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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 Weekend Preview: All eyes on playoff chasers

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The top seeds in both the Eastern Conference and Western Conference have yet to be confirmed, but this weekend’s games will be all about those chasing playoff spots, especially in the West where the waters are still muddy with three games to go.

Most notably, Real Salt Lake takes on Portland with a 9:30 p.m. ET kickoff that could decide who falls apart late and who makes a late move towards the postseason. Both teams currently sit in playoff positions, but with the LA Galaxy making a late surge, a loss for either side could put them in serious jeopardy.

RSL is in the most peril, sitting in the final playoff spot just two points above the Galaxy. Portland is just two points and two spots above RSL, and could be caught with a stumble down the stretch. The Timbers are without defender Liam Ridgewell who was sent off last time out.

The aforementioned LA Galaxy, just two points back of the cut line, have back-to-back 3-0 victories in their last two, jumping to the verge of a playoff spot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has four goals over his last three games, including two last time out against Vancouver. It’s just as important for Sporting KC, who can clinch a playoff spot with a victory.

On the other side of the coin, the Eastern Conference has drama of its own. D.C. United plays Sunday sitting just two points back of a playoff spot on a charge of its own, but the Montreal Impact could cushion its safety as it hosts Columbus. Both those teams are at near full strength and full health, ready to duke it out on the field. Columbus is guaranteed a playoff spot, but they still must hold off Philadelphia for the #4 seed, and can still mathematically catch NYCFC, five points back of that third-place spot.

Moving up the table, Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls are battling for the Supporter’s Shield, with the former owning a single point lead. Atlanta hosts the New England Revolution, a team that has just a single win since the start of July. Meanwhile, New York has a west coast trip to last-place San Jose.

Full MLS Schedule 10/6

Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew – 3:00 p.m. ET
Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution – 3:30 p.m. ET
Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 5:00 p.m. ET
Philadelphia Union vs. Minnesota United – 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Dallas vs. Orlando City – 8:00 p.m. ET
Sporting KC vs. LA Galaxy – 8:30 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids vs. LAFC – 9:00 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers – 9:30 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes vs. NY Red Bulls – 10:30 p.m. ET

Sporting KC 1-1 RSL: Western Conference playoff race stays muddy

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Sporting KC and Real Salt Lake drew 1-1 at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday. Corey Baird and Ike Opara cancelled each other out, a valuable point for either team, but also somewhat disappointing for each side given separation is key.

The opener came just nine minutes in, as Jefferson Savarino fed such a good ball forward, it left Sporting KC defender Opara so wrong-footed he ended up on his rear end. Baird was there for the calm finish, and RSL had its valuable lead. The visitors are in a vicious playoff battle, currently holding the last playoff spot in the Western Conference standings. Still, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is leading an LA Galaxy charge that leaves them just one point back coming into Sunday’s match.

So, with the lead, RSL clammed up. The two teams shared possession, but Sporting KC began to pummel Nick Rimando’s goal. Sporting KC racked up 20 shots during the match, with nearly as many shots on target (6) to RSL’s total efforts on net (8).

Sporting KC would get its equalizer shortly after the halftime break as Johnny Russell swung in the corner and Opara lept high above Kyle Beckerman and Damir Kreilach to meet his head to the ball, powering it past Rimando.

Both sides had opportunities to grasp the victory they would like to have back. Most notably, Krisztián Németh had a glaring miss in the 18th minute for KC, sliding to meet a point-blank cross from Matt Besler but putting it wide of the post.

The point could prove valuable for RSL, especially on the road where RSL has struggled, moving them two ahead LA Galaxy. Still, the full three would have been season-altering, as it would have moved them above Seattle. For Sporting, the win would have moved them into the top spot in the Western Conference, a huge advantage for playoff positioning.

FOLLOW LIVE: ATL chasing Shield; NYCFC desperate to end 5-game skid

Photo credit: Atlanta United / @ATLUTD
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Atlanta United could take another massive step toward the 2018 Supporters’ Shield with a home win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, despite New York Red Bulls’ victory over Toronto FC in the day’s earlier game.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: 6 games in MLS, beginning at 7 p.m. ET ]

The Five Stripes entered the day with a four-point lead on the Red Bulls (it has since been reduced to one) with five games left to play (four for RBNY). RSL, on the other hand, are riding a four-game unbeaten run and have lost just twice in the last 12 times out. That run has seen them rise from near the bottom of the Western Conference to fifth place, five points clear of the playoff cut line.

In the Eastern Conference, the story of the last month has been New York City FC’s slide: five games without a win, and just one win in their last eight games. Domenec Torrent enjoyed a strong start after taking over for Patrick Vieira, but everything has turned sour in the last six weeks. From Shield contenders, to just another member of the chasing pack. Their opponents, Montreal Impact, are currently clutching the East’s sixth and final playoff place, thought D.C. United have cut the gap to just four points with a game in hand.

Today’s MLS results

Los Angeles FC 2-0 San Jose Earthquakes
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC — underway

Tonight’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United vs. Real Salt Lake — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact vs. New York City FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew SC vs. Colorado Rapids — 7:30 p.m. ET
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC vs. Houston Dynamo — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United vs. Portland Timbers — 8 p.m. ET

Sunday’s MLS schedule

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City — 1 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders — 7 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas — 7 p.m. ET

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke suspended, fined

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NEW YORK (AP) Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke has been suspended an additional game and fined $10,000 by Major League Soccer for on-field misconduct during a game against Minnesota United.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]

The suspension announced Wednesday follows an automatic one-game game ban for being ejected from the Utah club’s 3-1 road loss Saturday night.

Petke was fined for abusive and profane language directed at officials, uncontrollable behavior when he was ejected and public criticism of officials during a postgame press conference. Real Salt Lake also was fined $10,000 fine for social media posts.

Petke will miss games Saturday night against Colorado and July 28 against San Jose.