The final month of the MLS regular season is upon us, with eight more play-off places up for grabs. Unbelievably, not one side is yet to be mathematically out of contention, so everyone has a part to play. FC Dallas, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC have already qualified but could easily play a part in others’ qualification/elimination. Here’s a detailed run down of all the possible scenarios that could happen this weekend alone.
Wow. A lot to take in there, and it seems to have for the better of the league itself; when Toronto fought back to 3-3 against the Red Bulls, it was declared that Toronto had instead made the play-offs, only for the announcement of FC Dallas being the first team to qualify being made just a day later. There is something off about a league where 60% of the sides can compete for the biggest prize, considering for example Seattle are currently 12 points behind leaders Dallas in 6th, yet to be fair mathematically Seattle could even tie with Dallas on points, although unlikely.
It could well be up for debate once new franchises LA, Atlanta and Minnesota go live, as the league will increase, making MLS the biggest top tier league in the world, and all sides having more matches to play in the regular season. The play-offs stretches the MLS calendar to its limit already, with a further 17 fixtures (7 for each club who makes it all the way from the first knockout round) after 34 regular season matches each (apart from the 2 who get byes). It’ll be interesting to see if any changes are made, as despite the issues raised here, the play-offs is the most commercial and appealing period for MLS viewers around the world.
Seattle bulldoze fortress Stubhub and go above the red line
The Sounders are above the red line for the first time this year after 2 wins in a week, the latter a hard fought 1-0 home win over Chicago Fire, but much more notable was the probably season-defining 4-2 thumping of LA Galaxy on their own turf. Jordan Morris made his mark yet again, with a 6th match-winning goal performance, the highlight seeing him power past LA’s Steres on the wing to make it 2-1 with an accomplished finish. Morris is now on 12 goals for the season, only 5 shy of the record for rookie goals in a season, set by Orlando City’s Clye Larin just a year ago. He does however now hold the goals record for an American rookie, originally set by Pat Noonan in 2003 with 10.
Their upturn in form comes from a combination of off and on pitch changes; the introduction of interim coach Brian Schmetzer, transforming Seattle’s record from 6-12-2 under previous coach Sigi Schmid to 12-13-5, but also the introduction of Nicolas Lodeiro, both of which appeared to have rejuvenated everyone around them. The DP signing from Boca Juniors has been a revelation with 3 goals and 8 assists in just 10 matches. It has certainly alleviated some of the damage brought by the new that Clint Dempsey will miss the remainder of the season due to an irregular heartbeat. “We lost Dempsey and what has this team done? They’ve just continued,” he said. “We’ll definitely make preparations, it’s a big loss, but we’re going to go up to Vancouver trying to win.”