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FOLLOW LIVE: Timbers v. DC United, Galaxy v. Sporting KC on a busy MLS Sunday

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Five games with playoff implications on the line, now that’s a MLS Sunday you don’t want to miss.

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Things kickoff with the Portland Timbers hosting D.C. United, and comes to a close with a vital Western Conference showdown between Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy, who look to jump back into a playoff position.

In between, the Real Salt Lake look to remain second in the Western Conference as they travel to Allianz Field to take on an inconsistent Minnesota United, while the Seattle Sounders hope to jump ahead of RSL in the standings as they host the New York Red Bulls.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Portland Timbers v. D.C. United — 3 p.m. ET

Toronto FC v. Colorado Rapids — 5 p.m. ET

Minnesota United v. Real Salt Lake — 5:30 p.m. ET

Seattle Sounders v. New York Red Bulls — 6 p.m. ET

LA Galaxy v. Sporting Kansas City — 10 p.m. ET

MLS Eastern Conference in for wild finish

Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Saturday feels like a big day for the settlement of the MLS playoff picture in the East.

Several teams have been playing catch-up in terms of matches-in-hand for months, with New York City FC, Atlanta United, and even Toronto FC eyeing up goals higher up the table than their standing.

[ MORE: Juve wants De Gea ]

And the East looks set for a blockbuster run into the playoffs, which begin their new structure this Fall. Only the No. 1 seeds get a bye, and two-legged affairs are joyfully a thing of the past.

As it stands, the playoffs may hinge on the massive advantage of a postage stamp pitch.

New York City FC

NYCFC has taken advantage of its schedule, winning five-straight matches including Saturday’s defeat of New England to climb into first place in the East.

Domenec Torrent now has a better points-per-match than Patrick Vieira’s strong run in charge, and NYCFC has a two-point lead on Philadelphia with a match-in-hand.

NYCFC has six matches left, and there isn’t a simple one in the bunch. Toronto, San Jose, and Atlanta come to Yankee Stadium, while the side travels to Dallas, New England, and Philly.

(A prolonged New York Yankees playoff run is going to wreak havoc on the grass, by the way, as NYCFC faces possible home games on Oct. 23-24 or Oct. 29-30).

Philadelphia Union

The Union took advantage of the international break to take on Pumas of Liga MX, and their second choice team won 3-0.

Jim Curtin’s rise up the table is one of the best stories in the league, the coach rewarding Philly for its trust in him (and understanding that it hadn’t given him a full deck).

Four of five matches left on the docket are brutal, though. There are visits from LAFC and NYCFC, and trip to the Red Bulls and San Jose. If Philly holds out and finishes first, there’s no doubting their acumen for a postseason run.

Atlanta United

Atlanta is five points back of NYCFC, but is on the same amount of matches. Given their schedule, Frank De Boer‘s men may well take the No. 1 see if they can take three points from NYCFC on Sept. 25.

(Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

DC United

The Black-and-Red only have four matches left. Wayne Rooney and Co. visit a desperate Portland next, and they’ve been pretty good about getting results away from home; DC’s nine wins/draws away trail only LAFC and NYCFC.

A Sept. 29 visit to the Red Bulls is DC’s only remaining chance to take points off a positioning rival. Even if they do that, Toronto’s slate means DC may fall out of a first round home playoff spot.

New York Red Bulls

Chris Armas’ team has a brutal road to the postseason. A point back of fourth with a match-in-hand, their standing could take a dive over the next two matches.

RBNY has consecutive matches across the country with Portland and Seattle, then visits from Philly and DC before finishing in Quebec against a Montreal side hopeful of chasing down the pack.

The keys are in their hands, but the Red Bulls have to drive across a mine field. This could end in any number of ways.

Toronto FC

USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter did the Reds a solid by allowing Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez to stay for a pivotal two-match stretch. Greg Vanney got a near Man of the Match performance from Bradley and solid day from Gonzalez while Altidore rested up for NYCFC in a 5-1 drubbing of FC Cincinnati.

Both TFC and NYCFC will go into Wednesday’s game one little rest.

The Reds two brutal matches — away to NYCFC and LAFC — and three manageable outings against Colorado, Columbus, and Chicago. Beating NYCFC on Wednesday would seem to ensure a place in the Top Four, and a home game in Round 1.

The rest

New England‘s next game is critical, a visit to Orlando City. A draw or Revs win stings the Lions’ hopes for a late season push for the playoffs.

