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This Week in MLS – October 2, 2012


New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire Battle for Playoff Spot Live on NBC
On Saturday, two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference clash as the New York Red Bulls play host to the Chicago Fire live on NBC (3:30 p.m. ET) from Red Bull Arena.
Down to the final month of MLS regular season play, the Saturday afternoon matchup will be one with playoff spots on the line. 
The two teams, matched in points at 53, both have the chance to clinch a coveted playoff spot with a win at Red Bull Arena paired with a Columbus Crew tie or loss OR a Houston Dynamo loss on Saturday. [Full scenarios listed below]
It was a super September for two strikers on these squads as Chicago Fire forward Chris Rolfe and New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry were brilliant through the month of September.
Rolfe scored three goals and contributed one assist in five games played while Henry posted three goals and four assists across three games in September. Neither team will have to rely solely on these two power players as each team has seen goal scoring spread across their squads in 2012.
While eight players have scored two or more goals for the Red Bulls this season, Chicago has seen 11 players find the back of the net multiple times this season. 
Chicago will need to lean on these players to bridge the gap in Goals For totals as the Red Bulls (who have only been outscored by San Jose and Los Angeles this season) currently have a 12-goal advantage in the first tiebreaker category.
A Look at the MLS Cup Playoff Picture
EAST:Will New York or Chicago clinch?
WEST: Race for the Last Spot in the West
One of two Eastern Conference teams could clinch this weekend as the Chicago Fire or New York can see their way into a playoff spot with a win on Saturday and help from Sporting Kansas City and Montreal.  Montreal are on the hot seat this weekend as the 2012 expansion side will be eliminated if they fail to win against Houston. Even if they do win, Columbus could see the Impact out of the playoff picture with a win over Sporting Kansas City.
While four teams in the West have already clinched, three Western Conference teams could be eliminated this weekend which would leave two clubs to battle for the one remaining playoff position.
Updated playoff scenarios are available below.
New York Red Bulls will clinch a playoff spot IF
·         New York Red Bulls win vs. Chicago Fire on Saturday
·         Columbus Crew tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday OR
·         Houston Dynamo lose vs. Montréal Impact on Saturday
Chicago Fire will clinch a playoff spot IF
·         Chicago Fire win vs. Philadelphia Union on Wednesday OR New York Red Bulls on Saturday
·         Columbus Crew tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday OR
·         Houston Dynamo lose vs. Montréal Impact on Saturday
·         Chicago Fire tie vs. Philadelphia Union on Wednesday AND New York Red Bulls on Saturday AND
·         Columbus Crew lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday
Montréal Impact will be eliminated from playoff contention IF
·         Montréal Impact tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Saturday
·         Columbus Crew win vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday
Portland Timbers will be eliminated from playoff contention IF
·         Portland Timbers tie or lose to Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday
·         Vancouver Whitecaps FC win or tie vs. Chivas USA on Wednesday
·         FC Dallas win vs. Chivas USA on Sunday
Chivas USA will be eliminated from playoff contention IF
·         Chivas USA tie or lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday
Colorado Rapids will be eliminated from playoff contention IF
·         Colorado Rapids tie or lose vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday
·         Vancouver Whitecaps FC win vs. Chivas USA on Wednesday
NOTE: One of Chivas USA and Colorado Rapids have already been eliminated – since they play each other, it is not yet determined which of the two is mathematically out.
MLS Week 31 National Broadcasts
Saturday, October 6
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 1 p.m. ET (TSN/RDS)
NY Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC/TSN2/RDS2)
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. ET (NBC Sports/TSN2)
Sunday. October 7
Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas, 7 p.m. ET (Galavision)
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN/ESPN Deportes/TSN2)
AT&T MLS Goal of the Week (Week 30) – CLICK HERE to vote
·         Ryan Johnson (TOR)
·         Alvaro Saborio (RSL)
·         Thierry Henry (NY)
·         Steven Lenhart (SJ)
·         Marcelo Sarvas (LA)
MLS Week 31 Previews
(Home team listed first; all time Eastern)
Wednesday, October 3
Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 8:30 p.m.
·         Going for the sweep: The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and the Fire have won the first two. A Dominic Oduro goal was the difference in a Chicago 1-0 win March 24, and Chris Rolfe scored twice in the Fire’s 3-1 victory Aug. 12.
·         Bounce back game: The Fire saw their four-game winning streak come to an end in last Friday’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, that also stalled their chances for qualification for the MLS Cup Playoffs for the moment.
