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Western Conference Notebook: Galaxy close in on Supporters Shield, FC Dallas faces RSL and more

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BY ADAM SERRANO

The Los Angeles Galaxy are just one win away.

A victory over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday and the Galaxy will clinch the Supporters Shield and the top spot in the MLS playoffs. The Galaxy have won the Shield twice in its history, but not since 2002, a year that also saw the Galaxy win MLS Cup. Los Angeles will look to welcome back Gregg Berhalter who practiced with the first team on Thursday. 

"It’s very difficult to do, and if we do it with a big cushion that would say a lot about what we’ve done this year," said Landon Donovan. " I know there’s been some bumpy patches but I know we’ve been the best team this year."

In addition, to the Galaxy needing a victory to clinch the Shield, the Rapids will have a great deal to play for as the Kansas City Wizards sit hot on their tail in the race for the final playoff berth. A loss against Los Angeles and the Rapids would need a point against their arch nemesis Real Salt Lake at home to clinch a playoff berth. With both clubs needing victories expect a wide open affair at the Home Depot Center. 

CONVEY SHINES UNDER THE RADAR FOR QUAKES

Chris Wondolowski, Geovanni and Jon Busch may have gotten all the accolades for the San Jose Earthquakes, but one player has continued to fly under the radar. Midfielder Bobby Convey. Playing in his first full season for MLS, the versatile player has notched a team high 11 assists — including five game-winning assists, an MLS high– and has been integral in the Earthquakes first ever playoff qualification. 

"I had a great off season and I've played a lot of minutes this year, I've been a team player as much as I can and spurred the team on and we have a great team where everyone works for one another," said Convey. "I was happy to be rewarded for being an all-star and now lets see what comes on the end of the season."

Convey has been vital delivering balls into the Quakes attack that is spearheaded by Wondolowski and looks to be candidate for Comeback player of the year. While Wondolowski is a dark horse candidate for MVP of the year, following the Earthquakes victory over D.C. United, Wondolowski stated that he believes that his teammate is the one who is the most important to the success of San Jose.

"Convey has been team MVP this year," said Wondolowski. "He does so much stuff that doesn't get in the stat book like the way that he tracks back on defense and all of his assists. He'd get my vote for league and team MVP if I could vote for him."

The Earthquakes face off against their former incarnation, the Houston Dynamo on Saturday with an eye to advance their playoff standing.

RSL PREPARE TO BATTLE WITH FC DALLAS IN POTENTIAL PLAYOFF PREVIEW

The Galaxy may clinch the Supporters Shield with a victory, but Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas are going to be eager to keep pace should the Galaxy slip against Colorado. Dallas bring their streak of 19 matches unbeaten to Rio Tinto where Real Salt Lake is unbeaten in 24 games. In a recent interview with a local radio station, RSL owner Dave Checketts stated that their match up with Dallas may be the biggest regular season match that his club has ever been a part of. 

With the Galaxy pulling away, the two look set to play again in the first round of the playoffs with RSL currently ranked second in the Western Conference and FC Dallas in third. Salt Lake's lead is only two points and an FC Dallas victory at Rio Tinto would put Dallas a point ahead of the defending champions and allow them to host the second and final leg of the first round playoff fixture.

CURRENT WESTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF MATCH UPS

Due to the dominance of the Western Conference this year, both playoff brackets will have a Western flavor to them. Here is how the playoffs would look if the season ended today.

(W1) Los Angeles Galaxy vs. (W4) Seattle Sounders

(W2) Real Salt Lake vs. (W3) FC Dallas

In the Eastern Bracket, two west teams would face off against two from the east.

(E1) New York Red Bulls vs. (E4) Colorado Rapids

(E2) Columbus Crew vs. (E3) San Jose Earthquakes.

The Kansas City Wizards remain in the playoff chase and if they win out and Colorado loses their final two matches, they would enter the playoffs as the third seed in the East. The Earthquakes being the only team to switch conferences would immediately be dropped to the bottom of the Eastern bracket and face off against the Red Bulls.

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Will LA clinch the Shield this weekend? Should Convey be Comeback Player of the year? Is FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake, the match of the season? Will the Rapids earn the final playoff spot?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Comments

  1. Again, then what is the relevance of the stat? My point wasn’t that the status quo doesn’t exist, but that the status quo is lacking.

    If anything, the stat as currently defined should just be called what it is, a “lead-giving” assist or goal. A “game-winning” goal could then be given a more meaningful set of parameters. For example, from 82.games.com, the bible of basketball stats:

    “Game Winning Shot Opportunity = 24 seconds or less left in the game, team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 to 2 points.”