Montreal is dangerous on its day but tumultuous and faces a two-legged Canadian Championship with TFC for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. It might be reasonable to prioritize that.

Orlando City has two points from its last four but also drew LAFC 2-2 this weekend. A win over New England on Saturday leads into a run-in of Houston, Cincinnati, and Chicago.

Chicago needs to win out and get help: Visits from Dallas and Toronto make this very difficult, though a finish against Orlando on Oct. 6 could be a show-stopper.

NYCFC erase early deficit to beat Red Bulls (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): New York City FC erased an early deficit to beat the New York Red Bulls in the 2019 season’s second and final Hudson River derby, and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference’s battle for first place, and home-field advantage, in the process. Coming into the weekend, NYCFC sat third and trailed Atlanta United and Philadelphia Union by a single point. Atlanta beat Orlando City SC on Friday, and Philadelphia hammered D.C. United on Saturday. The gap between the top-three and fourth-place Red Bulls is now six points. Maxi Moralez scored from the penalty spot and Heber unleashed some absolute filth on Luis Robles (video below) after Alex Muyl put the visitors ahead inside 10 minutes played.

[ MORE: PL Sunday preview: Man City visit Bournemouth; Spurs host Newcastle ]

Three moments that mattered

10′ Muyl finishes down the left for an early lead — You don’t always get punished for turning the ball over in this area in MLS, but you should be.

43′ — Moralez wins penalty, converts penalty — Moralez was taken down inside the box by Michael Murillo for an unquestionably penalty not long before halftime. The Argentine converted with authority.

53′ — Heber backheel-nutmegs Robles for 2-1 — Yes, really.

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Man of the match: Maxi Moralez

Goalscorers: Muyl (10′), Moralez (43′ – PK), Heber (53′)

Vela makes history in LAFC’s victory over Red Bulls (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  A new king has been crowned. Following a two-assist, one-goal performance against the New York Red Bulls, there is no Mexican-born player in league history with more goals than Carlos Vela. With 37 goals in 51 games, the 30-year-old Cancun native surpassed Erick “Cubo” Torres, who tallied 36 goals throughout five seasons. Overall, it was a special night for Vela and LAFC. Despite giving up two goals right before halftime, the Supporter’s Shield contender took control of the game in the second half, dominating the Red Bulls in practically every department except yellow cards. Bob Bradley‘s side, like Vela, are riding high.

Three moments that mattered

23′ — Harvey’s first goal in over 720 days  — A bit surprising that with those abilities inside the box it took Jordan Harvey so long to score.

61′ — Vela clinches the record books —  Record-breaking goal for Vela.

72′ — Segura ends it once and for all — Goal no. 1 for Eddie Segura in MLS. Assist no. 14 for Vela this season.

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MLS Deadline Day sees Saints winger move to RBNY

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We’ve had loads of moves on Deadline Day in Major League Soccer involving teams like Southampton, Barcelona, and Stoke City amongst others.

[ MORE: PST’s PL preview roundtable ]

The Red Bulls have added Southampton’s Josh Sims on a short-term loan deal as a Young Designated Player.

It’s a little surprising we don’t see more of this from the Premier League to Major League Soccer, and Sims will hang out at Red Bull Arena before returning to Saints by New Year’s Day.

Sims, 22, plays right and left wing, and chipped in three assists in a half-season loan to Reading last season. He also played 208 Premier League minutes, picking up an assist, and has 27 first team appearances for Saints.

Montreal is turning to a familiar face in taking 20-year-old academy product Ballou Jean-Yves Tabla on loan from Barcelona.

The twice-capped Canadian international has three goals and two assists for Montreal before moving to the Camp Nou, where he’s been a fixture for Barcelona B, where Ballou has posted three goals and two assists as well.

Ballou may pair with Bojan, as the ex-Barcelona and Stoke City striker has also moved to Montreal.

The Houston Dynamo have acquired a seldom-used player with a good league track record in the form of Christian Ramirez.

It’s all about the GAM and TAM going back to LAFC, who have Adama Diomande and plenty of depth in attack. Then again, Houston’s got some spice, too.

DC United has added three players, the most prominent being former Galaxy and Crew striker Ola Kamara.

The Norwegian will buttress Wayne Rooney‘s game before taking the starring wheel from him after the season (Mesut Ozil has also been linked with a move to DC).

DC also acquired Felipe Martins from Vancouver and Emmanuel Boateng from the Galaxy.