Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 30

Crunch time has officially arrived around the 2021 MLS season following Week 30, with plenty left to be decided in each conference's Audi MLS Cup Playoff race during this final sprint.

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

A gusty road win was the perfect setup for Atlanta’s next three games, which are all at home. It’s a simple equation: If they can win all three games, and get to 51 points, they will be in the playoffs. No extra motivation is needed.

When trying to figure out why a team has fallen short of the playoffs, sometimes the simplest answer is the right one. Austin FC’s one clean sheet in the last 18 games tells its own story. That kind of form can only be overcome if you are ruthless in front of goal and they’ve been far from that.

Chicago accomplished what very few teams have in 2021 by taking points off New England. Now that they’re out of playoff contention, who can impress in these last few regular-season games and stake their claim for an important 2022 role?

FC Cincinnati have lost 10 of their last 11 games, and have won just twice in their last 21 games. A lot of soul searching, looking in the mirror and tough conversations need to be had because it’ll be a long road back up the table. New GM Chris Albright and his eventual coach face a tall task.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

Colorado have no time to dwell on losing the Rocky Mountain Cup as they prepare to face the Sounders in midweek. Robin Fraser’s men were well beaten in Seattle recently, a game that ended their 12-match unbeaten run. There will be a measure of revenge on the agenda, as well as a massive three points to play for, for a team that still has some MLS Cup contender doubters.

Congratulations are in order for my former coach and friend Caleb Porter on getting his 100th win in MLS. It’s a great accomplishment for a very good coach. But anything short of him reaching 104 wins this season and the Crew likely will miss out on the playoffs unless they get some major help from those around them.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

Mathematically they can still make the playoffs but the reality is that every game from here on out should be played with one eye on the offseason and beyond. FC Dallas players need to show that they deserve to be there beyond these next five games.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

D.C. United have to be pleased that three of their final five games are at Audi Field. By playing against both New York teams and the Crew, their playoff destiny is very much in their own hands.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Seeing Darwin Quintero, Maxi Urutti, and Fafa Picault terrorize Seattle’s backline at the weekend leaves you scratching your head wondering why Houston didn’t do more this season. They were outstanding all over the pitch and at least showed that they have a core that can make some noise next season – if the right additions are made. But in 2021, no playoff soccer.

Cristian Arango was the hero once again and continues to be a bright spot in a difficult LAFC season. We’re at the do-or-die stage, and Bob Bradley's team will likely need a minimum of nine points from here on out to make the playoffs.

After how LA started the season, they shouldn’t be in the position they’re in. But the situation is what it is, and they showed that they can put in a big performance – on both sides of the ball – when required.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Miami were second-best to Columbus and have slipped into their second six-game losing streak of the season. While they’re not out of the playoffs just yet, the writing’s on the wall with the current nine-point gap.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

Minnesota hold the West’s final playoff spot and have a great chance to solidify their position this week when playing two home games. The Loons have been defending well, as they’ve kept four clean sheets in their last six outings.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

The East's race is one for the ages and Montréal will have to do it the hard way if they're to get over the line when all is said and done. They go on the road for three crucial games in the next 10 days. Also, midfielder Djorde Mihailovic quietly has risen to second in MLS in assists (14).

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville are unbeaten in five games but haven’t secured an East playoff spot because they’ve rattled off four straight draws. They’ll need their offense to pick it up, and Hany Mukhtar is best-suited for the job. His combined 22 goals and assists are tied for second-best in MLS.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

A rare misstep for Bruce Arena’s men as they dropped two points to lowly Chicago, but they still gave us a ridiculous goal when Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou combined in the second half. If New England handle their business, by this time next week the Supporters’ Shield could be in the trophy cabinet.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

NYCFC have fallen out of the playoff spots after they once again failed to show up in the Hudson River Derby. A trip to an in-form Atlanta, who badly need points as well, isn’t exactly what they’d have wanted. But it could be exactly what they need since a solid result at Mercedes-Benz Stadium would be a huge confidence booster.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

Seven games unbeaten and three straight 1-0 wins reflect how superbly the Red Bulls have been defending. They could face a case of too little too late, but they're giving themselves every chance of earning a 12th straight playoff appearance.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

Orlando still have a chance at second place in the Eastern Conference. Nani’s form is a bit of a cause for concern, especially when you consider how electric he was to start the season.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia will be disappointed with dropped points at Montréal, as they would have closed the gap on Nashville in the fight for second place. They’ll meet this coming Saturday, but Jim Curtin’s group first mustn’t overlook a midweek match against a Minnesota team fighting their own battle.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Defensive errors cost Portland against the Galaxy, something they absolutely cannot repeat in the playoffs. Sebastian Blanco’s return, on the other hand, hasn't only been good for Portland. It’s been good for the league – his quality is a joy to watch.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL put some silverware in the cabinet over the weekend by raising the Rocky Mountain Cup, which should give them a nice push for this final stretch. It doesn’t matter what competition it is, when there’s a trophy on the line you need to go for it.

San Jose’s playoff hopes essentially ended in last weekend's loss against LAFC. They could win all five remaining games, get some help and make it in, of course. But they’re just too inconsistent to embark upon that kind of run.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

A rare off day for Seattle down in Houston, and their faint hopes at the Supporters' Shield also evaporated. Objective No. 1 must be locking up the West’s top seed as soon as possible, which means they need to get a good result when they visit Colorado on Wednesday. Dick's Sporting Goods Park is never an easy venue.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

It’s got to be hugely disappointing to not capitalize on the Sounders dropping points 24 hours earlier. Sporting were uncharacteristically timid at times in attack against Vancouver, with Johnny Russell’s goal being the lone bright spot. There's no time to feel sorry for themselves, though, as next up is a mammoth clash against the Sounders.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Toronto played well enough to win against Atlanta, but they don’t keep enough clean sheets to overcome missing good chances. Their recent form has been good, however, and they can get back to what they were if they have a good offseason. No playoff soccer in 2021, though.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver’s home form has been top-notch but they’ll need road points if they’re to get over that red line. Two massive games this week will make or break their season. The acquisitions of Brian White and Ryan Gauld must be applauded, as both have been fantastic since coming to town.