MLS Week 31: What to Watch For

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MLS_logo.svgWith two weeks remaining in the Major League Soccer regular season, all eyes are on the Western Conference. The four teams chasing the last two playoff spots are all on the road this week; if any of them can find a result, it could be the difference in the race.

Kansas City-Houston Redux

Houston (12-10-10, 46 points) came from behind to defeat Kansas City (12-8-12, 48) on Wednesday night, and this weekend the two will meet again a few hundred miles north. The Dynamo’s midweek win has eased some of the pressure they face in the Western Conference playoff race, but they still need three points from their last two games to nail down a playoff spot. Houston had just 43 percent of the possession despite being at home; you would expect them to see even less of the ball on Sunday.

Another Important Seattle-Dallas Match

Dallas‘ (10-9-13, 43) season ended last year at the hands of Seattle (12-9-11, 47). Dallas can go a long way toward extending its season this year with a result in the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. The two sides played to a scoreless draw, with just five combined shots on target, one month ago. When things shake out in two weeks time, it’s entirely possible these teams will be facing off in the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

Colorado Tries to Spoil Salt Lake’s Chances

On paper, Salt Lake (12-14-6, 42) has the simplest task of the playoff hopefuls, but its rival Colorado (8-18-6, 30) will seek to make things difficult. The Rapids’ struggles have been on offense, and they’ve failed to score multiple goals in their last 10 games. Conversely, Coach Mike Petke‘s side has not been shut out in its last eight. RSL has already beaten the Rapids twice this year, including on the road in April, clinching this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup.

Can the Earthquakes Get Something on the Road?

Vancouver (15-11-6, 51) can secure the top spot in the West with a win at home against San Jose (12-14-6, 42). The Earthquakes are among the teams fighting for a final playoff spot, and it seems likely they will need at least a point from this their final road game. San Jose has avoided defeat on the road just four times this year, the second-lowest total in the league.

Playoff Preview?

If the playoffs started today, the Red Bulls (13-12-7, 46) would be going to Atlanta (15-9-8, 53) for a knockout-round match. They will host the expansion team on Sunday in a game that could change. The Red Bulls played at United in Atlanta’s first MLS game in March. Much has changed since then, and now New York is just looking to secure its footing after a lengthy slump.