MLS Week 34: A Look Ahead

MLS Week 34: A Look Ahead

Major League Soccer

MLS Week 34: A Look Ahead

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Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

After 33 weeks, the MLS playoff picture will be decided Sunday.

Starting atop the table, both the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas have a chance at the Supporters’ Shield. The Red Bulls can lock up the team’s second trophy in three seasons with a win over the Chicago Fire, while FCD look to knock off the San Jose Earthquakes to take advantage of any dropped points by the Eastern Conference leaders.

The Quakes, meanwhile, are in a battle for their postseason lives in a crowded Western Conference. If the Quakes are to make the playoffs, it will come at the expense of the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers or Sporting KC as the Western Conference remains wide open heading into the final week.

Meanwhile in the East, the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC battle for playoff positioning, while Orlando City will need a miracle to lock up November soccer.

Here’s a closer look at all of this weekend’s MLS action:

MONTREAL IMPACT vs. TORONTO FC (Sunday, 5 p.m., MLS Live)

While both sides have already clinched playoff berths, both the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC have plenty to play for Sunday.

The winner of Sunday’s clash will earn, at worst, an opening round home game, while a bye into the conference semifinals still remains a possibility given other results. The loser, however, will be forced to go on the road in the opening round of the postseason.

TFC’s case will be boosted by the return of Jozy Altidore as the U.S. Men’s National Team forward has finished serving his red card suspension. The club will be missing centerback Damien Perquis, though, while the Impact continue to build with towards the postseason as Dilly Duka and Justin Mapp could return to the lineup Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. ORLANDO CITY (Sunday, 5 p.m., MLS Live)

Technically, Orlando City can still make the playoffs. They’ll just need a miracle result to do it.

Entering Sunday, Orlando City sits three points behind the New England Revolution, who also hold an eight-goal advantage over the expansion side. A blowout win over the Union is all that will suffice for Orlando, who will also have one eye on a potential Revs defeat to NYCFC.

To better Orlando’s case slightly, the Union will be weak in defense following Maurice Edu’s season-ending surgery. Steven Vitoria is also suspended for Friday’s clash, leaving the Union a bit shorthanded in the back heading into the team’s final game of yet another disappointing campaign.

COLUMBUS CREW vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 5 p.m., Fox Sports 1)

Sunday’s clash between the Columbus Crew and D.C. United is simple, as the winner books a spot in the conference semifinals.

Meanwhile, loser of Sunday’s clash will be forced to navigate an opening round matchup, while a draw opens the door for either TFC or Montreal to make a leap into the conference’s second spot.

Unfortunately for the Crew, Sunday’s will be contested without Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain, who both miss out due to suspension. D.C. United will also miss a key contributor, as Davy Arnaud remains out with concussion symptoms.

NEW YORK CITY FC vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Sunday 5 p.m., MLS Live)

Mired in a rough stretch, Sunday’s clash with NYCFC is more about recovering form than anything for the New England Revolution.

The Revs are all but locked into a postseason spot, as only a massive loss paired with a blowout Orlando City win will see the reigning Eastern Conference champions fall out of the postseason. Still, stuck in an 0-3-1 slide, the Revs could sure use some momentum heading into the playoffs.

NYCFC, meanwhile, will not be making a postseason appearance in the club’s inaugural season. Now looking to build for 2016, NYCFC is coming off two straight losses following a three-game win streak.

CHICAGO FIRE vs. NEW YORK RED BULLS (Sunday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/ESPN 3)

Just three points stand between the New York Red Bulls and the club’s second Supporters’ Shield in three seasons.

To do so, the Red Bulls will have to go through the Chicago Fire, a team that has proven to be quite the thorn this season. The Fire defeated the Eastern Conference front-runners, 3-2, in August before squandering a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss last month.

The Red Bulls should see the return of Matt Miazga following a combination of international duty and suspension, while the Fire will once again be without Sean Johnson in goal.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Sunday, 7 p.m. MLS Live/ESPN 3)

The Seattle Sounders’ standing in the postseason remains very much up in the air.

A win Sunday over Real Salt Lake would lock up a postseason berth, and could go as far as booking a bye from the opening playoff round. However, depending on other results, a loss or draw could knock the Sounders out entirely.

Luckily for the Sounders, the team enters in magnificent form. Unbeaten in seven, despite three-straight draws, the Sounders now take on an RSL side that will be concluding its season without Kyle Beckerman.

FC DALLAS vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Sunday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/ESPN)

Sunday’s clash between FC Dallas and the San Jose Earthquakes will prove vital for both sides.

One one side is FC Dallas, who, with a result and some help from the Chicago Fire, can lock up the club’s first ever trophy in the Supporters’ Shield. Having gone 3-0-1 in the last four games, FCD has already clinched the top spot out West.

The Quakes, meanwhile, will need points to lock up a postseason berth. A draw would require a Sporting KC loss to the LA Galaxy, while a win would still require a slip up from Sporting KC or the Sounders. Making that process just a bit more difficult will be the absence of Anibal Godoy, who will miss out on Sunday’s action due to yellow card accumulation.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Sunday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/ESPN 3 )

Following Sunday’s action, the Vancouver Whitecaps can find themselves anywhere between second and sixth in a crowded Western Conference.

Currently, the Whitecaps sit third, and will be hoping for an LA Galaxy slip-up to lock up a home game in the conference semis. However, they will have to take care of their own business first, even in the absence of starting centerback Pa Modou Kah.

The Dynamo have no such desperation, as the club looks to build for next season while impressing manager Owen Coyle in one final 2015 contest.

SPORTING KC vs. LA GALAXY (Sunday, 7 p.m, Fox Sports 1)

After a surprising midweek defeat to the Colorado Rapids, Sporting KC are in very real danger.

The U.S. Open Cup winners fell, 2-0, to the Rapids on Wednesday, opening the door for a potential playoff miss. A win will still see the club book a postseason berth, but a draw or loss would require FC Dallas to keep the Earthquakes at bay.

Sporting KC will also be taking on an opponent with their own ambitions, as the Galaxy look to lock up a first-round bye. A Galaxy loss could see the team fall all the way into fifth, a position that would include a road game to open the playoffs.

PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. COLORADO RAPIDS (Sunday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/ESPN 3)

The Portland Timbers are yet another beneficiary, or victim, of an ever-tight Western Conference.

With a win, the Timbers, who will be without Diego Valeri, could lock up a conference semifinal spot if both the Galaxy and Whitecaps drop points. A point will be enough to lock up a postseason berth, but a loss could see the Timbers drop out entirely due to the club’s lackluster goal differential.

For the second time this week, the Rapids will look to play spoiler after already knocking down Sporting KC midweek. In addition, the Rapids will enter a Providence Park that has proven far less defended to that of years past, as the Timbers have won just seven home games all season.

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