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This Week in MLS – October 17, 2016

This Week in MLS – October 17, 2016
  • A season’s worth of drama to unfold on Decision Day
  • Postseason home-field advantage, historic treble hunt on the line as Dallas heads to LA on FS1
  • Win and You’re In for wild Western Conference showdown in Seattle on ESPN
  • Golden Boot and Landon Donovan MLS MVP race comes down to the wire on Decision Day
  • MLS clubs enter do-or-die situations in CONCACAF Champions League play  
  • Decision Day to get an extra shot of MLS action as New York Red Bulls II and Swope Park Rangers clash in USL Cup Final
  • 2016 standouts to make final case for the league’s top honors on Decision Day
  • Week 33 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 34 Game Previews
 
 
A season’s worth of drama to unfold on Decision Day
A season’s worth of drama boils down to the final day of the regular season – Decision Day – with plenty at stake. The frenzy will unfold on Sunday as all 20 teams kick off at the same time (4 p.m. ET) with playoff lives, the Golden Boot race, and top playoff seeding all on the line.
 
Two of the most compelling Decision Day matchups will be brought to a national audience as FS1 will showcase the heavyweight bout between LA Galaxy and FC Dallas that is fraught with Supporters’ Shield implications, while ESPN will highlight two clubs fighting for their playoff lives when Seattle Sounders FC host Real Salt Lake.
 
Fans won’t have to miss out on any of the Decision Day action as ESPN will host the “MLS Decision Day Whiparound” studio show, airing parallel to their game broadcast. The show will feature highlights and analysis from games across the league live as the action unfolds. MLSsoccer.com will also host live pregame and postgame shows as six clubs battle for the final four spots in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
 
Postseason home-field advantage, historic treble hunt on the line as Dallas heads to LA on FS1
Looking to clinch the best record in the league which will provide home-field advantage throughout MLS Cup Playoffs, FC Dallas takes on the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Sunday in search of its second major title this season (4 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes). In what would be the clubs first Supporters’ Shield win, FC Dallas (West #1, 59 points, 17-8-8) can lock up the title with either a draw or win on Decision Day while continuing the club’s quest for the historic treble – no MLS team has won all three major titles: Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield, MLS Cup. Meanwhile, the lurking Colorado Rapids (West #2, 57 points, 15-6-12) can upset the hunt but need a victory along with a Dallas loss in order to capture the best record in the league.
 
The Galaxy (West #3, 51 points, 12-6-15) will look to deny Dallas of any Decision Day glory behind a dangerous attack that ranks top in the Western Conference with a combined 54 goals scored. Mexican National Team star Giovani dos Santos has paced LA’s attack all season and is one of only two players league wide to register double digit goal (14) and assist (12) totals. After falling 1-0 in Frisco only two weeks ago, LA will look to avenge its loss in the teams’ second and final matchup of the season ahead of a home playoff date in the knockout round of the postseason.
 
Win and You’re In for wild Western Conference showdown in Seattle on ESPN
It all comes down to 90 minutes when Seattle Sounders FC hosts Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field with both teams fighting for their playoff lives in a pivotal Decision Day matchup (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Seattle (West #5, 45 points, 13-14-6) looks to complete a historic turnaround since adding midfield maestro Nicolas Lodeiro and making a mid-season coaching change that saw Brian Schmetzer take the reins.
 
While many are already calling for Sounders FC to remove Schmetzer’s interim tag, including former head coach Sigi Schmid, Seattle enters Decision Day in a precarious position with four teams battling for the final three playoff spots in the Western Conference separated by a mere two points in the standings. A loss could knock either club out of the postseason picture, while a victory would push any of the four clubs into the playoffs.
 
If Seattle’s dynamic duo of Lodeiro (four goals, eight assists in 12 apps.) and U.S. record-setting rookie Jordan Morris (12 goals) look to continue their dangerous attacking ways, they’ll have to beat one of the top goalkeepers in MLS history in RSL’s Nick Rimando. Rimando has provided tremendous leadership to a RSL defense that has allowed a combined four goals in its previous five matches. With all games kicking off simultaneously on Decision Day, the anticipation across the league will reach a pinnacle as both Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers postseason fates could rest on the outcome of Sunday’s contest in Seattle.
 
 
Golden Boot race comes down to the wire on Decision Day
Will the Golden Boot turn a shade of Red or Blue?
 
