Sunday evening brought a close to Regular Season in the MLS, with the drama going right down to the wire. For 12 teams that was the end of the road and their season come to an end. For a handful of sides, it would come as a welcome relief after being off the pace most of the season. For a few, it would be heartache at just missing out via a few points. Cursing their luck of fixtures gone by, A gilt-edged chance missed here, an unfortunate injury there, or maybe even tactics not working as planned. For the 12 other teams, the hard work continues. Many of them had secured their place in the weeks leading up to Decision Day. One place was still up for grabs and it was San Jose who would claim it in dramatic fashion. A 93rd minute winner sparking scenes of wild celebrations among fans and players, whilst booking their place amongst the MLS elite for the first time since 2012.
Between the 12 MLS Cup hopefuls, they have lifted the prestigious silverware 10 times. 4 teams get a bye through to the semi-finals after finishing 1st & 2nd in each Conference. New York City FC left it to the final day to guarantee a 2nd place finish. A David Villa brace helping them to a 2-2 draw against fellow MLS Cup chasers, Columbus Crew. They will now look to improve on last season’s semi-final humiliation to Toronto FC. The Canadian side, fresh from breaking the all-time points tally in a season, are now hoping to be the first team since L.A. Galaxy back in 2011 to claim both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup double. 2015 Champions, Portland Timbers, will look back on their decent end of season run that saw them pip Seattle Sounders to the top spot. As for The Sounders, the defending champions will hope to relive last years glories, once again emulating that famous L.A Galaxy team of 2011/2012 to become back to back champions.
Chicago Fire vs New York Red Bulls
Toyota Park – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:30 CT (01:30 BST)
With second place and a first-round bye within touching distance, the 3-0 defeat Chicago suffered on Decision Day to Houston Dynamo was a bitter blow to take. Made all the worse when NYCFC dropped 2 points in their fixture, a result that worked perfectly in Chicago’s favor. Nonetheless, Veljko Paunovic and his men now turn their attention to the knockout stage retiring after a 4-year absence. They will be relying on the striker, Nemanja Nikolic, to be firing them in again after being shut out in his last outing. The Hungarian international became the team’s first Golden Boot winner netting 24 goals across the season. Last season’s Eastern Conference champions, Red Bulls, return to the Playoffs for an eighth straight year. They could only stay in 6th place in the table, but a 2-1 win over D.C United on Decision Day give them confidence and momentum into this fixture. Red Bulls are 1-1-0 over Fire, winning 2-1 and drawing 1-1 in 2017. Red Bull’s neighbors and rivals, NYCFC await the winner in the semifinals.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes
BC Place – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:30 CT (01:30 BST)
Nowhere on Decision Day was the situation any more tense than the Avaya Stadium on Sunday evening. As Marco Urena scored in the 3rd minute of injury time, steering home Chris Wondolowski’s cut back to steer San Jose back into the playoffs. Both sides enter the match in contrasting form. San Jose’s were 2-0-1 in the final 3 games, while Vancouver was 0-2-1 in theirs. But Vancouver has been strong and among the Conference leaders most of the season, only missing out on a first-round bye after defeat to eventually Conference winners Portland Timbers. Key performances from Yordy Reyna and Freddy Montero have been pivotal all season and they will be relying on more from them in the hunt for silverware. San Jose will go in as underdogs for the fixture and the Playoffs. Coming up against a team they have only beaten once in the last 9 away fixtures, it will be hard to see them pull off an upset.
Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew
Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)
Atlanta United have been mightily impressive throughout their first MLS campaign. Amassing a huge following, they topped off the season with a 2-2 draw against Conference winners, Toronto FC, in front of an all-time MLS record crowd of 71,874. Becoming only the 3rd expansion team to make the playoffs in their first season, bagging themselves 70 goals throughout, while impressing fans and pundits alike with their devastating attacking lineup. Atlanta has a real chance of claiming major silverware in their debut season. They may have to do it without defender and captain, Michael Parkhurst who limped off in the last game. Atlanta players and fans will be boosted though, as news that world-renowned manager, Tata Martino will be at the helm for 2018. The Argentine will lead his side out, no doubt in front of an intimidating crowd, against a tough Columbus Crew side. Despite all the off-field troubles surrounding the Ohio based side, they’re undefeated in their last 10 games, with striker Ola Kamara netting five goals in his last seven games. Atlanta has dominated the head to head this year. They beat Columbus 3-1 in June and then just 2 weeks later piled more misery on them with a 2-0 victory at the Mapfre Stadium.
Houston Dynamo vs Sporting Kansas City
BBVA Compass Stadium – Thursday 26th October 2017 – 20:30 CT (02:30 BST)
Sporting defender, Ike Opara, stated “it’s not good enough” at the end of his sides 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Decision Day. His side goes into the Playoffs having not won in their last 5 games of regular season, with 2 of those defeats coming against Thursday’s opponents. Still likely to be without goalkeeper, Tim Melia, who has been out with hamstring injury since the start of October. The veteran goalie who many believe is in line to claim MLS Goalkeeper of the Year after an impressive season, will be sorely missed as Sporting come up against a Houston side who have only lost once at home all season. Dynamo has finished the season strongly, not losing their last 6. The Texas-based side could be without Romell Quioto and A.J. DeLaGarza. After the pair limped off during the sides 3-0 Decision Day win over Chicago.