A full round of nine matches between Saturday and Sunday will further shape the playoff race as teams continue to jostle for position – and some keep hoping to squeeze in.
Here are three that most intrigue us due to their post-season implications:
Sporting Kansas City at New York
The feature match will be in New Jersey, where two East beasts meet at Red Bull Arena. One more point may just do for Sporting Kansas City, trying to tie off the Eastern Conference crown. Then again, if New York can take all the points, Hans Backe’s team may just escape that 4th– vs. 5th-place playoff match, so the Red Bulls have a lot on the line as well.
The subplot here is that, at this point, anything might help Backe’s personal fate; the ground beneath his Swedish feet seems perilously unstable. And every team wants to dodge the tax and toll of that extra, impending playoff match, which means New York has to move out of 4th place. At the very least, Thierry Henry and Co. will want to hold that fourth spot and host the midweek 4 vs. 5 playoff match, rather than slipping to 5th and be forced into the additional travel.
Columbus at D.C. United
About three weeks ago, this one looked massive for both teams. But Ben Olsen’s side from RFK Stadium just kept ticking off the 1-0 wins, so the playoff spot is all but in the bag. Any point over the remaining two matches will do now, clinching United’s first playoff spot since 2007.
For the visitors, Saturday could bring Waterloo. A loss to D.C. United combined with a Houston win eliminates Columbus. And considering that this would be four years under manager Robert Warzycha without a playoff series victory, you have to wonder about his future in Ohio.
It’s not over yet, but the Crew desperately needs a win in a tough place to find one: Olsen’s team is 11-1-4 at home this year.
Philadelphia at Houston
The Dynamo remains unbeaten at its new BBVA Compass ground, which is commendable. On the other hand, too many draws have left Dominic Kinnear’s team too close to the bottom for comfort. Three ties in the last six weeks (including two against sides that will not make the playoffs) means the Orange left six points on the table, and how big would those points look right now? I’ll tell you exactly how big: rather than sitting nervously in fifth, with Columbus breathing right up their BBVA backside, the Dynamo would be tied with Chicago for second.
So, here’s another chance at home against a team that won’t make the playoffs. But it is a dangerous Union team, young and talented. Just ask Chicago, which fell to Philly at home two weeks ago.
FC Dallas has a ginormous hill to climb, needing two wins in its last two matches and then some assistance in a Vancouver stumble, so that’s too far-fetched to even talk about (for this week, anyway).
Here is the entire Round 33 schedule: