Seattle Sounders face LA Galaxy in MLS Supporters' Shield decider
Seattle v LA Galaxy for all the marbles – part two
It’s rare in football that big occasions live up to the hype. Many top-billed Super Sundays involving the two league-leading, star driven teams have devolved into the ether of a stodgy 1-0 win. Last weekend, however, even couldn’t take away from the involved and revealing between the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders.
Though it appeared last weekend the Galaxy would run away with the spoils after taking a 2-0 lead with goals from Baggio Husidic and Marcelo Sarvas, Seattle rallied courtesy of goals from Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle in the 69th and 72nd minute. Neither side could pick up a winner, though LA went down to 10 men after LA centre half Omar Gonzalez picked up a controversial second yellow (the game really had everything).
While exciting, this should also be good news for Seattle this Saturday, facing an on their own turf at CenturyLink against a team without their key defender, and in need of only a draw to win (though they’ll be tied on points, Seattle has 19 wins to LA’s 17).
“Should” because Seattle haven’t managed to beat LA at home since 2012, also the same year they last posted a clean sheet against the Galaxy. This is of course a pitifully small sample. But it’s also MLS, and LA would love to mark Landon Donovan’s last regular season match with a title-winning victory. More hype to live up to, for both teams.
Seeding, seeding, seeding!
What compels someone to watch more than one game on the final day of the league season when all but one (more on that below) of the playoff spots have been determined? Why, playoff seeding of course! There’s still time to speculate on the most opportune potential path to the MLS Cup final for your respective club, which tends to mean avoiding the one-and-done midweek wildcard games.
There are several seeding implications in both conferences this weekend. In the East, the can theoretically nab third place and avoid the conference 4th and 5th seed playoff game if a) they beat their struggling opponents Sporting Kansas City, and b) the Union somehow beat Columbus at Crew Stadium. Otherwise, as it stands New York will likely have to play either SKC or the Crew for a chance to get into the conference semifinals.
In the West, Real Salt Lake can only watch and hope, having played their final regular season game already against Chivas USA which they won 2-0. They’ll need the fifth-spot chasing to post an away victory or a draw against FC Dallas, a team with four wins in their last six matches and a 12-1-3 home record.
Not earth-shattering stuff maybe, but potentially big implications down the line ... or not. LA won the MLS Cup in 2012 after playing the wild card, though no other wild card team has featured in a final since the play-in game was introduced in 2011.
Cascadia playoff fight reaches final round
It’s down the wire now for the battle for the final playoff spot in the league, and the have the thinnest of edges over their Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers.
On 47 points to the Timber’s 46, Vancouver will play their game at home to the visiting Colorado Rapids, a team with nothing to play for but dignity and the hope in avoiding finishing below either or San Jose. Moreover the Caps’ form heading into this weekend’s match continues to impress despite a difficult 0-0 draw against the Quakes last week. Should Mauro Rosales continue his excellent play of late, with Erik Hurtado and Kekuta Manneh doing the hard work ahead of him, the Caps will do well against the abysmal Rapids.
Portland face a much more difficult task. They will face an FC Dallas eager to finish third, and will do so with one of their best players, defender Norberto Paparatto, on suspension for yellow card accumulation. They’ll not only likely need a win against a team with an excellent home record, but they’ll need the Caps to lose or draw their match in the process.
The one hidden razor in the glove for coach Caleb Porter is the knowledge that Timbers have a superior goal difference to the Whitecaps, which will be crucial should Vancouver lose. At that point the Timbers would only need a draw to go through. With Portland kicking off an hour and a half into Vancouver’s game, coach Caleb Porter might want to prepare more than one halftime team talk should the Timbers still be in it. Otherwise this is the Caps’ playoff spot to win.
Last Hurrah for MLS MVP candidates
First impressions count for a lot in life, but last impressions carry weight when it comes to deciding things like the MLS Most Valuable Player award. Thought I don’t have the inside track on the relative preparedness of the various media, players, and managers who will vote on the prestigious prize, human nature dictates there could be a few who might watch a little more closely this weekend to make their decision.
Certainly a heroic performance on the part of Robbie Keane against Seattle this weekend after he went AWOL on the pitch last Sunday may seal the deal for some, particularly as the Republic of Ireland international has been in the front-running for much of the season and finished second to Mike Magee in 2013 in MVP voting. For the iconoclasts, another stellar performance from New England Revs phenom Lee Nguyen in their home game against Toronto FC this weekend could finally tip the scales in his favour.
But the favourite for the MVP nod is Obafemi Martins, who earned two assists in Seattle’s 2-2 draw with the Galaxy last weekend, pushing him to 11 on the year to go with his 17 goals. Martins , and the 29-year-old former Newcastle and Internazionale forward could leave MVP voters with fond memories should he play a vital role in helping the Sounders win the Supporters Shield. Just don’t tell him the award is a meaningless bauble that may or may not be predictive of future success.
Ta ta for now, Chivas USA?
Ever since Sports Illustrated first reported the news of Chivas USA’s impending two-year hiatus which , Chivas has quietly faded into the background. Little wonder: the Goats, despite an impressive win over RSL a few weeks ago, are hardly raging against the dying of the light with their future in doubt. Even so, they do have something small to play for in their final match as Chivas: they’ll play San Jose in a literal bottom of the table clash for a chance to avoid finishing last in the West.
While Chivas will not likely be mourned by most supporters in the league, the club does carry some history. Founded in 2004 with its inaugural season the following year, Chivas had a rough start under Thomas Rongen but eventually succeeded under future US national team coach Bob Bradley and two-time MLS MVP Preki, who eventually led the team to a Western Conference win in 2007. Its alumni include Aston Villa keeper Brad Guzan and Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan. It represented a shared club brand model involving Liga MX’s CD Guadalajara, an interesting but ultimately failed experiment which could have begun a fruitful partnership with the Mexican league but ended up being something far more parochial.
In recent years the club has posted some of the worst average attendances in the league, perhaps little surprise in light of their poor form in the league and their tempestuous life off the pitch under owner Jorge Vergara. Though the club , as far as MLS’ rocky early history is concerned, there will only ever be one Chivas USA.