It all comes down to one day as the 2016 Golden Boot race will reach its ultimate conclusion on Decision Day. Two New York rivals will duke it out as New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips leads the race with 23 goals closely followed by New York City FC striker David Villa with 22 tallies. Wright-Phillips has enjoyed another prolific year and made history to boot, recording the most goals across three seasons in MLS history with 67. The most dangerous duo to hit the front lines over the past two seasons, Wright-Phillips and Villa have each knocked in 40 goals since 2015.
 
MLS clubs enter do-or-die situations in CONCACAF Champions League play
Two MLS clubs play in win or go home matches in the final game of CONCACAF Champions League group play this week with a chance to join the already advanced New York Red Bulls and Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the quarterfinals. The Portland Timbers host Costa Rican power Deportivo Saprissa at Providence Park on Wednesday in need of a victory, with Saprissa topping the group with seven points while Portland sits directly behind at six (10 p.m. ET, Galavision, Facebook.com). A victory would push Portland atop the group and provide a semblance of revenge after falling 4-2 in Costa Rica during a September 14 match. FC Dallas, meanwhile, travels to Guatemala on Thursday to face Suchitepéquez with the teams tied atop the group with five points and Dallas holding the tiebreaker (8 p.m. ET, Facebook.com). A victory or draw would push Dallas to the top of the group after the teams previously played to a scoreless draw in Frisco on September 28. Rounding out CCL play is Sporting Kansas City who will host Trinidad and Tobago club Central FC at Children’s Mercy Park on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, UDN, Facebook.com).
           
2016 standouts to make final case for the league’s top honors on Decision Day
The End of Year Award season has officially begun as the 2016 MLS regular season comes to a close on Sunday. MLS standouts will have a final chance to make their case for the league’s top honors in a total of 16 categories with the finalists and ultimate winners announced throughout the months of November and December.
 
The top players, including league MVP, referees and coach in MLS (11 awards total) will be determined by vote from three polling groups: current MLS players, MLS Clubs (Coaches, Technical Directors, Chief Business Officers and PR Directors), and Media members who consistently covered the 2016 MLS season. Each group will weigh equally in the final tally of votes.  
 
2016 End of Year Award Breakdown
 
Awards decided by vote (media, players, clubs):
Landon Donovan MLS MVP
MLS Best XI
Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year
MLS Defender of the Year
AT&T Rookie of the Year
MLS Comeback Player of the Year
MLS Newcomer of the Year
MLS Coach of the Year
MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year presented by Advocare
MLS Referee of the Year
MLS Assistant Referee of the Year
 
Awards decided by stats/objective criteria:
Supporters’ Shield
Golden Boot
MLS Fair Play Award Individual & Team
 
Decided by popular vote on MLSsoccer.com:
AT&T Goal of the Year
MLS Save of the Year
 
Decision Day to get an extra shot of MLS action as New York Red Bulls II and Swope Park Rangers clash in USL Cup Final
The future stars of the New York Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City will clash in the USL Cup Final this Sunday at Red Bull Arena (ESPNU, 8 p.m. ET). Anchored by MLS Homegrown Players Brandon Allen, Tyler Adams, and Derrick Etienne Jr., Red Bulls II will get the chance to lift the championship trophy in front of a home crowd after advancing to the final on an epic 4-3 penalty kick shootout win over Louisville City FC – its second straight PK win of the playoffs. The Swope Park Rangers head to Harrison for the showdown after a 3-0 victory over Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, which featured a strong showing from Sporting Kansas City midfielder Emmanuel Appiah. Some of the brightest young talent MLS academies have produced to date will be on display in this final course of Decision Day action.
 
AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open (Week 33) – CLICK HERE to vote
  • Carlos Ruiz (DAL) Scores game winner with right-footed volley shot over goalkeeper Stefan Frei
  • David Accam (CHI) Outpaces pair of defenders and beats goalkeeper Brad Knighton with shot near post
  • Harrison Afful (CLB) Chips goalkeeper Luis Robles with in control shot from inside the box
  • Ignacio Piatti (MTL) Sends a blazing shot from just inside the box far post into the back of the net
  • Adam Jahn (CLB) Slams home right-footed volley for second goal of the match
  • Michael de Leeuw (CHI) Finishes a Brandon Vincent cross with a right-footed deflection in front of goal
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips (NYRB) Cuts back a defender and sneaks shot just past goalkeeper Brad Stuver
  • Kevin Doyle (COL) Scores game-winning goal with phenomenal diving header
 
Check It Out
 
Quotables
"We did what we needed to do to win. We control our own destiny. If we win that last game, it’s playoffs and the Cascadia Cup."
Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter on entering Decision Day with playoffs on the line
 
