The road to MLS Playoffs; 5 weeks to go, 5 matches and the international “break”

Last week we saw a statement win from Philadelphia! Atlanta United is being painted as tired after they lost at Philly. NYCFC keep winning, and still have games in hand. 7 other clubs are fighting for those last four MLS Playoffs spots. Now there are only five weeks left, and we are in the midst of an interesting international “break.”

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Union won their biggest regular-season match in club history over Atlanta this past week. Now, Philly and 13 other clubs are off for the international “break,” however it’s not much of a break for the Union. While there are five MLS matches this coming weekend.

International “Break”:

The Union has the week off from MLS play, but they are still going to be busy getting ready for LAFC. Eight Union players were called up to national teams to play multiple games this week/weekend.

Youngsters getting the Call:

Brenden Aaronson, Matt Freese, Auston Trusty, and Mark McKenzie are all with the United States Under-23 side. The US-U23’s have 10 days of training and will play Japan on Monday, September 9th. All four Union homegrowns will be looking to make a mark on the squad as this side is the side that will start qualifying for the Olympics in March of 2020.

Olivier Mbaizo is off with Cameroon’s U-23’s in an Africa Under-23 Cup of Nations home-and-away qualifier. He and Cameroon take on Tunisia on Friday, September 6th and Tuesday, September 10th.

Friendlies and Big Matches:

Marco Fabian is a part of El Tri’s friendly’s. Mexico takes on USA Friday, September 6th, and then has another friendly vs Argentina Tuesday, September 10th. Marco will hope this stint sparks a resurgence he can bring back to Philly.

Andre Blake will play with Jamaica in the CONCACAF Nations League games on Friday, September 6th and Monday, September 9th. Blake will likely captain the side, and look to lead the team to victory! Cory Burke… Yes, he’s still a Union player. Burke was just announced to be out on loan for the rest of 2019 to Jamaican National Premier League club Portmore United FC. He will be a part of Jamaica’s team as well, looking to get the chance to actually play a match heading into his loan spell! Blake and Burke were hoping to see a familiar face opposing them in the second match.

Warren Creavalle is in the Guyana squad. He was going to be a vital piece of Guyana’s Gold Cup this past summer but was injured before the tournament started. He was looking to move Guyana up in the CONCACAF Nations League, but as I am typing this, he has had to withdraw due to a hamstring injury.

Union vs Pumas Saturday at 7:30 PM

The rest of the Union squad will play on Saturday Evening vs Mexico side Pumas UNAM. All of the international call ups leave the Union with eight fewer players for this friendly. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot of the reserves, Steel FC standouts, and possibly even academy products, so the Union can get some rest on this “Break.”

The Union is off, but that doesn’t mean we won’t reflect back on the last week, or look forward to the MLS matches that are occurring this week!

The East with 5 Weeks to go:

Last week we saw more of a shuffle at the top of the table; Philly, NYCFC, and Atlanta all ended the week in different spots from where they started the week. DC overtook Red Bulls to move into fourth place. Toronto is into the last playoff spot with Montreal falling below them. Let’s look at each team and see how they did!

The race for the top is neck-and-neck:

The Union beat Atlanta United in a match that showed Philly can hang with the big boys, even if the big boys are “tired. Their squad balled out even without captain Alejandro Bedoya! They now can relax as they have don’t have a league game and can set their sights toward a showdown with LAFC on September 14th.

NYCFC just can’t stop winning. Their packed schedule at the end of the season has given them a leg up on the rest of the east, as they have games in hand on the other teams. Their 3-1 win at Vancouver set them up for playing on of the five matches this week against NewEngland Revolution

Atlanta Won the US Open Cup last week but lost to Philly on a night where they didn’t finish their chances. They let Philly run the game in the second half, and the Union took advantage by scoring three goals. Atlanta has this week off and will rest up to get back to winning ways against Columbus Crew.

These Four kind-of look like Playoff teams:

DC United turned a bad run of form through the month of August and made sure to not end the month with no points. They beat Montreal 3-0 in Montreal. Could DC get on another surge to end the season? They have this week off from league play but will host a friendly where both Luciano Acosta and Wayne Rooney will play this weekend.

Red Bulls lost at home 2-0 to Colorado Rapids. This is their second loss in as many weeks. The Red Bulls fell to fifth place after this past week’s loss, and they looked generally uninspired. They have time to get things figured out as they don’t play until September 15th.

New England is looking like a team deserving of a home playoff game. They are just one win out of that spot. Their 1-1 draw vs Toronto last week could be a stumbling block for them, but they will look to jump to fourth place this weekend if they can beat NYCFC in New York.

Toronto FC is back above the red line after their 1-1 draw with New England. That coupled with a Montreal loss moved them up. Toronto is looking to hold onto that place and put some room between themselves and Montreal this weekend. Toronto takes on Cincinnati this week!

These Three do not look like Playoff teams:

Montreal beat Vancouver Whitecaps midweek but followed it up with a horrendous 3-0 loss to DC. Montreal is in a dog fight for the last playoff spot, and they had a chance to beat up on a struggling DC team. They didn’t take that opportunity, and now have to wait to play again until September 14th.

Orlando City lost at San Jose this past week. They’re still alive in the playoff hunt, but they don’t look like a playoff team at the moment. They have a big test this coming weekend as they welcome league leaders LAFC to Florida.

Chicago drew at Columbus this past week. They are four points behind Toronto for that last spot in the playoffs. It may be a long shot, but Chicago still have a chance and will look to make the most of it when they get back to action on September 14th.

The Ohio teams still aren’t playing well:

Columbus is not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs just yet. They played Chicago last week in front of their home crowd, and after honoring club legends. Even with all that hype, they still could not get a W. They drew Chicago, which is still only delaying the inevitable this season for C-Bus.

Cincinnati went out west last week and helped FC Dallas rise above the playoff line in the western conference. Cincinnati won’t be relevant until the start of 2020, but they’d love to play spoiler to end the 2019 season. Could they play the villain this week vs Toronto FC?

Just 5 MLS matches this week:

Saturday, September 7th –

NYCFC vs New England Revolution 3:30 PM
Cincinnati FC vs Toronto FC 7:30 PM
Orlando City SC vs LAFC 7:30 PM
Colorado Rapids vs Seattle Sounders 9:00 PM
Portland Timbers vs Sporting KC 10:30 PM

If there is a game to circle out of this grouping, it has to be the NYCFC-New England match. NYCFC is looking to take over 1st place in the east while still having a game in hand over Philly. New England has only lost once in their last 16 games and that was to LAFC. New England is three points behind DC for that fourth place and that coveted home playoff spot. This one should be fun to watch during this “break” week.

The other four matches have playoff implications as well. Toronto is looking to show they can hold a playoff place by beating basement dwellers Cincy. Orlando City looks to stay alive vs the best team in the league LAFC. Seattle is looking to hold onto the second spot in the west at the new-look Colorado Rapids. Portland is two points out of a playoff spot, SKC are five points out; the two meet in the late-night match-up!

Be sure to tune in to the matches, and keep an eye on those players playing for their national teams. Next week will be huge for Philadelphia as they welcome LAFC to Chester; this week we rest up for that matchup!

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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