Voices: Steve Zakuani

27 Takeaways: One observation on every MLS team after Week 32

Week 32 of the 2021 MLS season is a wrap, and there's plenty left to be decided regarding the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs picture in each conference.

Here's this week's edition of 27 Takeaways, one observation on every MLS team, as we head into the final push.

Atlanta play their final two home games of the season this week and if they can win both, they’ll be in the playoffs. Gonzalo Pineda has done a great job since taking over, and he now needs his key players to produce like they have been – for the next 180 minutes –  to bring postseason soccer back to the Five Stripes.

Austin earned another solid home win to show that they definitely have some good foundational pieces to build upon for 2022. Moral victories count for very little in this sport, but it'd be a boost going into the offseason having not finished bottom of the Western Conference and as Texas’ top team. That should be their goal.

This resurgence is too little too late, so there must be a sense of frustration that it’s only now that Chicago are showing good form at both ends of the pitch. Their last six games should serve as a blueprint around what they must do next season – find a way to win close games after losing too many close encounters in 2021.

Cincinnati’s tough 2021 is petering to a painful end, as they’ve conceded nine goals in their last two defeats to make it nine on the trot. On the verge of a third straight Wooden Spoon, a massive job awaits new GM Chris Albright to try and right the ship – both in terms of players and the head coach.

Colorado Rapids logo
Colorado Rapids

While everyone is talking about the race between Seattle and Sporting KC for the West’s No. 1 seed, the Rapids should not be counted out. If they can get a win at New England midweek, I can see them using that momentum to win their final two games and keep climbing even higher.

Columbus’ thin playoff hopes became even thinner over the weekend and they’ll now need a lot of help from others while winning all three remaining games – and even that may not be enough. The Crew simply haven’t scored enough goals to reflect all the attacking talent they possess.

FC Dallas logo
FC Dallas

FC Dallas have gone nine games without a win and are officially eliminated from playoff contention. Their issue hasn’t been goal-scoring, as those like Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira provide enough more often than not. It’s at the other end where they’ve fallen short.

D.C. United logo
D.C. United

The perfect remedy for getting over an embarrassing loss is getting back on the pitch as quickly as possible to put things right. It goes without saying that D.C. United’s impending game against the Red Bulls is a must-win – for confidence and morale, but more so for a chance to get back into the East’s playoff places.

Houston Dynamo FC logo
Houston Dynamo FC

Weeks like the one they just had is why Houston are missing the playoffs. A few games ago they looked ruthless against the Sounders but followed it up with two uninspiring defeats. The talent is mostly there, but the consistency is not.

LAFC cannot afford any slip-up on Tuesday night against Seattle (10:30 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes). Anything less than a win against the West’s top team and the Black & Gold will enter the winter with question marks hanging over the heads of several key figures at the club.

What a season Chicharito has had. It takes a big character to bounce back from his 2020 and produce at these levels, with 14 goals and three assists in 19 games. The goals are good, but his pressing, leadership and playmaking have really set him apart in 2021.

Inter Miami CF logo
Inter Miami CF

Inter Miami won their last two games by a combined 8-1 scoreline. They mathematically still have a chance to be in the playoffs, though the odds aren't looking in their favor. Two different six-game losing streaks could be the fatal blow for Phil Neville’s group this year.

Minnesota United FC logo
Minnesota United FC

In recent weeks, Osvaldo Alonso has turned back the clock and logged some vintage performances. He can’t cover ground like he used to, but his ability to keep possession, break up the opponent’s attack and make big plays is as good as it’s ever been.

CF Montréal logo
CF Montréal

Some draws feel like a win and others feel like a defeat. No prizes for guessing which of the two CF Montréal’s dropped points to Toronto felt like. Wilfried Nancy’s group still has a real chance to make the playoffs but will need to do better than their combined three shots on target from their last two games.

Nashville SC logo
Nashville SC

Nashville are winless in six and have helped the Union fly past them into second in the East. Gary Smith’s team has failed to score in four of their last six, which should be a huge concern heading into the business end of the season.

New England Revolution logo
New England Revolution

We can argue about which conference is tougher and whether the unbalanced schedule makes the Supporters’ Shield worth anything. What we can’t argue about is the sheer quality New England have displayed all year long. Silverware is secured, a couple of worthy records will be broken soon and they’re the clear favorites for MLS Cup.

New York City FC logo
New York City FC

NYCFC desperately needed last weekend's 6-0 win over D.C. United. Their offense looked back to its very best, managing an incredible 15 shots on target. They should still be aiming for the East's No. 2 seed even though they should happily settle for fourth in light of their recent form.

New York Red Bulls logo
New York Red Bulls

RBNY are unbeaten in eight games and have won their last four away matches, suggesting they can go into a hostile environment on the road and earn a victory should they make the playoffs.

Orlando City SC logo
Orlando City SC

It’s always disappointing to give up a two-goal lead, especially at home. The good news is that both Nani and Daryl Dike – two players Orlando will need to depend on come the playoffs – both got on the scoresheet against New England.

Philadelphia Union logo
Philadelphia Union

A huge win against Nashville took Philadelphia back up to second place in the East. They’re 5-1-2 in their last eight games and seem to be finding their very best form just in time for the playoffs.

Portland Timbers logo
Portland Timbers

Three straight defeats leave Portland looking nervously over their shoulders; their playoff spot is far from secure. With that said, the Timbers just need to win their two home games to ensure staying above the West’s seven playoff places.

Real Salt Lake logo
Real Salt Lake

RSL didn’t defend well in Chicago, allowing way too many shots to a team that won’t be as good as those they’d face in the playoffs, assuming they can get there. That needs to be fixed and they’ll likely need seven points to ensure a postseason spot.

It’s always fun to see Chris Wondolowski among the goals, and Eduardo “Chofis” Lopez continues to impress. Unfortunately, it looks like San Jose will fall below the West’s playoff line as they’d need to win all three remaining games and get help from elsewhere.

Seattle Sounders FC logo
Seattle Sounders FC

Seattle had enough of a cushion atop the West that their defeat to Sporting KC didn’t change much except lower their margin for error across these final three games. With Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro not far behind Raul Ruidiaz in their returns from injury, they’ll still fancy themselves against any opponent, home or away.

Sporting Kansas City logo
Sporting Kansas City

A huge win in Seattle – again! I’ve been a fan of Johnny Russell for a long time and his recent form has been absolutely sublime. This win ensured that the West’s No. 1 seed is very much still in play and I expect the fight to go down to the final day.

Toronto FC logo
Toronto FC

Jozy Altidore gave a reminder of what he can still do, which was nice to see. But in the grand scheme of things, the results stopped mattering a while ago as focus shifts to the offseason and beyond.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC logo
Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver hold the West’s seventh and final playoff spot, and they’ll need some big results against some good opponents when facing Minnesota and the Sounders at home, plus making a trip to LAFC. It would be a shame to see their excellent form over the last two months not be rewarded, but it’s on them to make sure that doesn’t happen.