It’s the playoff before the playoffs.
Tonight’s match between the Portland Timbers and the Houston Dynamo at JELD-WEN Field is a showdown that will see the loser’s hopes for a postseason berth wane dramatically (10:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). “The guys know it’s do-or-die for us,” says Dynamo veteran Brian Ching.
Ex-Timbers player Adam Moffatt, who was traded to Houston and scored a “wonder goal” against Portland earlier this season, has warned his Houston teammates of what to expect in the Timbers’ final home game of the season: “I've told them that it's probably the best atmosphere in the league. It can be a little overwhelming at first. Seattle is great with the numbers, but I think JELD-WEN has something special about it.”
Also tonight, Real Salt Lake travel to face the Colorado Rapids in the Rocky Mountain rivalry (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes) knowing that six points will give RSL the highest point total in team history: “It could be our best season ever. It doesn’t feel like that,” says midfielder Andy Williams.
Real Salt Lake are seeking their fifth straight Rocky Mountain Cup over the defending MLS Cup champs: “I think it's still one of the best rivalries in MLS. Their fans hate us, our fans hate them. It always provides for fantastic finishes,” said RSL defender Nat Borchers, who will be wearing the captain's armband in the absence of suspended Kyle Beckerman.
One day after Rapids manager Gary Smith revealed a rift between him and technical director Paul Bravo, he also has some differences to share with other MLS managers regarding squad management. Smith says that FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman’s decision to play “pretty much his first team” during the busy part of FCD's schedule makes “you start to ask yourself questions.”
Smith controversially sent a reserve side and did not travel himself to El Salvador for a recent CONCACAF Champions League group-phase victory. He says he had to take the “gamble” because the Rapids are not the LA Galaxy: “These guys are traveling charter [aircraft] and staying in all the best places. Our guys are staying in some shed with straw on the floor and eating out of a trough. It's a totally different world, yet [the Galaxy] are still saying they've got tired legs.”
The latest update has attendance at more than 60,000 for Kasey Keller’s final regular-season home match of his storied career against San Jose on Saturday night (10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer).
Seattle Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer says Keller deserves the Goalkeeper of the Year award, while manager Sigi Schmid wants to give him a more appropriate send-off: "We'd like to put him out obviously by winning the MLS Cup. I think he deserves that. I think that's the greatest present we could give him.”
Soccer America disagrees with Hanauer and has Keller ranked at No. 2 on the list of best MLS goalkeepers this year. See the list here.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Earthquakes are already looking ahead to next year with reports from the Netherlands that Roda JC midfielder Sebastian Svärd will be trialing with the Quakes after spending some time with the New England Revolution. (DUTCH)
In addition to Keller, another former national team player featuring in his final regular season home game is the LA Galaxy’s Gregg Berhalter, who will get to bow out in the LA derby against Chivas USA on Sunday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN Deportes).
The SuperClásico at the Home Depot Center will also mark the first match for Juan Pablo Ángel against his former club. In the meantime, the Colombian forward was being critical of another former club: EPL side Aston Villa.
The Philadelphia Union will get captain Faryd Mondragón back in goal when they host Toronto FC on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live and TSN) with the hope of mathematically clinching a playoff berth for the first time in club history.
The Union expect TFC to be out for payback after the humiliating 6-2 home loss that Philly inflicted on them earlier this season. “They are seeking revenge and playing well. We know they will be fighting,” says Union backup goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
The New York Red Bulls, once believed to be on a downward spiral to playoff elimination, can actually clinch a berth in the postseason with a win on Saturday afternoon in Kansas City (4 p.m. ET, TeleFutura) coupled with a victory for either team in the Portland vs. Houston match-up on Friday night. "It blows my mind, to be honest with you,” says RBNY defender Tim Ream. “We want to get three, but getting out of there with some points would definitely go a long way to finishing it up.”
Another playoff verdict is likely to come down at RFK Stadium on Saturday night, where D.C. United want to keep pace with the other postseason contenders when they host the Chicago Fire (7:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live), whose hopes are hanging by a very thin thread.
Did you know that the father of D.C. United and US national team goalkeeper Bill Hamid – Sully Hamid – is of Sierra Leone descent and played seven seasons for Queens Park Rangers in the English Premier League? They’ll both be at the Save Sierra Leone Foundation event on October 22.
As the New England Revolution prepare to host the Columbus Crew on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live), one blog post has some ominous statistics for Steve Nicol and the last-place Revs: In the 15 seasons of Major League Soccer, the coach of the team in last place was fired either during or after the season in all but four seasons. Here’s the complete history.
We’ll see if the John Thorrington–Gershon Koffie central pairing in the Vancouver Whitecaps midfield continues to make the difference that Vancouver believe it does when they visit FC Dallas on Saturday night (8:30 p.m. ET, MatchDay Live). “With him [Thorrington] and Gershon [Koffie] you could see there wasn't much going on through the middle for the other teams,” says ‘Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
In national news, SI.com’s Grant Wahl explains why next Wednesday’s bidding process for World Cup TV rights in the United States will impact the sport in this country for the next decade.
World soccer is rife with politics, including what occurred in the case of CONCACAF general secretary Chuck Blazer, who will be leaving his post at the end of the year. Blazer told ESPN Deportes that it was a specific country and executive committee member that led to his departure. (VIDEO)
There’s a new “N-Rating” for athletes that has been created by Nielsen. We give you one guess who leads the way as far as male and female soccer players. Find out here.
There’s some new stadium news involving an American owner. It’s AS Roma’s Thomas DiBenedetto, who says he wants to build a new home for his Serie A club by 2016 and has already identified sites.
In international action today, Werder Bremen welcome defending Bundesliga champs Borussia Dortmund (2:30 p.m. ET, GolTV). There’s also a match from England’s second tier when Doncaster face Leeds United (2:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Plus). The Mexican soccer Friday night game is a good one between Monarcas Morelia and Tigres UANL (7 p.m. ET, Fox Deportes). In other matches today, there’s the big ACC battle between Maryland and Duke on ESPN3.com (7 p.m. ET).
Finally, an incredible and rare sequence from the Brazilian league match between Flamengo and Palmeiras with three consecutive looks at goal which proved costly in the end for the home side which could only tie 1-1. (VIDEO)
Colorado’s Larentowicz and most famous American World Cup referee on latest edition of ExtraTime Radio
The Throw-In: Tracking the wildest MVP chase in MLS history
MLS Cup Top 50: #38 One Sick Goal – MVP Ferreira strikes in 2010
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