Week 25 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and — oh, would you look at that — it’s officially (I decided) time to sound the “Playoffs Are Coming” alarm and watch every game the rest of the way with one eye completely fixated on those league standings.
Even FC Edmonton goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel (at right, frightening Kekuta Manneh) is feeling super pumped.
So, if you’re to watch just three MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only three games? — might I suggest the following three:
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)
Oh, baby. First things first, get used to seeing this matchup featured here pretty regularly as the 2015 regular season winds down, because the Whitecaps and FCD will do battle three times over the next nine weeks. Current Western Conference standings: ‘Caps – 2nd, 42 points; FCD – 5th, 38 points (with two games in hand).
With so many games remaining against one another, it’s probably safe to say one of these sides — if not both — will end up in the five-versus-six, knockout-round game the first week of the playoffs. Once you realize who lies ahead in that conference semifinals home-and-away tie three days later — LA, Sporting KC, or maybe even Seattle (more on them in a second) — this game, and the two more between these two teams become more and more and more and more and more important.
Prediction: Whitecaps 2-2
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 pm ET, MLS Live)
This is it for RSL. This is their entire season. Have a look at the league standings. That’s RSL in ninth place in the Western Conference, six points adrift of the team currently occupying sixth place, the Sounders. Now look at the other five teams currently in the top six — LA, Vancouver, Sporting KC, Portland and Dallas. Which of those are RSL supposed to catch? Let’s be real for a second: the answer is none of them.
With Obafemi Martins back in the fold for the Sounders — and to devastating effect already — and Clint Dempsey not far behind him, the Sounders will rise. Three points for the Sounders at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, and RSL are nine points out of a playoff place. MLS is crazy, yes, but it ain’t that crazy.
Prediction: RSL 2-1
Toronto FC vs. Orlando City SC (Saturday, 4 pm ET, MLS Live)
Remember when TFC were rounding into tip-top form and threatening to take the Eastern Conference by storm with a massive slate of home games remaining a mere two months ago? Have just two wins in nine league games to take a little wind out of your sail. Remember when Orlando City were safely occupying a playoff place and trending upward as the summer began? One win in their last eight league games.
Two teams falling quickly doesn’t exactly make for the most exciting matchup on paper, but in reality it breeds desperation as the playoffs are now barely two months away. Much of OCSC’s early work has been undone and the Lions are in danger of missing out on the playoffs. Meanwhile, TFC’s idea of a trophy in 2015 is currently looking more and more like simply clinching their first-ever playoff berth rather than those shiny silver things they hand out to winners.
Prediction: TFC 2-0 OCSC