“This is what the playoffs are about. We came on the road and just took two away goals, which is a big thing. We’d be happy with that if this were the playoffs. We wanted to come here and win the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t make enough plays to win, but we’ll go into the last game and see if we can’t move ourselves up one spot.”
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney on his team’s comeback against rival Montreal
 
“We’re in uncharted waters as a club at the moment. This is a group that’s on the rise and pushing the boundaries. Guys on this team are having the best seasons of their careers. We just have to continue to do what we’ve done all year.”
Colorado Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni on his team’s chances to win the Supporters’ Shield entering Decision Day
                           
“We have a confidence and a swagger about us that is aggressive and very positive. We can feel it in training sessions and it’s translating over to the game.”
D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid on his team’s current level of play
 
“Carlos is a natural goalscorer. He scores goals. In the training he has been working hard on that part. We went away from putting him in exhausting training or fitness training. We know that Carlos came to help us in moments like this, so we put him in front of the goal regularly in training, saving his energy for those key moments. Tonight was a good example.”
FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja on newly-signed Carlos Ruiz’s impact for the club
 
Sweet Tweets
Taylor Kemp (‏@TKemp02): Playoff bound #dcu #bringthefight
 
Bradley Wright-Phillips  (@TheRealBWP): These dudes right here  usl cup next
 
Evan Bush (@ebushel1): Playoffs! Proud to do it back to back years and 3 out of 5 years for the club. There is more ahead for us one game at a time! #IMFC
 
Sacha Kljestan (@SachaKljestan): Best home record in the league @NewYorkRedBulls. Thanks fans!!
 
Marvell Wynne (@marvwynne22): Honored to reach this milestone with the @sjearthquakes #rookie06 #oldguy #wherestheprunejuice
 
Week 34 Game Previews
Sunday, October 23
Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo, 4 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids had their three-game winning streak come to an end in a 1-0 loss at the Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon. They are bidding to become the fifth team in MLS history to go through the entire season undefeated at home (11-0-5 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park this season in league play).
  • The Dynamo had their winless streak extended to four matches with a third defeat in that time, suffering a second consecutive shutout in a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon in their final home game this season at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, both meetings over the final three weeks of the season. Dominique Badji scored twice and Shkelzen Gashi hit for a late winner for the Rapids, overcoming a pair of goals from the Dynamo’s Mauro Manotas, in Colorado’s 3-2 win Oct. 8 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The Dynamo haven’t won at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park since 2008, with the Rapids winning the last three meetings in Commerce City.
  • When the Dynamo won 3-2 victory on Sept. 26, 2015 at BBVA Compass Stadium, it was their first win in league play in the series since 2009. The Rapids won five of the nine meetings in between, with four draws.
 
Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 4 p.m. ET
  • Sporting return home following a three-game road swing where they went 1-1-1, concluding the stretch with a goalless draw at Real Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon.
  • The Quakes concluded the home portion of their 2016 MLS campaign with a scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday afternoon at Avaya Stadium.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, having split the first two, both contests in San Jose. Chris Wondolowski scored the game’s lone goal from a penalty kick in the 59th minute as the Quakes claimed the victory April 24 at Avaya Stadium; on Sept. 24, Kevin Ellis scored late from a corner kick to give Sporting a 2-1 triumph.
  • The Sporting win in the last meeting snapped a three-game Quakes winning streak in the series. It was also SKC’s first win in San Jose since Aug. 16, 2000. The Quakes had won 10 of the 15 meetings following in northern California, with five draws.
  • The Quakes won the last meeting between the teams in Kansas City, a 5-0 victory Aug. 19, 2015. It was the first win for the road team in the series since 2004, when San Jose won at Arrowhead Stadium. The result also snapped an eight-game home winning streak for Sporting vs. the Quakes.
 
LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas, 4 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • The Galaxy put an end to their first losing streak of the season after just two games, snapping a three-game winless run overall, with their 1-0 win at the Houston Dynamo on Sunday afternoon.
  • FC Dallas hit the road for their regular season finale off of back-to-back home wins at Toyota Stadium, Carlos Ruiz scoring his first MLS goal since 2011 to give FCD a 2-1 win against Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday afternoon, putting them back atop the MLS overall table in the chase for the Supporters’ Shield.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season in league play, the back end of a home-and-home series over the season’s final four weeks. Walker Zimmerman scored the game’s lone goal to give FCD the victory in the first encounter, Oct. 1 at Toyota Stadium.
  • The FCD win snapped a two-game Galaxy winning streak in the league series, LA winning at each ground. The Galaxy are undefeated in Carson over the last eight meetings vs. FC Dallas in league play, dating back to the start of the 2010 season, going 7-0-1 in that time.
  • The teams also met in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal this year, FC Dallas taking a 2-1 win in extra time Aug. 10 at StubHub Center, Victor Ulloa scoring the late game-winning goals.
 
