MLS Decision Day: Who Will Be The Best In The West?
Vancouver vs Portland MLS Picks
A whole season of toil and it all comes down to one match. The Vancouver Whitecaps will travel to Portland to take on the Timbers this Sunday in a winner-takes-all epic that will determine the Western Conference championship. An away draw could be enough for the Whitecaps to secure the top seed in the playoffs, however it will open the door for rivals Seattle to overtake them and pinch top spot on the final day. It is a much-watch afternoon of soccer in the MLS.
It's an absolute promoters dream in the north-west. The Sounders of course complete the trio that compete in the annual Cascadia Cup alongside Vancouver and Portland, and all three are in contention to finish atop the Western Conference standings.
And speaking of the Cascadia Cup, a win by Portland will see them take home the annual trophy for the first time since 2012, while any other outcome will result in Seattle finishing top.
Vancouver are out of the Cascadia Cup race, but this will mean little to them if they can get the win on Sunday and secure their first ever first-placed finish in the Western Conference. It will be a tough ask though - the Whitecaps have fallen to Portland twice already this season, and have experienced a mixed run of form, picking up seven points from a possible fifteen in their last five fixtures.
Portland have managed nine points during the same period, although the telling statistic is that they have managed five wins from their last five home appearances. Overall they are 10-4-2 at home in 2017, while Vancouver are 6-2-8 away from home. The Timbers also boast the most goals in the Western Conference, with 36 of their 58 coming in home fixtures. Diego Valeri has certainly helped his team's cause - he is the league's second top scorer with 21 so far this season.
Portland have an impressive record over the Whitecaps in the MLS - they have a record of 9-6-4 in all matches against Vancouver and have only lost to the Canadians once in ten matches at home. It is a great opportunity for them to overtake their rivals, and the leading sportsbooks agree - setting the home side as short-priced favourites to get the W.
This match is easily the pick of the weekend's action.
Both teams have it all to play for, and their well-established rivalry will only add to the tension when they take the field on Sunday. It is hard to go past the Timbers considering their excellent record against the Whitecaps, although fans from both sides of the border will remember the corresponding fixture last year when Vancouver defeated their rivals 4-1, knocking them out of playoff contention at the final hurdle.
In spite of this, we feel that the Timbers will add another chapter to the two sides' epic rivalry when they win a close-fought affair on Sunday. Expect to see goals from both teams in a match that will be settled late in the second half.
The Western Conference Playoff Picture
As is always the case on Decision Day, all 22 clubs will be in action at the same time, which provides MLS fans with a fantastic spectacle as they try to keep up with all the goals from all the matches that have an impact upon their team.
This year's Western Conference standings are incredibly tight, with almost every match of the round relevant to the final standings of each team. Below we preview each match followed by our prediction for each outcome.
Seattle Sounders vs Colorado Rapids
Seattle's hopes of securing top spot in the conference aren't solely in their hands - they of course will be relying on a favourable result in Portland - but they will secure at least second place with a win over the Rapids, and earn a crucial week off in the process.
They will also have the advantage of playing at home, and when you've gone through the regular season with just one loss, the odds will certainly be in your favour.
It's been a decent campaign for the Sounders, although it took them a while to get over their MLS Cup hangover. Out of the playoff standings midway through the season, Seattle went on an incredible run that featured just two losses in seventeen matches leading into the final round.
Conversely, it has been a season to forget for Colorado, who are just one point clear of Los Angeles at the foot of the Western Conference standings and ranked 20th overall. They have at least made an impact on the playoff race in the last few weeks - they won against Real Salt Lake and drew against FC Dallas, who are both fighting to remain alive as we approach Decision Day.
Undefeated in their last three matches and with nothing to play for except pride, don't expect Colorado to be an easy opposition for the Sounders, although the latter should get the job done here. At odds of -323, you'd probably need to parlay them to make a decent profit, but this is the closest you will get to a sure thing this Sunday.
Real Salt Lake vs Sporting Kansas City
This match has ramifications at both ends of the playoff race. A win for Real Salt Lake would see them jump to 45 points and heap the pressure on FC Dallas and San Jose; if neither manage to win on Sunday, Real would complete one of the most unlikely trips to the playoffs in recent history. Meanwhile Sporting can sneak into second place if they win and other results go their way.
Sporting's other motivation to win is to ensure that if they do miss out on second place they at least finish in fourth or higher to earn a home elimination round match, and with Houston breathing down their neck a draw may not be enough for them to hold on to fourth spot.
This game will come down to the team that is more desperate. A loss for Sporting would not be fatal, while Salt Lake will have absolutely no chance of a playoff berth without a win. Salt Lake have also gained ten points in their last five matches, including big wins against Seattle and Portland. The odds are in favour of the home side (+100) and so are we, put your money on Real to win this one.
San Jose vs Minnesota United
It is absolutely ridiculous that we are including San Jose in our playoff discussion, considering they are a team that has lost two more matches than they have won this season and have an abysmal negative 22 goal difference. Yet with one game remaining, the Earthquakes are in the driver's seat to finish sixth in the Western Conference, and are playing against lowly Minnesota United.
Incredibly, United have an identical goal difference, and in a tough first season in the big time have conceded 67 goals in their 33 games to date - easily the worst record in the league. Their inconsistent season was best summed up by their 3-0 loss to bottom-placed LA Galaxy last week, and they will already have their minds well and truly fixed on preparations for 2018.
So as much as FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake fans will hate to admit it, it looks as though San Jose will safely navigate their way to a win here and secure sixth place in the division.
FC Dallas vs LA Galaxy
The last match in the race for the final playoff position is between seventh-placed Dallas and bottom-placed Los Angeles. For those who have been following the outright odds closely over the course of the 2017 season, you will know that FC Dallas came into the season as favourites to finish atop the Western Conference standings and were among the top chances to win the MLS Cup. Few could have predicted their fall from grace.
Dallas started the season in top form, winning five and sharing the points on four occasions in their first nine matches. After nineteen matches they had only lost three times and another playoff appearance seemed to be a foregone conclusion. But just one win in the next fourteen matches sees them in seventh position and relying on a positive result in San Jose to have any chance of making the playoffs. Incredible.
LA have had a season to forget an will be playing to avoid a last-placed finish when they travel to Dallas on Sunday. They shouldn't trouble a Dallas team that are playing for their 2017 season, however neither team has been very predictable this year and the result could honestly go either way. For the sake of the drama it would cause in the playoff race, we are backing FC Dallas. However, at -294, they don't present any sort of value.
Houston Dynamo vs Chicago Fire
As mentioned above, the Houston Dynamo are also in with a chance of finishing in second place, and with a home game against the Chicago Fire they are a good chance of getting the three points needed to jump up the standings. Check out our Eastern Conference Playoff Picture preview for more details on this match.
It promises to be an epic final round in the MLS this weekend - you can catch all the action from 4pm EDT on Sunday, October 22nd.
Category : SoccerMore articles...
They outscored Pacific FC 3-2, avenging a 3-1 loss suffered in the spring season finale. But things didn't go as swimmingly for spring runners up Forge FC. They were toppled 2-1 by Edmonton FC.
The MLS action continues this weekend with all three Canadian teams involved in crucial fixtures. First up will be Toronto FC who is the all-Canadian clash between fierce rivals Toronto FC and Montreal Impact, immediately followed by the Vancouver Whitecaps hosting Sporting Kansas City.