MLS Week 26: What To Watch For

MLS Week 26: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On September 8, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 26, Features, What To Watch For

LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids battle Friday night. (Getty Images)

Ah, that sound you may here is the sound of a full Major League Soccer slate this weekend. All 18 MLS clubs are involved in Week 26 action with eight of the games being Saturday evening. Most clubs had last weekend off and you can bet they are all geared up for the big playoff push here this weekend.

September soccer is here in MLS and we’ll soon know who is in and who is out in regards to the playoffs. No one is mathematically eliminated yet from the playoffs but we are getting close to that.

With a full slate of game this weekend, there are plenty of good talking points. Here are some items I am keeping watch on.

1. Can LA increase their lead? Let’s just put it out there, the Galaxy failed to capitalize on their league lead over Seattle and Dallas on Labor Day with their draw in KC. The late Omar Bravo goal gave the Galaxy a point instead of a win, which means the Supporter’s Shield race is tighter than it once was. Now they host the MLS defending champions, the Colorado Rapids this weekend. Both will be looking to get points in this one as their CCL runs kick back up in the coming weeks. A win for the Rapids will push them closer to one of the three automatic births into the playoffs from the Western Conference.

LA on the other hand has a little more to give up. Should they lose and Seattle wins, the gap for the Shield goes to one point. Yup, one single point with the two teams level on games played. LA has to get a big game out of their big three, Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane but it will come down to the defense of the Galaxy in this one. They’ve been good but we’ve seen in the past what speedy teams can do to this defense. Colorado has the speed with Omar Cummings and Sanna Nyassi to do some damage here.

2. Speaking of Seattle…the Sounders host RSL in a huge game on Saturday. I mentioned what a win could do for the Galaxy but look closer and see what a win does for RSL in this one. With games-in-hand at the moment, Jason Kreis and RSL have a shot at getting into the playoffs as one of the three auto-bids from the West. You have to figure at this point, neither one of these clubs wants to deal with playing an extra game in the playoffs, especially one that is on the road.

The Sounders have been on top form in the last month or so as we’ve seen them shoot up the standings into second place. This is a club that looks determined to get a result at any cost and if MVP candidate Mauro Rosales continues to play well, the Sounders could very well make things very interesting in the standings this weekend. RSL will have to do a lockdown on Rosales as he’s been huge on getting the offense of the Sounders going in recent weeks.

3. A new life with Sporting. The bad 3-2 loss at home a couple weeks ago stung for a while for Sporting Kansas City but the come from behind draw against LA had to take the sting away for a moment. One thing is certain with SKC, their games are never dull, especially late. I’ll keep this one short, do not turn this game off early. KC has a special ability at either scoring goals late to tie games up or scoring goals late to lose them. KC cannot afford to keep a club like Houston in this game for long. In other words they have to put them away early. Houston is still searching for their first win and if they get the confidence that it will be coming late, it could be tough for SKC to do their late game voodoo.

4. Time off, plus Whitecaps at home should do well for New York. Another simple one here, the time off for the Red Bulls was a major thing. It got key guys healthy but it also should have given this New York side time to refocus here on the stretch run. Let’s also not forget their first game back from the layoff is against the league’s worst team from Vancouver. I know the Caps will play spoilers from here out but this should be a game that New York gets back on the right track from.

5. PDX looking to continue move up. The late 4-4 draw last night for the Union showed the club at PPL Park has some heart in them. Freddy Adu and Sebastien Le Toux scored three of the four goals and looked good late for them but against a hungry side like Portland, they cannot for a second do what they did last night. The Philly defense hasn’t been the same in recent weeks and with young rookie keeper Zac MacMath in goal, things looked even more dicy. This is a very dangerous game for the Union, not matter what you think of Portland. The Timbers know they are in the hunt and a win on the road would mean big things for their playoff hopes.

6. Refocus in Dallas. If any club needed a break in the schedule it was FC Dallas. Sure they had a friendly last weekend against Mexican side Tigres but it was more so the academy kids and some players returning from injury could get minutes. Key players were rested and George John returned to captain the club on that night. They now go to New England to face the Revs who had to deal with a crazy game last night in Philadelphia. Dallas will going into the game where everyone else is in the standings around them. A win keeps them going but a loss could spell trouble for Schellas Hyndman’s side. Dallas just has to play their game in this one and hope that the Revs are heavy in the legs.

7. Playoffs on the line in San Jose and in LA. Two games close out the night on Saturday that have some playoff implications on them. Sure on paper the Chivas-DC and the San Jose-Chicago games don’t sound like playoff games but they are. In a way this is a mini-playoff series this weekend with these two games. For the Fire it means another win and they are that much closer to the wild card zone, a loss snaps their playoff hopes in half. For DC and Chivas, wins mean they are still very much in the hunt here. A draw or loss mean just the opposite.