The final weekend of the MLS season will decide the winners of the Eastern and Western Conferences, as well as the Supporters' Shield winner. In conference play the Portland Timbers have their destiny in their own hands, but even for them a result or two will need to go their way to come home as the regular season champions.
So, who should Timbers fans be rooting for this weekend?
Sporting Kansas City at Philadelphia Union
Saturday, 12:00 pm, NBC Sports
Root For: Philadelphia
Why? A win for SKC guarantees that the Timbers will not win the Supporters' Shield. It is as simple as that. You might like Graham Zusi with the USMNT. You might be amused by videos Aurelien Collin being French. You might even think that Jimmy Nielson's jean shorts and constant lip-licking are funny. Forget all of that. Find a way to root for Sebastian LeToux and Conor Casey. It will be hard, but you can do it.
Toronto FC at Montreal Impact
Saturday, 1:00 pm, MLS Live
Root For: Toronto FC
Why? Thank goodness we finally have a week where we can root for Bright Dike and not feel even a little bit bad about it. Le Impact could still be passed up by the Houston Dynamo to give up their playoff spot, but do the Dynamo really strike fear into anyone's heart? Maybe they should, given Dominic Kinnear's track record in the playoffs, but this is a team that lost their last match 3-0.
FC Dallas at San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday, 2:30 pm, NBC Sports
Root For: Dallas
Why? If one thing has been made clear over the least few weeks, I would hope that it would be my dislike for the Earthquakes and Steven Lenhart. Thank goodness that San Jose can't make the playoffs (barring divine intervention or some good old fashioned match fixing).
Houston Dynamo at DC United
Sunday, 10:30 am, NBC
Root For: Houston
Why? DC United already own a number of the records for futility in MLS after their shockingly bad 2010 campaign, but some twisted part of every MLS fan wants to see them fall even further. Already having sewn up last place by at last 7 points, DC's ownership seem to think that this season is some sort of fluke. It isn't and they are going to get to show as much on national broadcast television.
New England Revolution at Columbus Crew
Sunday, 1:00 pm, MLS Live
Root For: New England
Why? Neither team has looked particularly threatening over the course of the season, but a win here will cement a playoff berth for either one. Neither team looks particularly likely to make a run to the MLS Cup, so in the mean time I would rather watch the young, talented players of the Revs take on their Eastern Conference opposition than the aging core of Columbus.
Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls
Sunday, 2:00 pm, UniMas
Root For: Chicago
Why? The most important game of the Timbers' season not to be played by the Timbers will be on a channel that nobody is really sure exists, so find a bar with the MLS package and elbow some NFL fans out of the way for this one. Remember the first match of the weekend? This one is even more important. At least Chicago has that scrappy little guy, Mike Magee, to root for against the likes of Thierry Henry. Luckily for the Timbers, the Metrostars have a franchise-long history of blowing it.
Colorado Rapids at Vancouver Whitecaps
Sunday, 5:00 pm, MLS Live
Root For: Vancouver
Why? I don't feel good about this pick, but the Whitecaps need to win here to help keep the Timbers out of the 4th place play-in match. Colorado is overflowing with young talent (three of the frontrunners for rookie of the year pay for the Rapids), which is an exciting prospect for both the league and the USMNT, but we need to keep them as far away from the Timbers as possible.
LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders
Sunday, 6:00 pm, ESPN
Root For: LA
Why? With the number of different possibilities for how this weekend could turn out, who we should be rooting for here could change any number of times before Sunday afternoon rolls around. Still. Boo, Seattle. Boo.
Playoff Road Map
What needs to happen for the Timbers to clinch a top three seed?
The Timbers can win, tie, or lose and still get into the playoffs.
If the Timbers win or tie (55-57 points):
- It doesn't matter what anyone else does.
If the Timbers lose then one of the following two things must happen (54 points):
- The Colorado Rapids must lose to or tie the Vancouver Whitecaps. (51-52 points)
- The LA Galaxy must tie the Seattle Sounders. (53, 52 points)
What about a first place finish in the West?
The Timbers must win.
What needs to happen for the Timbers to win the Supporters' Shield?
- The Timbers need to win. (57 points)
- The New York Red Bulls need to lose. (56 points)
- Sporting Kansas City need to tie or lose. (55-56 points)