Seattle Sounders

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

Leave a comment

Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

  • Columbus Crew SC win vs. New York City FC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • Atlanta United tie or lose vs. Toronto FC on Sunday
Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.

MLS Snapshot: Sounders get much-needed win over reeling FCD

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): FC Dallas’ epic collapse is so nearly complete, if only Real Salt Lake or the San Jose Earthquakes could capitalize and boot Oscar Pareja’s side from the playoff places. Fortunately for the Hoops, while they were busy taking a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of the defending champion Seattle Sounders, RSL and San Jose each dropped points (all three for RSL; two for the Quakes). Heading into the final week of the regular season, FCD’s fate is no longer in their own hands, as they currently sit seventh in the Western Conference, behind San Jose on wins. Seattle, meanwhile, have moved into third, a point ahead of Sporting Kansas City and behind the Portland Timbers on wins. Victor Rodriguez, Will Bruin (twice) and Lamar Neagle did the damage on Sunday, helping Seattle end a poor run of results (just one win in seven games) as their 13-game unbeaten run (from June to September) became a distant memory.

[ MORE: MLS at Week 33 — all about playoff places, positioning ]

Three moments that mattered

31′ — Rodriguez slots past Gonzalez to make it 1-0 — Assist by Clint Dempsey, textbook finish by Rodriguez.

64′ — Bruin pokes home a rebound for 2-0 — Dempsey’s shot was saved by Gonzalez, but he couldn’t hold onto it and Bruin pounced quickly.

67′ — Bruin slots home after a terrible giveaway — Matt Hedges needs it to be the offseason… like, three months ago.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Will Bruin

Goalscorers: Rodriguez (31′), Bruin (64′, 67′), Neagle (90+2′)

MLS Snapshot: Blake a star again as PHI knock off SEA, 2-0

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less more): A week after it looked like the entire Western Conference had awakened just in time for a frantic finish to the regular season, this weekend it all came undone just as quickly for every side in the top-four, save for one. A day after the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City, with whom the Seattle Sounders are jostling for home-field advantage in the West (plus the Vancouver Whitecaps, the weekend’s lone winner) lost, Brian Schmetzer’s side made the least of its chance to capitalize on Sunday and lost away to the Eastern Conference’s 10th-place side, the Philadelphia Union. Marcus Epps and Roland Alberg bagged the goals for Jin Curtin’s side, while Andre Blake turned in another star’s performance in goal (reminiscent of his 2017 Gold Cup exploits — at some point a non-UK side in Europe will pull the trigger and land themselves a truly top-shelf ‘keeper) to pull Philadelphia to within four points of sixth place in the East. Seattle, meanwhile, remain fourth, level on points with Portland and Sporting KC, and four points clear of fifth-place Houston Dynamo.

[ MORE: TFC lift Supporters’ Shield | SKC’s home streak ends at 24 ]

Three moments that mattered

28′ — Epps beats Frei from a tough angle for 1-0 — Ilsinho’s through ball to Epps completely reversed the field on Seattle and caught everyone napping on the backside of the play. Stefan Frei probably shouldn’t get beaten inside his near post from there, but in fairness he did appear to be screened by his defender.

62′ — Dempsey puts one on target, but Blake makes the save — Blake was only asked to make seven saves, and the Jamaican no. 1 was up to the task all afternoon long, as was the case five minutes after Clint Dempsey entered the game.

88 — Alberg smashes one past Frei from an unlikely angle — Again, I’ll preemptively defend Frei’s honor by acknowledging Alberg’s shot was moving in a half-dozen different directions. But, if you want to be a legitimate international goalkeeper, that shot can’t be beating you.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Andre Blake

Goalscorers: Epps (28′), Alberg (88′)

MLS roundup: Nikolic paces Fire to playoff bid; Sounders cruise

Twitter/@fanly_chifire
Leave a comment

Two Eastern Conference sides booked their places in the MLS Cup playoffs on Wednesday night, while one club dominated their Cascadia matchup and kept the postseason picture out West very jumbled.

[ MORE: Five moments that mattered from Wednesday’s MLS matches ]

Atlanta United and the Chicago Fire each earned their spots in the playoffs after respective victories, with the latter getting a big performance from Nemanja Nikolic — who is up to 20 goals on the season.

The Fire have qualified the playoffs for the first time since 2012, while Atlanta became the fourth expansion side in MLS history to reach the postseason in its first MLS campaign.

The Seattle Sounders kept up in the race for the Western Conference top seed after thumping the Vancouver Whitecaps behind a goal and two assists from Nicolas Lodeiro. Brian Schmetzer’s side continues to play without the injured Jordan Morris, however, the Sounders didn’t appear to miss any beat.

Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo lost a crucial opportunity to jump back into a West playoff spot with their draw at home against the LA Galaxy. The Dynamo sit one point behind sixth place with four matches remaining, although the club does have a game in hand over Real Salt Lake — who is currently above them.

Here are all of Wednesday night’s results from around MLS.

Atlanta United 3-0 Philadelphia Union
Montreal Impact 0-1 New York City FC
New York Red Bulls 3-3 D.C. United
Orlando City 6-1 New England Revolution
FC Dallas 2-0 Colorado Rapids
Houston Dynamo 3-3 LA Galaxy
San Jose Earthquakes 1-4 Chicago Fire
Seattle Sounders 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

MLS Snapshot: Red-hot RSL end Sounders’ unbeaten run at 13

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
Leave a comment

The game in 100 words (or less): With the Seattle Sounders’ 13-game unbeaten run now a thing of the past (and the final four of those games all draws), Real Salt Lake (two losses in their last two, including wins in four of their last five) might just be the hottest team in MLS not named Atlanta United (just one loss in their last 12, including wins in three of their last four; combined score: 17-3). Furthermore, Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium boosts RSL into fifth place in the Western Conference, two points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, as Mike Petke’s side makes this year’s improbable, late charge toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, in much the same fashion Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders did a year ago. Jefferson Savarino, who scored one and assisted one on Saturday, has proven himself a star on the rise in recent weeks, and has RSL playing their best soccer of the year at exactly the right time.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

52′ — Savarino slams home Rusnak’s pass for 1-0 — RSL have themselves an attacking trio (Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Brooks Lennon) that loves to play together, and that joy really shines brightly in moments like this.

66′ — Mulholland slams home from Savarino’s cross for 2-0 — Savarino turned provider just 15 minutes later, getting in behind Joevin Jones, corralling Joao Plata’s through ball, and picking out Mulholland atop the six-yard box.

92′ — Rimando makes a stunning save to deny Dempsey — Clint Dempsey tried to sneak a quick free kick past Nick Rimando, but the all-time greatest goalkeeper in MLS history was over it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jefferson Savarino

Goalscorers: Savarino (52′), Mulholland (66′)