We’re in Week 28 of the Major League Soccer season, and that means we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. You know what I’m talking about. Playoffs. Who in their right mind doesn’t get excited about playoffs? This is the time where games mean so much more – every point counts.
This year has finally seen a surge in the Eastern Conference – something this Columbus Crew fan has been waiting for. I know you West Coasters like to boast about your teams prowess, but to me, it’s about time we get to talk about D.C. United, Columbus Crew, Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls.
But Hell, let’s be honest. Anything is game when it comes to the MLS playoffs. Anyone can make it and anyone can surprise you. Take Chicago Fire for example. Haven’t heard too much of anything from them this season. Until this past week, when a mid-week game with Toronto FC shot the Fire into second place in the East. I didn’t even realize they were quietly keeping a flot in the east.
Things are tight and interesting in the Eastern Conference. Everyone in the top five are within three points of each other. And as most of them are playing each other this weekend, come Monday, things might look a bit different.
One of the biggest games to see this weekend out of the East will – I think – be the Columbus Crew v. New York Red Bulls. The Crew are in fifth and the Red Bulls have been sitting in third. NYRB have been on a streak this season, thanks to their constant evolving squad. But when you get it right, you get it right, and it seems Hans Backe has stumbled on something with this team he’s built. It won’t be easy for Columbus, but the Crew having been having a hot streak of their own lately thanks to new additions.
Jairo Arrieta and Federico Higuain up front have been a fury of nature for the past seven games with the Crew. And Chris Birchall has provided an anchor in the midfield for them. After a disappointing display against New England last week, these guys will be itching to bounce back and claim three points, which would put them in a good spot, especially if Houston fall tonight. On the opposite site, New York will be looking to their fierce forwards to come up big too and their back line to be strong. But with the likes of Kenny Cooper, Heath Pearce, Dax McCarthy and, of course, Thierry Henry, the Crew have their work cut out for them. But it’s not impossible.
If you want a good game tonight, you need to check out the Sporting Kansas City v. Houston game. That one could really mix up the points. A win for SKC will continue their lead of the Eastern Conference, but a win from Houston will shoot them up to second and make the weekend all that more interesting.
When it comes to the Western Conference though, I have two words for you: Cascadia Cup. One of the biggest, fiercest rivalries in Major League Soccer is between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers. This is going to be about more than points and playoff spots, this will be about guts and glory and pride. Portland’s interim head coach Gavin Wilkinson told the media yesterday:
“The Cascadia Cup is second on the list behind MLS Cup, and making the playoffs is something that is probably out of reach right now and the Cascadia Cup will hopefully be a little bit of a positive going into the end of this season.”
So you can imagine, Saturday’s game could get chippy and brilliant and interesting. I’ll definitely be tuning it to catch the action!
Here’s your Soccer Saturday schedule! And be sure to check back for posts about this weekend’s games!
1 p.m. EDT – Toronto FC v. Philadelphia Union
3:30 p.m. EDT – Portland Timbers v. Seattle Sounders
7 p.m. EDT – New York Red Bulls v. Columbus Crew
7:30 p.m. EDT – New England Revolution v. D.C. United
* This is another one to keep your eye on. D.C. lost captain Dwayne De Rosario during the international friendly break. Can Chris Pontius and company step up and save their playoff chances?
8:30 p.m. EDT – FC Dallas v. Vancouver Whitecaps
8:30 p.m. EDT – Chicago Fire v. Montreal Impact
10:30 p.m. EDT – Chivas USA v. San Jose Earthquakes