C. United is a terrible road team, and Columbus is very good at MAPFRE stadium. The Crew beat D.C. 2-0 on the road back in March, and they haven’t lost a game since August 5. D.C. may be a better team than they were in March, but they still are not able to score goals consistently (although they have scored seven goals over their last two games). Ben Olsen probably isn’t coaching for his job since ownership will want to give him another year with his new summer signings, so there’s not a ton at stake here for D.C. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another 2-0 Crew win here.
Saturday, September 30
Orlando City SC v. FC Dallas – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas need a win here, and they need it badly. They finally broke their 10 game winless streak last week with a 2-0 home win over the Rapids, but all that did was push them one point above the red line. They’re hardly secure in sixth place with Houston and San Jose one and two points behind them respectively. Unfortunately, they’re facing an Orlando City team that may have finally figured out how Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin, Kaka and Co. should play together. OCSC’s dominant 6-1 performance at home against the Revs certainly will give them confidence heading into another home match against FCD. While Orlando technically isn’t eliminated from the playoffs mathematically, they aren’t going to make it. Instead, they’re playing for coach Jason Kreis’ job. OCSC started the year off 5-0-0 at home, and since then they’ve gone 2-4-4 at their new stadium. I expect them to come out with a bit of pride against FC Dallas, though, and I think they’ll take all three points against the men from Frisco.
Toronto FC v. New York Red Bulls– 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
Are Toronto FC in crisis? They’ve lost two straight, including a 5-3 home loss to their rival Montreal. Sounds like a beginning of a crisis, right?
Okay, enough of that. The best team in MLS—that’s Toronto FC for those of you who don’t get sarcasm—may have had a rough couple of games, but they didn’t exactly NEED those six points. Neither Jozy Altidore nor Sebastian Giovinco played in those two games. They sit in first place in the East, seven points clear of NYCFC with only three games to go. They’re going to win the East and the Supporters’ Shield, and they’ll be the favorites to win MLS Cup. Meanwhile, RBNY are sixth in the East with only 43 points. Technically they could still miss the playoffs, especially if Montreal is able to beat Colorado on the road. But even if the Impact do win, the Red Bulls are four points clear of Montreal through one less game played. Having said that, RBNY is in the midst of a seven game winless streak in MLS, drawing last week against D.C. United at home in what can only be described as a disappointing result. They’ll likely extend their winless streak to eight games with a road match against Toronto this weekend. RBNY really need to find their form again before backing into the postseason.
New England Revolution v. Atlanta United FC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
Last time these two teams played each other was at Atlanta’s new home, Mercedes-Benz Stadium. ATLUTD won by a touchdown. (See what I did there? It’s a football stadium where they play soccer. The score was 7-0. Get it? … ) The Revs are also down a coach since the last time these two teams faced off. Jay Heaps was fired after the Revs lost to Sporting KC 3-1 in Kansas City, but surely the abysmal 7-0 showing in Atlanta had a lot to do with that timing. Really the only good news for New England heading into this match is that it’s at home and not at MBS. Atlanta have taken advantage of their six straight home games, going 5-1-0 and outscoring opponents 22-3 over that span. Atlanta will also be without midfielder Miguel Almiron, who is out with a hamstring injury. (Although that didn’t seem to help the Union on Wednesday.) ATLUTD now sit third in the East and have clinched a playoff spot. They even have a chance at a first round bye if they are able to catch NYCFC over their last four games. It’s certainly possible with a win on the road against New England since NYCFC have a tough road game in Chicago.
Chicago Fire v. New York City FC – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
Speaking of NYCFC and Chicago… this is probably the most important Eastern Conference matchup this week. As I just mentioned, NYCFC is trying to hold off a red-hot Atlanta United and earn that important first round playoff bye week. Chicago probably aren’t at risk of losing a knockout round home game, but they are fighting for the #3 spot, which could be the difference between facing Toronto or NYCFC/ATLUTD in the second round of the playoffs should they make it that far. Chicago looked good in their midweek matchup at San Jose, beating the Earthquakes 4-1 on the road. NYCFC earned the full three points on the road, too, beating the Impact 1-0 at Stade Saputo. Bastian Schweinsteiger is still listed as questionable for this match with a right thigh injury, but Fire fans will be hoping he can return to the lineup to take on a tough NYCFC team that beat the Fire 2-1 back in July.