·         Playing for pride: Union were officially eliminated from playoff contention following their late 3-2 loss at the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Chivas USA, 10 p.m.
·         Bright Spot: Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton recorded his third career MLS shutout, his first with the club, in the scoreless draw with Seattle last weekend.
·         Defensive struggle: The teams are meeting for the third time this year. Center back Jay DeMerit provided the game’s only goal in a Whitecaps FC victory on March 17. They played to a scoreless draw July 7.
·         Need to ‘finish’:Chivas USA saw their losing streak extended to six games, matching the club record, and their current goalless drought stretched to 442 minutes, longest in MLS this season, in their 4-0 loss at Real Salt Lake.
Saturday, October 6
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 1 p.m. (TSN/RDS)
·         On a roll: Chris Pontius scored his team-leading 12th goal of the season to extend United’s undefeated streak to four games in their 1-1 win at Portland to start a two-game road swing.
·         Visitors delight: United have won on their last three visits to BMO Field. In seven games all-time in Toronto, D.C. has won five.
·         Familiar foes: It’s the third meeting of the year for the teams, after D.C. United won twice in the space of three weekends. Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi scored in a 2-0 win May 5 at BMO Field, then Dwayne De Rosario hit for a double and Salihi netted again in a 3-1 triumph May 19 at RFK Stadium.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 3:30 p.m. (NBC Sports)
·         Top form: Thierry Henry continued his recent tear with a goal and three assist in the Red Bulls’ 4-1 win vs. Toronto FC last weekend. Over his last four games, Henry has three goals and five assists. Henry is now tied for fourth in the MLS Golden Boot standings with 14 goals, and tied for fourth in MLS with 12 assists.
·         Tough luck: Goalkeeper Luis Robles made his MLS debut – and was scored on with the first shot he faced – but bounced back to backstop the Red Bulls win against Toronto.
·         Bragging rights: The teams have split their two previous meetings this season. Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares and Chris Rolfe all scored in a 3-1 Fire win on June 17 at Toyota Park. Thierry Henry scored the game’s only goal in a Red Bulls victory, July 18 at Red Bull Arena.
Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m.
·         Close calls: The teams are meeting for a third time this season. Jack McInerney’s 90th-minute goal was the difference in a 2-1 Union victory on July 29 at PPL Park, then they played to a scoreless draw Sept. 1 in Foxborough.
·         Undefeated: Union have never lost to the Revolution, with three wins (and three draws) in six meetings all-time.
·         Spark plug: Jack McInerney pulled into a tie for the Union team lead with his fifth goal in their 3-2 loss at Columbus. All five of his goals this season have come since June 23, when he was installed into the starting lineup by new coach John Hackworth.
Houston Dynamo vs. Montreal Impact, 8:30 p.m.
·         Home-field advantage: Dynamo extended their home unbeaten streak to 23 league games in their 2-0 win against New England last weekend, now the second-longest streak in MLS history.
·         Making history: The Dynamo have two home games as they bid to become the fourth team in MLS history – and third in as many years – to go undefeated over an entire season at home. Real Salt Lake (2010) and the LA Galaxy (2011) did it each of the last two seasons; San Jose was the first in 2005.
·         Needed rest: The Impact return to action after a weekend off, their winless streak extended to three games in their last match, a scoreless draw with Sporting KC in Montréal.
·         Goals galore: The teams are meeting for the third time, after high-scoring affairs in their first two. Davy Arnaud and Patrice Bernier each had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 Impact win, June 23 at Stade Saputo, in their first meeting. A brace from Mac Kandji led the Dynamo to a 3-0 win July 21 in Houston.
Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 9 p.m.
·         Clutch: The Earthquakes continued their remarkable late heroics with another stoppage-time goal to salvage a 3-3 draw with FC Dallas. The Quakes have scored eight goals in stoppage time that have gained a victory or a draw this season, an MLS record.
·         Team effort: The Quakes are the eighth team in MLS history to have a trio of goalscorers with double-digits in goals (Chris Wondolowski 22, Alan Gordon 13, Steven Lenhart 10) – the first in a decade, since Colorado had three in 2002.
·         Dominance: The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and the Earthquakes have won the first two. A Chris Wondolowski penalty kick in stoppage time gave the Quakes a 2-1 win June 20 in Commerce City, then Alan Gordon and Simon Dawkins each scored twice in a 4-1 victory Aug. 25 at Buck Shaw Stadium.
