Just three teams in Major League Soccer have clinched their spot in the postseason with three or four matches left for each franchise. D.C. United became the latest with a draw last week.
At the very top, the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy both won again, leaving just one game each between them and a home-and-away showdown for the Supporters’ Shield. With both teams missing players for international duty this upcoming week, matches against the Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas, respectively, could be tricky. If both teams win again, it would eliminate all others from the Supporters’ Shield race.
In the middle of the pack, the Western Conference has come down to six teams, with Vancouver and the Portland Timbers fighting for the fifth seed. In the East, all but two teams are still officially in the picture, as teams in fourth through seventh place are separated by just five points.
The Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes and Toronto FC have four matches remaining. Everybody else has just three. Here’s how the league stands with just three weekends of regular-season matches left in 2014:
MLS Power Rankings — Week 30
1. LA Galaxy (18-5-9)
Last ranking: 1
Last week’s results: 3-0 vs. Toronto
Between Robbie Keane’s goals and Landon Donovan’s ability with the final ball, the Galaxy clearly look like the most dangerous team before the playoffs. This LA team looks very different from the team that won twice in its first eight matches and generally had a tough time getting started. The Galaxy midfield, in particular Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho, bossed their area against Toronto FC to key the victory.
2. Seattle Sounders (19-9-3)
Last ranking: 2
Last week’s results: 4-1 at Colorado
Seattle has had to win to keep pace with the Galaxy the last couple weeks, but the Sounders have been more than up for the challenge. After a couple weeks of playing after LA in the schedule, the tables turn this week, as the Sounders play on Friday, while the Galaxy don’t play until Sunday — on the road, against what should be a tougher opponent in FC Dallas.
3. New England Revolution (15-13-3)
Last ranking: 6
Last week’s results: 2-1 vs. Columbus
Jermaine Jones scored another game-winning goal, reaching beyond his midfield-destroyer role for the second match in a row for the Revs. With only one loss in its last nine matches, New England is the hottest team in the East heading into the playoffs despite not even having mathematically clinched its spot yet.
4. FC Dallas (14-11-6)
Last ranking: 3
Last week’s results: 0-2 at Vancouver
With a spot in the playoffs virtually secured, Dallas has traded wins and losses for the past four matches. Regardless of the other results leading into the postseason, its next match against the Galaxy should provide a good measure of where the team really is despite its recent inconsistency.
5. D.C. United (15-9-7)
Last ranking: 5
Last week’s results: 0-0 vs. Kansas City
D.C. clinched a playoff spot with a scoreless draw against Kansas City, masking the fact that United has only won once in five games. Three games remain, against Houston, Chicago and Montreal, giving D.C. a good chance to regain some momentum before the postseason.
6. Real Salt Lake (13-8-10)
Last ranking: 4
Last week’s results: 0-1 at Chivas USA
In the most shocking result of the week, RSL lost to Chivas, keeping the Utahns from clinching a playoff spot. It’s the second time that the Goats have beaten RSL this year, making them the only team so far to lose their season series to Chivas.
7. New York Red Bulls (11-9-11)
Last ranking: 7
Last week’s results: 1-0 vs. Houston
It hasn’t been the easiest week for New York, with ownership losing interest and Tim Cahill being punished for reporting to Australia for international duty. Cahill was sent off just moments after he entered as a substitute against Houston, but Thierry Henry’s 47th-minute goal held up to give the Red Bulls a valuable narrow win.
8. Vancouver Whitecaps (10-8-13)
Last ranking: 12
Last week’s results: 2-0 vs. Dallas
The battle for fifth place in the West rages on between two Cascadia rivals. The Whitecaps stayed on the front foot with their emphatic win over Dallas; a tough match against the other Northwest team, Seattle, is up next.
9. Portland Timbers (10-9-12)
Last ranking: 9
Last week’s results: 2-1 at San Jose
The Timbers kept up with Vancouver in the race for the final playoff spot by defeating San Jose, but they had to come from behind to do it after Chris Wondolowski scored early in the second half. Rodney Wallace scored twice in three minutes to reverse the score.
