17
Oct

All to play for as race to MLS playoffs heats up

image

Image courtesy of Getty.

There are few certainties in the MLS playoff race heading into the final two weekends of the season. New York and Sporting Kansas City will take part. Several other teams will join them. A few more will miss out entirely.

Further verdicts remain difficult to draw. The compressed standings in both conferences create the possibility of widespread upheaval with one result going either way. There are likelihoods in play, but no firm guidelines to set forth with just a fortnight remaining.

At this stage of the campaign, favors fall upon teams willing to dispatch their business accordingly. There are few guarantees on the table right now, but this one is etched in stone: a pair of victories will improve your position substantially heading into the postseason.

New York, Sporting Kansas City, Houston jostle for top three seeds in the East

image

Remaining fixtures

RBNY: at Houston, vs. Chicago

SKC: vs. D.C. United, at Philadelphia

HOU: vs. New York, at D.C. United

New York holds a slim advantage in the race for top spot heading into the final two weeks, but a defeat in Houston on Sunday could break the race wide open. Sporting Kansas City could apply further pressure with a straightforward home victory over D.C. United on Friday. A couple of extra goals would help the cause: Sporting currently sits one goal behind the Red Bulls in the goals scored category, the second tiebreaker.

If Houston collect maximum points over the Red Bulls on Sunday, the Dynamo can maintain touching distance with the top two. The third seed — barring an outright collapse by either New York or Sporting — looks more likely given the Dynamo’s current points deficit and its disadvantage in both total wins (first tiebreaker) and goals scored.

Chicago, Montréal hold narrow edges in five-way battle for fourth and fifth spot

image

Remaining fixtures

MTL: vs. Philadelphia, at Toronto FC

CHI: vs. Toronto FC, at New York

PHL: at Montréal, vs. Sporting Kansas City

NE: vs. Columbus, at Columbus

CLB: at New England, vs. New England

The calculus for all five of these teams is fairly simple: win two games, then see what happens. If four of these five teams embark on a season ending tear (quite unlikely, indeed), then Montréal and Chicago will stand atop the heap.

It is difficult to envision Montréal rattling off two wins in a row at this stage given its recent form (see: the reserve-laden 1-0 defeat at LA Galaxy on Wednesday), but a favorable schedule – a home match against the goal-shy Union and a visit to TFC on the final day – and a strong position on tiebreakers at least gives the Impact a fighting chance. One win might even do it. Chicago fattened up on D.C. United and FC Dallas over the past couple of weeks to move into a promising position. Another victory over Toronto FC this weekend – combined with its superior wins total – leaves the Fire in reasonable stead.

Philadelphia likely needs a minimum of four points (and likely six) from its pair of difficult assignments to have a chance. New England essentially needs six points against the Crew given the state of play, though it could edge out the Fire or the Union on goals scored if four points somehow suffices for a fifth-place tie. Columbus needs two wins against the Revs and a whole lot of losses by everyone else to have a prayer.

Four teams in the mix for top three seeds out and one nasty door prize out West

image

Remaining fixtures

PDX: vs. Real Salt Lake, at Chivas USA

RSL: at Portland, vs. Chivas USA

LAG: vs. San Jose, at Seattle

SEA: at FC Dallas, vs. LA Galaxy

The top two sides in the Western Conference tangle at JELD-WEN Field on Saturday with an opportunity to stake a claim to the top seed. A draw should suffice for Portland with a visit to Chivas USA on the docket to end the season, but the Timbers’ iffy road form and their wins deficit provides plenty of incentive to take care of business at home and remove all doubt. RSL remains in good shape for the second seed even with a defeat: Jason Kreis’ side closes the season at home to Chivas USA in midweek (a likely victory) and possesses an edge on goals scored over the other two contenders if Portland finishes first.

LA Galaxy and Seattle look likely to qualify for the playoffs absent a total meltdown (and the Sounders sure are trying). Their ultimate playoff fate – two v. three in some order or four vs. five – hinges on the meeting at CenturyLink Park to conclude their respective seasons. Seattle will need to finish with more points (or wins) than any of its counterparts to avoid the goals scored tiebreaker. Any type of setback in Frisco on Saturday places Seattle in a must-win spot to avoid the fourth (or even fifth) seed heading into the final weekend of the season.

Colorado, Vancouver duel to the death as San Jose hopes for a chance to pounce

 image

Remaining fixtures

COL: vs. Vancouver, at Vancouver

SJ: at LA Galaxy, vs. FC Dallas

VAN: at Colorado, vs. Colorado

Colorado scuffed away a chance to essentially secure its playoff destiny in the 1-0 defeat at San Jose last week. Now the Rapids confront a tricky home-and-home test with a Vancouver side in line to hop over them with four points over the two matches (based on the goals scored tiebreaker). The good news for Colorado: one victory would eliminate the Whitecaps, require the Earthquakes to win both games to qualify (due to San Jose’s vastly inferior goals scored record).

San Jose needs considerable help from the Whitecaps to claim the final playoff spot due to tiebreakers. One victory in two matches would suffice if Vancouver picks up exactly four points. More than likely, the Earthquakes will need at least four (if both Colorado-Vancouver matches in draws) and probably six (in a bid to edge out a Colorado side with four points gained or a Vancouver outfit with two wins) points to snatch an improbable postseason place.

7
Oct

MLS playoff picture still murky with three matches to play

image

The New York Red Bulls are the only team in the MLS playoffs. (Getty Images)

Leave it to a typically wacky October weekend to further muddle the MLS playoff picture. What we know is this: New York is in the playoffs. Several other teams are in the mix. The rest? It’s all up for grabs heading into the final three matches of the season.

