MLS Weekend Preview: What’s next for Toronto FC?
Relief paves the way for ambition in Toronto
Sebastian Giovinco capped his MVP season by ending Toronto FC’s playoff drought on Wednesday. His magnificent winner in the 2-1 victory over New York Red Bulls confirmed the Reds’ first trip to the postseason and permitted a change in focus as this weekend approaches. TFC currently sits in second place in the Eastern Conference ahead of Columbus’ visit to BMO Field on Saturday. A pair of victories — including in the season finale at Montréal next Sunday — over the final fortnight seals a guaranteed berth in the Conference Semifinals and sidesteps the fraught knockout round. It is an achievement suddenly within grasp for a side still grappling with its belated entry into novel territory.
Impact focus on fundamental tasks ahead in New England
Montréal still faces a more basic postseason assignment as this weekend beckons. New York City FC could firm up the Eastern Conference playoff field by securing a result at Orlando City on Friday, but the Impact might need to take care of business at New England on Saturday in order to remove any final day doubts. The loss of Andrés Romero — the Argentine winger tore his ACL in the 1-0 victory at Colorado last weekend — complicates matters, while Didier Drogba’s status is in some doubt on the artificial surface at Gillette Stadium. Those complications might require the visitors to lean on other alternatives — the creativity of Ignacio Piatti, the pace of Dominic Oduro over the top — in order to procure the points in front of a Revs crowd expected to approach 40,000.
Can FC Dallas take advantage of Real Salt Lake’s priorities?
Portland essentially scuttled Real Salt Lake’s faint playoff hopes with a 1-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium on Wednesday. RSL might fume about the red card to Jamison Olave (justified for denying a goalscoring opportunity for Lucas Melano) and the ensuing penalty decision (unjustified because the contact took place outside the penalty area), but the Claret-and-Cobalt cannot change their current status. The primary focus in Sandy now shifts to securing a place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals with a result against Municipal on Tuesday (10:00p.m. ET, FS2, FOX Sports GO). If RSL chooses to rotate accordingly, then Western Conference leaders FC Dallas — now three points clear at the top after a 2-0 victory over Vancouver in midweek — stand to benefit.
Houston, San Jose strive to keep the dream alive
Fanendo Adi’s penalty complicated the path to the postseason in Houston and San Jose. The pressure is on both sides to respond ahead of a potentially decisive final weekend. San Jose must somehow extract all three points from a difficult game against Sporting Kansas City on Friday to keep pace with the Timbers, while the Dynamo host Seattle on Sunday with a desperate need to procure all three points to stay alive. Both tasks are complex — San Jose struggles to play out of defense in the face of pressure, while Houston wilts when confronted with direct play from back to front — and underscore the reasons why the two sides find their playoff futures in such peril.
Galaxy must disrupt Timbers in midfield to keep pace out West
Portland coach Caleb Porter returned to his more ambitious roots in that midweek victory at Real Salt Lake. The midfield trio of Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri knocked the ball around midfield and served as the base of operations for that precious triumph at Rio Tinto Stadium. It is a triumvirate LA Galaxy must disrupt on Sunday (live, 7:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) in order to maintain touch with FC Dallas. There are numerical issues for the Galaxy to solve there — is the duo of Steven Gerrard and Juninho enough in the center of the part? — before training their sights on a dogged Timbers rearguard capable of making life difficult for Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes.