Everyone still upset over Wednesday night? Yeah, me too. But we all have to have some short memories, because this roller coaster of a year is hurtling towards its end. And despite their best efforts, the Portland Timbers are above the red line — in sixth place to boot! And they still control their own fate. Winning both of their remaining fixtures means Portland is for sure in the playoffs.
That being said, getting help from around the league means more than ever now. Case in point: With a win and a little help (more on that in a bit), Portland can punch their ticket this weekend. I expected the rooting guide to be important at this point in the season, just not this important. Good thing we’re all well-versed in watching the league scoreboard, deciding what’s best for the Timbers, and rooting accordingly, because this weekend could be a doozy.
No more games in hand, no more back-loaded home games. Two games left. Here’s your rooting guide for the penultimate Sunday of the regular season.
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC (2:00 p.m.)
Is this the first time MLS has done simultaneous kickoffs for the East and West outside of Decision Day? First time I can recall, and it sets up for sheer and utter chaos, which I am always here for. None of these first six games matter to the Timbers, outside of emotional investment and entertainment value. Well chaos, emotional investment, and entertainment are just what the rooting guide is all about, so for the Eastern Conference, your rooting interest will be dictated by maximizing mayhem and setting us up for the wildest finish possible. (Again, just in the East. The West has enough drama.)
Root for: A 2-0 Chicago win. The Fire need to win to stay alive, and while they have a minute chance to sneak in, having it stay alive until the final minute of the season would make the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot a glorious mess. Dax McCarty gets two assists, and Nemanja Nikolic gets two goals. Chicago fans feel a faint glimmer of hope, but know that it is going to be ripped away, because “the Chicago Fire” has recently been synonymous with “disappointment.”
FC Cincinnati vs. Orlando City SC (2:00 p.m.)
On one side, a team that’s struggled through their first season in MLS, but still has the chance to become competitive in a few seasons and make the playoffs. On the other, a team that has struggled in all of their seasons of MLS, and — despite having players like Kaka or Nani — has never made the playoffs. They really don’t like they’re going to this season either. Take this as a lesson, Cincinnati: Never go full Orlando.
Root for: A 2-0 Cincinnati win, to give the Queen City faithful something to cheer about in their final home game of the season. Darren Mattocks scores from a header, and Orlando never puts a single shot on goal. Fed up with all of the futility, Nani just retires on the spot after the game and decides to go sip drinks by the beach in Miami with Beckham.
Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union (2:00 p.m.)
I think when Caleb Porter accepted the Crew job, he thought he was getting a nice Acura: a team that’s solid, maybe a little overhyped, but has really attractive pieces that would make most people excited. Instead, he wound up getting a used Toyota: a team more busted up than anybody thought, was destined to suffer a crippling malfunction that made it barely able to function, and came with David Guzman in the back seat.
Root for: A 1-0 Philadelphia win. Philly has been one of the consistently good teams this season, and I believe they should be rewarded for it. Marco Fabian comes off the bench and scores the winner. As the Union celebrate, Porter just stares straight ahead. Not out of annoyance, just because he’s fantasizing about the renderings of the new Columbus stadium.
Montreal Impact vs. Atlanta United (2:00 p.m.)
Les champions Canadiens! Montreal and our old friend Maxi Urruti beat Toronto FC in a shootout in the final and, despite inexplicable manager changes and offensive futility, still have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs. I don’t necessarily want them to (again, because of the weird coaching switch thing), but remember, this week we’re rooting for chaos. Plus, they’re playing Atlanta, so ...
Root for: A 2-1 Atlanta win. Urruti scores, and Michael Parkhurst celebrates his imminent retirement by scoring an own goal, which brings him into a four-way tie for most own goals scored in an MLS career.
New England Revolution vs. New York City FC (2:00 p.m.)
Sigh … my dream of MLS Cup at Yankee Stadium looks to be dead. But, if you have a subscription to The Athletic and read that article fully, you’ll notice that one of the venues being considered for hosting MLS Cup if NYCFC get there is … Red Bull Arena. That’s right: If NYC makes the final, they’ll have to play for their first trophy in the home of their biggest rival. If that’s not the most “peak MLS” thing ever, I don’t know what is.
