Week 27 Preview

We made it through another international window, and while many will be unhappy with the performance of the USMNT in their World Cup qualifying matches, fans will be glad to see some of their teams’ best players return to MLS play. While the playoff picture is becoming clearer with each passing week, there is still plenty to be determined as far as seeding and home field advantage goes.
Best game of the week: Houston Dynamo v. Colorado Rapids – Saturday, September 9, 8:30PM ET, MLS Live

This one isn’t about the matchup on the field. This is all about getting back to normalcy for the people of Houston. Watching one of their pro sports teams take the field in their city after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey will be a much needed, welcome sight to many. The people of Houston have gone through so much in the past few weeks, and it will be great to see things return to normal in the slightest way, even if it means watching a sports game that’s meaningless in the scheme of things.
On the field, there’s so much up for grabs in the Western Conference playoff race. One thing is certain, though: The Rapids will not be in the postseason. Colorado already fired their coach, and they’ll begin a full-on rebuilding project this offseason. What is not certain is where the Dynamo will end up in the rankings come season’s end. They’ve been atop the West at various points throughout the season, but they currently sit fifth right now only two points above the red line. They’re also only four points out of first place. Houston is unbeaten at home this year, and you have to think that they’ll dominate this game for their city.
Worst game of the week: Minnesota United FC v. Philadelphia Union – Saturday, September 9, 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

There’s not much to say about this one. Neither team are playing for a playoff spot. Neither team has a very good offense. Neither team has a very good defense. Philly is in ninth in the East. MNUFC is in tenth in the West. Really the only thing either team is playing for in this one is pride and youth development. A loss for Philly may heat up Jim Curtin’s seat just a bit as the Union have regressed back to their abysmal 2015 form after squeaking into the playoffs in 2016. The Loons will probably win this one since it’s at home, but I can’t say it will be an entertaining game to watch.
The rest:
Saturday, September 9

Chicago Fire v. New York Red Bulls – 3:55PM ET, UniMás, facebook.com

This game could have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Fire won a huge road game last week at Montreal to get a much needed three points, snapping a four game losing streak. The win kept them ahead of the Columbus Crew in the East, but both the Crew and RBNY are within two and four points respectively of the Fire. A win at home against the Red Bulls all but assures that the Fire will at minimum host a knockout round playoff game. The Red Bulls haven’t won an MLS game in nearly a month, and three points for them would give them a real chance at jumping to fourth, if not third in the East. The Fire lost to RBNY at Red Bull Arena back in April, but these teams are very different now. Chicago is very good at home, so I’d give the advantage to the Fire in this one.
Toronto FC v. San Jose Earthquakes – 5:00PM ET, MLS Live
This is a really tough game for San Jose to play in what is essentially a must-win situation. San Jose is a point behind FC Dallas and are currently on the outside looking into the playoffs, but the Earthquakes also have played one more game than FCD. If Dallas gets a win and San Jose loses to Toronto (they will), it all but shuts the door on the Earthquakes chances at making the playoffs. San Jose’s only win since August 5 came in their last game when they blanked LA 3-0 in the most recent edition of the Cali Clasico. Toronto, on the other hand, hasn’t lost a game since July 1 and is making their case for the best team in MLS history. I just don’t see any way Toronto doesn’t win this one easily.
New York City FC v. Portland Timbers – 5:30PM ET, MLS Live
This is a really interesting interconference matchup. I think this game will be a good test for the Portland Timbers to see how they stack up compared to one of the league’s best teams. NYCFC at Yankee Stadium is one of the toughest teams in MLS, and their midweek matchup against SKC showed that even when NYC isn’t playing at their best they still find ways to win. Both of these teams are second place in their respective conferences, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone outside of Portland who says they’re equal. PDX is a full nine points behind NYCFC. The Timbers offense is good, but their defense has too many holes, especially against a team like NYCFC. If the Timbers somehow do earn a result—or better yet a victory—it will give them a huge confidence boost heading into the final weeks of the season and the playoffs. If they lose, which is much more likely, it will confirm that the Timbers are a good, not great team that likely won’t get much farther than the Western Conference finals at most.
D.C. United v.  Orlando City SC – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
Have we reached the end of the Jason Kreis era? I think we may have. Orlando looked so good to start the year, but now they’re tenth in the East ahead of only D.C. United. Between their start of the year and the $1.6M they spent on Dom Dwyer, anything except a playoff appearance is a failure for Orlando City. Well, they’ll not only miss the playoffs, but they’ll finish the year as one of the league’s worst teams. Honestly if OCSC loses to D.C. United this week I wouldn’t be entirely shocked to see them just pull the trigger on firing Kreis now, especially after the humiliating 4-0 loss at New England last weekend. DCU is riding a three game win streak. Granted two of those wins were due to own goals, but a win is a win. Even though Orlando won the first matchup between these clubs 2-0, OCSC is so bad on the road that I don’t see them winning.
New England Revolution v. Montreal Impact – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
New England really has no shot at making the playoffs as they sit four points below the line through two more games played than the sixth place team, Atlanta United. Realistically, Montreal probably will miss out on the postseason as well, but a win this week keeps them in the hunt. They likely won’t catch ATLUTD who play eight of their last ten games at the new Mercedes-Benz stadium, but they could catch either Columbus or RBNY depending on how those teams play in their last 6-8 games. The Impact will have to turnaround the two game skid they’re in right now, though, and that will be tough at Gillette Stadium. The Revs may be in eighth in the East, but they’re very strong at home with a 9-2-2 record. The Impact are 2-5-5 on the road, so I wouldn’t go into this one with too high of hopes if I were a Montreal fan, but Dzemaili and Piatti are some of the best in MLS, so with them on the field anything is possible.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Real Salt Lake – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
For much of the season RSL had one of the worst defenses in MLS and was a constant bottom feeder in the West. They won’t make the playoffs, but they’ve been playing fantastic soccer as of late. They may not make the postseason themselves, but they can sure screw it up for others. Vancouver is in fourth in the West, which means they’d host a knockout round game. But anything except the full three points opens up the opportunity for either Houston or FC Dallas to jump Vancouver and push the Whitecaps down to fifth or sixth. Vancouver lost to RSL 3-0 much earlier in the season, and even though Salt Lake isn’t great on the road (4-9-1), they’ve won their last two games by a combined score of 8-1. I wouldn’t be shocked to see RSL earn at least a point, if not more.
Sunday, September 10
Columbus Crew SC v. Sporting Kansas City – 1:00PM ET, ESPN
This is a big game for the Columbus Crew, but it’s an even bigger game for Sporting KC. SKC are in third in the West, but they’re only two points behind first place Seattle with a game in hand. Seattle has LA at home this week, so if Sporting KC wants to remain within striking distance they’ll likely need to take the full three points from Columbus. That won’t be an easy feat as they’re coming off a tough midweek loss to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. To make things more difficult for SKC, the Crew are 10-3-1 at home, and Sporting KC are only 2-6-5 on the road. Having said all of that, Peter Vermes didn’t put his full strength lineup out against NYCFC, likely planning for the short turnaround. The Crew are on a two game home winning streak, but those wins came against the LA Galaxy and a struggling FC Dallas. I think this one could be a trap game for Columbus.
Atlanta United FC v. FC Dallas – 3:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
This is the one Atlanta United fans have been waiting for. Finally, Mercedes-Benz stadium is opening. The crown jewel of Atlanta. The $1.6 billion stadium will instantly become one of the best venues in all of sports, and it will be filled beyond capacity for this game. Not only will this be the opening of a fantastic venue, but it’s an important game with significant playoff implications. FC Dallas has been in one of their worst runs of form in recent history. They’re in the middle of a seven game winless streak and have fallen all the way down to sixth in the West. Atlanta sits sixth in the East, but with eight of their last ten games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, I expect them to finish around fourth place when it’s all said and done. FC Dallas would love to spoil the party in Atlanta on Sunday, but I don’t see it happening.
Seattle Sounders FC v. LA Galaxy – 9:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1
Just a year ago this would have been a must-watch game. Now I don’t blame you if you don’t watch a single second of it. LA is just so bad this year. They aren’t competitive, and their most recent 3-0 loss to bitter rivals San Jose in the Cali Clasico underscored that. The front office tried to begin righting the ship when they fired Curt Onalfo and hired former Sounders manager Sigi Schmid, but things haven’t really gotten any better. LA are the third worst team in MLS when it comes to points earned, and they’re facing a surging Seattle team who sits atop the West and haven’t lost in their last 11 MLS matches. Sigi and Co. were able to earn a 0-0 draw when the faced Seattle at the StubHub Center on July 29, but Seattle at home can beat just about anyone in MLS. I’m sure Sounders fans will show their appreciation for Sigi in his first return to Seattle since getting fired, but that’s where the niceties will end for LA. Seattle will win this one easily.
Hot take of the week: Sporting KC will go on the road and take down Columbus at MAPFRE stadium. Peter Vermes will never admit it, but he absolutely was looking ahead to this game when he picked his lineup on Wednesday. I think we’ll see a full strength Sporting KC lineup come out fast and strong, and it will be too much for the Crew.
GIF of the week:
I really hope DisCo will do something about that bully Schweinsteiger. This is just totally vicious and unnecessary.