Photo by Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports Images
By TATE STEINLAGE
As the conclusion to Major League Soccer’s regular season draws near, a number of teams’ playoff aspirations will depend on their next few results and, in some cases, a little bit of help.
Wednesday night’s MLS slate features three clubs vying for a spot in the postseason, including a Toronto FC side that has won just twice in their last six matches. TFC forward Jermain Defoe made his first appearance since Aug. 23 last week against L.A. and will look to play a key role against the Houston Dynamo, who currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Stateside, the Portland Timbers will look to take over the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Providence Park. The two teams met on Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif., as winger Rodney Wallace led the Timbers to a 3-2 victory.
Here’s a closer look at Wednesday’s matchups:
Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 7:30 p.m., MLS LIVE/TSN/CSN
Toronto FC (11-12-7, 40 points) cannot secure a postseason berth Wednesday, nor can they be eliminated from contention. However, TFC can spoil the Houston Dynamo’s (10-14-6, 36 points) postseason dreams, while helping their own cause, with a win at BMO Field.
TFC is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 3-0 loss to the Galaxy after winning two-straight games prior to Saturday. Manager Greg Vanney’s club sit in sixth place heading into the week, one point behind the Columbus Crew for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a matchup with the fourth-place New York Red Bulls on the horizon.
Houston hasn’t missed the playoffs in four years, but a loss Wednesday will change that. The Dynamo can settle for a tie, but it’ll make their path to the playoffs that much more difficult. A win, on the other hand, can jolt Houston into seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one-point shy of TFC and four-points behind the playoff “red line.”
The Dynamo had a five-match unbeaten streak snapped Saturday by Thierry Henry and the Red Bulls. Henry led the Red Bulls to the 1-0 victory despite Houston holding an advantage in possession and an equal amount of shots on goal.
Toronto FC — Manuel Aparicio, Kyle Bekker, Doneil Henry, Quillian Roberts
Houston Dynamo — Boniek Garcia, Luis Garrido
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m., MLS LIVE/ROOT/CSN
The Timbers (10-9-12, 42 points) knocked the Earthquakes (6-13-11, 29 points) out of playoff contention five days ago at Buck Shaw Stadium. San Jose cannot do the same Wednesday in the Rose City, but they can sever the Timber’s chances with a road win.
The Timbers enter Wednesday one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps for fifth in the Western Conference. Midfielder Rodney Wallace has stepped up big time following the loss of captain Will Johnson, scoring a brace Saturday en route to the 2-1 victory. Manager Caleb Porter’s ever-changing back four will look to stay focused for 90 minutes to keep Chris Wondolowski from scoring a second goal in as many games against the Timbers.
San Jose will be forced to compete without Pablo Pintos after the defender picked up a red card in the third minute of second-half stoppage time Saturday. The Earthquakes will also miss three other players to international duty. Manager Mark Watson said over the weekend that “the rest of the season is probably about pride now,” as the Earthquakes look to snap the club’s second-longest winless streak of 11 games.
Portland Timbers — Alvas Powell
San Jose Earthquakes — Victor Bernardez, Cordell Cato, Atiba Harris
What do you think of Wednesday night’s games? Will Houston stay alive in the Eastern Conference? Can Portland maintain their postseason hopes?
Let us know in the comments below.