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This Week in MLS – September 20, 2016

 
This Week in MLS – September 20, 2016
  • Push to the Playoffs heats up as four teams look to berths in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
  • Future stars of MLS highlighted in the MLssoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports
  • Rising U.S. star Christian Pulisic added to Major League Soccer’s Allocation Ranking List
  • Week 28 AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open
  • Check It Out, Quotables, Sweet Tweets
  • Week 29 Game Previews
 
Push to the Playoffs heats up as four teams look to secure berths in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs
The push to the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs is underway as teams begin to clinch their postseason berths and fight for the final spots amongst a competitive field. Following a draw last weekend, Supporters’ Shield leading FC Dallas became the first club to secure a spot in the playoffs, while four other teams, including the three highest scoring clubs in MLS this season, could join Dallas this week.
 
With only 11 spots remaining, who will push their teams above the red line?
 
New York City FC’s first postseason appearance in reach when it hosts Chicago Fire 
New York City FC (East #3, 45 points, 12-9-9 record) can clinch its first ever postseason appearance with a victory in Viernes de Futbol action against the Chicago Fire (East #10, 27 points, 6-13-9 record) on Friday at Yankee Stadium (8 p.m. ET, UniMás). Carrying a season-best six-game home unbeaten mark into the contest, NYCFC is led by star forward David Villa who ranks second in MLS with 17 goals this season. The Spanish icon needs a tremendous performance on Friday in order to keep pace in the Golden Boot Race where he trails by three goals. Midfielder Jack Harrison, meanwhile, continues to dazzle on the field, notching two assists in NYCFC’s 2-2 draw on Saturday, once again reaffirming his selection to this year’s MLSsoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports short list.
 
Prolific Bradley Wright-Phillips has Red Bulls on brink of seventh-consecutive MLS Cup playoff berth
The New York Red Bulls (East #2, 45 points, 12-9-9 record) have an opportunity to clinch its seventh-consecutive appearance in the playoffs with a victory over the Montreal Impact on Saturday at Red Bull Arena (7 p.m. ET). NYRB leads the league in scoring this year with 52 team goals, powered by MLS assist leader Sacha Kljestan (16 assists) and Golden Boot front-runner Bradley Wright-Phillips (20 goals). In addition to his musical exploits off the field, Wright-Phillips has awed on the pitch this season, making history in Toronto by becoming the first player in MLS history to score 20-plus goals in two separate seasons. Although the Red Bulls enter the contest with a league-best 12-game unbeaten streak, Montreal (East #5, 38 points, 9-9-11 record) boasts a dangerous attack led by midfielder Ignacio Piatti, who’s tied for fifth in the league with 14 goals, and the always perilous Didier Drogba. A victory for Montreal would help put distance between the club and a crowded field that is vying for the final two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. 
 
Surging LA Galaxy en route to claiming eighth-consecutive postseason appearance
In classic Bruce Arena fashion, the LA Galaxy are surging at just the right moment with the MLS Cup Playoffs just around the corner, and can secure its eighth-consecutive appearance in the postseason with a victory over Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). Unbeaten in its last six matches – thanks to an incredible game-tying goal from Landon Donovan – LA (West #2, 48 points, 11-4-15 record) is on an offensive tear as it is currently tied for second in the league in team goals with 51, including 11 in its previous four matches.
 
The Galaxy will face a resilient Sounders FC squad (West #7, 35 points, 10-13-5 record) that looks to continue a late season playoff push powered by Jordan Morris, whose 10 goals scored rank in the top five all-time for a rookie and lead the club this season. Morris is one of 50 players included on the 24 Under 24 short list, and is expected to rank high after a spectacular rookie season. Seattle, like LA, is also in search of its eighth-consecutive postseason berth, as the two teams are currently tied for the longest active streak in MLS.
 
PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
 
LA Galaxy will clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs IF
  • LA Galaxy win vs. Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday
 
Toronto FC will clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs IF
  • Toronto FC win vs. Philadelphia Union on Saturday
OR
  • New England Revolution tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Saturday
OR
  • Orlando City SC win or tie vs. D.C. United on Saturday
OR
  • New York Red Bulls win vs. Montréal Impact on Saturday
 
New York City FC will clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs IF
  • New York City FC win vs. Chicago Fire on Friday
AND EITHER
  • New England Revolution tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Saturday OR
  • Orlando City SC and D.C. United tie on Saturday OR
  • New York Red Bulls win vs. Montréal Impact on Saturday
 
New York Red Bulls will clinch a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs IF
  • New York Red Bulls win vs. Montréal Impact on Saturday
 
Future stars of MLS highlighted in the MLssoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports
All this week the brightest young stars in the league will be highlighted as the MLSsoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports is revealed. While players ranked 1-15 will be released in the following three days, a group of nine standouts were recognized on Monday, with several expected to play key roles this week as the push to the playoffs continue.
 
Already in his sixth season in the league, the 23-year-old Juan Agudelo continues to show why he is one of MLS’s most dangerous and promising forwards. Ranked #17 on the 24 Under 24 list, Agudelo began his professional career as a Homegrown Player for the New York Red Bulls while earning 19 appearances and scoring three goals for the U.S. Men’s National Team. This season, Agudelo has already registered a career-high four assists in addition to his five goals scored. In pushing New England to the brink of the playoffs, Agudelo has two goals and two assists in his past three matches, all Revs victories. New England (East #6, 36 points, 9-12-9 record) continues its postseason push at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday against Columbus Crew SC (7 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes).
 
Also figuring into the postseason race is New York Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis, who comes in at #22 in the rankings. The 23-year-old Homegrown Player has two goals and three assists in his second season with the Red Bulls, with Davis filling in admirably for an injured Dax McCarty while helping the team go undefeated during his last seven starts (3-0-4). Davis looks to continue his strong run of play and help the Red Bulls clinch a postseason spot when taking on the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET).
 
Coming in at #24, Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Cristian Roldan has become a crucial piece in the team’s improved attack, resulting in a late-season comeback that has Seattle flirting with its eighth-consecutive postseason appearance. Seattle will continue its run on Sunday against the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center (4 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes). The 21-year-old Roldan attended the University of Washington before being drafted by Seattle No. 16 overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. Now in his second season with Sounders FC, Roldan has grown exponentially with three goals and three assists this year. Roldan’s play has led to interest from the El Salvador and Guatemala National Teams, while the California native hopes continued strong performances will garner the attention of U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jürgen Klinsmann. 
 
Complete coverage of the MLSsoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports can be found HERE.
 
MLSsoccer.com 24 Under 24 presented by EA Sports reveal
• Tuesday, Sept. 20: Players 15 to 11
• Wednesday, Sept. 21: Players 10 to 6
• Thursday, Sept. 22: Players 5-1
 
Rising U.S. star Christian Pulisic added to Major League Soccer’s Allocation Ranking List
A rising star on the U.S. Men’s National Team, Christian Pulisic has been added to Major League Soccer’s Allocation Ranking List after the elite youth national team player turned 18 on Sept. 18, 2016. The Borussia Dortmund winger – who recently started in UEFA Champions League play – has been a fixture on U.S. youth national teams and has had a breakout year with the senior team in 2016, earning a place on Jurgen Klinsmann's Copa America Centenario roster and becoming the youngest U.S. player to start and score in World Cup qualifying earlier this month.
 
The players who are included on the Allocation Ranking List are determined by Major League Soccer’s player personnel department and club technical staffs. The list is updated once each year, during the time window between the end of the MLS regular season and MLS Cup. The Allocation Ranking List is only updated during the season if an elite U.S. youth national team player turns 18 or graduates from the U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, FL and is deemed eligible for the list. In addition, the Allocation Ranking List is updated when a player is transferred out of MLS for more than $500,000.
 
More information on the Allocation Process can be found HERE.
 
