Three Big Storylines:
- MLS has a bit of a unconventional schedule with byes, some teams observing international breaks while others do not, the Open Cup and even weather related postponements (Wednesday’s win by the Houston Dynamo over Sporting Kansas City was moved because of Hurricane Harvey). Thus anytime this column talks about standings we always have to give a caveat about games in hand. Well as of this penultimate week of the season, there are NO GAMES IN HAND. Every team has played 32 matches and will play this Sunday and next to close out the regular season. The Eastern Conference teams will kickoff concurrently at 2 PM today while the Western Conference teams will kickoff at 4:30 PM today with the lone cross conference game (each conference has 11 teams) being D.C. United at the Portland Timbers. MLS gets a decent amount of criticism for the schedule, this is something they do right.
- The playoff teams in the Eastern Conference are set. Toronto FC has locked up the Supporters’ Shield and a first round bye. New York City FC is on 56 points and in line for the second bye, but Atlanta United (53 points but with a massive lead in the second tiebreaker) or the Chicago Fire (52 points) still have a realistic shot at catching NYCFC for that all important bye. The Columbus Crew (50 points) and New York Red Bulls are mostly just trying to keep players sharp for the playoffs and trying to avoid injuries. The Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Philadelphia Union, Orlando City and D.C. United have all been eliminated from the playoffs.
- The Western Conference is much more up in the air than the unusually settled Eastern Conference. The Vancouver Whitecaps are the only team to officially have clinched a playoff spot with 51 points and a three points lead over Sporting Kansas City for the Western Conference one seed. Five teams still have a shot at the one seed (Vancouver, Sporting Kansas City, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and the Houston Dynamo) while FC Dallas is on 43 points and clinging to the last playoff spot. Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes are both on 42 points battling with FC Dallas for that last playoff spot.
- Bonus 4th Storyline! The MLS Golden Boot race will come down to the last two weeks. Nemanja Nikolic leads with 21 goals but Diego Valeri and David Villa are both one goal back on 20. Josef Martinez is three goals back with 18 goals, but he has only played in 18 games starting just 15. Martinez has shown he can score in bunches and Valeri is on an MLS record nine game scoring run, Nikolic’s one goal lead is surely not safe.
From a Sounders Point of View:
Let’s get this out of the way first, the Sounders are officially in the playoffs if they draw today and a bunch of things happen in the other games or if they win. Just win.
If the Sounders make another run to the MLS Cup, it would be nice to host. To that end the Sounders can not catch Toronto FC, NYCFC or Atlanta United but they do have an outside shot of catching the Chicago Fire. And the Fire look like a team that could make a deep run in the playoffs. The Fire are home for Philadelphia today and at Houston to finish the season. Go Union!
D.C. United is in Portland today. It would be great if the original MLS United could win but I would take a draw if offered.
San Jose can get a win in Vancouver over the Whitecaps.
The LA Galaxy are eliminated from the playoffs and are hosting an also eliminated Minnesota United. So we have no rooting interest but I just wanted to point out that the Galaxy are 2-9-5 (W-L-D) at home this year.
The Colorado Rapids are hosting Real Salt Lake. The Rapids are already eliminated from the playoffs but RSL looks like a dangerous team if they can catch FC Dallas for the last spot. Go Rapids.
National TV Listings:
New York Red Bulls v Atlanta United
Date/Time: Sunday, 2 PM
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Seattle Sounders v FC Dallas
Date/Time: Sunday, 4:30 PM
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
This is your Sounder at Heart MLS Week 32 open gamethread. (A note on week numbering, this is Week 32 of the weekly MLS gamethreads on SaH but every team is playing game 33. That’s just how it goes this year with midweek games, international breaks and byes. Your author spent a bit more time than he would like to admit verifying that this was the case and the numbering matched up going back to the start of the season.) Watch with us.