Six Forwards Eyeing Budweiser Golden Boot
The top six goal scorers in MLS so far this season are all within three goals of each other entering the final four weeks of the season. Not only is San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski coming off a hat trick in Toronto that earned him MLS Player of the Week honors, but his team has the most games remaining of any of the six leaders.
Should two players finish the season tied on goals, the first tiebreaker is assists and the second tiebreaker is fewest games played. Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux has 10 assists, Colorado’s Conor Casey has five; none of the other leaders has more than three.
Make your prediction for the 2010 Budweiser Golden Boot winner and read more about the six frontrunners on MLSsoccer.com.
MLS Cup Playoffs race: Early verdicts signal less parity?
Five MLS clubs already know their postseason fate – in or out – with four weeks remaining in the regular season. By the end of this weekend, another three could clinch playoff berths (Columbus, FC Dallas, and New York) while four teams could be eliminated (Chicago, Chivas USA, Philadelphia and Toronto), which would leave four teams (San Jose, Seattle, Colorado and Kansas City) vying for the last three spots. The eight playoff-bound teams will look to improve their seeding for home field advantage while several clubs chase the Supporters’ Shield.
The potential for so many early verdicts could be an anomaly, or it could reflect the impact of expansion and the increased options that clubs have in building their rosters. Whatever the reasons, this year has more separation in the standings – more clear favorites and underdogs – than other recent seasons.
For a week-by-week look at clinchings and eliminations from the past four seasons, click here.
Follow the playoff race by clicking on MLSsoccer.com’s Playoff Standings page.
Champions League update
The four MLS entrants in the CONCACAF Champions League are still alive in their bids to advance to next year’s knockout phase, facing the fifth round of group play this week:
Group A: Real Salt Lake will clinch a spot in next year’s knockout round with a win or a draw at Toronto FC on Tuesday when the MLS clubs meet. RSL has 9 points from 4 games after last week’s 3-2 win at Arabe Unido of Panama. TFC still has hope of advancement, with 4 points after last week’s scoreless draw in Mexico with Cruz Azul, who are in second place with 7 points.
Group B: The Columbus Crew can book their ticket to the knockout stage with a victory Wednesday against Municipal in Guatemala. The Crew lead the group with 9 points from 4 games, two ahead of Santos Laguna of Mexico (who Columbus beat 1-0 last week) and four ahead of Municipal.
Group C: Seattle Sounders FC saw their qualification hopes dwindle with the 3-2 loss at Monterrey of Mexico last week. Sounders FC must win their final two games, beginning with Wednesday’s game against Marathon of Honduras at Qwest Field, then beat Saprissa in the group finale, while hoping Saprissa and Marathon each also lose to group leader Monterrey, which has a perfect 12 points after four matches.
MLS Week 26 rewind
Real Salt Lake became the second team to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs and kept their home unbeaten streak alive in dramatic fashion, getting a stoppage-time equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Colorado. Chris Wondolowski scored his first career hat trick as the San Jose Earthquakes put Toronto FC’s playoff aspirations in deep trouble. FC Dallas extended their unbeaten run to 17 games with a 3-1 win at the Kansas City Wizards. Despite a 3-1 win at D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo were eliminated from playoff consideration for the first time. The New England Revolution were also eliminated despite a 2-2 draw with Columbus, ending the Revs’ run of postseason appearances at eight. Kicking off the week, the New York Red Bulls pushed their credentials as an MLS Cup contender with a 2-0 win at the LA Galaxy. For all the highlights of Week 26, click here.
“They are the most famous team in the league, but we want to head that way. We know there is a good chance we could meet them again in the playoffs. If we play like this again, the result will be the same.”
— New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere, after the 2-0 win at the LA Galaxy
“One of those players (Marshall) is playing in the USL a couple weeks ago. It’s not surprising there’s a mistake or two, obviously, and there was. What can you do about it? There’s nothing you can do about it. Those are the options that we had. What can you say? You have to be realistic. We put those guys in some tough spots.”
— LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena on his defense after the loss to New York
“Sometimes the guys don’t even remember what their room numbers are, they’ve been in so many different hotel rooms.”
— Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid after his team concludes an 18,000-mile road trip with a 1-0 win in Chicago
“If you could chisel out an Earthquake player, it would be Chris. He’s everything I ask of every player. If I move him around, he doesn’t complain. If I don’t play him, he doesn’t complain. He’s a candidate for MLS player of the year. I wouldn’t swap him for anything.”
— San Jose Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop, on Chris Wondolowski
Previewing Week 27: September 29-October 3, 2010 (all times PT)
Wednesday, September 29
Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Union are coming off the second shutout in team history, a 3-0 win that Peter Nowak called the best result in the club’s inaugural season.
- The Rapids return home for back-to-back games, having won three in a row at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park by a 3-0 scoreline. The Rapids are the third team in MLS history to win three consecutive home games by three or more goals in each, along with Dallas (July 18-Aug. 25, 2001) and D.C. United (July 15-Aug. 13, 2005).
- While the Rapids were denied a famous victory at Real Salt Lake that would have ended the home side’s long Rio Tinto Stadium unbeaten streak, they say the result gives them confidence as they look for a first playoff berth since 2006.
- Conor Casey scored his fourth goal in the last five games; he and Omar Cummings have combined for eight of Colorado’s 11 goals over the last five games (since Aug. 28, the Rapids are 3-1-1).
Chicago Fire at San Jose Earthquakes, 8 p.m. (ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes / ESPN360.com)
- Entering 2010, Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski had just seven career goals. He has 12 this season, tied for third in MLS along with Philadelphia’s Sebastien Le Toux and Toronto FC’s Dwayne De Rosario, and behind only the LA Galaxy’s Edson Buddle (13) and New York’s Juan Pablo Angel (13).
