MLS playoff picture breakdown: Seriously, Toronto? Seriously Portland!

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Last night saw two major MLS fan bases feel two very different and extreme emotions.

For Portland, there is the hope that Diego Valeri’s return engineered the sort of result that can propel the Timbers playoff hopes in their 3-0 win over Wondo-less San Jose.

On the other side was Toronto FC and near-incomparable sporting disappointment. TFC’s fans watched as their team gave up a goal to Houston and never found an equalizer — let alone the win they desperately craved — against the 10-man Dynamo.

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What does it all mean? Plenty, when it comes to the MLS playoffs of 2014. A promising postseason could be missing some marquee names in Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe. Moreover, let’s look at the big picture.

THE EAST:

We’re all even at 31 matches played, which means adding nine points to a team’s present total tells you how high they can rise up the table.

Life’s hard for Toronto after they gave up their game-in-hand. Even Defoe missed a bit of a sitter on the way. But the path is still a bit open for them to seize a playoff spot, at least in comparison to Houston and Philadelphia. The site SportsClubStats rates the probabilities of all three teams as lower than 18 percent, with Philly the lowest around 7 percent.

New England: Montreal, Houston, Toronto
Sporting KC:
Chicago, Philly, New York
New York:
Toronto, Columbus, KC
Columbus:
Philly, New York, Philly
Toronto: 
New York, Montreal, New England
Houston:
 DC, New England, Chicago
Philadelphia: Columbus, KC, Columbus

The Union may have the lowest chance to advance to the second season, but they might be the most important team. They can catch Columbus on wins and pass them in points by beating them twice. MLS late-season schedule has set the conference up for a thrilling finale. We can’t wait.

If you’re asking us to forecast, New England is safe and Sporting KC should be all but a sure thing. New York needs to beat Toronto this weekend, which could set the table for several teams but most importantly themselves.

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
D.C. – x 31 15 7 9 46 34 12 10-4-2 5-3-7 52
New England 31 15 3 13 46 43 3 10-2-4 5-1-9 48
Sporting KC 31 13 7 11 45 37 8 5-6-4 8-1-7 46
New York 31 11 11 9 49 46 3 9-4-2 2-7-7 44
Columbus 31 11 10 10 44 38 6 8-4-4 3-6-6 43
Toronto FC 31 11 7 13 42 49 -7 7-2-7 4-5-6 40
Houston 31 11 6 14 36 51 -15 8-4-3 3-2-11 39
Philadelphia 31 9 12 10 46 45 1 5-8-2 4-4-8 39
Chicago 31 5 18 8 38 46 -8 3-11-2 2-7-6 33
Montreal 31 6 7 18 34 54 -20 6-3-6 0-4-12 25

***

THE WEST:

source: APWhile we were playing “Portland or Vancouver”, both clubs have worked RSL and FC Dallas back into the discussion. It’s still the latter two’s party, but with both playing Portland it gets extra interesting.

The Quakes haven’t won since Aug. 2, and Colorado is in flames, too. Vancouver controls its own destiny and is playing fairly well. Given Dallas’ schedule, perhaps Oscar Pareja’s club could somehow be the odd team out, but it looks like the final slot will come down to Portland and Vancouver.

Real Salt Lake: San Jose, Portland, Chivas USA
FC Dallas:
Los Angeles, Colorado, Portland
Portland: Real Salt Lake, Dallas
Vancouver: Seattle, San Jose, Colorado

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Seattle – x 31 19 3 9 61 47 14 11-1-3 8-2-6 60
Los Angeles – x 31 17 9 5 66 31 35 12-3-1 5-6-4 60
Real Salt Lake 31 13 10 8 50 39 11 9-5-1 4-5-7 49
FC Dallas 31 14 6 11 52 42 10 11-1-3 3-5-8 48
Portland 32 11 12 9 59 52 7 5-8-3 6-4-6 45
Vancouver 31 10 13 8 40 40 0 8-5-3 2-8-5 43
Colorado 31 8 8 15 42 58 -16 6-5-5 2-3-10 32
San Jose 31 6 11 14 35 47 -12 5-5-6 1-6-8 29
Chivas USA 31 7 6 18 26 58 -32 4-2-9 3-4-9 27

Chelsea Ladies sign NWSL superstar Sam Kerr

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Sam Kerr is heading to London.

The Australian megastar is leaving the Chicago Red Stars for Chelsea after scoring two MVP awards in the National Women’s Soccer League (2017, 2019).

[ MORE: NYCFC teen off to Gladbach ]

Kerr, 26, has 38 goals in 83 caps for the Lady Matildas, scoring four times in one World Cup match against Jamaica last summer.

