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D.C. United hosts Columbus as full MLS playoff schedule announced – football news

Major League Soccer announced its 2018 playoff schedule on Sunday, following the final round of regular-season matches. 

D.C. United, led by the resurgent Wayne Rooney, earned the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and will host the fifth-seed Columbus Crew on Thursday at Audi Field in a knockout round game. 

Third-seeded New York City FC will host the six-seed Philadelphia Union on Wednesday in the East’s other knockout round match, with the winners of those two games set to face the New York Red Bulls and Atlanta United in the conference semifinals.

In the Western Conference, fourth-seed FC Dallas will host the fifth-seeded Portland Timbers on Wednesday, while third-seed Los Angeles FC hosts sixth-seed Real Salt Lake on Thursday. 

Those two winners will move on to the conference semifinal, where Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders await. 

The conference semifinals will take place over two legs, with games Nov. 4, Nov. 8 and Nov. 11.

Winners of the conference semifinals will face off in the two-leg conference finals on Nov. 25 and Nov. 29. Those two winners of those ties will take part in MLS Cup on Dec. 8, at the home of the team with the better regular season record. 

For the full MLS playoff bracket, click HERE. 

 

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Playoff places, seeding & Supporters’ Shield up for grabs on final day of MLS – football news

Eleven Major League Soccer matches will kick off simultaneously on Sunday, and every single one will have playoff implications riding on the result.

Some, like San Jose’s visit to Seattle, have only modest implications, while others, like Los Angeles FC’s trip to face Sporting Kansas City, will determine the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

Then you have the Columbus Crew and LA Galaxy, two teams that can secure playoff spots with victories on Sunday. The Crew have stumbled late in the season, but face a very reasonable task, needing to beat Minnesota United to ensure their place in the postseason. The Galaxy also face a winnable home game against a Houston Dynamo side playing out the string.

The league’s two best teams won’t be facing each other on the field, but they’ll be competing all the same when Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls take the field with the Supporters’ Shield in their sights. Both teams could break the MLS records for points in a season, but only Atlanta can grab the shield and top seed in the MLS playoffs with a win.

Here are the key things to watch for this weekend in MLS:


More than playoffs on the line for Crew, Berhalter


Gregg Berhalter Columbus Crew MLS

Columbus Crew fans will have their first chance to cheer their team on since news came out that new owners had emerged to help potentially keep the Crew in Columbus. Those fans will converge on MAPFRE Stadium hoping to urge the Crew on as they try to save their season.

A win over Minnesota United ensures a playoff place for the Crew, while a a draw or loss would open the door for the Montreal Impact to leapfrog them in the East standings with a win at New England.

The Crew have hit a slump at the worst possible time, managing just one win in six matches to slide from fourth place to trying desperately to hold on to sixth place.

That late-season slide has also thrust Gregg Berhalter into the spotlight. Berhalter has been the frontrunner for the U.S. national team head coach position for months, but that candidacy will look highly questionable if the Crew fail to reach the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Luckily for the Crew, they are facing a Minnesota United side that has the worst road record in MLS (1-13-2).


Can NYCFC stop the Union and halt slide?


David Villa NYCFC 05132018

When Domenec Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira as New York City FC head coach during the summer, he began his MLS tenure winning five of six matches, and looked like the ideal replacement for Vieira.

Things have turned sour since that promising start, with NYCFC having won just two of its past 12 matches. That slide has led to NYCFC going from contending for a top two spot in the East to now being in jeopardy of sliding all the way to fifth and playing on the road in a knockout round match.

NYCFC can still salvage its hold on third place in the East, but must beat a Philadelphia Union side that is 7-2-2 in their past 11 matches. The Union are coming off a 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but they gave the Red Bulls a tough test and will head to Yankee Stadium with the confidence gleaned from settling a new team record for points in a season.

If the Union beat NYCFC, they would secure third place in the East and would host a knockout round match. A loss could drop the Union all the way to sixth place, meaning a road trip for their first playoff match.


Sporting KC and LAFC battle for first in West


Johnny Russell Sporting KC 10272018

Sporting Kansas City and Los Angeles FC have both been building serious momentum in recent months, and now will square off with the top seed in the West playoffs in their sights.

Sporting KC has marched to first place in the West with an 8-2-2 record down the stretch, capped by last week’s big road win at FC Dallas. Up next is a home match against an LAFC squad that has turned on its own hot streak, suffering just one lost in its past 10 matches. Bob Bradley’s squad has coped with the departure of central defender Laurent Ciman, The LAFC defense has held its own, but the attack has been the driving force behind the expansion team’s surge.

