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September 14, 2009 at 4:57 PM

MLS “Impact Game of the Week:” Sounders FC vs. Chivas USA

“revhq” — Appreciate all your comments, so I will cut you some slack on your last one. I was the first reporter to talk to Leo Gonzalez upon his arrival here. 😉
With two games in hand on Seattle (9-6-10, 37 points), and only one point behind in the standings, Chivas USA (11- 9-3, 36 points) make their first visit to Qwest Field to face Sounders FC. Chivas USA won the previous meetings, both at The Home Depot Center – 2-0 on April 18 and 1-0 on June 6.
Both teams nabbed crucial victories in Week 25. Seattle beat D.C. United, 2-1, and Chivas USA defeated New England, 2-0. Seattle continues to see stellar play from Rookie of the Year candidate Steve Zakuani and Newcomer of the Year, and Budweiser Golden Boot candidate Fredy Montero. Each scored in Seattle’s victory, while Chivas USA newcomer Maicon Santos scored the game winner against New England.
Each squad will return key players this week as Sounders FC midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and Chivas USA forward Maykel Galindo return from suspension. The teams currently hold wild card spots in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but with the standings so tight, each point is crucial in the next five weeks. There is a logjam of seven teams between 33 and 37 points, and teams tied on 36 points currently hold the final playoff berths.
While each offense has the potential to do big things, both teams are rely on solid foundations at the back. Seattle’s defense ranks second in the League giving up only 0.96 goals per game, and Chivas USA’s defense ranks third giving up 1.04 goals per game. If either team grabs three points from this match, it will catapult into a battle for the top spot in the Western Conference with leaders Houston Dynamo and the Los Angeles Galaxy.
MLS Cup Playoffs Race: Seven teams within striking distance of four automatic berths
The top two in each conference did not change as the Columbus Crew and Chicago Fire remain 1 and 2 in the Eastern Conference, and the Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy remain tops in the Western Conference. A full slate of seven games is on tap for Week 27 of the regular season, with each game meaningful in the playoff race.
The Galaxy’s 6-3 loss to FC Dallas left LA with a 9-5-11 record and 38 points, allowing a group of three teams (Seattle, Colorado and Chivas USA) to within two points. Seattle and Chivas won over the weekend, while Colorado’s loss is a setback, but the Rapids have games in hand over the leaders.
The New York Red Bulls have been eliminated from playoff contention, but they will look to play the part of spoilers for the remainder of the season, beginning with a home game versus the Revolution, who are struggling at the moment.
Currently five teams out of the Western Conference would qualify for the playoffs, if the season were to end today. But the season does not end today, and the current rankings cannot account for the uneven amount of games played. Each club has between five and eight games left to secure one of eight spots before the MLS Cup Playoffs begin Oct. 29.
Eight teams qualify for the playoffs. Playoff berths will be determined by points in the standings upon the completion of the regular season. All 15 teams will have played 30 games. The top two teams in each conference qualify and are seeded 1 & 2 in their respective four-team playoff conference brackets. The four MLS teams with the next most points, regardless of conference, receive
“wildcard” berths.
The four wildcard teams will be seeded according to conference first.
If more than four teams qualify from one conference, the team(s) finishing lower than fourth in its conference will shift over to the other conference bracket.
A team switching conference brackets will be seeded below all other teams in its new conference playoff bracket.

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