As we close on the upcoming Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, each week's results are amplified and the emotional swings feel more fluid, tending toward the extreme over the everyday. Here's how Week 30 shook out for the key players.
At the top of the table, Atlanta United rolled to a 2-0 victory that kept them four points clear of the Supporters' Shield standings over the New York Red Bulls, who had beaten once-proud league champions Toronto FC by a 2-0 margin earlier in the day. The two trophy-chasing clubs will meet up this Sunday (1 pm ET | ESPN - Full TV & streaming info) in a nationally-televised contest that essentially decides the Shield if Atlanta claim three away points at Red Bull Arena.
Either way, Atlanta's Saturday victory paired with an NYCFC draw vs. Montreal to clinch a Knockout Round bye. On to the semifinals.
Most notably, New York City FC missed a chance to clinch their third-straight playoff appearance — a win vs. the Montreal Impact would've done the trick. On the flipside of the result, Montreal could've put further distance between them and playoff line chasers D.C. United, who hang five points back with a pair of games in hand.
- Columbus Crew SC took the points against Colorado, 2-1, to maintain their hold on hosting a home game during the Knockout Round.
- The New England Revolution drew at home to keep within chasing distance of Montreal (five points back, one game in hand) but are now level on points with D.C., who have a game in hand on the Revs.
- Toronto's loss leaves them further dependent on other results as they chase the sixth seed.
- Down at the foot, Orlando City SC and the Chicago Fire earned a one-week reprieve with Montreal's tie.
- A reserve-heavy Philadelphia Union side knocked off West powers Sporting Kansas City, 2-0, on Sunday to climb further above the playoff line and keep the pressure on Columbus in the chase for home-field advantage in the Knockout Round.
The race for the byes is real. Toward the top, LAFC scored a 2-0 victory over San Jose to keep pace with leaders FC Dallas, who surged back ahead of SKC to retake first place after a 2-1 win at Vancouver and Sporting's loss in Philly.
- Portland had a chance to join the crowded plateau at the peak, but instead find themselves tottering after a 3-2 loss in Minnesota.
- Seattle missed an opportunity to strengthen their claim to a home game during the Knockout Round, falling 3-0 on the road to the LA Galaxy, and have now lost two straight after their incredible nine-game winning streak.
- Conversely, that result means the Galaxy's postseason hopes, while faint, are still alive with four games to go. LA are three points behind Seattle, who occupy the West's sixth and final playoff slot, though the Rave Green have a game in hand.
- Real Salt Lake put up a strong challenge in Atlanta, but fell and remain mired in the back of the playoff pack, five clear of the line, but two off of fourth and the crucial home game that comes with it.
- RSL's loss, the Galaxy's win over Seattle and Vancouver's costly home loss to FCD combined to keep things interesting right around the playoff line. Leapfrogged by the Galaxy for now, the 'Caps sit in eighth place, four points back of Seattle and one back of LA. Saturday's Galaxy-Whitecaps game (10 pm ET | TSN1/4 - Full TV and streaming info) could make or break those two teams' hopes of catching Portland, RSL and/or Seattle.
- Minnesota's win staved off elimination for another week.
- Houston drew Orlando, but RSL's loss kept them mathematically in the running.