MLS Cup Qualifiers: LAFC’s Line of Control to Support Shield

Via Doug McIntyre
FOX Sports Soccer Writer

Editor’s Note: MLS The captions take you inside the main talking points around the league and across American football as a whole.

It’s a coin flip at this point.

With just two days of competition left in the regular season Major League Soccer 2022 will enter the international break in September. Los Angeles Football Club and Philadelphia Union are at the top with 64 points on the overall MLS leaderboard. Who can guess which team will get the Support Shield when all is said and done.

Philly was the clear favorite going into Week 32. After that, Atlanta United trailed Union by two points, a team that wouldn’t have even gotten a point without the heroism of the goalkeeper. Andre Blake. Saturday’s goalless draw was enough to keep Atlanta’s fragile playoff hopes alive for now. It also opens the door for LAFC.

Carlos Vela & Co. had fun coming across it on Sunday night, posted a 3-1 dub for Houston Dynamo after settling a point in Minnesota midweek.

Vela twice gave the home side the lead from the penalty spot in the previous first half Ryan Hollingshead put the unquestionable result in the second:

It was only the second win in seven attempts for LAFC, having claimed the top seed at the Western Conference a day earlier thanks to a 1-1 draw between Austin and Nashville. It couldn’t have come at a more important time: LAFC is now back in control of its own destiny.

However, they have tougher remaining schedules. Philadelphia goes to Charlotte on October 1 before the end of their 2022 standings at home against Toronto were eliminated on Decision Day. Meanwhile, Steve Cherundolo’s side must head to Portland – arguably the toughest ride in the MLS – before finishing on October 9 against the second-best Nashville team (4W-0L-2T) in tournament in the last six matches.

Just one win in the last two would put Cherundolo in his 21st and set a new high mark for a first-year MLS coach. Going two goals two will guarantee LAFC its second Shield since 2019, with the first tiebreak win and behind Union two, with 18.

Of course, it’s not just the regular season title. Both clubs want, the biggest prize is the MLS Cup. For all their regular-season success in recent years, neither has won the last title before.

“If we can put together a winning streak here,” Hollingshead said after Sunday’s win, “That not only gives us the Shield but it also gives us a good rhythm when entered the knockout round.”

However, given the way things have been in recent weeks, one still has the feeling that there could be another turning point or two before the post-season begins, that LAFC or Philly – the winner of the Leaf Sure Support 2020 – may end.

The race couldn’t be tighter. Who do you have?


1. Dallas, Red Bulls clinch

Two more clubs won playoff tickets over the weekend. After a one-year hiatus, FCD, under freshman coach Nico Estevez, is back for the sixth time in eight seasons.

Meanwhile, New York Red Bulls standard for the 13th year in a row.

Nashville and New York City FC could have joined Hoops and Red Bulls with a win and some help, but neither of them run their own businesses. Now both teams will have to wait until next month.

2. There’s Always Next Year

DC UnitedHouston and San Jose earthquake were the first three teams to be eliminated from the knockout round. They were joined over the weekend by three others: Toronto FCthe Chicago Fire and Kansas Sports City.

All three will be better next year. Chicago is in its first year of reconstruction under new owner Ezra Hendrickson. Everything could go wrong with Sporting Kansas City; expect Peter Vermes, the longest-serving head coach in the league, to come up with a very different squad next season.

Then there’s Toronto. It will always take a while for TFC to retool under Bob Bradley, even if it looks like the Reds are poised to make a late run as the Italian national teams Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne arrived in the summer and immediately caused a 3W-0l-2T race.

Things flattened out quickly after that, and Toronto were on a bad run in their last three games, conceding four goals in each, all losing. There are Bernardeschi, Insigne and international Canadians Doneil Henry and Mark-Anthony Kaye from the start of the season will help next year, but it’s clear that Bradley – who also serves as TFC’s sporting director – has a lot of work to do on the defensive side this winter.

3. Too little, too late?

As much as Atlanta cursed Blake after Saturday’s draw, the Five Stripes have won their two games before, keeping them in the playoffs for now. But the truth is that even with a victory over Union, Gonzalo Pineda’s team will still face a difficult escalation.

As it stands, Atlanta is two points behind Inter Miami for seventh place and the final berth of the Eastern Conference. But because both Miami and eighth-placed Columbus have a game in hand, even late-season wins over New England and New York City FC may not be enough.

4. Spinning on the edge

Atlanta will not fear that October 1 next trip Foxborough. The Revolution – the team that set a single-season scoring record in the MLS last year – were all eliminated after losing three games in a row, including a home game against Montreal on Saturday.

Argentine striker Gustavo Bou played all 90 minutes, as he did in the losses in Houston and New Jersey. But Bou, who has 15 goals and nine assists in 2021, has been limited to just 15 appearances this season through injury. That didn’t help.

“Gustavo has missed too much time this year,” Revs coach Bruce Arena said, “And he hasn’t been able to come back in good form.”

Arena was not made. “Last year, we played really well,” he said. “And I think some of our players never understood what made them so successful last year. And it caught up with them a little bit.”

5. Sounders too

Even with three games left, Seattle looked knocked out for the first time in history, following a spirited 2-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday. The result was a 15-game unbeaten streak for the Sounders against the Whitecaps.

Seattle is now trailing LA Galaxy – the team that beat Colorado by three goals despite By Douglas Costa red card – four points for last place. But like the Sounders, the Galaxy only played 31 games.

With the next contest for Brian Schmetzer’s team just one of two MLS games in this international window (the other being San Jose-Galaxy), Seattle could be seriously out of breath for what is supposed to be a crucial game. best of their year.

Schmetzer may not have up to six regular games on September 27 against Cincinnati because of national team duties. He hopes to be able to convince some people to release their players soon, top of them Peru and star striker Raul Ruidíaz.

“Obviously,” Schmetzer said, “Having Raul for the Cincinnati game would be a huge help for us.”

One of the top football journalists in North America, Doug McIntyre has covered the US men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was an editor for ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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