·         Colorado kryptonite: The Rapids have won just once in their last eight home games vs. San Jose, that win coming Aug. 7, 2010.
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. (NBC SN)
·         Goal machine: Álvaro Sabório became the first MLS player this season to score two hat tricks when he hit for a triple in RSL’s 4-0 win Saturday vs. Chivas USA. Sabório scored all three goals in a Real win vs. Portland on July 7. Sabório is now second in the MLS Golden Boot standings with 17 goals.
·         Even matchup: The clubs are meeting for the third time this season. Javier Morales and Fabian Espíndola capped a three-goal outburst over the final 17 minutes for a 3-1 RSL victory in the season opener March 10, then the Galaxy got a pair of goals from Landon Donovan to return the favor June 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
·         Team player: Fabian Espíndola recorded his first career three-assist game (and his second this season with multiple assists, the only two of his career) in the win against Chivas.
·         Win-lose:The Galaxy extended their undefeated run to seven games in their 1-1 draw at Colorado on Sunday, but could have suffered a blow when defender A.J. DeLaGarza suffered a knee injury.
Sunday, October 7
Columbus Crew vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4 p.m.
·         Road wins: The teams have split their first two meetings this season, each winning on the other’s home ground. Goals from Jacob Peterson and Teal Bunbury gave Sporting a 2-0 win July 14 at Crew Stadium, then Jairo Arrieta scored twice in the 2-1 Columbus win two weeks later at Kansas City.
·         On fire: Arrieta recorded his third two-goal game since coming to MLS when he netted twice in the Crew’s 3-2 win Saturday vs. Philadelphia. Arrieta has a goal or an assist over the last four games, with three goals and two assists in that stretch.
·         Doing it all: Graham Zusi hit for his second career two-goal game, scoring both goals in Sporting’s 2-0 win Friday vs. Chicago. Zusi is still tied for the MLS lead with 14 assists with LA’s Landon Donovan.
·         Records falling: Sporting have not allowed a goal in three consecutive games, extended their current undefeated run to nine games in the win vs. Chicago. It was the 14th shutout for goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen, tied for the second-highest single season total in MLS history (KC’s Tony Meola had 16 in 2000).
Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas, 7 p.m. (Galavision)
·         Final push: The teams are meeting for the second time this season, the first of two encounters in the final month of the season. They played to a scoreless draw June 23 in Frisco.
·         Got their number: FC Dallas have not lost to Chivas USA since the 2009 season, now unbeaten in the last five meetings.
·         Breaking out: FCD’s Blas Perez hit for his first two-goal game in MLS, netting twice in the 3-3 draw at San Jose last weekend.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m. (ESPN/Deportes)
·         Ticket punched: Sounders FC became the fourth Western Conference team to clinch a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs despite having their winless streak extended to three games in their scoreless draw at Vancouver.
·         Golden boot: Bright Dike scored for the fourth time in the last eight games to bring Portland back for a 1-1 draw with D.C. United on Saturday evening.
·         Western rivals: The Cascadia Cup rivals will meet for a third time this season. First-half goals from Kris Boyd and David Horst sent the Timbers on their way to a 2-1 home win on June 24, then Rodney Wallace’s late goal canceled out a tally from Seattle’s Mauro Rosales to leave the teams in a 1-1 deadlock Sept. 15.
·         Up for grabs: In four all-time meetings in MLS, each team has won once with two draws, each teams scoring six goals. Overall, the clubs have met 78 times in official competitions, Seattle winning 40 times, Portland winning 28, and 10 draws.
“You want this team to represent, to be a mirror almost of the city of Chicago. This is a city made up of a lot of immigrants, where people get a lot of new opportunities. They have a mentality that we'll never give up, that we'll work hard to the end.”
-Chicago Fire Manager Frank Klopas, on the values that the Chicago Fire need to play by.
“Four games left, we're down five points. Anything can happen. We're going to keep pressing every game and see if we can get the results.”
-Seth Sinovic, on still being optimistic to catch Sporting KC in the Supporters Shield
“About a couple months ago after school, I just got focused and knew I wanted to play soccer and just started working hard every day and that’s basically what happened. The opportunity came; it was kind of unexpected it was coming. I had no idea.”
-Chris Klute, talking about his rise to playing in the MLS with the Colorado Rapids
“When I’m focused, I’m doing that. Two years ago, I was back in Denmark. I went home to see my mom and she pulled out a lot of pictures of me when I was a kid to show my kids. I was probably in first or second grade, sitting and drawing with my tongue out. It’s not something new.”
