MLS 2011 Week 31: What To Watch For

MLS 2011 Week 31: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 13, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 31, Features, What To Watch For

RSL and Colorado face off tomorrow in a big Rocky Mountain Cup match. (Getty Images)

First off, I wanted to start off this post with a little “hey, I’m sorry” message. I know the amount of posts have gone down over the last week or so, mostly due to work. Sometimes you gotta let the job that pays the bills get in the way of the fun stuff. So, if things are quiet around here, fear not, I’m just working.

Any who, we’re down to the final couple weekends of the 2011 season. Four clubs have clinched playoff tickets, while six other spots remain open. A few clubs can clinch this weekend with wins but it will be more about playoff positions than anything else.

Time to get down to the nitty-gritty on what I’ll be looking for in this weekend’s action.

1. Rocky Mountain Fun. The Rocky Mountain Cup has typically decided over the last couple years who would be in the playoffs and who will be sitting at home. Not this year, RSL is already in the playoffs and really the Rapids will be too if they can get a point or two out of their last games. What will be fun to watch in this one is whether or not RSL can get off their four-game slump and defend or whether or not the Rapids can put another positive game together.

RSL has to get out of this slump though as they move into the playoffs. Sure, having no Kyle Beckerman is part of it but at some point this club has to stop blaming everyone else and focus on themselves here. One game with ref issues is one thing but after four games if you are still complaining about that issue it likely means the club has some problems too.

2. Will Portland make it interesting? The Timbers have three games left, a game-in-hand on some clubs and tomorrow’s home game against the Houston Dynamo is a major one. A win there and their playoff hopes continue to remain in tact, but a loss as we all know means they’re likely done here.

The Timbers have to make the most of the Dynamo at home here. Pressure early and often and make sure Brad Davis isn’t allowed to spray the ball all over their defense. The midfield battle in this one will particularly fun to watch with Davis going against Jack Jewsbury.

In a way I’m sure the league is keeping watch on this one, you have to think they would love to somehow see Portland get a home game (or two) in the playoffs with those fans as well.

3. Sporting looks to clinch, NY looks to hold on. For the moment it seems the New York Red Bulls will be in the playoffs. Barely. New York has two big games left against two of the best teams in their conference, KC and Philadelphia. With Houston, DC and Portland all in the chase around the Red Bulls, this is a must-win game. New York has to be tough on defense to slow down the quick attack from KC, while being smart on offense.

KC can clinch their playoff ticket this weekend but it will be interesting to see if they end up as the top club in the East or if it is the Union. Both teams are battling it out and with both playing New York, who is desperate to reach the playoffs here will make it even more interesting. KC will be fine if they end up with a draw here as they aren’t in a must-win mode like the Red Bulls. They need to make sure their offense keeps going here and that their defense holds shape as they head into the post season.

4. Playoff implications for DC, Columbus and Philly. Both the Crew and the Union are playing teams already out of playoff contention. For the Union they get a Toronto club that may be more focused on their CCL game next week with FC Dallas than this regular season game. That could be a good thing that helps lift them to the top of the Eastern Conference. Columbus has New England – who is just hoping not to be the Wooden Spoon recipient this season for worst overall record.

Then you have DC United. They host the Chicago Fire in a must-win for both sides. They each did themselves no favors last night by losing key games. I think the Fire are done really after last night’s loss to Dallas. Their attack only came alive at the end of the match but their defense just looked outmatched by a quicker Dallas team. United will have to get their attack going somehow, especially if Dwayne De Rosario sits another game out.

5. Did Dallas turn the tide? Last night was typical FC Dallas soccer – not great in possession, solid in defense and quick in the attack. In the end it was enough to get a big 2-1 win on the road in Chicago. With games left against Vancouver (this weekend) at home and on the road in San Jose, it isn’t completely out of the question for Dallas to sneak back into the top three in the Western Conference. Should RSL continue their stumble and Dallas win out, those two will flip-flop. Weird. I doubt many, if any, Dallas fans want that to really happen. They want to win out for sure but they’d also be lying if they told you they weren’t secretly rooting for RSL to pick up a win tomorrow night or the following week against Portland.

But has the tide turned for Dallas – who went a whole month without scoring? I think so. Even with an additional CCL game next week, Dallas looked rested and fresh for a change last night. Getting those days off last week certainly helped. Their offense clicked again and the defense, aside from a nice goal by Sebastien Grazzini, was it’s old tough self.

6. Not so SuperClasico. We end the week with the LA Derby. To be fair, I don’t think the league even really cares about this one anymore. With LA already locked up with their second straight Supporters’ Shield and Chivas eliminated from playoff contention, this one lacks a big punch.

Chivas can still make this one interesting by causing LA to stumble just before the playoffs. But with LA having a few days rest after the New York game last week, I can’t imagine that this one will be overly competitive. But do keep in mind that Juan Pablo Angel will be looking for some revenge here for being traded off to Chivas for Robbie Keane earlier in the year. I suppose that is one decent story line to consider for Sunday.