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  2. Of course “No matter who you play you have to beat them.” That’s not an argument, though, it’s an excuse to just throw 8 names in a hat and forget the whole thing.

    The entire and sole purpose of a seeding system is to give meaning to the regular season by rewarding teams with better records with an easier path to the final via weaker opponents and home-field advantage. The MLS perversion of seeding, however, actually punishes teams like the Sounders and Galaxy for playing well.

    Your March Madness reference completely undermines your position. There would be a national crisis if the NCAA decided to reshuffle matchups and proceed by anything other than the rigid hierarchy of 1 v 16, 2 v 15, 3 v 14, etc. There would be a similar scandal in the NBA if the 6th seed for some reason had to play the 1st seed (instead of the 3rd seed), but could play the 4th seed if it intentionally lost a couple games down the stretch and fell to the 7th seed. This is precisely the situation the Sounders are in right now, except falling to the 7th has the added benefit of giving them a shot at playing the conference final in front of 40,000+ at Qwest. This makes sense to you?

    Defend it all you want, but all the evidence anyone should need is today’s headline in Seattle’s daily newspaper: “Convoluted MLS postseason confuses even Sounders FC.”

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  3. No. Refining a stat to make it more meaningful is not a new/additional stat.

    Please explain the meaning or usefulness of the gwg as a stat if it “happens when it happens.”

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  4. Just to be clear I think the current system is a joke.

    There shouldn’t be eight team first of all,

    that would solve almost everything, even if you did start doing conferences to early, huh ?

    Anyone have a problem with Columbus-NY and LA-SLC ?

    No. [maybe Dallas]

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  5. Just glad RBNY are not facing Seattle in the first round. Much better to get your playoff legs under you before facing teams like that (and LA, Columbus, RSL).

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  6. I am actually excited about the MLS playoffs this season. Good match-ups all around.

    I still wished the league would switch to a single table. With expansion, the season will be longer with teams playing each other home and away. But with the playoff seeding, and teams playing evenly difficult schedules, there is no point in two conferences.

    When the league is looking to expand past 20 teams into the mid-20s and maybe 30 in the future, then I’d like to see MLS expand to two divisions.

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  7. all over the world the game winner is always who ever scores last. it doesn’t matter if it’s the 1st min. or the 90th min.

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  8. Salt Lake vs Dallas.

    The home streak vs the MLS records falling

    You can rip on the MLS for having playoffs if you don’t like them, but….

    This is a huge matchup that we are probably going to get 3 times in the next 2 weeks. Very exciting.

    You don’t get that in ANY other league in the world !

    None.

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  9. Yeah, it may make more sense for the #1 seed in a conference to play the worst-ranked team from their conference, not just the #4 seed from their conference (with #2 playing the 2nd worst and so on). This way, if there are more than 4 teams from one conference, it is the better teams who make the switch to the other conference, which basically “punishes” the other conference for having a bad year.

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  10. How is it a punishment? No matter who you play, you have to beat them. Real Salt Lake squeaked in and beat al of their opponents. Red Bull squeaked in and beat all but one of theirs. Even NCAA basketball, which has the most over-seeded system in the world, sees upsets. You have to play who you play and win.

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  11. I think less ‘people’ would think ‘it is stupid’ if they didn’t have so many models to mimic in saying so. You can not like the format, but there are plenty of people who do not have a problem with it. And, of course, ‘fixed’ can only mean the way you like it.

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  12. as a sounders fan i think i can atleast give a good example of why the playoff system is so messed up
    we as the 6th (overall) seed have to play number 1 LA (us being the 4th seed in the west) with no shot at hosting the western conference finals.
    but san jose, a place behind us. gets to go be the 3rd seed in the east (with an easier road to the ‘eastern conference’ finals) and if they win, plus the fourth seen in the east, would have a chance to host the conference finals
    where in any sense does this make sense? a team with less points, not only gets an easier road to the conference finals, but if the pieces fall into place can actually host the finals. where the team infront of them has to play the best team, and has absolutely no shot to host the finals

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  13. Because the stat only has whatever relevance it has as indication of “clutchness” or an ability to perform under pressure: A last-second field goal or touchdown pass in American football, a three-point shot with time running out in the fourth quarter, a lead-changing home run in the 9th inning. Or, you know, Landon Donovan, USA/Algeria.

