The calendar has turned to September, which means the playoff chase is alive and well in MLS, where the first two certainties have been set and the uncertainties surrounding two expected contenders continue to grow.

By Avi Creditor
September 03, 2018

The calendar has turned to September, which means the playoff chase is alive and well in MLS, where the first two certainties have been set and the uncertainties surrounding two expected contenders continue to grow. 

The New York Red Bulls, despite a weekend loss to the Montreal Impact, have become the first to clinch a playoff spot, while the San Jose Earthquakes have been the first to be eliminated from playoff contention, as the 23-team league hits the home stretch in whittling its group of MLS Cup hopefuls down to 12 teams. 

Two some serious trouble are among the league's most star-studded, high-spending teams after another set of capitulations. The leaky LA Galaxy conceded six more goals and employ one of the league's worst defensive units despite money spent on that part of the roster that should dictate otherwise. Meanwhile, defending champion Toronto FC leaked four of their own, falling further out of contention after a deflating home loss to expansion side LAFC. As fate would have it, the two will meet in their first match after the league largely pauses for the international break in a must-have showdown for both.

Until then, here's what stood out the most from MLS Week 27:

I. The LA Galaxy can't duck out of their own way

It's not often Zlatan Ibrahimovic fails to command the spotlight on the field, but even he had to bow to the greatness of this worthy adversary on Saturday night.

First things first: The heat map on that duck must be something else. The amount of ground it covered in such a short period of time, while remaining elusive from its captors was downright impressive. 

Now to the real joke: the Galaxy's defending. Considering the situation and stakes at this point in the season, what, exactly, is this?

RSL, meanwhile, deserves all the credit for becoming the first in league history to score six in consecutive games. It has flipped its season goal differential from -8 to +2 in just two matches. That's nothing to quack at.

II. This is not a red card

The Seattle Sounders have a lot of good things going for them as they enjoy an MLS-record eight-game winning streak. New signing Raul Ruidiaz is finding his scoring boots, the two-time reigning conference champion is on yet another second-half surge to the playoffs and it delievered a message to a potential first-round opponent in dumping Sporting Kansas City this weekend. The one thing not fully in Seattle's favor: officiating. 

In what world is this a straight red card on Chad Marshall? 

Slow motion can make innocuous challenges look worse than they are. Be better than this, VAR.

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III. FC Dallas's wild, wild week in the wild, wild west

Cue up the "That Escalated Quickly" Anchorman memes for FC Dallas this week. In the span of four days, the Western Conference leader played two games, which featured a combined 13 goals. In both, things, well, escalated quickly.

In a midweek loss to the <checks notes> last-place Earthquakes(?!), the two sides exchanged goals in a 20-minute span that took a 1-1 run-of-the-mill match to a 4-3 thriller, one in which San Jose's Chris Wondolowski inched ever closer to the league's all-time scoring record with the game-winner.

Fast forward to Sunday, when, in 10 minutes, FCD turn a 1-0 lead into a 4-1 edge against the rival Houston Dynamo, thanks to two goals from Santiago Mosquera and a Reto Ziegler PK. FCD won 4-2, has El Capitan back in its grasp and maintained a three-goal edge on LAFC for the top spot in the west, which is shaping up for a wild finish.

IV. D.C.'s new power couple

The Wayne Rooney-Luciano Acosta partnership is proving to be quite prolific at D.C. United. The two combined for three goals in an impressive–and necessary–3-1 win over Atlanta United Sunday night at Audi Field, knocking the Five Stripes out of first place and keeping D.C.'s playoff hopes alive in the process. 

Rooney has helped bring Acosta to life after a first half of unmet expectations for the diminutive Argentine. Since Rooney's debut, Acosta has six goals and three assists in 11 games, compared to a goal and seven assists in his previous 13. Their chemistry is still a work in progress, but it's building quite noticeably in a short period of time.

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V. It's like he never left Columbus

Justin Meram is back with the Columbus Crew after an uneven time in Orlando, scoring valuable game-winners yet again.

The playoffs appear well within grasp for the Crew. Kudos to the club and manager Gregg Berhalter for maintaining full focus while all things Austin swirl around the franchise.

VI. Bradley vs. Bradley

To the father, goes the points. And to the defending champions goes the worry.

Bob Bradley's LAFC topped Michael Bradley's Toronto FC 4-2 at BMO Field Saturday night, pushing the Reds one step closer to a shocking failure to miss the playoffs after the greatest single season in MLS history. For all who figured Toronto would figure it out after sacrificing its early part of the MLS season to focus on the Concacaf Champions League, it hasn't quite worked out that way. Toronto's not out of it yet, but it sits nine points out of the final playoff spot with a game in hand on sixth-place Montreal.

Kevin Sousa/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

VII. Lucas Melano with the whiff

The Portland Timbers could have made it back-to-back wins after a four-game losing skid. Instead, thanks to Lucas Melano's complete miss on what should've been a stoppage-time winner, it settled for a draw against lowly New England.

Will those two dropped points come back to haunt them? Just a point clear of rival Vancouver for the final playoff place (and with the Whitecaps having a game in hand), every point matters from here on out.

VIII. Friedel spits fire

Speaking of lowly New England, these are some harsh, harsh words from manager Brad Friedel, whose Revolution are winless in nine and tumbling out of playoff contention after what appeared to be an early season rejuvenation under its first-year coach.

IX. A goal Bayern Munich would be proud of

Alphonso Davies is headed to Bayern Munich this winter, but not before dazzling the BC Place faithful a little bit more.

When an excellent, well-worked goal and part of a sixth straight multi-goal effort for the Whitecaps. Don't sleep on Vancouver, now unbeaten in six, as a potential playoff irritant–provided it sneaks into the top six.

X. The wife is always right

Sydney Leroux knew.

XI. Josef Martinez was finally stopped

Martinez, who already holds the league's single-season scoring record, was a game shy of being the sole holder of another record: most consecutive games with a goal. He was level with Portland's Diego Valeri after tallying in nine straight en route to his 28th goal of the season, but in failing to even test Bill Hamid and D.C. United, he'll have to settle for being tied. Hardly bad company to be in, and with Colorado and San Jose–two of the leakiest defenses in the league–up next for Atlanta, safe money is on Martinez kicking off a new streak very soon.

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