AT&T Goal of the Week voting now open (Week 28) – CLICK HERE to vote
  • Jordan Morris (SEA) Sends crowd into a frenzy with a perfectly timed diving header for the game-winning goal
  • Kelyn Rowe (NE) Hits a shot off the left post and into back of net with a right-footed strike from outside the box
  • Maxi Urruti (DAL) Rifles home right-footed shot from a difficult angle to equalize the match for Dallas
  • Alex (HOU) Toe pokes eventual game winner over goalkeeper Nick Rimando in transition
  • Jozy Altidore (TFC) Sends a beautiful free kick upper 90, freezing goalkeeper Luis Robles in the process
  • Cyle Larin (ORL) Hits a right-footed shot from outside the box in traffic far post to put Orlando on the board
  • Landon Donovan (LA) Hits late-game equalizer with left-footed shot far post past diving goalkeeper Tim Melia
  • Chris Pontius (PHI) Scores equalizer with left-footed laser from outside the box
 
Check It Out
 
Quotables
“Listen, I got an 8-month-old (baby) at home. Diapers are expensive. I wish I was getting the benefits of AARP right now. But I think they probably realized I might have a little time left in this old guy.”
LA Galaxy forward Landon Donovan on scoring amid chants by Sporting Kansas City fans
 
"As tough as this decision was, my family and I are extremely excited about the next chapter and the new adventures ahead. It has been an honor to represent MLS during my 14 seasons, and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to play for two first-class organizations and fan bases that have taken this league and the sport in our country to the next level.”
Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury on his impending retirement following the 2016 season
 
“He defines himself by the ways he can help his team win. I think that’s smart. In his head he knows he has nothing to prove. He has nothing to prove to me. At the end of the day, Jozy’s by far the best striker the U.S. has. And for us, he’s immense. We saw that today.”
Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney on Jozy Altidore’s two-goal performance on Sunday
 
“It can be frustrating, especially as a forward. That’s your job, to put the ball in the back of the net. It was in the back of my mind. But you keep pushing, keep grinding, be confident that the chance will come.”
Seattle Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris on scoring the late game-winning goal on Saturday
 
"We smell the postseason and you can see it. You can see the consistency in the performances at home," Porter said. "We need to continue to clone (these performances) and hopefully we can now clone it on the road."
Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter on his team’s performance following a victory over the Philadelphia Union
 
Sweet Tweets
Ema Boateng (‏@Emaboateng): #TBT to 5yrs ago in high school when @landondonovan signed this for me. Seemed far-fetched then but here we are
 
Dom Dwyer (@ddwyer14): Wow........... @KCCauldron you never cease to amaze me! Thank you
 
Jack Jewsbury (@JewsburyJ): Thanks to everyone who has been a part of my career - it has been an amazing ride!
 
Jordan Morris (@JmoSmooth13): Love playing at CLINK. The fans are next level. Thank you guys! Gotta keep moving forward! #EBFG
 
Shkelzen Gashi (@s_gashi11): Win or loose - there is always time for the fans. Especially for the children! #Gashi #LetMeTakeA #Selfie  #Rapids96 #SG11
 
Week 29 Game Previews
Friday, September 23
New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire, 8 p.m. ET (UniMás)
  • NYCFC is within a win of clinching a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs after extending their home undefeated streak to six matches with their 2-2 draw vs. FC Dallas on Saturday evening. Jack Harrison set up both NYCFC goals; he has three goals and five assists for his rookie season.
  • The Fire concluded a three-game homestand with a second result, reaching a 2-2 draw with D.C. United on Friday evening at Toyota Park. David Accam scored his eighth goal of the season.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Tommy McNamara scored a goal and an assist – the first goal of the 2016 MLS season – and Mix Diskerud and Khiry Shelton also had a goal and an assist as New York City FC claimed a 4-3 win in the season opener March 6 at Toyota Park; the teams reached a goalless draw April 10 at Yankee Stadium.
  • The teams have reached a draw now in both meetings lifetime at Yankee Stadium. They have split the two meetings at Toyota Park, the Fire winning there April 24, 2015 in the first meeting ever between the clubs.
 
