We're into the final month of the regular season, and here are a few things that have happened thus far in 2016:
- Bradley Wright-Phillips became the first player in MLS history to register a second 20-goal season
- Jordan Morris set the rookie record for game-winning goals
- Nick Rimando set the all-time record for goalkeeper wins
- Chris Wondolowski recorded his seventh straight double-digit goals season
- 11 different teams have won at least three straight games
- Nobody has won more than four straight games
Colorado, who've averaged one win a month over the last four months, technically have control of the Supporters' Shield race (if they win out, they win the silverware). RBNY, who haven't lost in three months, have almost zero chance. TFC had control of things after winning three straight on the road, and followed it up by drawing three straight at home.
The race for the sixth spot in both conferences have been defined by blockbuster mid-season moves, one for an in-his-prime No. 10 who's represented Uruguay in the World Cup and Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores, and the other for a backup forward who's on his third MLS team in three years.
MLS is a weird league, and season No. 21 is almost in the books.
Let's take a look:
Colorado technically control the Shield, but let's face it: It'd be a complete freaking shock if FC Dallas didn't take home the title, which would be their first Shield in franchise history and just their third piece of significant silverware ever.
It would also be Step 2 in their quest for the first domestic treble ever done in MLS. Step 1 was when they won the US Open Cup by 4-2 over the New England Revolution a few weeks back, and Step 3 would be, obviously, the MLS Cup itself. As was shown on Opta Spotlight yesterday, even though there's an unhappy recent history for Shield winners in the playoffs, Dallas – unless Mauro Diaz gets hurt – will enter the postseason as one of the favorites by every metric we've got.
GOAL: Ignacio Piatti puts away Matteo Mancosu's centering pass
It was their first win in a month and just their second win in the last two, and I honestly don't think it happens if Didier Drogba is on the field for the Impact. That means Montreal head coach Mauro Biello has a tough decision to make.
Drogba is still the most dynamic attacking presence for the Impact, and indeed he set up their final goal with his hold-up play and vision. He can still be an absolutely lethal force in the right circumstances.
He's also a huge honking defensive liability. When Montreal try to press while Drogba's on the field they leave huge gaps to exploit, and not just for passing – rather, you'll see central defenders simply dribble past the front line and set up shop in the midfield. The pressure that they exerted above doesn't exist when Drogba's on the field because Drogba can't play defense for long stretches anymore.
Now, I think he can make it work for 25 or 35 minutes at a time if his heart's in it. The question – and this is a question for players of great accomplishments (that's Drogba) and meager ones – is if he can handle the ego hit that comes with being a sub.
Sunday's trip to Orlando City (1 pm ET; ESPN in the US | MLS LIVE in Canada) is a crucial one for both teams. It's basically win or die for the Purple Lions, while for Montreal any result comes close to guaranteeing a second straight playoff berth.
I'll also be watching:Cristian Higuita. He has had a disappointing season, but showed in the second half of Wednesday's scoreless draw at Toronto just how effective he can be at covering ground and making the field smaller.
Two weeks ago the Seattle Sounders gutted out an exceedingly necessary 1-0 win over the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps. On Wednesday they gutted out an exceedingly necessary 1-0 win over the visiting Chicago Fire. In between was a more comprehensive 4-2 win over the Galaxy.
They are on their second three-game winning streak of the season, and are 6-1-2 in their last nine, and are above the red line for the first time all year. But on Sunday's trip to visit Vancouver (8 pm ET; FS1 in the US | TSN2 in Canada), they will be prohibitive underdogs because they will be without Nicolas Lodeiro, who is suspended with yellow-card accumulation.
This is obviously good news for the 'Caps, who've had a disappointing regular season but just finished off a dominant CCL campaign with a 4-1 win at midweek. That capped a September in which they played six games across all competitions and scored multiple goals in four of them, but were shut out in the other two.
Here's the stat that is going to be, I'm sure, infuriating for 'Caps fans and for head coach Carl Robinson: Forwards Erik Hurtado, Blas Perez and Masato Kudo have combined for five goals over the last five games. In the previous six months, those same three guys combined for... five goals.
Robinson was pretty candid about the fact that, at this point in the regular season, a lot of guys are playing for the right to be on the roster next year. The forwards have pretty clearly taken it to heart, and Sunday's game is another chance to make a case while making a rival absolutely miserable.
I'll also be watching: Seattle's line of confrontation. I think that they'll drop deep and just invite the 'Caps forward, then try to hit on the break with long balls to Morris.
One more thing:
Know your limits, folks.