MLS Week 30: What to Watch For

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

MLS_logo.svgThe clock is ticking on the regular season in Major League Soccer, which includes a weekend off for the next international break as the United States struggles to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The crunch yields a busy period in Week 30, with most teams playing two games where postseason hopes can be made or broken.

The Strugglers

Three slumping teams have an opportunity to snap out of it against some of the league’s worst sides on Wednesday night. The Red Bulls (12-11-6, 42 points), who are winless in their last seven games (in all competitions), will host last-place D.C. (9-17-4, 31). Dallas (9-9-11) hasn’t won in 10 games and is at home against Colorado (7-17-5, 26). Houston (10-10-9, 39) can break a five game winless skid against Los Angeles (7-17-6, 27). All three — New York, Dallas and Houston — are on the bubble the playoff bubble.

Big Week for Vancouver

Vancouver (14-9-6, 48) is in first place in the Western Conference, but it will face two of the other top four sides this week, both on the road. First up is a trip to long-time rival Seattle (11-8-11, 44), in a game that promises to be one of the biggest the two have played since joining MLS. The Whitecaps then head to Kansas City (12-6-11, 47), where no road team has won this year and Sporting is 10-0-5. 

In the East, Battle for a Bye

The race for second place in the Eastern Conference could become much more complicated on Saturday. Chicago (14-10-6, 48) faces New York City (15-8-7, 52). The Fire are four points behind NYCFC, with Atlanta (14-8-7, 49) lurking in between them. Nemanja Nikolic has two goals in his last three games, but those are his only two since early July, a 12-game stretch after a hot start. Bastian Schweinsteiger might be healthy for the game, but nothing is certain. The Fire have won just one of the four games he’s missed since he joined the club. NYCFC has struggled of late and could find itself bounced from second place if it drops points and expansion Atlanta continues on its strong run.

San Jose’s Home Stand

Before returning home to take on NYCFC, Chicago will travel to San Jose (11-13-6, 39), a team just barely above the red line in the West. That’s the first part of a challenging week at home for the Earthquakes, who then have to face Portland (13-10-8, 47) on the weekend. No team in a playoff spot has scored fewer goals than San Jose (32, only 1.3 per game); no team in a playoff spot has allowed more (52 for a minus-20 goal differential). Its current position in the weaker conference is the result of nine one-goal victories, and squeezing more results like that this week would suit them just fine.

RSL Tries to Maintain Momentum

Salt Lake’s (12-14-5, 41) playoff push has been based on its strong form at home (8-4-4). It has to get something on the road this weekend at Los Angeles (7-18-6, 27). This has been an appalling season for the Galaxy, and their home record (2-9-4) is equally appalling. RSL has only three games remaining on its schedule and its ability to get points from one of the two road matches may determine its postseason prospects.