MLS Gamethread: Week 31

USA TODAY Sports

The magic number is 64. That number can get smaller still with favorable results in a few key matches.

Hope you have cable (unlike this guy) because most of the biggest match-ups this weekend are on national television. Five Supporter's Shield contenders will share time on ESPN, NBC, and NBC Sports. That means that more than likely, someone is going to significantly hurt their chances this weekend. Might it be Kansas City hosting Philly? Will one of Portland or LA relent on the network game? Who will take the resounding lead in the Seattle-NY game? Or will they all draw, forcing Don Garber to resort to tearing out his chest hair? It's all football, all the time!

Friday:

5:00 pm Sporting KC-Philadelphia Union (NBCSN)
The first game up could settle one race or another. Philadelphia is scrambling against five other teams for the last two playoff spots in the East. Sporting can jump into a tight fray for the Supporter's Shield with a NY-SEA draw. Winning at Sporting Park is no easy feat, but the Union have fared better on the road than many teams in this 2013 MLS season. It only takes a goal. Sporting has a three-match winning streak, but the competition hasn't been stellar. It's a hard game to predict, but I'm going with the home crowd.
Prediction: KC
Ideal: PHI

Saturday:

10:00 am Toronto FC-DC United
The last of 2013's Toilet Bowl matches. As we all know, this meeting doesn't have a whole lot of significance. Which mean's it's a great game to bet on! That's a joke. I don't condone betting except as a convenient way to hide your earnings from Meth cooks. The only question remaining: Can this season still be a success if they go into Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday and win the US Open Cup?
Prediction: Whatever
Ideal: Who cares?

4:00 pm Vancouver Whitecaps-Real Salt Lake
Vancouver managed a critical win last weekend at Saputo Stadium, but to keep their playoff hopes alive they need to win this game at home against a dangerous Salt Lake team. This match is three days from the Open Cup Final, poor timing for a team that surely still fancies itself in the SS race. They will be unable to take the Final for granted; DC won some games to get to this point and have nothing else to play for. Can Jason Kreis juggle his lineup appropriately and grab one trophy while reaching for two others? If he can, NY may succeed in stealing him away. RSL has a catch-44 on their hands. Because it's a catch-22 times two. 
Prediction: VAN
Ideal: VAN

4:30 pm New England Revolution-Houston Dynamo
Despite their troubles this season, Houston has to feel pretty good about their situation right now. A few weeks ago, they were on the brink of a China Syndrome-level Dynamo meltdown, but wins in consecutive weeks have their playoff odds looking pretty decent. That changes with a loss to New England on the Gillette Stadium carpet. Lose, and it's back to Jane Fonda screaming at Jack Lemmon while Michael Douglas looks on in fear. Watch as not-24-under-24 star Kelyn Rowe and company uncover an unstable core.
Prediction: NE
Ideal: Draw

5:30 pm Chicago Fire-Montreal Impact
The consequences are the same as that KC-PHI game above. One wants to be on top, the other just wants to be int he conversation. It's almost silly how a SS contender can be considered the underdog so easily, but Chicago is most certainly the favorite in this match. 
Prediction: CHI
Ideal: CHI

Sunday:

12:30 pm Portland Timbers-LA Galaxy (NBC) (Game of the Week)
I'm not sure if NBC was smart or lucky to plan this game at the beginning of the season. Sure, it's not a huge leap of faith to put the second-best fans in MLS on national television. But to do it against perennial playoff contenders in nearly October, when Portland has yet to make a postseason? Someone at NBC (Don Geiss?) Had some cahones on that call, but it worked. This game has massive playoff implications with the third and fourth teams in the West unwilling to spare any points. No matter what happens, it's a win for Seattle; someone drops points. But perhaps enough prayers will convince our Rave Green God to bestow us with a tie. 
Prediction: Draw
Ideal: Draw

5:00 pm FC Dallas-Columbus Crew
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. From first to last (not counting Chivas, because of course Chivas) in the span of a few months. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that Dallas and Seattle were at opposite points in the league standings. Goes to show how important it is to peak at the right time and sustain that level of play. Anything less than a victory when Seattle plays in Dallas will be a disappointment the way the team is playing now. That can be said for Columbus as well. 
Prediction: CLB
Ideal: CLB

8:00 pm Chivas USA-San Jose Earthquakes (UniMas)
San Jose is still technically alive in the playoff race, but a look at the hill they'd need to climb makes it clear that they're almost as irrelevant as their opponents. Even a perfect week for them would still have San Jose on the outside looking in with extra games played. Tied for the second most losses in the league, they certainly are not in control of their own destiny. 
Prediction: SJ
Ideal: CHV

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