MLS Weekend Preview

We’ve touched on the huge Los Angeles–New York game on tap for tonight, but believe it or not, that hotly anticipated matchup is not the only game on the docket this week. And in terms of playoff implications, it’s not even the biggest game of the weekend.

There are interesting clashes all over the country, several games that will impact the playoff standings and the race for the Supporters’ Shield, as well as a meeting between the league’s bottom two teams, DC and Houston, who’ll slug it out to try to avoid the cellar.

Here are the matchups, in order of potential impact on the playoff picture:

1.  Toronto v San Jose, BMO Field , Saturday, 4:00 pm EST, MLS Direct Kick

If Toronto (31 points) wins the game, they’ll pull within two points of San Jose (36), which is currently tied with Seattle for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Should the Reds drop this one, however, you can break out the jam, because they’ll be toast.

2. Chicago v Seattle, Toyota Park, Saturday, 8:00, MLS Direct Kick

This one has the subplot of Freddie Ljungberg facing his old team, but the plot, which the Fire will do its best not to lose, is the postseason quest for both teams, especially the hosts.

Chicago is 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games to play. Needless to say, this—and pretty much every match from here on out—is a must-win game for them.

Seattle is currently in possession of that eighth postseason berth, and has the look of a team intent on keeping it, having blown out East leaders Columbus in its last league game.

3. Kansas City v Dallas, Community America Ballpark, 8:00, MLS Direct Kick

The Wizards are 6-1-3 in their last 10, while Dallas is unbeaten in its last 16. Both teams made stirring comebacks in Week 26 games on Wednesday.

Kansas City (33 points) could move into playoff contention with a win.

This one should be a cracker.

4. Real Salt Lake v Colorado, Rio Tinto Stadium, 10:00, Fox Soccer Channel

Both teams are well within playoff contention, and RSL can clinch a postseason berth with a win.

So this game is a chance for rising Colorado to test itself against the champs, and it’s also an opportunity for RSL to extend its record 23-game home unbeaten streak while keeping pace in the Supporters’ Shield race.

It should be a competitive, entertaining affair.

5. New England v Columbus, Gillette Stadium, 7:30, MLS Direct Kick

Columbus has lost two straight in league play, giving up seven goals in the process. They’ll be eager to reverse the downturn, and secure their place atop the East. The Crew also has a chance, if other results go their way, to sew up a playoff berth.

They’ll have to do it without central defender Chad Marshall, who took a boot to the jaw in the Crew’s CCL win over Santos Laguna on Tuesday and will sit this one out.

6. Philadelphia v Chivas USA, PPL Park, 4:00, TeleFutura

These teams are all but out of playoff contention, but the game will feature the two best players in the league not likely to feature in the postseason, Philly’s Sebastien Le Toux (11 goals), and Chivas’s Justin Braun (nine).

Philadelphia will not want to disappoint the rowdy home fans in its new stadium, and they’ll probably get a full 90 minutes from Rookie of the Year candidate Danny Mwanga (seven goals, four assists) who played just 18 minutes in their last game after dealing with a shoulder injury.

Also, both teams are mathematically still alive in the playoff chase. So there’s that.

7. DC United v Houston, RFK Stadium, 7:30, MLS Direct Kick

DC and Houston are pointing toward next season at this point, and both suffered crushing, last-minute defeats in their most recent games.

They’re also both once-great franchises fallen on hard times: Houston has two MLS Cups in its trophy case, while DC has four.

They’ll be “playing for the shirt” in this one.

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