New York, Sporting Kansas City in the race for top spot in the East

image

Houston’s victory over Montréal on Friday night increased the chances that either the Red Bulls or Sporting will finish atop the East. New York either dropped a pair of points or gained one over the weekend, depending on your take on the wild conclusion to the 2-2 draw with New England. Sporting holds a game in hand, but it will use it against the Dynamo on Wednesday night.

At this stage, the Red Bulls will probably finish in the top spot with a pair of victories in their final two outings. Sporting possesses a decent chance of overhauling them if it vanquishes its playoff nemesis in midweek. Houston and Montréal (even with a game in hand) must rack up victories and search for missteps in order to push their way to the summit. Both teams would likely settle for a top-three spot – and the direct berth into the Eastern Conference semifinals – at this stage.

Race for final three East places favors Houston, Montréal — and one other

image

The two combatants at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night finished the weekend feeling relatively comfortable about their playoff futures. The remaining four challengers likely face an almighty scrap for one berth, barring some series of missteps by the Dynamo or the Impact somewhere along the way.

Philadelphia enjoys the inside track at the moment after Kléberson (yes, that Kléberson) rescued the points against Toronto FC on Saturday. Chicago faces a pair of winnable games over the next fortnight (at FC Dallas, home to Toronto FC) to bolster its own playoff chances. New England probably needs a point in Montréal to revive its hopes ahead of a season-ending home-and-home with Columbus. Brian Bliss’ side must win its remaining two games against the Revolution and pray for carnage in order to snatch the fifth spot.

Seattle still on track for Supporters’ Shield, Western Conference top seed

image

Sigi Schmid’s outfit suffered a rather humbling 5-1 defeat at Colorado on Saturday, but that setback will not harm the Sounders’ chances of claiming top spot and securing the Supporters’ Shield. Seattle currently holds two matches in hand on Real Salt Lake – including Wednesday’s Cascadia tilt with Vancouver – and one on third-place Portland. If the Rave Green take care of business (a point at Portland on Oct. 13 would help considerably), then the top seed beckons.

RSL likely must win its remaining two matches (at Portland, home to Chivas USA) to keep its Supporters’ Shield hopes alive. Portland still harbors realistic dreams of vaulting both teams given the looming head-to-head matchups and Seattle’s difficult final day test against LA Galaxy.

Colorado, LA Galaxy take big steps with weekend thrashings

image

It will take some doing for the Galaxy and the Rapids to slip out of the postseason reckoning after their respective victories over the weekend. Colorado, in particular, created some breathing room with that trouncing of Seattle to ease any lingering nerves about the season-ending home-and-home with Vancouver. Both teams will hope Portland, Real Salt Lake or Seattle veer off course along the way to increase their hopes of a top-three place.

Martin Rennie’s side – fresh off the frenetic 2-2 draw with Portland on Sunday – must prolong Seattle’s misery and then snatch six points from the final two games against the Rapids to mount a belated postseason charge. FC Dallas and San Jose face a similar brief to survive: win or else.

13
Jul

Very superstitious: Wondolowski sews extra “W” under jersey, keeps scoring

Last time we checked in with Chris Wondolowski, he was busy scoring a hat trick while wearing a misspelled jersey. But after US super-fan Drew Carey ended up buying the shirt off Wondolowski with proceeds going to charity, the superstitious striker knew what to do next.

Rather than risking his run of form, Wondolowski made a special request regarding his kit before Saturday’s match vs. Cuba: ‘Wondo’ asked that an extra ‘W’ be sewed on the inside of his shirt.

Based on the brace that Wondo scored Saturday with the altered jersey, it seems likely he’ll be wearing that extra W for the rest of his career.

Here’s Chris after the match:

4
Nov

Five things to watch: LA Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes

By Kyle McCarthy

The California Clasico returns to the postseason stage for the first time since 2005 when San Jose visits Los Angeles tonight. Here are five points to watch ahead of the clash at the Home Depot Center:

1. Lingering hostilities: Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez offered several critical comments about Steven Lenhart and the Earthquakes’ style of play after an ill-tempered 2-2 draw on Oct. 21. This match provides the perfect opportunity for the Earthquakes to issue their response on the field.

2. Ringing the changes: Bruce Arena promised a series of alterations to his starting XI after the 2-1 victory over Vancouver in the Knockout Round on Thursday night. He will hope to include A.J. DeLaGarza and Sean Franklin in the lineup after they missed out  against the Whitecaps because of injury. Arena could also turn to Marcelo Sarvas or Christian Wilhelmsson in midfield to allow Landon Donovan to slide up front to partner Robbie Keane.

Read More

17
Oct

Groundbreaking in San Jose

By Kyle McCarthy

It isn’t every day that a delivery truck pulls up to your house and hands you a long, oddly-shaped box with a commemorative blue shovel in it. Today was one of those days.


As fun as it is to tear open an unexpected parcel to see what is inside, it pales in comparison to the joy forthcoming in San Jose on Sunday. In the hours leading up to a derby clash against LA Galaxy, the Earthquakes and more than 5,000 of their closest friends and supporters will break ground on their new soccer-specific stadium. They aim to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest contingent to ever participate in a groundbreaking ceremony when they do.

The occasion will mark the next step forward for a club already on the upswing. Frank Yallop and his players will likely secure the Supporters’ Shield in the next fortnight and enter the postseason as one of the favorites to lift MLS Cup. They will leave the homey Buck Shaw Stadium in 2014 for their own 18,000 seat ground around the corner and reap the benefits — on and off the field — from the transition in the coming years.

It all adds up to a movement far greater than a little blue shovel. But, as symbols go, it works just fine for a team trying to build a future where these special moments happen with increasing regularity.