New England Revolution vs. Montreal Impact, 4 p.m. ET
  • The Revolution suffered their second consecutive loss on their travels, concluding their road matches for the 2016 regular season with a 2-1 loss at the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon.
  • The Impact clinched a playoff spot in extending their undefeated run to three games, reaching a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at Stade Saputo. Ignacio Piatti scored a pair of goals, his third multiple-goal game this season, now giving him 17 goals for the season, third place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season, having split the first two, both contests at Stade Saputo. On July 2, Michael Salazar scored twice and Ignacio Piatti added the third in a three-goal blitz over 14 minutes in a 3-2 Impact win. Kelyn Rowe scored twice and added an assist, and Kei Kamara scored a goal and had an assist in a 3-1 Revolution win Sept. 17.
  • The Revolution win in the last meeting snapped a five-game undefeated streak for the Impact in the all-time series, also ending a three-game Montréal winning run. The last Revolution win in the series had come Sept. 13, 2014.
  • The Impact won the final meeting between the teams last Oct. 17 at Gillette Stadium, their third win in five visits to New England all-time. The Impact have won three of the last five meetings in Montréal, with one draw.
 
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew SC, 4 p.m. ET
  • NYCFC saw their two-game winning run put to an end in a 3-1 loss at D.C. United on Sunday afternoon. David Villa scored the lone NYCFC goal, now with 22 goals for the season, sitting in second place in the MLS Golden Boot standings; Villa has scored five goals over the last three matches.
  • Crew SC conclude a three-game season-ending road swing at Yankee Stadium, after suffering a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls on the other side of the Hudson River on Sunday afternoon. Adam Jahn scored his third goal over the last two matches for Crew SC.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, the first two both at Mapfre Stadium. In the first meeting on April 16, David Villa scored twice for NYCFC, but Ethan Finlay, Kei Kamara and Justin Meram hit the back of the net for Crew SC for a 3-2 victory. Then on Aug. 13, David Villa scored a pair of goals, including a stoppage-time go-ahead penalty kick – but Ethan Finlay also netted twice, including the 95th-minute equalizer, to leave the teams in a 3-3 draw Aug. 13.
  • The teams met twice in NYCFC’s first MLS season. They reached a 2-2 draw Aug. 19 at Mapfre Stadium, then Crew SC claimed a 2-1 victory 10 days later at Yankee Stadium.
 
Orlando City SC vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m. ET
  • Orlando City put an end to a five-game winless run, with four defeats over that span, in a 2-0 win at Philadelphia Union on Sunday afternoon. Carlos Rivas and Julio Baptista hit the back of the net for OCSC following back-to-back offensive shutouts.
  • United won their fourth game in a row, defeating New York City FC 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at RFK Stadium. It matches the club’s longest winning streak in league play since winning six in a row in 2007.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Patrick Mullins scored a pair of goals, and his college teammate Taylor Kemp added three assists, as United strolled to a 4-1 win Sept. 24 at RFK Stadium.
  • The teams met three times in Orlando City’s inaugural MLS campaign. The teams split the two meetings in Orlando, both by 1-0 scorelines, United winning on April 3 in the first meeting ever, and Orlando City claiming the win June 14. United has won both meetings at RFK Stadium after a 2-1 win there last May 13.
 
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m. ET
  • Union saw their winless streak extended to six games with a fourth defeat in that time, falling 2-0 to Orlando City SC on Sunday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips scored a pair of goals – his seventh multiple-goal game this season, now leading the MLS Golden Boot standings with 23 goals – as the Red Bulls won their third game in a row and extended their league undefeated streak to 15 games in a 3-2 win against Columbus Crew SC on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. Sacha Kljestan recorded two assists to give him 19 for the season – tied for the second-most in a season in MLS history.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, the second in the final three weeks of the season. Dax McCarty scored a goal and added a pair of assists and Bradley Wright-Phillips added yet another goal in the 3-2 Red Bulls win Oct. 1 at Red Bull Arena. C.J. Sapong and Chris Pontius scored a minute apart midway through the second half as Union overcame a pair of first-half goals from the Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw July 17 at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • The teams also met earlier this year in a U.S. Open Cup fifth-round match, Chris Pontius scoring a pair of goals to lead Union to a 2-1 win June 29 at Talen Energy Stadium. It was the third time the clubs have met in the Open Cup, Union advancing each of the last two seasons.
  • Union won 2-0 on May 24, 2015 at Red Bull Arena, their first-ever win in Harrison; the Red Bulls had gone 5-0-1 in their first six home games vs. Philadelphia, and also won a U.S. Open Cup tie there. Last year’s Red Bulls win in Chester was their first there since the 2012 season.
 
