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MLS Decision Day Preview: One chance left for Galaxy, Montreal, Crew

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Here’s your cheat sheet for Decision Day, the final match day of the Major League Soccer regular season.

[ PL PREVIEW: Liverpool vs. Cardiff City ]


Supporters’ Shield, East top seed: The Supporters’ Shield will learn its new home this Sunday, as Atlanta United heads to Toronto and the New York Red Bulls hope for a win of its own and failure from the Georgian outfit in Canada.

West top seed: The Western Conference No. 1 seed still has plenty of intrigue. Sporting KC hosts LAFC in a beauty which will go a long way toward deciding things. KC has a 2-point lead on LAFC, and a draw would be enough unless FC Dallas hangs a record blowout on Colorado.

West’s final playoff spot: If LA Galaxy beats Houston, it leapfrogs Real Salt Lake. Anything else, and RSL skates into the playoffs on its couch as a bye week witness.

East’s final playoff spot: Columbus gets into the playoffs with a home win over lowly Minnesota, but a draw or loss opens the door for Montreal to snag the sixth seed with a win in New England.

An infuriating attempt at the 2018 MLS Best XI

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It occurs to me that projecting an MLS Best XI for this year is tougher than its been in some time.

In truth, it’s probably been growing in that manner on an annual basis. Shoot, look at last year’s post on the topic.

It’s especially difficult to narrow down your attackers if you want an XI to be representative of anything close to a unit you’d place on field.

[ MORE: Champions League Weds. wrap ]

Consider that the league has three 20-goal scorers, none who could be considered anything close to a midfielder, and six players with double digits goals and assists.

Let’s start with the necessities.

Forwards: The XI could not look remotely rational without Josef Martinez’s 30-goal record season, and there’s on debate that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s 22 goals in 26 matches rates.

So there’s two forwards, which means you need to exclude all but one of the following players:

  • Wayne Rooney — 12 goals, six assists, 19 matches
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips — 20 goals, 7 assists, 31 matches
  • Carlos Vela — 13 goals, 10 assists, 27 matches

And, by the way, Adama Diomande has 12 goals in 17 matches and David Villa 13 in 22. Not bad.

Midfielders: Miguel Almiron, Ignacio Piatti, and Nicolas Lodeiro have had out of this world campaigns, as has Alphonso Davies. Both Davies and Piatti are unlikely to make the playoffs, and should that matter? Orlando’s Yoshi Yotun and Mohamed El-Munir (a defender) have been amongst the best at their spots, but their team was terrible.

Borek Dockal, Luciano Acosta, Lodeiro, and NYCFC’s Maxi Moralez have 15 assists or more. Sebastian Giovinco and Darwin Quintero are just off the pace despite playing 27 and 26 games on bad teams.

Dockal is averaging an assist in two of three matches this season, and Piatti.

Piatti!

Defenders: This one’s difficult because you need at least three and this league is like the Dutch Eredivisie on steroids (Even that league only had one 20-goal scorer last season).

There’s a bit of cheating in including Sporting KC’s Graham Zusi, the influential right back who also plays advanced at times and also guarantees us an SKC man on the roster. And Matt Besler is a better positional fit, but Zusi feels more necessary.

It feels like either Aaron Long or Tim Parker should represent the Red Bulls, and Walker Zimmerman has reclaimed his elite form with LAFC.

Goalkeepers: Tim Melia and Luis Robles both pace the league in clean sheets with 13, while Andre Blake of Philadelphia and Evan Bush have thrived on… less impressive units. Bush has faced 181 shots, more than all but one goalkeeper, and has made a league-high 130 saves in keeping Montreal alive.

Conclusion: Look, we’re going to have to try and outscore the other team now, aren’t we? And we’re going to lose. But it’s going to be fun.

I’ve got it down to 10 players, only repeating two teams (Red Bulls and Atlanta).

There’s no one from Dallas, who deserves a man, nor NYCFC. Plus  we’ve got two players who could miss the playoffs in Zlatan and Piatti, but it’s crazy not to include them. It just is.

So who gets our 11th slot? A stable center mid? Vela to make it a 3-4-3 and a third team with two slots?

Robles (RBNY)

Zusi (SKC) — Zimmerman (LAFC) — Long (RBNY)

Almiron (ATL) — Piatti (MTL) — Dockal (PHI) — Lodeiro (SEA)

Vela (LAFC) —  Ibrahimovic (LAG) — Martinez (ATL)

MLS State of Play: The final playoff spots

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Major League Soccer’s playoff races still carry intrigue heading into the final two weekends of the season, but the midweek matches which threatened to either amp up the excitement or take it down a few notches fell decidedly in the latter category.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Manchester United ]

DC, Seattle, and Real Salt Lake all won their matches, as only eliminated New England and Real have played more than 32 matches.

Here’s what still at play at the bottom of the East and West playoff pictures, with the latter going first:

Real Salt Lake puts its on Rio Tinto, then has to wait

Mike Petke’s men play their final match of the regular season on Sunday, nursing a four-point lead over the LA Galaxy. RSL’s opponents are equally desperate Portland, which has fallen behind Seattle in the race for one of two first round home matches.

Should Real win, it can not be caught by the Galaxy regardless of what Zlatan Ibrahimovic might have up his sleeve. It would put Portland in danger of missing the playoffs by losing out and seeing the Galaxy win both of their matches, as the second tiebreaker would decide it and LA would make amends on its current three goal disadvantage in differential on the virtue of simple math.

Oh, and Vancouver! The ‘Caps need to win out, have the Galaxy gain no more than two points, and have Real lose in Portland on Sunday.

Sunday
LA Galaxy at Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps at LAFC

Oct. 28
Houston Dynamo at LA Galaxy
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps

Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – FC Dallas 32 16 9 7 51 39 12 10-5-1 6-4-6 57
x – Sporting KC 32 16 8 8 60 39 21 9-5-2 7-3-6 56
x – Los Angeles FC 32 16 8 8 65 48 17 9-6-1 7-2-7 56
x – Seattle 32 16 5 11 47 34 13 9-2-5 7-3-6 53
Portland 32 14 9 9 50 46 4 10-4-2 4-5-7 51
Real Salt Lake 33 14 7 12 55 55 0 11-4-2 3-3-10 49
Los Angeles 32 12 9 11 61 60 1 8-4-4 4-5-7 45
Vancouver 32 12 7 13 50 64 -14 6-5-5 6-2-8 43
Minnesota 32 11 3 18 46 65 -19 10-1-5 1-2-13 36
Houston 32 9 8 15 53 53 0 8-3-5 1-5-10 35
Colorado 32 7 6 19 34 62 -28 5-3-8 2-3-11 27
San Jose 32 4 8 20 48 69 -21 2-5-9 2-3-11 20

Let’s be honest: For seventh place Montreal to make the playoffs, the Impact need either DC United or Columbus to get a really bad team-wide flu.

The Impact are four points back of DC and five behind Columbus with two matches to go.

Columbus plays at Orlando City and home to Minnesota United. Orlando has a single win since May 16, while Minnesota has a win and two draws in 16 away matches this year.

DC is home to New York City and away to Chicago, so this is clearly the club Montreal will be seeing as its target. For as bad as the Fire have been, they’ve beat some decent teams at home (This is MLS, after all, where home teams run free).

So the Impact will want to win out, but at least get four points and hope DC loses out. The Impact is home to struggling Toronto in a derby match and away to New England. It’s not improbable it gets the points it needs, but will it get help.

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Atlanta 32 20 6 6 67 39 28 10-4-2 10-2-4 66
x – New York 32 20 5 7 60 33 27 13-1-2 7-4-5 65
x – New York City FC 32 15 8 9 55 41 14 11-4-1 4-4-8 53
x – Philadelphia 32 15 5 12 48 46 2 9-2-5 6-3-7 50
Columbus 32 13 9 10 39 41 -2 10-4-2 3-5-8 48
D.C. 32 13 8 11 57 49 8 12-2-2 1-6-9 47
Montreal 32 13 4 15 45 52 -7 10-2-4 3-2-11 43
New England 33 9 11 13 48 55 -7 7-5-4 2-6-9 38
Toronto FC 32 9 6 17 55 61 -6 7-2-7 2-4-10 33
Chicago 32 8 7 17 47 59 -12 6-3-7 2-4-10 31
Orlando City SC 32 7 4 21 41 72 -31 5-4-7 2-0-14 25

MLS roundup: DCU, Galaxy win big in quest for playoffs

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Saturday’s biggest winners in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs race: D.C. United, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy; and the losers: Montreal Impact, Los Angeles FC and New York City FC.