Her 69 goals are the most in an NWSL career, and she admits it was a challenge to leave her comfort zone and head to Europe.

“Probably the part that was most difficult was leaving friends and the US because I’ve created such a home there, but it was just time for me to make a change. And once I had my eyes set on Europe, it was kind of an easy decision to choose Chelsea as a club.”

It’s a huge signing for Chelsea, who is leading the table through five matches with an unbeaten 4W-1D record. She’ll join the team in January.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic says goodbye to the LA Galaxy

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic has bid adieu to Major League Soccer, thanking the LA Galaxy for “making me feel alive again.”

The Swedish superstar averaged nearly a goal per game with the Galaxy, and was rumored to be in line for another two years at the club.

[ MORE: Columbus acquires Nagbe ]

Perhaps those reports, and maybe AC Milan’s struggles to score goals, have made more suitors come forward. Time will tell.

The Galaxy said the decision was a “mutual parting of ways” and thanked the player for his work both on and off the pitch.

From LAGalaxy.com:

“We would like to thank Zlatan for his contributions to the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “Since his arrival in 2018, Zlatan has positively influenced the sport of soccer in Los Angeles. We are grateful for his work ethic and passion. We thank Zlatan for his professionalism and immeasurable impact on the Los Angeles community and the soccer community in North America as a whole.”

Zlatan’s full thoughts, below, were a bit more Zlatanny.

Klein will have his hands full in replacing Ibrahimovic, who scored 52 times in 53 matches, but the Galaxy have always managed to bring in big names.

Getting a star playmaker is even more important as El Trafico rivals LAFC have rewritten the MLS record book and snared plenty of attention in California and across the league.

Columbus acquires Nagbe from Atlanta for $1M in allocation

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Darlington Nagbe is headed for a reunion with old boss Caleb Porter.

Columbus has sent over $1 million in allocation money to Atlanta United in order to claim the influential midfielder.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

Porter coached Nagbe at the University of Akron and the Portland Timbers, and has 25 USMNT caps but has turned down Gregg Berhalter’s requests for service.

Nagbe made 46 appearances across all competitions for the Five Stripes this season, scoring twice with five assists. He has 313 matches played between Portland and Atlanta.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Darlington Nagbe is a proven winner and the type of player who can be a difference-maker in our team,” Crew SC president and GM Tim Bezbatchenko said in a statement. “In addition to his skill set, we believe that Darlington is someone whose character and values fit well within our organization. As we stated heading into this offseason, we continue to look both domestically and internationally for players that will make our team better, and we believe Darlington is an important part of those efforts.”

It’s a bold statement from Columbus, who had a reputation for getting the most of its talent under Berhalter but faded under Porter after a hot start. The Crew began 2019 with a 4-1-1 record but lost 13 of its next 15 matches.

Of course, being MLS, the Crew then only lost 2 of their final 13 matches. Shoulder shrug emoji.

NYCFC teen agrees move to Borussia Monchengladbach

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New York City FC’s impressive academy has earned one of the bigger transfer market payoffs in MLS Homegrown history, and will join the current Bundesliga leaders after next season.

Joe Scally, 16, is headed to Borussia Monchengladbach on a $2 million transfer with a sell-on clause, and will spend the 2020 MLS season with his boyhood club. Scally has played in the Open Cup, but has not debuted in an MLS match.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

The $2 million figure is on the edge of Top 30 for departing MLS players, according to Transfermarkt, just behind Cyle Larin’s move from Orlando City to Besiktas.

Scally appeared 11 times for the U.S. U-17 national team, going 90 minutes in all three matches and assisting on the lone American goal at the World Cup in Brazil.

From Borussia.de:

“Joe Scally is a top American talent who we have been following for a long time. We see a lot of potential in Joe and we are looking forward to him joining up with us in January 2021. Until then, we will work together with New York City FC to prepare him for his move to Germany,” said Borussia’s sporting director, Max Eberl.

Not sure just how long they could’ve been following a 16-year-old, but we digress.

Scally will join U-17 teammates Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Maximilian Dietz (Freiburg) on the books at a Bundesliga club. Recent U-17 call-ups Pablo Soares (Gladbach) and Noah Jones (RB Leipzig) are also with clubs in Germany’s top flight.

Last month, NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna told me that Scally was the perfect example of a young player trusting a club’s preference of changing his position.

“The perfect example is Joe Scally on the U-17 World Cup team. He came to us from a club in Long Island as an athletic box-to-box midfielder. He was very strong, but we saw him as an outside back. The lesson that we now we share that with our players, don’t get upset if you move to a position, but Joe Scally understood, never complained, he played wherever he was told to do, and now he’s a right back now, 16 years old going to the World Cup after being in our academy for two and a half years.”

Looks like it’s worked out.