Day: October 22, 2013

Los Angeles Galaxy v Sporting Kansas City

Round 35 in MLS begins tomorrow; what’s happening mid-week in league and Champions League play

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Every team in Major League Soccer plays a 34-game regular season schedule … so “Round 35” is something like the 7th-and-a-half floor from Being John Malkovich. It’s just weird.

But let’s push past it. Because it will be fascinating, with lots of moving parts.

It all starts Wednesday as Chivas USA begins wrapping up its latest campaign to forget in Utah, up against Real Salt Lake, a club still hoping for a Western Conference Crown. Jason Kreis’ club won’t get it without at least a tie, as a single point will move the men from Rio Tinto alongside Portland for top spot in the West.

A win Wednesday in suburban Sandy will put pressure on Portland when the Timbers visit this same Chivas USA club to wrap up the regular season.

Here’s a little more on the Goats visit to Real Salt Lake.

The bulk of Major League Soccer’s, ahem, 35th round, happens Saturday (four games) and Sunday (five games). The full schedule is here.

(MORE: ProSoccerTalk’s MLS Weekly rankings) 

Four MLS clubs are also involved in CONCACAF Champions League … and it really comes at the worst possible time.

For instance, Houston Dynamo manager Dominic Kinnear has some tough personnel decisions to make. His club travels to Panama to face Árabe Unido on Thursday with a tournament quarterfinal at stake. A draw will do for Houston, but it’s hard to imagine Kinnear running out bunch of first-choice selections. Not when his team will at RFK Stadium three nights later, and the Dynamo need a draw and probably even a win just to make the playoffs.


Before that, Sporting Kansas City takes on Olimpia of Honduras, also with a Champions League quarterfinal berth on the line. A draw at Sporting Park will also suffice for Peter Vermes (pictured) and his team team, which will get a day to recover before flying East for a match Saturday at PPL Park against Philadelphia. Sporting Kansas City has the best chance of nicking the Red Bulls for Supporters Shield if New York slips up against Chicago, but it would take an SKC win in suburban Chester.

(MORE: The MLS coaching carousel is about to get crazy!)

About the time that one is ending Wednesday, San Jose will kick off against CD Heredia. Interim manager Mark Watson and his team have one more MLS match, but they are out of the playoffs. So, all Buck Shaw eggs will be in the CONCACAF basket; a win will put the Earthquakes into next year’s tournament quarterfinals, helping to salvage something from a 2013 campaign that went oddly sideways.

San Jose was the fifth MLS Supporters Shield winner to miss the playoffs the following season.

Finally, the LA Galaxy travel to El Salvador to face Metapan. Thanks to big results early in group stage, Bruce Arena’s team can roll out all the reserves, safely through to the quarters. All things considered, Robbie Rogers, Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and other Galaxy starters won’t get any closer to El Salvador than the nearest Salvadoran restaurant. (Although one fairly prominent reserve, Robbie Rogers, coming off a 22-minute shift Sunday against San Jose, is apparently on the team charter.)

By the way, the Galaxy still has plenty to play for in that season finale against Seattle, as we already know.

MLS Disciplinary Committee has a big decision ahead regarding Seattle’s Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey

Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee is in a bit of a pickle. It’s about Clint Dempsey and an incident in Saturday’s match against FC Dallas, one televised nationally on NBC.

Watch the first-half incident (below), where Dallas’ Peter Luccin earns a yellow card for tripping Dempsey. But then watch as the Sounders’ U.S. international kicks his opponent from the ground.’s Simon Borg, on his excellent, weekly review of the iffy, the dodgy and the controversial among MLS refereeing decisions, said it deserved a straight red. I’m not quite as certain, but it’s certainly worth talking about.

When it comes to retaliatory kick-outs just like this one, I always go back to the most famous of reds. David Beckham (back when he was just David Beckham, and not “global soccer icon David Beckham) was famously thrown out against Argentina. In a World Cup elimination match, no less, at World Cup France ’98. And his kick-out packed less menace than Dempsey’s.

Here’s that one, in case you haven’t seen it.



Back to Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee, and to its impending pickle:

For me, this probably isn’t enough to issue a retroactive red. But there is something there, enough to be considered. And the DC appears to be in a “can’t-win” situation on this one.

If they suspend Dempsey, mark that down as “huge blow” to Seattle in a match they are desperate to win, preferring not to go hang-dogged into the playoffs on a seven-game winless skid. Plus, as we talked about yesterday, teams are fairly desperate to avoid those fourth- and fifth-place positions.

(MORE: Why teams are desperate to dodge fourth- and fifth-place)

Seattle already has depleted attacking forces, and Dempsey’s absence would pour more injury woe into CenturyLink Field.

On the other hand, if the DC passes on issuing action here, there will surely be cries of favoritism, an “unseemly lean toward the one of the league’s favored sons and toward the league’s highest-paid man,” that kind of stuff. It’s a tough one.

Here’s the moment in question:


Why Supporters Shield is so important to the Red Bulls

Red Bull Arena 2

Everyone wants to win Supporters Shield. Some prominent voices in the game have suggested the honor (for best regular season record in MLS) should be held in higher regard than MLS Cup.

But it would mean even more to the New York Red Bulls, who have one little hoof on that bad boy going into the final weekend.

Simply put – and outrageous as it sounds – New York has won so precious little in its time with Major League Soccer.  Hard to believe, but this would be the organization’s first – Its one and only! – significant trophy in 18 years of existence.

Honors, such that they are? There was the MLS Cup runner-up medal in 2008, when Sigi Schmid’s Columbus Crew took down a New York team that made its way rather surprisingly into the league final. And then there was … well, no, that’s about it.

U.S. Open Cup crowns? Nope. (But the team was an Open Cup runner-up back in 2003.)

As for the Atlantic Cup, the trophy awarded to regular season series winner between New York and D.C. United? No … let’s not even go there. It’s a swell rivalry, but that’s not a major trophy.

There were two regular season conference crowns, but that’s barely recognizable as an MLS “achievement,” particularly considering that for one of those seasons (the 2000 campaign), New York only had to finish better than three other clubs.

Let’s hope they didn’t have a banner raising ceremony for that one.

So there has been a remarkable and embarrassing lack of hardware for a club that exists in the nation’s largest media market – and one afforded a shady leg up by the league office whenever possible in those early years. By the way, while awaiting its first major trophy, the organization has gone through 13 coaches, more than a dozen legitimately high profile stars, nine general managers and three owners. How are those for contrasting numbers – 0 major trophies versus 25 coaches, GMs and owners?

Now New York is the only club that controls its Supporters Shield fate. Mike Petke and crew will raise the trophy with a win over Chicago this Sunday on national TV (Spanish-language UniMas). A tie might even be enough, or possibly even a loss (although that seems unlikely).

The entire run-down of playoff-clinching scenarios along with the Supporters Shield scenarios are here from