As if you needed another example to show that MLS is a league unlike any other, all you have to do is point to the results on Saturday night.
D.C. United, Minnesota United FC, and the Philadelphia Union are all teams sitting at or near the bottom of the standings in their respective conferences. But on Saturday night all came away with multi-goal wins against teams that were either fighting for their Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff lives or playoff positioning.
It’s not a complete surprise that these teams were able to claim these victories, considering they were all at home -- home teams had won 49.55 percent of all matches entering the weekend. But the positions that their opponents were all in, and the way in which they played, is what contributed to the spoiler night in MLS.
Where were the Quakes?
After a three-game spell in which they were able to notch three 1-0 wins, D.C. entered their match against the San Jose Earthquakes having lost their previous two matches. The Quakes visited the nation’s capital having risen above the playoff line for the first time in a while, and they entered with a 49 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com's Soccer Power Index.
Of course the Quakes have been prone to the occasional lopsided loss under head coach Chris Leitch; they had conceded four goals in a match four times under Leitch. But D.C. had not scored four goals all season, and Patrick Mullins hadn’t scored at all in 2017. And so right on queue, Mullins proceeded to score the fastest four goals in MLS history as San Jose’s playoff chances took a hit after a 4-0 shellacking.
FC Dallas slide continues
In Minnesota, where the Loons were coming off a big 3-2 win at Montreal, FC Dallas were fighting for their playoff lives after going winless in nine games. Although Dallas took the lead, they allowed a clinical Minnesota side back into the match as the expansion side continue to build confidence with each game of their inaugural season. As a result, Dallas are no longer favorites to get the sixth and final seed in the West.
Union hand it to Fire
Back on the East Coast, the Philadelphia Union had not won since Aug. 5, seeing their chances of reaching the playoffs go below one percent. Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire seemed to have righted themselves with a three-game unbeaten run after a brutal stretch in July and August. The Fire also had all four of their first-choice defenders in the starting XI for the first time since July 22.
Chicago were even back in contention for the No. 2 seed (which would clinch them an opening round bye), currently occupied by New York City FC. But without Bastian Schweinsteiger they managed to give up the first three goals of the game en route to a 3-1 loss in Chester. At this point the Fire may even be in danger of missing out on hosting a Knockout Round match with Columbus Crew SC moving up the standings.
Saturday night was a word of warning for every team trying to reach the playoffs this season: Underestimate your cellar-dweller opponent at your own peril.