Houston Dynamo v. Minnesota United FC – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
This game might be closer than it many people think it will be. No, the Loons are not great on the road, having won only twice all year outside of Minneapolis. Yes, Houston is 9-1-4 at home on the year. But Houston is in the midst of a six game winless streak, and MNUFC has put together a nice little two game win streak, including a road win against Montreal and a 4-1 drubbing of FC Dallas at home. Many people don’t realize that the Loons offense is actually pretty decent, too. 38.5% of the Loons shots taken are on target, which ranks third in MLS. They also score a goal on nearly 14% of all shots taken, which ranks fourth in MLS. Their defense is what’s really held them back all year, letting up 59 goals on the season. Only the LA Galaxy have allowed more goals on the year at 61. Houston’s defense has been known to let up some goals, though, and MNUFC will be feeling confident after beating a struggling FC Dallas side.
This game is absolutely a must-win for Houston if they want to make the playoffs, though. They’re currently in seventh at 40 points and need to jump either FC Dallas or Real Salt Lake over the last few weeks of the season. With two games against SKC and one against Chicago left after playing MNUFC, you can all but count out Houston if they don’t take the full three against MNUFC.
Colorado Rapids v. Montreal Impact – 9:00PM ET, MLS Live
This isn’t the sexiest game of the week by any means. We all know how much Colorado has struggled this year. They’re dead last in MLS on points at only 26. They’ve scored the fewest goals in MLS at 27. Their goal differential of -19 is fourth worst in MLS. The Rapids simply are not a good team. Montreal will probably miss the playoffs, but they aren’t quite out of it yet. They have to pretty much take all remaining points realistically if they want to jump the Red Bulls, and that starts with beating the Rapids on the road. The Impact just resigned Nacho Piatti to a new deal, so that cloud won’t be hanging over the team any more. I’d expect the Impact to have a good game this week and win by a goal or two, even after a disappointing home showing against NYCFC.
LA Galaxy v. Real Salt Lake – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
Each week I marvel at the job Mike Petke has done with Real Salt Lake since taking over. He’s turned one of the worst teams in the league into a legitimate playoff team that no one in MLS really wants to face right now. They’ve won their last two games against good Western Conference teams, beating Portland 2-1 and Seattle 2-0. Those games were both at Rio Tinto, and now RSL has to go on the road, where they are less than stellar at 4-10-1 on the year. The good news is they’re travelling to LA, and the Galaxy look like a team who’s entirely given up on the season. They were up 3-1 on the road against Houston and showing the faintest signs of life, but then they let up two late Alberth Elis goals in the 84’ (PK) and 88’. Dropping two points like that even in a meaningless game has to be demoralizing for the Galaxy. RSL and LA haven’t played each other since March 18, when LA won 2-1 at Rio Tinto. That game really can’t tell us anything about this match, though. I expect RSL to come out and take all three points on the road. I just don’t trust the Galaxy at all.
San Jose Earthquakes v. Portland Timbers – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
San Jose looked straight up awful on Wednesday against the Fire. Their 4-1 home loss likely ended any hopes of making the playoffs for the Earthquakes as they now sit in eighth in the West, two points behind sixth place FC Dallas through one more game played. No they aren’t mathematically eliminated yet, but things would have to perfectly fall into place for San Jose to make the playoffs. For Portland, this is a huge match. They’ll be pulling for an SKC-Vancouver draw, because that would mean they could jump to first in the West with a victory against the Earthquakes. Fanendo Adi and David Guzman have missed some games recently due to injury, and both are listed as questionable for this match. If they are able to play, the Timbers should at least get a result out of this game.
Sunday, October 1
Philadelphia Union v. Seattle Sounders – 1:00PM ET, ESPN
Both of these teams are coming off 3-0 games. There was a slight difference in those games for these teams, though: Seattle was on the three goal side in their game, while Philly got blanked by Atlanta. Union fans have long been questioning whether coach Jim Curtin is the man for the job, and while a 3-1 home victory against Chicago a couple weeks ago maybe delayed the inevitable, the loss at Atlanta showed just how far this team is from the top teams in the East. The Sounders got a crucial three points at home against rival and first place team Vancouver. The Sounders will know what the rest of the West looks like since the SKC-Vancouver and San Jose-Portland games will have already concluded the day before Seattle takes the field in Philadelphia. Depending on the results of those games, a win in Philly could mean the Seattle Sounders jump to first place in the West.
Hot take of the week: Orlando City will continue their goal scoring streak from last week and beat FC Dallas while putting up at least three goals. Dom Dwyer seems to have finally figured out how he fits in the offense, and the home field advantage will give Orlando the edge. As a result of their loss, FC Dallas will once again find themselves on the outside looking into the playoffs with only a few games left.
GIF of the week: Oooh! Oui, oui!