The battle for the red line is ramping up.
We’re just seven weeks away from the start of the MLS playoffs, and contenders in the East and the West are looking to consolidate their conference ranking before the postseason begins on Oct. 26.
At this point in the season, most teams know exactly what they have. The transfer window is closed, the roster freeze deadline is a few days away and most teams’ key contributors have long since emerged.
Clubs largely know who they’ll be able to count down the stretch – except for those dealing with major injuries.
Several teams in both conferences currently have star players sidelined. The respective recovery timelines for the most notable injured players vary, but, in most cases, the biggest names currently hurt look like they’ll be able to return in time for the playoffs.
See below for a list of five currently injured players who could return in time to have a major playoff impact:
Sebastian Giovinco – Adductor, quad strains
I don’t need to say anything about Giovinco’s qualifications. Dude is a star – the best player in the league when he’s on his game. It’s obvious that he’ll provide a big boost for TFC when he returns from the quad and adductor strains that he suffered on Aug. 27. The only question is what kind of form he’ll be in. If he’s able to get firing quickly, Toronto will probably be the favorites to win the East and could even make a run at catching Dallas for the Supporters’ Shield.
Maurice Edu – Left tibia stress fracture
Edu hasn’t played in a game all year, missing most of Philadelphia’s preseason while recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery before suffering a stress fracture in his left leg in March. The Union have managed just fine without him (they’re currently fourth in the East, eight points ahead of seventh-place D.C.), but they could certainly use his presence for a potential playoff run.
The veteran got some minutes under his belt on Sunday with the Union’s USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel, but apparently won’t be playing against Montreal this weekend. Still, he should be back in the picture relatively soon, and should be a really solid option for an increasingly strong Union midfield.
Jermaine Jones – Quad injury
It’s still a bit unclear just when Jones will be able to return to the field, but if he does, it’ll be a boon for the slumping Rapids. Colorado are 5-0-3 in the eight matches the US international has played this year, with Jones chipping in three goals and two assists in those contests They’ve been excellent with him, but pretty average without him, posting a 6-5-7 record – including an 0-2-2 mark in their last four – in the 18 matches he’s missed this year.
Gyasi Zardes – Broken fifth metatarsal
Zardes won’t play again in the regular season due to a broken fifth metatarsal suffered on Aug. 27, but he could be back in time to contribute in the playoffs. That could be huge for the Galaxy, who appear to be on the verge of adding another pretty significant piece to their attack in the very near future.
Clint Irwin – Quad injury
After over two months on the shelf, Irwin appears to be set for a return to Toronto’s starting lineup this weekend. The ‘keeper, who suffered a quad injury on June 25, played in the USL for TFC II last weekend and could start for the Reds at Chicago on Saturday. Toronto have managed just fine without him – they’re 7-2-3 in the 12 games he’s missed – but being able to replace the young Alex Bono with the more experienced Irwin should pay dividends come playoff time.