The Upgrade: Predicting Decision Day through FIFA 18

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time of year again. Decision Day! When all of your club’s playoff hopes and dreams are realized… or crushed.

Hopefully for you, whoever you are, you get to watch your team carve a path through the playoffs, exhibiting some of the sexiest football you’ve ever seen en route to an MLS Cup title. How sweet would that be?

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Sunday’s the big day, and even if you can kick back knowing your club has already secured a playoff spot, there’s plenty on the line. For example, seeds two through five in the Eastern Conference are still totally in flux.

So what’s it gonna take for your club to grab whatever glory awaits? Well, somebody’s gonna have to step up and grab Decision Day presented by AT&T by the horns. Here are five players who might do just that:

Miguel Almiron, Atlanta United FC

Miggy’s back, baby! After a long injury layoff that has kept him off the field since he hobbled off 17 minutes into Atlanta’s match against Montreal on Sept. 27, Miguel Almiron is ready to hop back into the driver’s seat of the league’s scariest attack.

Atlanta can still clinch a first-round bye, but they need a win and some help. That win will need to come against runaway Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC, so it won’t be an easy task. Don’t expect Toronto to take Sunday's match easy (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE in the US, TSN4 in Canada). 

As the focal point of Atlanta’s attack, Almiron will need to put on the kind of show he’s capable of producing. If he’s truly fully recovered, his 90 acceleration rating, 88 sprint speed, and 87 agility will come in handy as he and the rest of Atlanta’s speedy attack look to cut through lines of Toronto defenders. In transition, his 78 vision, 79 short passing, and 78 shot power are going to help him find the final product that could land him and his teammates a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Justin Meram, Columbus Crew SC

Crew SC are on fire right now, and just like NYCFC, Atlanta and Chicago, they could end up anywhere between second and fifth in the East after this weekend. If they want that second seed and that first-round playoff bye, Justin Meram’s going to have to show off on Sunday at NYCFC (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

He’s got 13 goals and seven assists for Crew SC this season, but just five goals and one assist since the beginning of July. NYCFC’s defense is no slouch this year (+13 goal differential, 41 goals conceded), so it’s no guarantee that he’ll have his way at Citi Field.

To succeed in his squad’s quest for second-place, he’ll need all of his 82 dribbling, 85 acceleration, and 87 agility to create space for himself and chances for his teammates. His 78 shot power and curve ratings might help him bend one or two hits towards goal, too.

Yordy Reyna, Vancouver Whitecaps

The 24-year-old Peruvian international has logged six goals and three assists in just 983 minutes, which is very good. His presence is a big part of why Vancouver are in pole position in the Western Conference. But for the ‘Caps, the job isn’t done.

They’re up against Cascadia rival Portland on Sunday (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE), and could drop out of a first-round playoff bye with a loss. Keeping themselves in one of those top two spots is going to mean countering Diego Valeri’s undeniable magic with some magic of their own: Yordy Reyna’s speed.

As it stands, those physical stats are underrated in FIFA 18, which is scary because 86 acceleration, 87 sprint speed, and 84 agility are still pretty darn good. His finishing is still pretty underrated at 67, too, given his goal-per-minute ratio as a winger. However, I’ll definitely take those 74 dribbling and ball control ratings when he’s latching onto long balls and flying down the wing.

Valeri Qazaishvili, San Jose Earthquakes

Perhaps the Western Conference’s “other” Valeri at this point in his career, the man they call Vako can step out of the shadow of the Portland MVP candidate and make some history of his own by dragging San Jose back into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Valeri Qazaishvili's got two goals in his last two games, two assists in his last three, and he’s got the ‘Quakes on the precipice of the postseason. His success is no secret; he’s a technician. 78 dribbling, 79 curve, 80 ball control, 79 short passing, and 73 vision means he’s a serious threat in FIFA 18 and, obviously, in real life. He’s been central to the Quakes’ success since arriving this summer, and he’ll be central to whatever success comes on Sunday against Minnesota (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

Albert Rusnak, Real Salt Lake

RSL are still alive! Their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread, but it’s a thread that Mike Petke is furiously climbing up like a rope in gym class. There are two things on his mind: the phone number of a printer repairman and a prayer that Albert Rusnak has the game-changing performance he’s capable of this weekend.

Rusnak has gone the full 90 minutes in each of RSL’s last six games, scoring one goal and adding three assists. That’s not a bad return, but it’s not going to be enough for him to just play a role this weekend. Salt Lake is going up against Sporting KC with huge seeding implications on the line. He’s going to have to take over this match and will his side into the playoffs on Sunday (4 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

Can he do it? Sure, if you ask FIFA 18. 85 agility, 75 shot power, 74 vision, and comfortable mid-70s ratings in every skill category means he’s more than capable of getting RSL on the board himself or finding a teammate who can. RSL got blanked by Colorado last week, which is worrying, but these kinds of situations are where stars are born. Here’s hoping he comes through.

Series: 

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.