A road win would give LAFC the top seed in the West, while a draw or loss would likely force LAFC into third place, and a knockout round match, unless FC Dallas stumbles against the Colorado Rapids.


Galaxy must be careful with dangerous Dynamo


Zlatan Ibrahimovic MLS LA Galaxy 04142018

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heroics have been a big reason for the LA Galaxy’s climb back into the playoff race, but it has been the improvement of the Galaxy’s defense that has pushed them to the brink of a return to the playoffs.

The Galaxy have gone four straight matches without allowing multiple goals, surrendering just two goals during a 3-0-1 surge that has them on the verge of snatching sixth place and a playoff berth away from Real Salt Lake. Interim head coach Dom Kinnear has helped solidify things defensively, settling on the American center back tandem of David Romney and Daniel Steres, with Jonathan Dos Santos and Sebastian Lletget working in central midfield.

The Galaxy must defeat the Dynamo on Sunday and on the surface that seems a simple enough task. The Dynamo haven’t won a road game since May, and have nothing to play for. That said, Houston still has a dangerous attack and has scored multiple goals in three of its past four matches.

The attacking trio of Mauro Manotas, Alberth Elis and Romell Quioto will be a handful for the Galaxy to handle, but their defensive improvements and recent attacking form should give the Galaxy a very good chance of holding off the Dynamo and securing their place in the playoffs.


Supporters’ Shield still up for grabs


Atlanta United Toronto FC MLS 10222018

Toronto FC shattered the MLS record for points in a season a year ago, and on Sunday the reigning MLS champion will do its best to keep Atlanta United from breaking that record at BMO Field.

Atlanta United can secure the Supporters’ Shield with a victory in Toronto, but must do so without injured star Miguel Almiron. The Five Stripes will take on a TFC side finishing up a forgettable season, but with the weapons to play the spoiler role perfectly. Jozy Altidore is out, but Sebastian Giovinco will lead a TFC attack that will try to give their fans a consolation win to close out the season.

A TFC victory could also wind up being a dream gift for the New York Red Bulls, who are poised to snatch the Supporters’ Shield away from Atlanta United if TFC can pull the upset. The Red Bulls face lowly Orlando City, and will look to add to their league-best total of 13 home wins. The Lions have shown they can play the spoiler, knocking off the Columbus Crew last week, but beating the struggling Crew at home is a far different task than trying to become the first road team to win at Red Bull Arena since July.

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D.C. United earns playoff spot, Supporters’ Shield still up for grabs – football news

D.C. United booked their tickets to the MLS Playoffs with a win on Sunday afternoon.

Ben Olsen’s side entered Sunday knowing that a win would complete their late-season surge to the postseason, and they got just that with a 3-1 victory over NYCFC.

Wayne Rooney scored in the eighth minute to put his side ahead, finishing a Luciano Acosta assist following a winding run from the Argentinian playmaker.

Just 16 minutes later, Acosta scored a goal of his own, curling in a shot past Sean Johnson to give the home side a 2-0 lead it would never relinquish.

Rooney added another in the second half, scoring from the penalty spot to emphatically lock up a playoff berth despite a consolation finish from David Villa.

With the win, United seals a spot in the postseason while the Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew will wait until the final week to decide the sixth and final spot.

Atlanta United moved one step closer to the Supporters’ Shield with a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire.

Gerardo “Tata” Martino’s side were led by an early Franco Escobar finish and a Johan Kappelhoff own goal.

With the victory, Atlanta can lock up the Supporters’ Shield next weekend with a win over Toronto FC in their season finale.

The New York Red Bulls, meanwhile, are the only other team still in that hunt as they sit one point behind Atlanta following a 1-0 triumph over the Philadelphia Union.

Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra was the lone scorer on the day, keeping the Red Bulls in the hunt for the league’s top regular season prize. 

Two teams are still alive for the one remaining playoff spot in the East, with the Columbus Crew two points clear of the Montreal Impact heading into the final week of the season. 

While the Crew fell to a 2-1 loss against lowly Orlando City in a match that would have secured a postseason spot, the Impact managed to close the gap with a 2-0 win over Toronto FC. 

Columbus can lock up a playoff spot with a win over Minnesota United next week, but anything short of that will make things very interesting, with the Impact taking on the New England Revolution in their finale. 

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Playoff spots on the line in the penultimate week of the MLS season – football news

Major League Soccer likes to promote the final day of the regular season as Decision Day, but we could see all 12 playoff spots secured after this weekend’s action, a full week ahead of time.

Seven teams are alive for the four unclaimed playoff spots, and two of those teams would require some serious late collapses to lose out on the postseason.

The Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers are comfortably above the playoff lines, with the Crew needing just one win or two draws to ensure a return to the postseason. The Timbers need just a draw in either of their two matches to secure a berth, but Giovanni Savarese’s side has its sights set on trying to pass rival Seattle in the standings to earn home-field in a potential Cascadia Derby playoff clash.

Wayne Rooney has helped D.C. United complete an incredible climb from last place in the East to a playoff position, but it will take one more win to ensure a return to the postseason for D.C. for the first time since 2015. D.C. is four points clear of Montreal for the final playoff spot in the East, and could still make a late run for a home playoff game if it can continue its torrid form.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is hoping to help the LA Galaxy to a similar late-season run into the playoffs, but the Galaxy will need some help to get to the postseason. The Galaxy must win both of their remaining games and hope that Real Salt Lake doesn’t beat Portland this weekend in its final regular season match.

There is plenty more on the line this weekend, from the Supporters’ Shield, to home-field advantage in the knockout rounds, as well as the precious first-round byes now in play in the Western Conference. Adding to the suspense is the fact all Eastern Conference matches will be played at the same time on Sunday, with the full slate of Western Conference matches taking place two hours later.

Here are the key things to watch for this weekend in MLS:


D.C. United eyeing more than a playoff spot


Wayne Rooney D.C. United MLS 2018

When Wayne Rooney arrived in MLS three months ago, few would have envisioned the English star helping D.C. climb all the way into a playoff spot. An 11-4-3 record since Rooney’s arrival has not only helped D.C. climb into a playoff position, but now there’s a chance the club could move as high as fourth place in the East.

Unbeaten in eight matches, D.C. United faces a struggling New York City FC side that has just one win in eight, and suddenly has a shaky hold on third place in the East. A loss to D.C. United could leave NYCFC heading into its season finale against the Philadelphia Union needing a result to ensure a home playoff game in the knockout round. There is even a worst-case scenario that could see NYCFC fall all the way to sixth place by the end of the regular season, if the Union, Columbus Crew and D.C. United win out.

The Montreal Impact need two wins and with have to hope that D.C. doesn’t win either of its remaining matches to sneak into the playoffs, but given how well D.C. United is playing right now, it’s tough to see Ben Olsen’s side slowing down.


RSL’s kids hoping to deny Zlatan’s Galaxy


Real Salt Lake is the only MLS team that won’t be playing on the final day, meaning its trip to Portland on Sunday is its final chance to ensure a playoff berth. A win would lock up RSL’s postseason berth, but beating the Timbers at Providence Park is no easy task, certainly not for an RSL side that has been terrible on the road this season (3-10-3).

If the Timbers beat RSL, or even earn a draw, that suddenly gives life to the Galaxy, currently four points behind RSL for the final playoff spot. The Galaxy have winnable games remaining against Minnesota United and the Houston Dynamo, and have racked up seven points in their past three matches.

Ibrahimovic is expected to make his first start of the season on artificial turf. The Swedish star has avoided playing on fake grass in all but one instance this year, even skipping the MLS All-Star Game in the process, in order to keep from having to risk re-injuring his surgically-repaired right knee. He has recorded at least one goal or assist in six straight matches, and the Galaxy are going to need him to ensure a win against a Loons side that has been much better at home than on the road.


West powers FC Dallas and Sporting KC collide


The top two teams in the Western Conference square off, and things are so tight atop the West that the loser of the match could find itself tumbling multiple spots in the standings.

FC Dallas has held onto first place since the summer, but a loss to Sporting KC could see Oscar Pareja’s men slip all the way to third, out of the spots with first-round byes. Sporting KC will try to become just the second visiting team to win at Toyota Stadium this year, knowing that a loss could drop SKC as far as fourth place. With a trip to lowly Colorado waiting at the end of the season, FC Dallas surely knows that a win on Sunday would all but ensure the top seed in the West, and Dallas should have an edge against a Sporting KC side that is coming off a mid-week trip to Vancouver (albeit a match SKC won).

Los Angeles FC will be hoping to capitalize on whatever outcome takes place at Toyota Stadium. If Bob Bradley’s squad can beat the Vancouver Whitecaps at home, as expected, then the expansion team would be guaranteed to move into one of the top two spots in the West, and could even jump into first place if FCD and SKC tie.

Making things even more interesting is the fact LAFC travels to Sporting KC for the regular season finale.


Supporters’ Shield race a tight one


Josef Martinez Atlanta United MLS August 6 2018

Atlanta United has the edge in the Supporters’ Shield race heading into the final two weekends, but it is far from a straightforward path to the second-year team’s first piece of silverware. 