Root for: A 1-0 NYC win. Heber scores the winner, and all Bruce Arena can do is sigh and dream about Los Angeles summer, now faced with the prospect of having to spend fall and winter in New England. As a traveling NYC fan celebrates the win, his friend shows them the article, and the blood drains from his face.
New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United (2:00 p.m.)
An Atlantic Cup rivalry in the second-to-last weekend of MLS? Yes please. One of the “classic rivalries” in MLS, and they usually good at producing some incredible moments, and that has included the playoffs. I’d love to see this one get as crazy as possible so that if these teams meet in the playoffs (a decent chance), there’s already some good fire stoked.
Root for: A 4-3 DC United win. Wayne Rooney scores, assists, and draws a penalty. Luis Robles saves the penalty, Luciano Acosta scores the rebound. Bradley Wright-Phillips comes off the bench and scores. A Red Bulls fan shotguns an energy drink, only to realize how horrible it tastes, and then has to make a frantic trip to the bathroom.
Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas (4:30 p.m.)
And in the later afternoon, our eyes turn to the Western Conference, where sweet Diego every game is huge. The game in Commerce City is one of two games that could wind up being one of the biggest for the Timbers: If Portland wins against SKC and Dallas loses, Portland is in the playoffs. In addition to being Timbers fans, we’re all Rapids fans on Sunday.
Root for: A 3-0 Colorado win. Kei Kamara scores on another bicycle kick, and, in what is his final home game of his career, Tim Howard saves a penalty, along with 17 shots from Dallas. The groundhogs of Commerce City, now cured of their plague, rise from the ground to celebrate, terrifying every single soul in attendance.
LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4:30 p.m.)
We finally get to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the playoffs, which when considering his form in “big games,” might kind of be terrifying. Selfishly, I would absolutely love to see an El Trafico in the playoffs, so the Galaxy being set in the 4 or 5 seed would set it up very well. So if you’re selfish like me, root for the ‘Caps.
Root for: Vancouver to win 2-1. In a particularly crazy sequence of play, Zlatan sends a header off the bar, it falls to Sebastian Lletget, who completely misses the wide open net. Zlatan almost ends Lletget on the spot, but restrains himself. “Not yet, Zlatan ... not yet,” he thinks to himself. If this is the playoffs, Lletget would not be so lucky.
Minnesota United vs. LAFC (4:30 p.m.)
LAFC finally won the shield, which we were all kind of expecting. Minnesota finally qualified for the playoffs, which I think no one has expecting before this season. My mother is from Minnesota, and I’ve always liked their fanbase, so I have a soft spot for the Loons. Except … not this weekend. More dropped points, please.
Root for: A 3-0 LAFC win. The juggernaut that was LAFC has finally been reawakened, and they show it by scoring three goals in the first twenty minutes. Carlos Vela looks like the likely MVP, and the LAFC midfield gobbles up every attack that Minnesota tries to generate. It is this type of game that Ozzie Alonso would historically do something mean and dumb and earn a red card, but a year among the pleasant people of the Midwest has mellowed him out, so he just kindly shakes everyone’s hands after the game. It freaks everyone out.
Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo (4:30 p.m.)
Man, oh man, what a season RSL has had. First, Petke gets suspended. Then, Petke gets fired. And then, Petke sues RSL for breach of contract. And now, because of statements made in said lawsuit, RSL has made the decision to part ways with their GM. And that doesn’t even begin to touch their play on the field, which has been consistently inconsistent. Fun times in Sandy.
Root for: A 1-0 Houston victory. RSL still hasn’t quite clinched the playoffs, and keep space as open as possible for Portland is what we want here, I think. Christian Ramirez scores one of those goals that is low and looks to be saved, but hit so hard that it bounces off of the keeper’s hands and into the back of the net. So now you can add goalkeeper woes on top of all of the other stuff RSL has had to deal with.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders (4:30 p.m.)
So … remember how I said that Colorado vs. Dallas was one of two games that could be huge? Yeah, this is the other. San Jose blew it against Philadelphia last weekend, and are on the outside looking in for the playoffs. If they lose and the Timbers win, the Timbers are in the playoffs. So that means Timbers fans should be rooting for … oh, no.
Root for: … I’m not going to say it. Nope. Other Timbers fans might be able to, but not me. Just root for San Jose to lose. Badly. So badly that we don’t have to pay attention to the game.