10. Columbus Crew (11-10-10)
Last ranking: 8
Last week’s results: 1-2 at New England
Courtesy of Toronto’s loss in LA, the Crew maintained the final playoff spot in the East despite a loss to the Revs. It won’t be easy this weekend against Philadelphia, though, with Waylon Francis missing through red-card suspension and primary playmaker Federico Higuaín also suspended after his fifth booking of the season.
11. Philadelphia Union (9-10-12)
Last ranking: 10
Last week’s results: 1-1 vs. Chicago
Ecstasy quickly turned to heartbreak for Philadelphia on Thursday, as Robert Earnshaw equalized in stoppage time for the Fire off a horrible giveaway from new goalkeeper signing Rais M'Bolhi after Amobi Okugo scored just two minutes before time. A win would have put Philly in sixth place in the East and two points behind Columbus; instead, the Union sit in seventh and four points back.
12. Houston Dynamo (10-14-6)
Last ranking: 11
Last week’s results: 0-1 at New York
The Dynamo held their own in a tough road match against the Red Bulls, falling to Henry’s 10th strike of the season. Still, Houston only has a sliver of hope left for the playoffs, sitting seven points behind fifth place with four matches remaining.
13. Sporting Kansas City (13-11-7)
Last ranking: 13
Last week’s results: 0-0 at D.C.
Thanks to its early season form, Sporting is still in the playoff spots despite only winning twice in the last 10 matches. However, nothing is guaranteed yet, and all three of Kansas City’s remaining matches are against playoff-hopeful teams that will be desperately looking for three points.
14. Chicago Fire (5-8-18)
Last ranking: 15
Last week’s results: 1-1 at Philadelphia, 0-0 vs. Montreal
Chicago finally broke its own previous MLS single-season record with its 17th draw of the year against the Union. The Fire followed that up with another one against Montreal, in an effort that was uninspiring for both teams and eliminated Chicago from the playoffs.
15. Toronto FC (11-13-7)
Last ranking: 14
Last week’s results: 0-3 at LA
Jermain Defoe returned for Toronto, but his presence alone couldn’t elevate TFC to the level of its opponent in a tough road match. The Reds couldn’t create much on the night, matching the Galaxy for shots but only forcing Jaime Penedo into one save.
16. San Jose Earthquakes (6-13-11)
Last ranking: 16
Last week’s results: 1-2 vs. Portland
Pablo Pintos summed up a frustrating last 20 minutes for the Earthquakes after receiving a red card for his terrible tackle in stoppage time. After self-destructing against the Timbers, San Jose will be glad to get another crack at Portland just three days after that encounter.
17. Colorado Rapids (8-15-8)
Last ranking: 17
Last week’s results: 1-4 vs. Seattle
Colorado is officially out of the playoff picture after another big home loss to Seattle. Even Premier League veteran Zat Knight couldn’t help stem the flow of goals, and the Rapids are now winless in 11 matches after starting the season with just two losses in their first nine games.
18. Chivas USA (7-18-6)
Last ranking: 19
Last week’s results: 1-0 vs. Salt Lake
The streak is over; after 12 games without a win and seven straight losses, Chivas finally got three points again on Sunday with a narrow home win over RSL. Erick Torres still didn’t score, having a penalty stopped by Nick Rimando when it was already 1-0, but the Goats had better scoring opportunities all match than RSL and got the winner through Felix Borja.
19. Montreal Impact (6-18-7)
Last ranking: 18
Last week’s results: 0-0 at Chicago
Besides one moment of brilliance, the Impact’s scoreless draw in Chicago didn’t have much kick to it. That one moment, though, was Jack McInerney’s bicycle kick that was incorrectly called back for offside, allowing Chivas to climb back above Montreal in the overall table with a win and leave the Impact in the league cellar yet again.