Miguel Almiron is sidelined by injury, as is Hector Villalba, leaving the Five Stripes without two of their most dangerous weapons. The Chicago Fire have been atrocious on the road this year and aren’t likely to be able to stop Atlanta’s attack, even short-handed, though Ezequiel Barco and Julian Gressel will need to provide Josef Martinez with some service to ensure Atlanta United maintains its one-point lead on the New York Red Bulls in the Supporters’ Shield race.

The Red Bulls have to assume Atlanta is going to win at home, making the trip to Philadelphia a must-win to keep the club’s hopes of a third Supporters’ Shield in six seasons alive. The Union are standing in the way, and are riding a 7-1-2 run in their past 10 matches. They have also made things tough for the Red Bulls, who have managed to win just one of their past four meetings against the Union. While that may be the case, the Red Bulls have had the look of a championship team in recent weeks, and will be looking to send a message to a Union side they could very well wind up seeing again in the playoffs.


Wondo Watch


Chris Wondolowski San Jose Earthquakes MLS 2018

Article continues below

The San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids have been two of the worst teams in MLS this season, but there could still be historical significance when they square off at Avaya Stadium, what with Chris Wondoloski needing two goals to break Landon Donovan’s record for career MLS goals.

Wondolowski’s hunt for the record has been the lone bright spot in San Jose’s abysmal season — at least until Matias Almeyda’s hiring as head coach for 2019 — and interim coach Steve Ralston has made sure to give Wondolowski his chance to make a real run at the record.

The Earthquakes have lost six straight, but Wondolowski has scored goals in his past two matches to give him 10 on the season and a chance of catching Donovan. He didn’t start against the Red Bulls, but you have to think Ralston will start him against a Rapids side that has had one of the league’s worst defenses this year. The Earthquakes close out the season with a trip to Seattle, which has allowed the fewest goals in the league this year, meaning Sunday will be Wondolowski’s most realistic chance to catch or potentially pass Donovan and become the new MLS goal-scoring king. 

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MLS Review: Zlatan hits 20th, Dallas clinches playoff place – football news

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was at it again for the LA Galaxy on Saturday, scoring twice to hit the 20-goal mark on the season and lead his side to a 3-0 win over the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps. 

Ibrahimovic opened the scoring from the penalty spot inside the opening five minutes and doubled his side’s lead just before the hour mark.

And while the former Manchester United star didn’t finish off his hat trick, he won a penalty late on that was put away by Romain Alessandrini to round out the scoring and leave the Galaxy just one point back of the playoff places in the Western Conference. 

Ibrahimovic wasn’t the only former Manchester United star scoring in MLS on Saturday, with Wayne Rooney netting two goals of his own as D.C. United earned an impressive, and vital, 5-0 win over the Montreal Impact. 

Luciano Acosta opened the scoring for United, with Rooney’s double coming either side of two goals from Paul Arriola as the home side strolled to the win. 

The result leaves D.C. just two points back of the Impact and final playoff place in the East, with United holding two games in hand. 

Toronto FC stayed alive in the playoff hunt as well, taking a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution. The defending MLS champion will still need some help to earn a place in the postseason, but survived to fight another day. 

For FC Dallas there are no such worries, with the Texas club locking up a playoff spot with a 0-0 draw against the Portland Timbers on Saturday. 

That result, coupled with Seattle’s 4-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, did do some harm for the Houston Dynamo. Despite taking a 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday the Dynamo could be knocked out the playoffs on Sunday should Real Salt Lake beat Sporting Kansas City. 

The San Jose loss was also notable for Chris Wondolowski’s goal, scored from the penalty spot, which ran his career MLS total to 143, leaving him just two shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time mark. 

LAFC took a tough 3-1 loss to the lowly Chicago Fire, denting the expansion club’s prospects of finishing in the top two places in the Western Conference.

Bob Bradley’s side sit four points back of West leader FC Dallas and could end the weekend four back of SKC as well. 

Article continues below

The top two places in the Eastern Conference were also decided on Saturday when New York City FC fell to Minnesota United. 

The loss cliched a playoff bye for the New York Red Bulls, who will fight it out with Atlanta United for the top spot in the conference starting with tomorrow’s showdown between the two at Red Bull Arena.

For Philadelphia and Columbus, a 0-0 draw gave both clubs a point but means that neither will end the weekend assured of a playoff place.  

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Thomas

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Kcdtran

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MLS Review: Timbers top Colorado, Villa helps Atlanta earn playoff place – football news

The Portland Timbers made it three unbeaten with a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, while David Villa’s late free kick against D.C. United helped Atlanta lock down a playoff spot. 

