We have reached the business end of the MLS season with only two matchdays left. The playoff picture is becoming clear with Decision Day looming. Los Angeles FC have dominated the Western Conference and they have secured a bye into the Conference semi-finals. Behind them things are a little tighter. Only 8 points separate 2nd and 8th place and it’s all still to play for with a couple of games to go. In the Eastern Conference, six of the seven spots have been clinched with New England Revolution, Chicago Fire, Orlando City and Montreal Impact still battling it out for the final playoff berth. With that in mind, we have previewed a few of this weekend’s more exciting games with MLS predictions included.
Chicago Fire vs Toronto FC, 29th September 6PM
8th plays 6th in what is a must-win game for Chicago Fire if they are to keep their playoff hopes alive. As we predicted last week, Toronto were a match for LA Galaxy and they secured their playoff spot with that draw. They also secured the Canadian Championship on Wednesday night, beating the Montreal Impact on penalties. With their post-season place secure and a first piece of silverware in the bag, coach Greg Vanney may be tempted to rest some of his key players in this weekend’s match.
This will play into the hands of the Fire. They are four points back from New England with two games to go so a win here is needed to maintain the pressure.
Chicago have been victims of their own inconsistency this season. They were on track to challenge for a home seeding after beating Atlanta United 5-1 in July before losing at home to basement dwellers Cincinnati only two weeks later. If they have any hope of progressing they will need Argentine Nico Gaitan to perform to the full of his capabilities. The former Benfica man has scored four and assisted seven in his 17 appearance this season. With so much on the line – Chicago have to step up to the mark on Sunday.
San Jose Earthquakes vs Seattle Sounders, 29th September 9:30PM
San Jose’s playoff hopes took a big dent on Wednesday with a 2-1 defeat to Philadelphia Union. Only 3 points separate Real Salt Lake in 5th and San Jose in 8th so there is still plenty of moving to be done before seedings are finalized.
This Sunday’s game presents them with a great opportunity to claw back some of their deficit on 7th place FC Dallas. This season’s previous game between the two resulted in a 2-2 draw with Sounders’ keeper Stefan Frei making a number of miraculous saves to keep his side in the game.
MLS all-time record goalscorer Chris Wondolowski returns from suspension for the Earthquakes and he will be eager for another playoff run. Wondo has hit double digit scoring in each of his 15 MLS seasons. The 2012 MVP will surely be in line to bag a goal this weekend.
A home win is on the cards in this one.
Colorado Rapids vs FC Dallas, 29th September 9:30PM
Another big match in the race for the Western Conference playoffs. 9th placed Colorado have the slimmest of chances to make the 7th and final playoff spot. Their opponents on Sunday occupy that position. Dallas are six points ahead of Sunday’s opposition and they have a superior goal difference. At this stage in the season it would be a major surprise if the Rapids managed to reclaim a place in the playoffs.
A win for them this weekend would give them hope heading into Decision Day. However, a win for the Rapids would most likely benefit the Earthquakes most. A win for San José combined with dropped points for FC Dallas would put Chris Wondolowski’s side in the driving seat for the final playoff spot. If that does happen then we’ll have the abacuses out for final placing permutations come the 6th of October.
There’s plenty on the line in this one and Dallas should have the most confidence on recent form. An away win will secure a playoff spot for the Texans and condemn Colorado to a winter of discontent.
LA Galaxy vs Vancouver Whitecaps, 29th September 9:30PM
Our final MLS prediction of the week comes in a West Coast Derby. The Galaxy did enough midweek to secure their playoff spot and they play bottom team Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday evening.
They wont get a better chance to cement their home seeding than this week’s game. Vancouver have endured a terrible season. The Canadians have picked up only seven wins in this campaign, conceding 55 goals. The last game between these two ended in a 2-0 victory for Guillermo Schelotto’s Galaxy side. Star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been in devastating form in recent weeks, scoring 7 goals in his last six league appearances.
*All times CDT