MLS Matchweek 35 Preview: Playoff Questions to be Answered

IMAGE, LAGALAXY.COM

by RYAN BRISTER
Staff Writer

Anchored by a duel for the Supporters’ Shield, the last weekend of the Major League Soccer regular season will answer all remaining questions about the playoff picture. One playoff spot will be decided, as will eight of the 10 seeds. And while attention will focus on more successful teams, Chivas USA will fade into the sunset.

Real Salt Lake vs. Chivas USA, Wednesday at 9 p.m.

Real Salt Lake will be the first team to finish their regular season, as they host a midweek matchup with Chivas USA. It can be easy to overlook the Goats, but they’ve won two games in a row, including a home match against RSL. In Salt Lake, the hosts do not control their playoff seeding. They can finish third with a win and help from Portland on Saturday.

Chicago Fire vs. Houston Dynamo, Friday at 8 p.m. on NBCSN

NBC thought they’d be safe slating the perennially successful Dynamo into a late-season national broadcast. Instead, Dominic Kinnear’s final game as the Dynamo’s manager will be insignificant for both sides. It’s the second year in a row without playoffs in Chicago, as the Fire have posted the fewest wins in MLS in 2014. With the Kinnear era closing, Houston will enter a transition phase almost as soon as this game ends.

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on NBC (EOS Game of the Week)

The executives in MLS must be very happy about this. Two star-studded teams will play before a crowd of more than 60,000 on broadcast television to decide the Supporters’ Shield. Because wins are the first tiebreaker, the Sounders enter needing only a draw to claim their second trophy of the year. LA let an opportunity slip when it was 2-0 this past weekend, and they will need the full three points to win the Shield. Both teams are healthy, but Omar Gonzalez is suspended for the Galaxy due the red card he picked up on Sunday.

Montreal Impact vs. DC United, Saturday at 4 p.m.

First place in the east travels north to visit last place, and neither team has anything on the line. Both DC and Montreal will be coming off of CONCACAF Champions League play in the middle of the week, with both already qualified for the quarterfinals. For United, the aim is simply to stay healthy as they get ready for the playoffs.

New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

The Revs have secured second place in the Eastern Conference, so Saturday’s game will just be a tune-up for the playoffs. New England will have to wait until Sunday to find out who they’ll play in the conference semi-final. The game is just consolation for TFC, having been eliminated from the playoffs last week.

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers, Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

The Timbers need to better Vancouver’s result in order to return to the playoffs. It will not be easy in Dallas, where they’d likely stay for the play-in game if they qualify. Dallas has won eight straight MLS games at Toyota Stadium, and currently sit third in the west on the back of that strong home form. If the Hoops can equal or better RSL’s result, they’ll avoid having to play in the play-in game.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids, Saturday at 10 p.m.

Vancouver will know how Portland fared before getting too deep into their game against Colorado. Regardless of what the Timbers do, the Whitecaps can make the playoffs with a win at home over the dreadful Rapids, who have managed just two points since July. In fact, the last team the Rapids beat was Vancouver, and Colorado also won at BC Place in April. But make no mistake: the Whitecaps and their fans would consider it a significant blunder if they’re unable to get three points with the playoffs on the line.

Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union, Sunday at 4 p.m.

The Crew eliminated the Union from the playoffs two weeks ago in Philly. While the Union can’t return the favor on Saturday, they can force Columbus into the play-in game. The Crew can finish third, fourth, or fifth, depending on what happens between SKC and New York on Sunday. They’ll need to better Kansas City’s result in order to reach third.

Chivas USA vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

It’s been over a month since Brian Strauss first reported that Chivas USA could go on hiatus as new owners try to rebrand and rebuild LA’s second team. More than three weeks have passed since Grant Wahl revealed the men who will be buying the franchise. But with their final game looming, MLS still hasn’t commented on what will happen to Chivas USA after Sunday. We have every reason to believe that Sunday’s game against the Earthquakes will be the end for Chivas, for at least a year or two, and the Stubhub Center may have a funereal atmosphere. There is nothing at stake, but this a game for your morbid curiosity.

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls, Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN2

It’s entirely possible that these two teams will stay in Kansas City for the Eastern Conference play-in game. Both teams will want to bounce back from disappointing losses over the past weekend, but more importantly there are seeds at stake. SKC can claim third with a win; the Red Bulls can do the same with a win and a Columbus loss. New York won last month at Red Bull Arena, and managed a 1-1 draw when the two sides met at Sporting Park in May.