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • Nicolas Lodeiro returned to the lineup and scored his fourth goal since coming to MLS, but Sounders FC saw their winless streak hit two games following a four-game winning run, suffering a 2-1 loss at FC Dallas on Sunday afternoon.
  • Real saw their winless streak extended to six games with a third draw in that time, reaching a goalless result with Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL has scored one goal over their last five matches.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season in league play, each having won by a 2-1 scoreline on their home ground. On Aug. 14, Nicolas Lodeiro scored one goal and set up another from Jordan Morris, in a Sounders FC win at CenturyLink Field. Jamisón Olave netted the late game-winner, giving Real the win March 12 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Sounders FC have won the last five meetings between the teams at CenturyLink Field. RSL have scored goals on their last three visits to Seattle; they had gone more than two seasons, dating back to 2012, without scoring at CenturyLink Field.
  • Real have won their last five home games vs. Seattle. Sounders FC last won in league play at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 28, 2011, a span of six games.
  • The teams also met this year in a U.S. Open Cup fifth-round tie, Sounders FC advancing through a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
 
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire, 4 p.m. ET
  • Jozy Altidore scored for a second consecutive game – his 10th goal of the season, all over his last 13 matches – and Sebastian Giovinco recorded his 14th assist of the season in his first game back after a five-game absence, as Toronto FC reached a 2-2 draw with the Montréal Impact on Sunday afternoon. TFC is winless in its last five outings.
  • The Fire put an end to a six-game winless run in their Toyota Park home finale for the season, getting goals from Michael de Leeuw and David Accam for a 2-1 win against the New England Revolution on Sunday afternoon.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and Toronto FC have won the first two, once at each ground. Justin Morrow scored the game’s only goal after nine minutes and TFC held out the rest of the way for the victory July 9 at BMO Field; on Sept. 10, Jozy Altidore scored one goal and set up another in a 2-1 win at Toyota Park.
  • When Toronto FC won at home last Sept. 26, it was their win against the Fire since the 2010 season. The Fire had won six of the 12 meetings in between, with six draws.
  • TFC have won the last two meetings at BMO Field. The last meeting was TFC’s first victory ever at Toyota Park. The Fire had come away with five wins and five draws in the first 10 meetings all-time in Bridgeview.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Portland Timbers, 4 p.m. ET
  • Whitecaps FC finished their road campaign for the season by seeing their overall winless streak extended to four games, following a goalless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday afternoon.
  • Fanendo Adi scored the game’s lone goal as the Timbers snapped a two-game losing run and extended their winning streak at their Providence Park to five games, remaining alive in the chase for the MLS Cup Playoffs with a win against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon. The Timbers hit the road aiming to avoid becoming the eighth team in MLS history to go through an entire season without an away victory, 0-10-6 on their travels entering the season finale.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, each having won on their home ground in a pair of meetings two weeks apart early in the season. Masato Kudo and Christian Bolaños scored six minutes apart in the second half to pull Whitecaps FC back for a 2-1 win May 7 at BC Place. Then on May 22, four different Timbers scored goals in a 4-2 victory at Providence Park.
  • Whitecaps FC have won just three times in 16 all-time MLS meetings between the teams, all coming in the last eight meetings. The ‘Caps have won the last two meetings at BC Place, over the last two seasons, their only league wins at home vs. the Timbers.
  • The Timbers now have a four-game home undefeated streak alive in the series, with two wins and two draws. The last Vancouver win in Portland came June 1, 2014, a 4-3 victory.
The teams first met on May 16, 1975 in the old North American Soccer League, the Timbers winning 2-0 at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. The teams have met 84 times since then, across a number of competitions – the Whitecaps hold a 36-31-17 advantage in the all-time record between the clubs. The teams met twice in the NASL playoffs, in 1978 and 1980, each team advancing on one occasion