- Jimmy Nielsen, talking to the Kansas City Star about how his tongue hangs out of his mouth when he is intensely focused.
“Peter Vermes called me to say he’d traded for me and I told him, 'I’m not coming to Kansas City … and what you can do is you can call the two teams in L.A., and get me to L.A. I don’t have to play. I can sit there and be with my mom for the last couple of months of my contract and then go to Europe, because I’m going to try out.' And he kept going, because he’s so stubborn, saying, 'Why don’t you come in so we can have this conversation face to face?' So I said, 'Well it’s your money. You’re flying me, so if you want … fine.' He flew me in, I trained the first day, and the guys in the locker room made me feel so welcome, so I said, 'Well I guess I’ll be here for a little bit.' Three years later I’m still in Kansas City."
-Kei Kamara, talking about how he ended up in Kansas City after Peter Vermes traded for him.
“When he shines like this, you could say he’s the best player in the league.”
-NY Red Bulls manager Hans Backe, talking about Thierry Henry’s performance against Toronto FC.
It's a confidence thing. Everyone has more confidence when he's on the field. It's a trust with each other. You know your spacing is going to be good, you know they're going to be there for each other.
-Josh Saunders, goalkeeper for the LA Galaxy talking about how Omar Gonzalez is helping the team after getting back on the field from knee surgery.
I’d rather just win 3-0 or 4-0 and we can relax, but it’s so exciting at the end. You want to be a part of that. As long as we keep winning, I don’t care how it is.
-Josh Williams, his thoughts after the exciting finish against the Philadelphia Union.
“When he plays like today, I would say (he’s the best in the league. It’s also probably impossible to stay on this level every game but when he shines like this, I’d say so.”
-- New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe after Thierry Henry scored a remarkable goal and added three assists in the 4-1 win vs. Toronto FC
“It's a will. It's a will to dig deep and reach where the other team doesn't want to reach.”
-- San Jose Earthquakes forward Alan Gordon, after his team scored another stoppage-time goal for a 3-3 draw with FC Dallas
“We keep looking for that something that’s going to change it. We haven’t found it yet, but we’ve got two more games [at home] now to do it. The games can’t come quick enough.”
-- Vancouver Whitecaps FC defender Jay DeMerit, to The Province, after a scoreless draw with Seattle that extended the team’s winless streak to seven games
“We have to win – no excuses. We all know this and all week we will be focused on this game on Sunday.”
-- Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning ahead of the Cascadia Cup showdown with the Portland Timbers
“Tonight we were able to check one of those goals off the list, but in no way are we satisfied with just what we’ve done so far. We want to win the Eastern Conference, possibly make a shot at the Supporters’ Shield and then make a run at the cup as well.”
-- Sporting Kansas City midfielder Graham Zusi after his team clinched a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire
Sweet Tweets
@eddie_johnson7– September 26
5 more games until playoffs time to define who i truly am as a player and why they brought me to Seattle. #hardworkdedication
@D6MERit– September 26
Yesss. “@mmogatas: I just committed to the ranks of whitecaps fc season ticket holders. #firstseasonticketsever”          
@Keikamara – September 27
@ddwyer14 did not pass the reach test. Stop shopping at baby Gap
@JonathanTop93 – September 27
Look what I found, baby pictures of @BrekShea at his house last night #baby #mohawk #aww
@BigAfrika88 – September 27
Glad to see #SKCnation is as hype as I am.. #Bringthenoise
@brad_evans3 – September 27
WINNER WINNER: The winner by a landslide is @sgrabko showing amazing support as they march to the match post
@AdamRichman – September 27
One of my favorite interviews ever with the amazing @JimmyConrad_com #FootieAndFood
@SportingKC – September 28
Wow. A record-breaking 21,010 person crowd at @LIVESTRONGPark tonight. 14th consecutive sell out. Thank you,#SKCNation#SKCvCHI #MLSonNBC
@JanGunnarSolli – September 30
Nice Team dinner with the boys! Happy 3 points, happy food, happy days – To be continued ;)
@DaxMcCarty – September 30
*collective sigh of relief* 3 points never get old, especially in front of our fans. No easy games in MLS is a fact, not a myth.
@ChrisPontius13 – September 30
Tough place to play. Guys stuck together though. Props to Portland. And once again, #DCU fans were class again. Much love