MLS Week 31 Recap: What We Learned

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MLS_logo.svgThe next-to-last weekend of Major League Soccer‘s regular season has set up a dramatic final day in both conferences. Much is left to be determined, including who gets the last playoff spot in the West.

Bear in mind that the first tiebreaker is not goal differential. After all, this is MLS. The first tiebreaker is wins, then goal differential.

The Wild Wild West

Each team on the playoff bubble in the West faced a road game on Sunday. None won, but San Jose’s draw has shaken up things.

Portland moved up into second place by beating D.C. United. Diego Valeri‘s 21st goal of the season came just before halftime to put the hosts in front. The Timbers piled on the goals after the break, with Sebastian Blanco scoring twice in pretty fashion.

Seattle clinched a playoff spot with a win over Dallas. Victor Rodriguez opened the scoring 30 minutes into the match. Will Bruin scored twice in quick succession in the second half to extend the Sounders’ lead. The loss drops Dallas below the red playoff line; it will need help, in addition to a result of its own, to advance.

With a draw in Vancouver, San Jose lifted itself into a playoff spot. The Whitecaps were on pace to clinch first place in the West after Yordy Reyna scored in the 29th minute. The Earthquakes battled back, and the crucial equalizer was scored by Valeri Qazaishvili. The visitors narrowly held on to the result in the final 10 minutes of the match.

Colorado played spoiler against their Rocky Mountain rivals, beating Salt Lake, 1-0. The weekend’s results have Salt Lake in eighth, but just a single point away from the final playoff spot.

Kansas City and Houston each clinched their spots in the playoffs with a scoreless draw. The teams played twice last week, and as things stand, they would face each other again in the knockout round of the playoffs.

Western Conference

1. Vancouver 52 pts, 15 wins, +2 GD

2. Portland 50 pts, 14 wins, +9

3. Seattle 50 pts, 13 wins, +10

4. Kansas City, 49 pts, 12 wins, +12

5. Houston, 47 pts, 12 wins, +9

6. San Jose, 43 pts, 12 wins, -22

7. Dallas, 43 pts, 10 wins, -4

8. Salt Lake, 42 pts, 12 wins, -7

Big Squeeze in the East

The stakes are lower in the East, with the playoff teams already determined, but second through fifth place will be on the line on the final day after a series of results that tightened the standings.

NYCFC remains in second place despite a disappointing day in Foxborough, Mass. Jack Harrison earned a straight red card in the first half, and New England was able to take advantage of the extra man. Diego Fagundez scored twice for the hosts in the second half as the home side took control.

Nemanja Nikolic hat trick pulled Chicago to within a point of New York City. The golden boot leader scored in the third minute of the game, but Philadelphia quickly responded, taking the lead 10 minutes later. Nikolic tied the game from the penalty spot before completing his hat trick and rescuing a win for the Fire.

Atlanta dropped to fourth with a draw on the road at Red Bull Arena. United came out hot, but the Red Bulls were in charge for the final hour. Brad Guzan played a big part in keeping the game scoreless with saves like this:

In Kaká‘s final game for Orlando, Columbus took a significant road win. Ola Kamara celebrated his birthday with his 17th goal of the season to keep alive the Crew’s hopes of finishing second.

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto, 68 pts, 20 wins, +37 GD

2. New York City, 56 pts, 16 wins, +13

3. Chicago, 55 pts, 16 wins, +17

4. Atlanta, 54 pts, 15 wins, +30

5. Columbus, 53 pts, 16 wins, +4

6. New York Red Bulls, 47 pts, 13 wins, +5