- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On October 4, 2012
- 1 Comments
- 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 31, Features
Three more clubs have been eliminated from playoff contention. It happened that quickly last night when the Vancouver Whitecaps broke their seven-game winless streak to beat Chivas USA by a commanding 4-0 scoreline.
The hunt for the final five playoff spots goes into another weekend set of games. Some big questions on the horizon as Dallas hopes to keep pace with Vancouver, Chicago hopes to rebound after their bad loss last night against Philadelphia and the rest of the East wonders who will catch Sporting Kansas City.
Here are some items I’ll be keeping watch on this weekend as we inch closer to the final week of the regular season.
1. Can Dallas hold serve in LA? Well, the Western Conference playoff race is down to it’s final two horses. Vancouver made a big statement last night against Chivas USA, downing the lowly Goats 4-0. For the first time in about two or three months, the Whitecaps looked like a club that was meant to be in the playoffs. Then again Chivas has made many clubs look this way this season.
Now the question becomes, can Dallas follow suit this weekend against Chivas in LA? Dallas has the game advantage now in the standings over Vancouver and it comes at a big time. Given how the Caps just put four on Chivas, it will inch them closer to Dallas in the overall goals scored column in the standings. That one is huge for both sides should these two club end up tied on points after 34 games – which could happen.
Dallas will need to take care of business on the road and now that their club is healthy, it is a perfect time to show the rest of the West what they are made of here. Dallas should follow the Vancouver game plan from last night, work the wide areas with Brek Shea and Jackson, find guys up front like Blas Perez and use a stiff defense to keep the worst offense off the scoreboard. It was nearly that easy for Vancouver last night, and it should be for Dallas on Sunday.
2. Will the Fire rebound in NY? It probably isn’t the best time for Frank Klopas’ team to have a two game bender. Losing on the road to Sporting KC is one thing but dropping a home game to the Philadelphia Union is a bigger eye opener. Sure, it was a trap game – we all could see that coming a mile away. But still, Chicago is the more talent squad here and they had to win that one.
Now the Fire head to New York, a venue that only one team has won in this season (SKC). The Fire have looked shaky in these last two games. It seems the confidence of their offense has taken a serious dip while the midfield can’t seem to get their act together and the defense is letting in some easier than normal goals.
The Fire have to be careful here as a week ago their playoff positioning looked great but now they could be staring at a loss in New York that could see D.C. United pass them in the standings. That would could mean an eventual wild card match with Houston or Columbus, a game they will want to avoid.
3. LA and RSL give playoff preview. We know all about each side. The LA Galaxy bring the stars across the board while Real Salt Lake brings a big team-first motto. The two meet this weekend in a big playoff preview match. If the standings finish this way today, RSL would be hosting LA in this series.
The two sides are separated by two points at the moment thanks to RSL’s latest little win streak (winners of three out of their last four). LA hosts this big matchup this weekend and will want to set the tone for a potential playoff series to come.
The thing to consider in this is how LA will deal with the loss of AJ DeLaGarza here. While we know Omar Gonzalez is back and healthy, he needs DeLaGarza in the middle of the defense with him to do some of his dirty work. A team with quality speed up front and do so much damage to LA when they go without DeLaGarza. LA will want to counter the speed up front from RSL and use their physical play to slow them down in this one.
4. Crew holding on for dear life. One thing you can count on is if the Crew fail to reach the playoffs (heck this goes for anyone that is still in contention in the East), that someone if not a few someones will complain about the playoff format being unfair to the teams with more points compared to the fifth seed in the West that have less.
I get it but the fact is a team like Columbus has to get a win here this weekend or else they are likely toast in the grand scheme of things. D.C. has an easy(ish) match with Toronto this weekend and Houston hosts the Montreal Impact. Both of those clubs should come away with three points – putting more pressure on the Crew to do the same at home against SKC.
Columbus has to find a way to involve their attack and other ways to slow down the speed of SKC. Too tough tasks against a very good and hot team at the moment. Sporting KC comes into this game with the Crew unbeaten in their last eight. But food for thought, their last loss came against this same Columbus team back in late July. Hmmm.
5. Cascadia overload. Just another weekend with a Cascadia Cup game huh? Well, this one is probably going to decide the Cup for this season as Seattle hosts Portland in a big match for both teams. Seattle has been slumping against good competition and even though the Timbers have been “meh” this season, this rivalry will take a lot out of the Sounders here on Sunday.
A huge crowd is expected for this one as well, close to 66k or more at CenturyLink Field. That is impressive to say the very least. Just a few thousand shy of the all-time MLS record for attendance at a regular season game.
For Seattle it is simple, they must get Fredy Montero involved early and often. He loves these big stages and he always does well against the Timbers. Last week the Sounders were cooled off by the Whitecaps in a game that yielded very little offense for the Sounders. Having an active and hungry Montero gives Seattle their best chance at winning this game – plain and simple.