Week 28 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and it’s officially squeaky-bum time for teams currently chasing playoff places or jockeying for position anywhere from one to six in the Eastern and Western Conferences.
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:
LA Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
What’s at stake: For the Galaxy, it’s a chance to regain the top spot in the Supporters’ Shield (and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs) race; for the Impact, it’s a chance to strengthen their place as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
This is a really, really bad matchup for the Imapct, who are not only without MLS Defender of the Year contender Laurent Ciman, but have also won a paltry eight road points all season (11 road games). When teams visit the StubHub Center, they tend to sit back as a sign of respect toward the attacking quintet of Robbie Keane, Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, Steven Gerrard and Sebastian Lletget. The Galaxy are the rare MLS team that thrives when opponents sit deep and force them to break down a bunkered defense every trip into the final third.
Prediction: Galaxy 3-1 Impact
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
What’s at stake: For the Earthquakes, a chance to move into sixth place (or higher) in the Western Conference for the time being; for the Sounders, a chance to keep the charging ‘Quakes at bay, or better, move out to a six-point advantage with just five games left to play.
First things first, Anibal Godoy will be back in the ‘Quakes lineup for this one, so consider last week’s toothless performance against the Philadelphia Union (I called it, kind of) a one-week aberration. Considering the Sounders snuck past a midfield-depleted Toronto FC last week, it’s hard to look favorably upon their chances against one of the league’s hottest teams this week. On the other hand, there will be chances-a-plenty for the ‘Quakes, who can come at you in a number of different ways.
Prediction: Quakes 2-1 Sounders
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
What’s at stake: Home-field advantage in the 4-vs.-5 knockout round playoff game (at least right now) — for the Revs, they’re trying to hold off TFC, who have a game in hand and a three-point deficit to make up, making this your classic “six-point game.”
Good news for TFC: Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore are back. Bad news for TFC: Sebastian Giovinco and Benoit Cheyrou, two players absolutely vital to the way the Reds play, are most likely out once again. The absence of the former creates an obvious problem going forward, but the latter creates a massive problem for the TFC defense, which is subpar at best. Lee Nguyen racked up three assists last week, and considering the time and space he’s likely to have in this one, it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him do it again this week.
Prediction: TFC 1-1 Revs