Saturday, September 24
Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union, 5 p.m.
  • Jozy Altidore scored a pair of goals – now with eight goals in his last eight matches – and Michael Bradley scored his first goal of the season while setting up another as Toronto FC came back for a 3-3 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field.
  • Chris Pontius netted his 11th goal of the season, but Union had their winless run extended to three matches following a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Sebastian Giovinco, Drew Moor and Jozy Altidore all scored first-half goals as TFC eased to a 3-1 win Aug. 20 at Talen Energy Stadium.
  • Toronto FC has won four meetings in a row in the all-time series, claiming all three matchups in 2015, including the last two both at BMO Field. Sebastian Giovinco has scored in each of the four games, with four goals and one assist in that span.
  • Before the last year’s season series sweep, Union had a seven-game undefeated streak alive in the series, winning four of those games, including three in a row before the first TFC win in 2015.
 
D.C. United vs. Orlando City SC, 7 p.m. ET
  • D.C. United completed a three-game road swing by coming back for a second consecutive draw, scoring a goal in second-half stoppage time for a second game in a row in their 2-2 result at the Chicago Fire on Friday evening.
  • Orlando City suffered their second consecutive loss, conceding four goals for a second game in a row in their 4-1 defeat by Columbus Crew SC on Saturday evening at Camping World Stadium, despite Cyle Larin netting his 14th goal of the season.
  • The teams met three times in Orlando City’s inaugural MLS campaign, D.C. United winning two, including a 2-1 win May 13 at RFK Stadium in the only match there between the clubs.
  • 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.
 
New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact, 7 p.m. ET
  • Bradley Wright-Phillips became the first player in MLS history to score 20-plus goals in two separate season, hitting for a pair of goals as the Red Bulls were hauled back into a 3-3 draw with Toronto FC on Sunday afternoon at BMO Field. It was the 15th multiple goal game for Wright-Phillips in his four MLS seasons.
  • Didier Drogba scored his 10th goal of the season, but the Impact had their winless run extended to three games in a 3-1 defeat by the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Stade Saputo.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, having split the first two, each winning on their home ground. Dominic Oduro, Ignacio Piatti and Anthony Jackson-Hamel all scored in a 3-0 Impact victory, March 12 at Stade Saputo; Bradley Wright-Phillips netted a pair of goals as the Red Bulls took a 3-1 win Aug. 13 at Red Bull Arena.
  • The win in the first meeting snapped a six-game undefeated streak for the Red Bulls in the series. The last Montréal win had been a 1-0 win at Stade Saputo in the first meeting in 2013.
  • The Red Bulls have won all six league meetings lifetime at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls have come away with points on three of their six trips to Montréal all-time.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 7 p.m. ET
  • Whitecaps FC were blanked at the attacking end for a seventh time in their last nine league games, falling 1-0 to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
  • The Rapids remained undefeated on their home ground for the season – now one of two teams without a home defeat this season – following their scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Marlon Hairston scored one goal and set up the second as the Rapids took a 2-0 win Aug. 6 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Rapids center back Axel Sjoberg scored deep in second-half stoppage time, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw July 9 at BC Place.
  • The Rapids have won the last six meetings between the teams at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park; Whitecaps FC won there in 2012 for their lone triumph on the Rapids’ home ground. The Rapids win April 5, 2014 in Vancouver was their second victory ever at BC Place, now in eight visits all-time.
 
Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Dynamo put an end to a three-game winless run, Alex scoring the game’s only goal in his team’s victory against Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi each scored goals set up by Darren Mattocks as the Timbers won back-to-back games in league play for the first time season, defeating Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Saturday afternoon at Providence Park.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Diego Valeri set up the first goal then scored the next two, including the game-winner on a penalty kick in stoppage time, as the Timbers claimed a 3-2 win June 26 at Providence Park.
  • The Timbers have won three times in nine meetings all-time in the series, winning three of the last four meetings at Providence Park. The Dynamo have won two of the four meetings all-time in Houston, with two draws.
 
