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This Week in MLS – Three Teams from the West Could Clinch

MLS Cup Playoff Race Update: Three Teams from the West Could Clinch
This week sees three teams – all from the Western Conference – in position to secure a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs. 
 
The results of Chivas USA’s two games this week – versus the Columbus Crew (Wednesday) and D.C. United (Saturday) - could be key factors in the fate of the three teams looking to clinch. 
 
While Seattle holds the key to their own playoff destiny in Week 29, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake will be looking for some help from the Chivas USA’s two Eastern Conference opponents.
 
With the San Jose Earthquakes a
 
Seattle Sounders FC will clinch a playoff spot IF
·         Seattle Sounders FC WIN vs. San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday
OR
·         Seattle Sounders FC TIE the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday AND
o    Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday OR
o    Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to D.C. United on Saturday
 
Real Salt Lake will clinch a playoff spot IF
·         Real Salt Lake WIN against the Portland Timbers on Saturday
AND
·         Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday OR
·         Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to D.C. United on Saturday
 
LA Galaxy will clinch a playoff spot IF
·         LA Galaxy win vs. Toronto FC on Saturday
AND
·         Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to Columbus Crew on Wednesday OR
·         Chivas USA TIE or LOSE to D.C. United on Saturday
 
Homegrowns and SuperDraft Standouts Lead D.C. Playoff Push on ESPN2
Sitting two points inside of the playoff picture with six games to play, a win against the Philadelphia Union on Thursday could make or break D.C. United’s postseason hopes.
 
In the absence of injured captain Dwayne De Rosario, D.C.’s recent super draftees and Homegrown Players look to steer United past Philadelphia this Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
 
Over the past four seasons, D.C. has been able to boast one Rookie of the Year winner (Andy Najar, 2010), two Rookie of the Year finalists (Chris Pontius, 2009, and Perry Kitchen, 2011) and current 2012 Rookie of the Year contender in Nick DeLeon.
 
A 17-year-old Academy signing in 2010, Najar scored seven goals and notched two assists across all competitions in his first season. Najar has added four assists to his career totals.
 
Pontius, the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star MVP, has already set a career single-season mark in goals scored (11), and his six game-winning goals this year only trail Chris Wondolowski.
 
In 2011, Kitchen became the only D.C. rookie in club history to lead the roster in minutes played (2,726) and has only missed 63 minutes this season. DeLeon, United’s first pick in the 2012 SuperDraft, has five goals and four assists thus far in 2012.
 
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid, D.C.’s first Homegrown Player signing in 2009, has also been solid for the Black-and-Red. His 76.4% saves-percentage is second-best in MLS this season.
 
MLS Week 29 National Broadcasts
 
Thursday, September 20
Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United, 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2/Deportes/TSN2/RDS2)
 
Saturday, September 22
Montreal Impact vs. Sporting Kansas City, 1:00 p.m. ET (TSN/RDS)
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, 11:00 p.m. ET (NBC Sports Network/TSN2)
LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC, 10:30 p.m. ET (TSN/RDS2)
 
Sunday, September 23
D.C. United vs. Chivas USA, 7:00 p.m. ET (Galavision)
 
AT&T MLS Goal of the Week (Week 28) – CLICK HEREto vote
·         Brad Davis (HOU)
·         Fredy Montero (SEA)
·         Thierry Henry (NY)
·         Alex (CHI)
·         Julian De Guzman (DAL)
 
Check It Out
 
MLS Week 29 Previews
(Home team listed first; all times Eastern)
 
Wednesday, September 19
New York Red Bulls vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7 p.m.
·         Scoring Threats:This game features the two players with the most shots on target this season. Sporting Kansas City’s has 44 in 27 games, while the New York Red Bulls’ Kenny Cooper has 39 in 28 games.
·         League Leaders:The Red Bulls have the best home record in the League at 10-0-3 (.885), while Sporting Kansas City has the best away record at 7-4-2 (.615)
·         Back at it: Scoring his first goals since July 28, the Red Bulls’ Thierry Henry netted twice and added an assist in the 3-1 win vs. Columbus. His second goal was one of the rarest in all of soccer – a “gol olimpico”, directly from a corner kick.
·         On the Up: C.J. Sapong scored his first goal since June 16 to give Sporting a dramatic 1-1 home draw with Houston over the weekend and keep them atop the Eastern Conference by a single point.
 
