As the final weekend of the MLS regular season approaching, the Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, San Jose Earthquakes and Colorado Rapids will try and secure a spot.
Portland and Dallas currently sit in the final two spots available in the Western Conference on 46 and 45 points respectively, while San Jose and Colorado sit just below them on 44 and 42 points. With the Eastern Conference’s playoff teams having been locked in at the end of last week, all eyes will be on which of these four teams will be in the running for the 2019 MLS Cup.
On paper, FC Dallas seem to have the easiest route to solidify their playoff spot. Already in a playoff position and hosting an abnormally subpar Sporting Kansas City squad, Lucho Gonzalez’s men look like clear favorites in this match. However, Dallas have not won a match since Aug. 31 and have scored just one goal and conceded eight in the four matches that followed. With Kansas having already been eliminated from the playoffs, the pressure is off on their squad to perform and may open the door for Dallas to take advantage of lackadaisical plays. The squad’s inconsistencies make it difficult to pinpoint who exactly could push the squad to victory through an individual performance, but Jesus Ferreira, Dominique Badji, Michael Barrios and Zdenek Ondrasek need to be able to apply a goal-scoring touch in the final third.
Colorado, on the other hand, have lost just once in their last six matches and toppled the Seattle Sounders, Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls during their late playoff push. Everything for the Rapids has clicked in the final third, and the midseason addition of Lalas Abubakar reinforced a leaky their back line. Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio are each looking to score in a third consecutive game on Sunday, and rookie Andre Shinyashiki has been a fruitful creative presence for his side since being drafted in January. However, they will be tasked with taking down 2019 Supporters Shield winners LAFC in Los Angeles if they even want a chance at making the playoffs. Though Colorado will be playing for everything on Sunday night, LAFC will be just as eager to win the match and set a new MLS record for regular season points.
The most intriguing subplot of this four-horse race will be in Portland on Sunday when the Timbers host San Jose. Last year’s MLS Cup finalists against an Earthquakes team overperforming under first-year MLS coach Matias Almeyda sets the stage for a seemingly fiery affair between the two teams. Neither team has been especially hot in recent weeks, which could play into Portland’s hands should the match end in a draw, but the occasion screams for someone to be a hero for their team. San Jose will be without talismanic forward Chris Wondolowski due to suspension and have struggled to score in the two matches they played without him, but Portland has conceded seven goals in its last five games. It is a genuine coin toss as to which of these two teams will come out on top, but the atmosphere Portland’s home support creates is enough to push their side over the line in a match of this importance.
Decision Day will be as interesting as ever this weekend with the four squads battling for the two final playoff spots of the year. Portland and Dallas will be fighting to maintain their positions in the post-season, but Colorado and San Jose will be up for the opportunity to shake the Western Conference’s final standings.
Justin Sousa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find him on Twitter @Sousa99.