Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 26 

Week 26 saw Minnesota storm back, Atlanta keep surging and Portland stay climbing – three key results in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs chase.

Here is this week's edition of 27 Takeaways, one observation on every MLS team coming off all the action.

With 10 goals in their last three games and only two conceded, it’s no surprise to see Atlanta surging up the table. They could soon reach third place in the Eastern Conference, which is perhaps the biggest proof of just how good they’ve been lately.

Austin FC logo
Austin FC

It’s very hard to win games when conceding at the rate Austin FC does. They managed to score more than a single goal in a game for the first time in four games, but that was overshadowed by the defensive collapse that let points slip away at Q2 Stadium.

The goals have severely dried up – just one in five – and Chicago now face the East's top three teams, all after a lengthy road swing. It’s a tough stretch, but the silver lining is each game is at home – and maximum points are vital to preserve faint playoff hopes.

Is it time for FC Cincinnati to look ahead to next season? The playoffs are a distant dream for them, though they’ll keep fighting until the math can’t fall their way.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Three straight draws and the common theme is that Colorado have let a lead slip in each one. Just a minor blip for sure, but they’ll be disappointed that they haven’t made better use of their games in hand to take the West’s No. 1 spot.

Columbus needed something, a spark, to get themselves back on track and they got it from Eloy Room at New England. If not for their goalkeeper, it’d have been another defeat and maybe the end of their season. As it is, the defending MLS Cup champions have a chance to use the momentum from the point gained to mount a run that gets them into the East’s seven playoff places.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

FC Dallas parting ways with Luchi Gonzalez seems to be less about sparking a run for the playoffs this season and more about starting to look towards next year. They’ve also shipped 15 goals in their last six games, so that’s an immediate starting point for interim boss Marco Ferruzzi to address.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

Ola Kamara has propelled himself into leading the Golden Boot presented by Audi race. But D.C. United haven’t gained separation from Eastern Conference clubs behind them, so a playoff spot is far from guaranteed.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Fafa Picault has been a real bright spot all season long and he continued his good goalscoring form against one of his former teams. Houston are quietly unbeaten in three games (2-0-1) as they continue to distance themselves from their recent 16-game winless streak.

It’s been a stop-start season devoid of any consistency. A couple of wins, a couple of defeats, play well and then play poorly – LAFC haven't sustained their best level, partly due to key absences. The goal should be to simply make the playoffs – whatever it takes – and then try to be as healthy as possible to make a run for it.

Leaking goals has been LA’s weakness all season long, and it’s threatening to undo all the good work they’ve done until now. It’s rare to see a team so high up in the table have a negative goal differential, and that’s why Portland and RSL are threatening to knock them out of the West’s top four.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Inter Miami’s six-match unbeaten run was snapped in devastating fashion, but all that matters now is how they respond. Their destiny is still in their own hands, though they’ll have to go on another run since the East’s playoff race is incredibly tight.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Emanuel Reynoso didn’t take long to remind Minnesota what they were missing in his absence. His two goals will take the headlines, but the overall performance was fantastic. He did what big players should do by putting the team on his back.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

CF Montréal are within touching distance of second place in the East and picked up another impressive win at the weekend. They have a tough stretch of games coming up, and if they’re to emerge from those still in good standing, fans could be forgiven for beginning to dream about a magical playoff run.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville suffered only their third defeat of the season, but it was enough to keep those chasing them within arms reach. Four of the next five are away from Nissan Stadium, and while they’re a good road team, they’ll need to be at their very best to keep this impressive season going.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

When you fire off 33 shots, you should expect to win – so their 1-1 draw with Columbus was definitely a case of two points dropped. New England's lead atop the East and Supporters’ Shield standings is sizable enough that it didn’t really change much for them. Their biggest enemy will be complacency, but that’s not something Bruce Arena will allow.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

NYCFC picked up a solid win and Taty Castellanos continued his impressive season. Upcoming back-to-back derbies against their rivals should be all the motivation required to keep pace with Nashville in the race for the East’s second seed.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

A big win against an in-form team should serve as the perfect preparation for the upcoming rivalry games. With a 12th straight playoffs trip hanging in the balance, RBNY know what’s at stake. There’s little room for error the rest of the way, starting with their upcoming two straight New York derbies.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

The last thing you want after three straight defeats is for your next two games to be away from home against the top two teams in the conference. If Orlando don’t right the ship soon, Montréal and Atlanta will surpass them in a matter of weeks.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia looked something like the team we've come to expect under Jim Curtin – creative, expansive and dynamic. Kacper Przybylko was the hero with his brace, but they got good performances all over the pitch. With red-hot Atlanta coming to town next, they’ll need to be at their very best yet again.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

He wasn’t on the scoresheet, but Sebastian Blanco once again was the spark who made everything happen. He was playing at an MVP level before tearing his ACL last season, so it’s great to see him back fit and playing at a high level. It’s good for Timbers fans, but also good for the league in general.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL played some good football in the second half against the Sounders and got a massive three points. Aaron Herrera was sensational in causing the Sounders’ left side all kinds of problems and delivered an assist that a prime David Beckham would have been proud of.

Chofis has come to life with five goals in two games – most of them truly spectacular. They can look at the last two games and be proud to have scored seven goals, but they’ve also conceded seven – exciting for neutrals, but a roller coaster for San Jose fans.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

With one eye on Wednesday's Leagues Cup Final against Club Leon, Seattle rolled out a rotated squad at RSL and came up short. Upon returning from Las Vegas, they will lock horns with Sporting Kansas City in the battle for Western Conference supremacy – a tough game in the best of times, even more so on a short turnaround after a title match.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

SKC have a chance to create some separation when they host the Sounders next. In their last outing, they looked formidable at both ends of the pitch by dismantling Minnesota United. They’re rounding into top form at just the right time.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

An unexpected win against Nashville ended Toronto’s six-match losing streak. While attention has largely turned to next season, the players showed that they can go toe-to-toe against MLS’ very best teams. They just haven’t done it anywhere nearly enough in 2021.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver earned a good point away from home against a good Rapids team as they continue to chase a Western Conference playoff place. They need to get a result against Dallas in their next game to keep the pressure on those above them.