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas, 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Real Salt Lake suffered their first home defeat this season in a second consecutive loss – both by a 1-0 scoreline – following their reversal by the Houston Dynamo on Saturday evening at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • FC Dallas kicked off their two-game road swing by coming back for a late 2-2 draw at New York City FC on Friday evening, as Maxi Urruti and Michael Barrios each netted goals.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, each having won once on their home ground. Kellyn Acosta and Fabian Castillo scored on either side of halftime as FC Dallas took a 2-0 victory June 25 at Toyota Stadium; Jamisón Olave scored the game’s lone goal for a Real win Aug. 20 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
  • FCD has come away with points on four of their last six trips to Rio Tinto Stadium, with two wins and two draws, dating back to 2012.
  • RSL is now 1-12-2 at FC Dallas all-time in league games between the clubs; FCD has also won a home game in the MLS Cup Playoffs (in 2010) and a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal (in 2011).
 
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • The Quakes had their winless run extended to five games with a second consecutive draw, reaching a scoreless result with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
  • Sporting extended their home undefeated streak to eight games, playing to a second draw, coming back for a late 2-2 result with the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. 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. San Jose has won the last three meetings between the teams, including both encounters a season ago.
  • The first meeting victory for San Jose was the first win for the road team in the series since 2004, when San Jose won at Arrowhead Stadium. The Quakes victory also snapped an eight-game home winning streak for Sporting vs. the Quakes.
  • Kansas City has not won in San Jose since Aug. 16, 2000. The Quakes have won 10 of the 15 meetings since in northern California, with five draws.
 
Sunday, September 25
LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders FC, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • Landon Donovan scored his MLS all-time leading 145th league goal in the second game of his return from retirement, as the Galaxy reached a 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Sunday afternoon at Children’s Mercy Park.
  • Jordan Morris scored the 10th goal in his rookie season – his fifth game-winning goal – as Sounders FC snapped a three-game winless run with a 1-0 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Robbie Keane scored the game’s lone goal to give the Galaxy the victory July 9 at CenturyLink Field. On July 31 at CenturyLink Field, Cristian Roldan gave Sounders FC a first-half lead, but Sebastian Lletget netted the equalizer 12 minutes from time to leave the teams in a 1-1 draw.
  • Sounders FC have not won at the Galaxy since 2009, now 11 trips in league and MLS Cup play without a win.
  • The teams have met four times in the last six seasons in the MLS Cup Playoffs, including in the Knockout Round last year; last year’s victory was the first time Sounders FC have advanced.
  • The teams also met this year in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on July 20, the Galaxy coming back for a 4-2 win at the StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium. Giovani dos Santos netted the equalizer late in the second half, then Sebastian Lletget scored twice in the final minutes to put the game away.
 
Columbus Crew SC vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Crew SC put an end to a two-game losing slide, Ola Kamara hitting for his third multiple-goal game this season as his club exploded for a 4-1 win against Orlando City SC on Saturday evening at Camping World Stadium.
  • Kelyn Rowe scored two goals in a game for the third time in his MLS career and Kei Kamara netted his 10th goal of the campaign, as the Revolution won a third consecutive league game for the first time this season with their 3-1 victory at the Montréal Impact.
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, splitting the first two at Gillette Stadium. Lee Nguyen scored early and Kei Kamara scored late – against his former club – as the Revolution claimed a 3-1 win July 9; Ethan Finlay and Federico Higuaín netted first-half goals as Crew SC took a 2-0 win Aug. 20.
  • Crew SC have won the last two league meetings in Columbus, though the Revolution won the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series in 2014, as well as both matches in Columbus during the 2013 regular season. The Crew SC win last time out ended a three-game Revolution undefeated streak in Foxborough, Crew SC winning there for the first time since July 26, 2014.