Columbus Crew vs. Chivas USA, 7:30 p.m.
·         Toeing the Line: The Crew come into the game off back-to-back losses after their 3-1 defeat at the New York Red Bulls. They have not lost three games in a row this season.
·         Sharing is Caring: Columbus’ Federico Higuain has six assists in his first seven games in the League. No one on Chivas USA has more than three all season.
·         Streaking: Columbus is undefeated at home since July 21, a span of five games in which it has won four and tied one. Chivas USA has won only three games at home this year.
·         Home Cooking: The visiting team hasn’t won in the series since 2005, Chivas USA’s inaugural MLS season, when both teams won on the road in their two meetings that year.
 
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m.
·         Keep it Going: The Quakes have won three games in a row, matching their season-long winning streak, after their 2-0 win against Chivas USA last weekend.
·         Scoring Touch: Chris Wondolowski has 19 goals this season. He leads the MLS Golden Boot standings by five goals ahead of New York’s Kenny Cooper and Salt Lake’s Álvaro Sabório; the 19 goals are the most in a single MLS season since Landon Donovan scored 20 in 2008.
·         Double ‘em up: With 58 goals this season, San Jose has scored more than twice as many as Portland’s 28.
·         Breaking the Duck: The teams are meeting for the second time this year. Goals from Danny Mwanga and Jack Jewsbury sent the Timbers on their way to a 2-1 win July 3 at Jeld-Wen Field. It was the first win by either team in the all-time series.
 
Thursday, September 20
Philadelphia Union vs. D.C. United, 8 p.m. (ESPN2/Deportes)
·         Stepping Up: With Dwayne De Rosario out for the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury, Chris Pontius scored his 11th goal of the season and added an assist in United’s 2-1 win against New England.
·         Hard Times: The Union saw their winless streak extended to seven games despite coming back for a 1-1 draw Saturday at Toronto FC. The club record is eight games without a win, set last season.
·         Nice to See You: The teams are meeting for the third time this year in League play. They played to a 1-1 draw Aug. 19 at RFK Stadium after United won 1-0 on June 16 in a goal by Chris Pontius. The teams also met in the U.S. Open Cup, with Union advancing after an extra-time victory.
·         Ups and Downs: Philadelphia’s top scorer Jack McInerney scored his four goals this season during a seven-game stretch from June 23 until July 29. In the Union’s seven games since, he has failed to find the back of the net.
 
Saturday, September 22
Montreal Impact vs. Sporting Kansas City, 1 p.m. (TSN/RDS)
·         Back of the Net:Marco Di Vaio has scored in four straight games, the longest active streak in MLS.
·         Off Track: After their five-game winning streak, the Impact have lost back-to-back games, their first consecutive losses since June 27-July 4.
·         Spreading the Wealth: KC’s Graham Zusi collected his 13th assist of the season, setting up the dramatic equalizer in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Houston. Zusi is tied with Seattle’s Mauro Rosales for the MLS assist lead coming into the week.
·         Heavy Burden: Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi has taken 125 corner kicks this year. No one on Montreal has taken more than 60.
 
New England Revolution vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
·         Rubber Match: The teams are meeting for the third time this season. Lee Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson scored in a 2-0 Revolution victory July 8 at Gillette Stadium, after New York’s Thierry Henry scored the only goal in the April 28 meeting at Red Bull Arena.
·         Road Woes: New York has not won in New England since 2002. The Revolution have won 13 of 17 meetings in league and MLS Cup play since that last New York win. The Revolution haven’t won in New Jersey since 2007.
·         Better Luck Next Year: The Revolution became the second club to be eliminated from the MLS Cup Playoffs race with their 2-1 loss at D.C. United last weekend. The Revolution have gone three seasons without qualifying for their postseason, their longest stretch in club history.
·         Instant Impact: Rafa Márquez made his first start since July 15 in the Red Bulls’ 3-1 win vs. Columbus and collected his first assist since mid-May, setting up the first of Thierry Henry’s two goals.
 
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, 8 p.m. (NBC SN)
·         Long Break: Real Salt Lake play a league match for the first time in three weeks, their last game a 1-0 win against D.C. United on Sept. 1 that ended a four-game winless run.
·         Season Series: The teams are meeting for the third time this season. RSL won 3-2 on March 31 at Jeld-Wen Field as Jonny Steele scored in the 89th minute and Kyle Beckerman hit for the winner in stoppage time. Real won 3-0 on July 7 at Rio Tinto Stadium behind a hat trick from Álvaro Sabório.
·         Spot Kicks: Real Salt Lake has converted all four of its penalty kicks this season, joining the Montreal Impact (nine for nine) as the only teams with more than three attempts that are perfect from the spot. 
·         Final 45: Real Salt Lake has scored 27 goals in the second half of games this season, nearly twice as many as Portland’s 14.
 
Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew, 8:30 p.m.
·         Decisive Starts: The teams have split a pair of 2-1 decisions this season. Eddie Gaven and Emilio Rentería scored first-half goals to lead the Crew to a win in Columbus on May 26, then Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro hit first-half strikes to give the Fire the win June 23 at Toyota Park.
·         Windy City Worries: With the Fire victory in the last meeting, the Crew haven’t won in Bridgeview since 2006 (eight visits).
·         Solid Acquisitions: Alex scored his second goal in three games, Álvaro Fernández scored his second in as many games, and Sherjill MacDonald scored his second since coming to the Fire in their 3-1 win vs. Montréal. All arrivals since midseason, the trio has combined for six goals and three assists.
·         On a Roll: Chicago has won six out of its last seven games. Before that, it had taken the club 13 games to record six wins.
 
LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC, 10:30 p.m.
·         MLS Matchup: While the teams are meeting for the first time in league play this season, they did meet in March in the CONCACAF Champions League, TFC winning the quarterfinal series 3-2 on aggregate, including a 2-1 at The Home Depot Center.
·         Even Stevens: In league play, the clubs have played to four consecutive draws, three scoreless draws in a row followed by a 2-2 result last June 11 in Carson.
·         Doing the Dozen: Landon Donovan returned to the lineup after a three-match absence and recorded his 12th assist of the season, setting up Robbie Keane’s 12th goal of the season (and eighth in the last 11 games) in the 2-0 win vs. Colorado.
·         Glad to be Back: Returning to the lineup after a two-match absence, Eric Hässli has scored goals in back-to-back games for Toronto FC.
 
Seattle Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m.
·         Friendly Rivals: Fredy Montero kept pace with strike partner Eddie Johnson, scoring his first goal in three games in the 1-1 draw with Portland. It was Montero’s 12th goal of the season; Johnson has 13.
·         Powerful Partnership: Not to be outdone, Alan Gordon scored his 12th goal in San Jose’s win vs. Chivas USA; he and MLS Golden Boot leader Chris Wondolowski have combined for 31 goals entering the week.
·         West Coast Battle: The teams are meeting for the third time this season in League play, the Quakes having won the first two. A Wondolowski penalty kick was the difference in a 1-0 result March 31 at CenturyLink Field, then a Steven Lenhart stoppage-time goal provided a 2-1 final Aug. 11 in Santa Clara.
·         Strong Second Halves: San Jose and Seattle are first and second respectively in second-half goals. The Earthquakes have 36 while the Sounders have 28.
 
Sunday, September 23
Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo, 4 p.m.
·         Rematch: The teams are playing for a second this time. A late Brian Ching penalty kick was the decider in a 2-1 Dynamo victory June 30 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
·         Pass it Around: Rookie Antoine Hoppenot collected his first MLS assist, setting up the Union equalizer in their 1-1 draw at Toronto FC. Hoppenot has two goals for the season.
·         Individual Accomplishments: Brad Davis scored his seventh goal of the season, his highest total in a single campaign, to keep the Dynamo undefeated against Eastern Conference-leading Sporting KC after their 1-1 draw Saturday. Combined with his 11 assists, Davis now has 25 points this season, also a career-high.
·         Giving and Receiving: Philadelphia’s Michael Farfan leads the team in both assists and yellows cards, with four and six respectively.
 
D.C. United vs. Chivas USA, 7 p.m. (Galavision)
·         Defending Their Turf: D.C. United have defeated Chivas USA in their last two meetings at RFK Stadium, after Chivas had won on back-to-back visits.
·         Missing Home: The game in D.C. is the second of a two-game Eastern road swing for Chivas USA, the last of a string of five games out of six on the road.
·         Important Strike: Lewis Neal scored his first MLS goal for United, giving them a 2-1 win against New England last weekend that pulled them back ahead of Columbus into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Both United and the Crew have two games this week.
·         California Problems: In his first four seasons with the New York Red Bulls, Juan Pablo Angel scored 58 goals. Since moving to the West Coast with LA Galaxy in 2011, then being traded to Chivas USA mid-season, he has scored only 14 goals.
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.
·         Close Victories: The teams met twice in a span of three weeks earlier this season, Whitecaps FC winning 1-0 both times. Sebastien Le Toux scored the lone goal in the June 16 win in Vancouver, then Darren Mattocks provided the margin of victory July 4 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
·         Homesick: The Rapids have lost nine consecutive games on the road, a club record. Their last points away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park came in a 2-0 win at FC Dallas on May 6. The MLS record for consecutive road losses is 16, set by Kansas City in 1998-99.
·         Slowly Slipping: Whitecaps FC went down to their MLS club-record fifth consecutive defeat in a dramatic 1-0 loss at FC Dallas last weekend, leaving the teams separated by a single point for the fifth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
·         Uncomfortable Surroundings: Vancouver’s leading scorer Darren Mattocks has scored seven goals this season, but only two of them have come at BC Place.
 
