MLS Decision Day primer: What's at stake

There's lots at stake on the final day of the 2018 MLS regular season: Supporters' Shield, the final two playoff berths, two Knockout Round byes and all four Knockout Round home dates.

Eastern Conference:

(9) Toronto FC vs. (1) Atlanta United 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: Atlanta United will win the Supporters' Shield with a win in Toronto or as long as it doesn't do worse than the Red Bulls do at home against Orlando. If Atlanta loses and the Red Bulls tie, it will come down to the second tiebreaker -- goal difference. Atlanta enters Sunday with a one-goal advantage. It would likely win the third tiebreaker -- goes scored. Toronto FC likely needs at least a point if it wants to be assured of finishing in ninth place -- still quite a drop from the 2017 Supporters Shield-winning campaign.
Who to watch: Josef Martinez  broke the MLS scoring record on Aug. 24, added two more goals to give him 30 for the season on Sept. 19 but hasn't scored since, a span of four games.

(2) NY Red Bulls vs. (11) Orlando City 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: The Red Bulls must win and hope Atlanta doesn't win at Toronto to claim the top spot in Eastern Conference and win the Supporters' Shield. They might squeeze into first with a tie but only if Atlanta also loses. The best the Lions can do is escape the basement if they win and Chicago loses. Either way, the picture is bleak: four seasons in MLS and four seasons without making the playoffs. Only TFC has done worse -- eight straight seasons without making the playoffs (2007-14).
Who to watch: Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles anchors MLS's best defense (33 goals allowed in 33 games). He is tied for the MLS lead with 13 shutouts in 2018 and has 34 in the last three seasons.

(3) NYCFC vs. (4) Philadelphia 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: The Union has been one of the best teams in MLS over the last month. It will overtaking slumping NYCFC (one win in last nine games) for third place with a win. A victory is necessary if it wants to be assured of holding off D.C. United for its first home playoff game since 2013.
Who to watch: If everything goes wrong for NYCFC, this could end up being David Villa's last game at Yankee Stadium. Injuries have limited the 36-year-old Spaniard to 13 goals in 22 games in 2018, his fewest in both categories in his four MLS seasons.

(10) Chicago vs. (5) D.C. United 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: United almost ran the table, winning six games and tying the seventh in a seven-game home-stand at Audi Field. It's on the road for the first time since Sept. 8 and should claim fourth place and a home game in the Knockout Round with a win. Quite a turnaround, considering it was five points below the red line after its last game on the road, a 1-1 tie at NYCFC. The worst-case scenario for the Fire: It loses to United and Orlando City wins at the Red Bulls, dropping it into last place in the Eastern Conference for the third time in the last four years.
Who to watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger, 34, is the fourth-highest paid player in MLS ($6.1 million) but his future is up in the air. He says he still enjoys playing and his family likes Chicago.

(8) New England vs. (7) Montreal 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: The Impact must win and hope the Crew doesn't win at home to Minnesota United if it wants to claim the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Revs (7-3-7 at the midway point of the season but 2-10-4 since then) will finished eighth.
Who to watch: Montreal's Ignacio Piatti is enjoying his most productive MLS season: 16 goals and 13 assists (four goals and four assists in his last six games).

(6) Columbus vs. (9) Minnesota United 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: The pressure is on the Crew. It needs to beat the Loons or it opens the door for Montreal to sneak into sixth place with a win at New England. Minnesota finished ninth in the Western Conference with 36 points in 2017. That's where it stands now in points and placement.
Who to watch: Gyasi Zardes leads all Americans in MLS with 16 goals, tying a career high, but he has only one goal in eight games over the last two months.

Western Conference:
(1) Sporting KC vs. (2) LAFC 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell: The winner will finish first in the Western Conference. Sporting KC will finish on top with a tie. LAFC needs to do at least as well as FC Dallas does against the Rapids or it will drop back down to third place and open in the Knockout Round.
Who to watch:
Benny Feilhaber will return to Children’s Mercy Park for the first time since being traded by Sporting KC to LAFC in January. He has been a workhorse for LAFC, starting 31 games and making appearances in all 33 games.

(11) Colorado vs. (3) FC Dallas 4:30 pm.
In a nutshell:
First in the Western Conference a week ago, FC Dallas could conceivably drop to fifth place and open on the road in the Knockout Round if it loses, Seattle wins or ties and Portland wins. The Rapids will finish 11th in the Western Conference.
Who to watch: Cole Bassett
, 17, hadn't played a game since July with the amateur Rapids U-23s when he debuted in the 2-0 win over Minnesota United. The late-season HG signing should start his third game in a row in central midfield.

(4) Seattle vs. (12) San Jose 4:30 pm. ET
In a nutshell: The Sounders will clinch a home date in the Knockout Round with a tie; they'll climb into second place if they win and LAFC and FC Dallas both don't win or if they tie and LAFC and FC Dallas both lose. The Earthquakes are assured of finishing last in MLS with their worst record in their 21 seasons.
Who to watch: The Quakes' Chris Wondolowski remains one goal away from tying Landon Donovan's all-time MLS record.

(8) Vancouver vs. (5) Portland 4:30 pm. ET
In a nutshell: One of the few games where there should be little movement. The Timbers will finish fifth -- and open the playoffs on the road in the Knockout Round -- unless they win and the Sounders lose to San Jose. In a word: unlikely. The 'Caps will finish eighth and await word on a new head coach for 2019.
Who to watch: Jeremy Ebobisse, 21, didn't play a minute until September but has started at center forward the last three games with one goal and two assists in 4-1 and 3-0 wins and a 0-0 tie.

(7) LA Galaxy vs. (10) Houston 4:30 pm.

In a nutshell: The Galaxy has to win to clinch sixth place and the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. Otherwise, idle Real Salt Lake advances. The best the Dynamo can do is finish ninth in the Western Conference. It currently sits in 10th place, tied for its lowest positioning in 13 seasons in MLS.
Who to watch: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who else? Ibra enters the season finale with 22 goals and 10 assists in 26 appearances. If he gets one goal or assist, he'll break Diego Serna's MLS season record for the highest average of goals and assists per 90 minutes set in 2001.

2 comments about "MLS Decision Day primer: What's at stake".
  1. R2 Dad, October 27, 2018 at 10:23 p.m.

    Already relegated: San Jose and Orlando City.

  2. Raffaele Aquino, October 28, 2018 at 10:36 a.m.

    Forgot to mention in that Vancouver game, it’s Alfonso Davies last game for Vancouver and in the MLS for now, he will be joining Bayern Munich after this game . Hopefully we will see the 17 year old in the lineup in the Bundesliga sometime in the new year when he becomes eligible to play.

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