[ MORE: MLS to consider lowering maximum of DPs in 2019 ]

D.C. United 5-0 Montreal ImpactFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Let’s go back in time three months, when D.C. United were last in the Eastern Conference and more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place. Wayne Rooney made his MLS debut a few days later, Luciano Acosta morphed into perhaps the best no. 10 in all of MLS and Audi Field opened — all in the span of two whirlwind weeks.

Fast-forward to Saturday’s 5-0 hammering of sixth-place Montreal Impact, and now Ben Olsen’s side sits just two points out of a playoff place with five games left to play (two more than Montreal). Rooney and Acosta continue to terrorize opposition defenses on a regular basis (the duo has combined for an absurd 14 goals and 13 assists over the last 10 games) and the defense is suddenly solid enough (multiple goals conceded just once in the last five).

Rooney scored twice on Saturday and Acosta bagged a goal of his own — to go with two from Paul Arriola. Acosta tallied a hat trick of assists along with a single helper from Rooney. Montreal self-destructed, to be sure, but it was certainly a byproduct of United’s increasingly aggressive tactics which heaped worlds of pressure on them from the opening whistle. When Rooney’s playing passes like this — simple as it may seem, it’s so rarely the ball chosen in MLS — there’s not much you can do to limit his impact on the game.

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Seattle won nine games in a row to drag themselves out of a D.C.-like hole dug in the spring and early summer. They followed that run up with a pair of disappointing defeats to Philadelphia Union and LA Galaxy. A visit from Colorado Rapids was exactly what the doctor ordered, though, as Raul Ruidiaz (times two), Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez all got themselves a goal in their 4-0 triumph at CenturyLink Field.

It was enough to temporarily leapfrog Portland Timbers on tiebreakers for fourth in the West before Portland drew with FC Dallas later in the day to reclaim fourth.

Chicago Fire 3-1 Los Angeles FCFULL HIGHLIGHTS

LAFC had a golden opportunity to leapfrog Sporting Kansas City for second place in the Western Conference and apply some real pressure in the race for a knockout-round bye with a win against Chicago, who have already been eliminated from the playoffs.

Djordje Mihailovic scored a stunning volley for his first goal of the season (second of his career), but Diego Rossi did his best to upstage the 19-year-old for goal of the game/day.

LA Galaxy 3-0 Vancouver WhitecapsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

The 2018 season has been one to forget for the Galaxy — from their their own struggles due in large part to a disastrous series of transfer windows, to the dismissal of Sigi Schmid as head coach, to the arrival and successes of LAFC — but somehow they’re within a single point of the final playoff place in the West (though they have played one game more than RSL) following following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Vancouver.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as has been the case for much of the season, willed the Galaxy to victory with a brace to bring his season tally to 20 goals (in just 24 appearances).

Elsewhere in MLS action

Columbus Crew SC 0-0 Philadelphia Union
Toronto FC 4-1 New England Revolution
Minnesota United 2-1 New York City FC
Houston Dynamo 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
Portland Timbers 0-0 FC Dallas

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET

FOLLOW LIVE: DCU host Montreal in race for 6th; Portland vs. FCD

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The end of the 2018 MLS regular season is officially under one month away — by one day, to be exact — which means it’s now or never for teams currently sitting either side of the playoff cut line.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: 7 games in MLS, beginning at 7 p.m. ET ]

D.C. United were bottom of the Western Conference — more than a dozen points out of the sixth and final playoff place — in mid-July, prior to the arrival of Wayne Rooney. Since Rooney’s debut, not only has England’s all-time leading scorer been the catalyst for the Red and Black’s unlikely turnaround, but midfielder Luciano Acosta has put up superstar numbers for two and a half months: seven goals and six assists in DCU’s last 11 games. They enter Saturday’s titanic clash with sixth-place Montreal Impact just five points below the playoff cut line, and could be as close as two when the final whistle blows at Audi Field

Over in the Western Conference, Saturday’s headliner is the final game of the day. FC Dallas reclaimed first place from Sporting Kansas City last week, and hope to apply all the world’s pressure before Sporting KC take the field on Sunday. A win over Portland Timbers would extend their lead to five points over Sporting. On the other side, Portland have slipped to fifth in the West — now behind the late-charging Seattle Sounders — and sit just two points ahead of Real Salt Lake, Sporting’s opponent on Sunday.

Tonight’s full MLS schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union — 7:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. New York City FC — 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes — 8:30 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 10 p.m. ET
Portland Timbers vs. FC Dallas — 10:30 p.m. ET

Sunday’s MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls vs. Atlanta United — 1 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake — 5 p.m. ET