Quotables
 
“That was important. We didn't want our fans to drive down on a bus carrying a trophy and go back empty-handed.”
-- Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani, to The Seattle Times, after his team’s 1-1 draw in Portland kept the Timbers from clinching the Cascadia Cup
 
“We're a bit disappointed, because we wanted to raise the trophy in front of the home fans. But we now have a little bit more work to do.”
-- Portland Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury, to The Oregonian
 
“I've scored some goals in my career. This one was not a bad one.”
-- Thierry Henry, of the New York Red Bulls
 
“I couldn’t even be mad because what can you say about that goal? You can’t even get mad. You just have to give him credit.”
-- Columbus Crew midfielder Tony Tchani, all to the Star-Ledger, after Henry scored directly from a corner kick to cap a 3-1 Red Bulls victory
 
“We're trying to be the first Canadian team ever to make the MLS playoffs and it's a big task. It seems very, very hard to get over that line. With our fans and our players united, we're going to get there.”
-- Vancouver Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie, to the Vancouver Sun, after a late 1-0 loss to FC Dallas left his team just a point ahead in the fifth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference
 
“We’re going to have to text before every game now just to see if it can help either of us get a goal or an assist.”
-- D.C. United’s Lewis Neal, to The Washington Post, after saying he sent a text message to Chris Pontius the night before Pontius scored a goal and assisted on Neal’s first MLS goal in United’s 2-1 win vs. New England.
 
“I wouldn’t say it’s the season from hell. But when you get to 85 minutes and you’ve not won for a couple of months, you think that you’re going to pull through. I’m frustrated for the lads to be honest.”
-- Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner, to the Toronto Star, after another late goal leaves his team in a 1-1 draw with Philadelphia Union
 
Sweet Tweets
 
@DaxMcCarty11  (Dax McCarty) – September 11
Today will always be special, but living in NYC now gives it a little something more. Thankful to wake up everyday. #911 #neverforget
 
@WSJSportsSeptember 15
There was Tebow. Now 'tifo' -- another kind of football phenomenon -- is spreading in America. on.wsj.com/PtDAzE
 
@DrewFromTV(Drew Carey)– September 14
Roger Levesque's tifo in WSJ today. Page A6! #Sounders
 
@thesoccerdon (Don Garber) – September 14
Largest crowd ever at Livestrong Sporting Park expected for tonight's #SportingKC v #HoustonDynamo on #nbcsn.
 
@will_kuhns– September 15
This year, clubs across @MLS have signed 50+ newcomers with senior nat'l team experience.
 
@ForbesLife – September 11
David Beckham, Thierry Henry Have The Best-Selling MLS Jerseys http://bit.ly/S7GVVf
 
@eddie_johnson7(Eddie Johnson) – September 16
Amazing goal by my idol Thierry Henry. If you don't think he still has it then you’re crazy. #legend
 
@JimmyConrad_com – September 16
A BIG thank you to all of the great people I met in Portland this week on BOTH sides of the rivalry. You guys have created something special.
 
@kylesheldonSeptember 15
.@DistrictUltrasX do it again. Incredible tifo for Ben Olsen. #dcunited instagr.am/p/PnYIQXnjGX/
 
@NickRimandoSeptember 15
Congrats to my friend, teammate, and Priest Ben Olsen on being inducted into @dcunited Hall of Tradition. Very deserving. #DCU
 
@ByTimBooth (Tim Booth) – September 16
Hey it's a Tifo at an NFL game #seahawks pic.twitter.com/VcE48prA
 
@SoccerByIves– September 11
For this being his first big USMNT match, Graham Zusi has been great. Very poised, active and smart with his decisions. Looks like a veteran