    On the other hand, if Forward A scores five goals in the first-half of five separate games and they happen to hold up for five wins, those goals are no more noteworthy than five goals Forward B scores in the first-half of five separate games, just because Forward B’s goals don’t happen to hold up.

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  14. No offense, but it sounds like you’re drinking Garber Kool-Aid. It’s completely illogical and it makes no sense. From good friends to acquaintances to random people at bars or Qwest I’ve probably explained the system to more than hundred people: every single one has laughed (granted some with less derision with others), and most have frowned, rolled their eyes, mocked.

    Point being: if you’re a league and a sport desperately seeking legitimacy in this country, why serve up big fat softballs to critics and why encourage the long-standing notion that you’re a “funny” league, especially when you’re doing so much good work on so many other fronts to counteract that perception?

    Also, I’m not sure how one two-sentence post on a soccer blog is making a “big deal” about anything. But no, I’m not about to “get over it.” Every season around this time media outlets have to publish articles explaining a complicated and convoluted playoff format because a reasonably intelligent person can’t just look at the playoff seedings and figure it out for him or herself. And every season scores of new fans or fans who just hadn’t figured it out before (like Dave above) chime in on those articles to say the format is stupid and makes no sense. If you think that’s a smart annual ritual for a growing league to experience just as it’s trying showcase and hype the most important and exciting part of its season, more power to you. I’ll keep encouraging others to complain until it’s fixed.

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  15. I think he’s playing Guitar Hero…there just happens to be air instead of a guitar (or fake guitar). I think in his mind, he NAILED “Free Bird” on expert difficulty.

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  16. As I wrote above, I expect the COnferences will become a much bigger deal in future years. Time to get rid of them? Nope. They’re going to be really needed when MLS expands to 20 teams and beyond. No way can the league continue to play an unbalanced schedule — they’ll be just two many games. So, a single table won’t even make sense. For very reasons — cutting down on travel expenses for both teams and traveling fans — and to develop stronger rivalries, MLS will not only make a bigger deal out of the Conferences, the league will probably split each conference into 2 divisions.

    Different than what they do in other countries? I suppose, but then again how many other leagues span a 3,000-mile wide continent and include two of the largest countries in the world? When you look at the geography, MLS is more like the Champions League than the EPL. UEFA doesn’t use a single-table format.

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  17. I should add that I expect MLS will respect the Conferences in the playoff structure after more expansion. Conferences will have to become a bigger deal — we might even see divisions within the Conferences. If so, I’d bet that we get the 4 division winners, plus either second=place finishers, or two wild-cards in each conference, not necessarily being the second-place teams.

    But, we’re not there yet, so the current system works OK, if you don’t make such a big deal out of the quirks.

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  18. It’s a shonde fur de goyim.

    Seriously, it’s really not an embarrassment. It’s just not that big a deal. MLS has figured out a way to make the regular season meaningful and reward the top 8 teams in the league, instead of some lowly team with fewer points. Plus they’ve also maintained the Conferences, which will become more significant as the league expands beyond 20 teams and goes back to an unbalanced schedule.

    Yeah, so New York represented the Western Conference one year, and Real Salt Lake represented the Eastern Conference the next. Get over it. At worst, it’s a chuckle.

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  19. its a shame that despite the balanced schedule, we can’t have a single table. The Galaxy will get punished for being the best team in the better division.

    Shouldn’t the top seed in the league play the lowest seeded team in the playoffs? Time to do away with these conferences, especially when two more western teams enter next year.

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  20. Yeah, the current system is retarded and broken. Either seed 1 through 8, or—if conferences are actually that important to the league—keep the conference playoffs completely separate, just seeding each side 1 through 4 and letting “true” conference champs meet for the Cup. Either would be FAR superior to the current format, which is just an embarrassment to try to explain to already suspicious newbies and Eurosnobs.

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  21. “Playing in his first full season for MLS, the versatile player has notched a team high 11 assists — including five game winners, an MLS lead — and has been integral in the Earthquakes first ever playoff qualification.”

    Does MLS currently consider any goal that ends up being the difference maker a “game-winning goal,” regardless of when the goal is scored? If so, that is just about the most meaningless stat in sports, and I’m not sure why people keep referencing it.

    The stat should be changed so at the very least it only considers second-half goals, although something like the last 10 to 20 minutes—when teams actually start throwing bodies forward and pressing for, you know…game-winning goals—would be even better.

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  22. so that’s how the playoff seedings work?? it would make more sense for when 8 teams make the playoffs for #1 to play #8 and so on. I know they’re trying to make it seem like 2 conferences but come on.

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