Sebastian Blanco set up both goals for the Timbers against the Rapids, first helping Jeremy Ebobisse get the club on the board and then setting up Diego Valeri to double the lead. 

The Rapids had a penalty overturned in the second half, helping dent the club’s cause as a the club struggles to close out a rough season. 

Sporting Kansas City secured a 1-0 win over Orlando City to boost its bid for a top two finish in the Western Conference. 

Felipe Gutierrez scored the game’s only goal, his first league goal since March, to give his side a timely win. 

Article continues below

SKC returns to action next week against the bottom team in the West, the San Jose Earthquakes, but also faces a closing run that includes direct rivals for one of the top two places in the conference in FC Dallas and LAFC. 

In the Eastern Conference David Villa scored a late free kick to earn a 1-1 draw for New York City FC against D.C. United. 

The result secured a playoff spot for Atlanta United due to D.C. dropping points. 

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Atlanta United earns MLS playoff spot thanks to D.C. United draw – football news

Atlanta United’s spot in the MLS playoffs is assured thanks to D.C. United’s draw with New York City FC on Saturday. 

A late free kick from David Villa was enough for NYCFC to earn a 1-1 draw on the night, with Atlanta only needing United to drop points to be sure of a playoff spot. 

Atlanta is now the second team to earn a playoff spot for 2018, following the New York Red Bulls. 

Those two sides are fighting it out at the top of the Eastern Conference standings, with NYCFC following five points back of Atlanta and six back of the Red Bulls. 

Western Conference leader FC Dallas also is sitting on 49 points, level with NYCFC, with all four sides still in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. 

Article continues below

Atlanta returns to action next Saturday against the Colorado Rapids while the Red Bulls face a trip to take on D.C. United. 

In what could be the decisive match in both the race to top the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield, the Red Bulls and Atlanta United square off on Sept. 30 in New York. 

The top two finishers in each conference earn a first-round playoff bye. 

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Wright goal ends NYCFC’s home unbeaten run – football news

New York City’s poor MLS form continued as the New England Revolution ended their winless run with a 1-0 victory on Wednesday.

Brian Wright’s second-half goal at Yankee Stadium proved to be the winner for the Revolution, who boosted their playoff chances with the win while handing NYCFC its first home loss of the season. 

The loss extended City’s winless run to four matches.

For the Revolution, the win was  their first victory since June and moved the club to within three points of the sixth-placed of the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference.

Article continues below

Wright had already struck the post before scoring his first MLS goal in the 71st minute for Brad Friedel’s men.

Cristian Penilla’s effort was parried by City goalkeeper Sean Johnson and Wright reacted quickest to tuck away the rebound for the match-winner.

While NYCFC’s form has been poor of late, the club remains in solid playoff position, sitting third in the table and 15 points clear of the playoff-chasing Revolution. 

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MLS Review: Sounders set record, Galaxy smashed by RSL – football news

The Seattle Sounders are still streaking, with the club running their winning streak to an MLS record eight games with a 3-1 result against Sporting Kansas City. 

Diego Rubio put the visiting side in front two minutes in, but Raul Ruidíaz pulled Seattle level before a Graham Zuzi own goal gifted the Sounders the lead. Nicolas Lodeiro struck from the spot to make sure of the result before the hour mark.

The LA Galaxy had no such luck as they took a 6-2 beating at the hands of Real Salt Lake despite going a goal in front in the first minute. 

Ashley Cole and Zlatan Ibrahimovic set up Jonathan dos Santos for the early strike only to see Salt Lake respond with goals from Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach before halftime. 

Jefferson Savarino doubled the lead shortly after the break before Kreilach struck again to put the home side up 4-1. 

Romain Alessandrini gave the visiting side some hope in the 63rd but Rusnak scored his second on the night and Kreilach his third to make sure there would be no comeback. 

Bacary Sagna netted for the Montreal Impact in a 3-0 win, with Rod Fanni opening the scoring and Ignacio Piatti scoring in second-half stoppage time. 

Santiago Mosquera netted a brace for FC Dallas as the club claimed a 4-2 win in the Texas derby, holding the club the top of the Western Conference table. 

Carlos Vela’s brace made sure that LAFC kept pace, with the Mexico star leading his side to a 4-2 win over Toronto FC. The loss is another blow for the defending MLS cup champion, with the time for turning things around growing short for TFC. 

Scott Caldwell and Lawrence Olum split second-half goals as the New England Revolution and Portland Timbers shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. 

Orlando City and the Philadelphia Union also split the points in a 2-2 draw, while New York City FC fell 2-1 to the Columbus Crew and the Vancouver Whitecaps took a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. 

 

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