- Wondolowski’s hat trick was the first by an Earthquakes player since Landon Donovan and De Rosario did it in back-to-back weekends in September in 2003. That year San Jose won the second of its two MLS Cups.
- The Fire have suffered three consecutive 1-0 losses, the third time it’s happened in MLS history – and the second in Chicago club history. The Fire were also shutout 1-0 in three games in 1998 (April 8-17, the third, fourth and fifth games in team history), and it happened to Colorado in 2001 (May 16-23).
Saturday, October 2
Toronto FC at Seattle Sounders FC, 12:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Sounders FC return home after back-to-back shutout wins against Eastern Conference opposition, defeating Columbus Sept. 18 and Chicago last weekend – with a trip to Monterrey, Mexico in between.
- With a loss in Seattle combined with victories by San Jose and Colorado in either of their games during the week, Toronto FC will be eliminated from playoff contention.
- After going his first five MLS games without a goal, Blaise Nkufo has scored four goals in the last two games for Sounders FC.
- Seattle has allowed just four goals in its last eight league games and have posted three consecutive shutouts.
Houston Dynamo at Philadelphia Union, 1 p.m. (TeleFutura)
- The Dynamo had lost each of their previous two matches by conceding the winning goal in stoppage time – before turning that trend around with a 3-1 come-from-behind win against D.C. United. It was just the second win since the end of May for the Dynamo.
- Dominic Oduro’s goal in the 10th minute of added time in the second half (in minute 100+) was the latest goal ever scored in a regulation 90-minute game in MLS history. The latest previous goal came after nine minutes of added time, scored by Chad Deering of Dallas in a 1-1 draw with Columbus, May 25, 2002.
- Despite the victory, the Dynamo were eliminated from postseason consideration, the first time since the club’s move to Houston it will not appear in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
San Jose Earthquakes at Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Despite coming back for a 2-2 draw with New England over the weekend, the Crew’s three-game winless streak in league play matches their longest of the season. They lost twice and tied once May 29-June 5, the final three games before the World Cup recess.
- The Crew will book their spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a victory against San Jose if Kansas City also fails to defeat New York, or with a tie against San Jose and a New York win against K.C.
- The victory in Toronto gave the Earthquakes back-to-back away wins. San Jose has won five games away from Buck Shaw Stadium, tied for second-most in MLS (behind LA’s seven); the Quakes have the third-best road record in the league.
Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution, 4:30 p.m. . (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Defending MLS Cup champion Real Salt Lake assured their place in the postseason with the late draw against Colorado, after Kansas City’s home loss against FC Dallas. RSL could still finish in a tie for eighth place with Kansas City, but hold the edge in head-to-head.
- For the second time in four days, the Revolution saw a two-goal lead evaporate in the 2-2 home draw with Columbus, extending their winless streak to four games.
- The draw ended New England’s chances of qualifying for the MLS Cup Playoffs, ending their streak of eight consecutive years in the postseason. The streak is second-longest in MLS history, behind the LA Galaxy (10, 1996-2005).
Kansas City Wizards at New York Red Bulls, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
- A win against Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls will secure their place in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
- For the second time in four days, the Wizards were in a two-goal hole early in the first half. However, unlike Wednesday’s stirring 4-3 win against Houston, they couldn’t come back against FC Dallas, just their second loss in the last 11 games.
- Since the beginning of May, the Red Bulls have lost just three league games. The defeats have come against Columbus (July 17), Los Angeles (Aug. 14) and Real Salt Lake (Sept. 4), the top three teams in the standings ahead of the Red Bulls – a trend reversed by Friday’s high-profile win in LA.
Chicago Fire at FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. (FSC / FSE) (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Again missing as many as five first-choice performers, FC Dallas extended their unbeaten streak to 17 games with the 3-1 win at Kansas City, just two shy of the Columbus Crew’s all-time MLS record.
- FC Dallas will secure a spot in the postseason with a win against Chicago, or with a draw and if Kansas City fails to defeat New York.
- With goals now in back-to-back games, increasing his season total to 10, Jeff Cunningham is within three goals of Jaime Moreno’s all-time MLS record. Both players have played 338 career league games; Moreno has 132 goals, Cunningham has 129.
D.C. United at Colorado Rapids, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
- Andy Najar scored his fifth goal of the season, matching the United club record for most goals by a rookie, along with Santino Quaranta (2001) and Freddy Adu (2004).
- United are on the verge of recording the worst single-season record in club history. The previous low was 26 points (an 8-16-2 record) in 2001.
- D.C. United have not won in Colorado since May 6, 2000. The Rapids have won eight of the 10 games at home since.
Sunday, October 3
LA Galaxy at Chivas USA, 5 p.m. (ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes / ESPN360.com)
- The LA Galaxy could end the season for their Home Depot Center neighbors for the second consecutive season.
- After two victories in the 2007 series, Chivas USA have not defeated the LA Galaxy in the nine league and MLS Cup Playoffs meetings since. The Galaxy are 5-0-4 against their rivals in that span, including a 2-0 win on April 1.
- Chivas USA were shut out for the second consecutive game and the fifth time in seven games in the loss at Philadelphia.
- Facing the New York Red Bulls, the Galaxy had a center back pairing of Leonardo and Yohance Marshall that had just 10 combined league appearances. For this match, Omar Gonzalez is expected to be in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for accumulation of yellow cards and Gregg Berhalter may return from injury.
- After making substitute appearances in each of the last two games, David Beckham played the full 90 against New York. “In a perfect world, he would not have played that long. He showed tremendous character and quality in the last 20 minutes when by all rights, he should have been off the field,”said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.