MLS Week 35: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend
Playoff-clinching scenarios in the Eastern Conference will be the story to watch in MLS Week 35. But an additional four storylines will complete your weekend preview.
In the coming slides, a majority of the nine matches scheduled for this week will be covered in great detail. Each match selected will be dissected from a unique angle to intensify your viewing pleasure.
So, what exactly warrants your attention in Week 35?
Read on to find out.
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to the official MLS Press Box Stats and Standings.
Complete Schedule and Guide
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 35. The result from Wednesday's match is posted as well.
Real Salt Lake 2-1 Chivas USA
Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact, 4 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas, 5:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
D.C. United vs. Houston Dynamo, 1:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire, 5 p.m. ET, UniMas
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Story to Watch: Who Joins the Party in the East?
The Western Conference is all but sewn up.
Four of the five playoff spots out West have been spoken for. The fifth—though not official—is already a forgone conclusion. The Quakes need half a miracle and a prayer to overcome three points and a 12-goal deficit. Especially in just 90 minutes of play.
But five clubs in the East are vying for the final three spots.
Now, disentangling the umpteen scenarios in the Eastern Conference will require a scientific calculator and a dosage of aspirin. If you're so inclined to partake in the madness, here's the link. We wish you well.
But for the sake of sanity, let's keep this simple.
The Impact, Fire and Revolution each control their own playoff destiny. Three points are all that separate the clubs from clinching a postseason berth. But if either fails to capture a victory in Week 35, the Dynamo can return to the playoffs with a win of their own.
Things get a bit trickier for the Union.
Not only must Philadelphia defeat Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, but both Houston and New England must falter the following day. The dominoes can begin to fall early Saturday afternoon...or the pressure can mount.
It all rests on the result at PPL Park.
Obviously, these are not the only scenarios in the Eastern Conference. Over 30 exist between all five clubs. But it doesn't get any simpler for those above the dreaded red line: Win and you're in.
Lose, and you've just left it all to chance.
The Number to Watch: 90
What exactly does this Sunday mean to New York?
According to Franco Panizo on MLS' official website, Sunday means nothing more than 90 minutes for head coach Mike Petke:
Sunday is 90 minutes, the final 90 minutes of the season. Obviously, it's a special occasion and there's a lot on the line. However, it would be foolish at this stage to think anything other than this game and three points...Either way, it's going to be a very difficult game and I could assure you that myself and the players are concentrating on 90 minutes and that's it.
Of course, that "special occasion" Coach Petke refers to is nothing more than the club's first-ever major title.
An electric crowd at Red Bull Arena awaits the club Sunday afternoon. For 90 minutes, failures of years past will cease to reverberate in the stands. An optimistic tone has temporarily erased the memory of Raul Diaz-Arce's penalty kick from 1996. Kenny Cooper's missed penalty in last year's playoff is merely an afterthought.
A Supporters' Shield title wouldn't just legitimize a bare trophy case…it would mend the long-suffering hearts of New York's faithful.
That moment is just 90 minutes away.
Ninety minutes from making the last 18 years worth it all.
The Player to Watch: Landon Donovan
He's the most decorated soccer player in American history.
His chase for the most decorated record in MLS history rests on the final week of the season.
For two matches now, Landon Donovan has been one goal away from surpassing Jeff Cunningham's all-time record of 134 career MLS goals. International duty kept that feat from being achieved in a midweek matchup with Montreal last Wednesday. A scoreless draw with San Jose ensured the drama would carry over into Week 35.
One strike will land Donovan into the pantheon of mythical MLS achievement.
That strike could come this weekend at CenturyLink Field.
More than 64,000 Seattleites will fill the artificial grounds to capacity Sunday evening. Western Conference seeding will come into play once the opening whistle blows. Both clubs will seek a result in order to avoid the feared play-in game. But even with Clint Dempsey ready to share the same turf, Donovan's chase for prestigious achievement will take center stage.
Especially on American soil.
All eyes rest on the man responsible for the all-time record in U.S. goals scored (57) and assists (57). The chase and national spotlight is yours, Landon.
You decide what to do with it.
The Club to Watch: The Portland Timbers
Real Salt Lake was able to do it.
Now the pressure has fallen into your court, Portland.
Temporarily, the Claret and Cobalt find themselves atop the Western Conference with 56 points. A 2-1 victory over Chivas USA on Wednesday has mounted the pressure on a club celebrating its first-ever postseason berth. The Goats will look to double down on their RSL favor with a result this Saturday.
But the Timbers have other plans.
A victory over Chivas USA would see Portland clinch the top seed in the Western Conference. A season total of 57 points sends the playoffs through JELD-WEN Field. According to the club's official website, it's a fortress head coach Caleb Porter isn't willing to bet against come playoff time:
So we've tried to really remain very humble and stay hungry through...we've had a lot of highs this year, and we've had some lows, but we've remained humble through those highs and lows. And I think that's again why we've evolved this club in a short amount of time to where there's a lot of good players. We're a pretty experienced team, believe it or not, and throughout the season we've looked mature and come playoff time I like our chances, because we've shown that we can win at home...We've built a fortress.
That "fortress" in the Rose City is responsible for 38 (11-1-5) of the Timbers' 54 points.
No other club in MLS has accumulated a higher total on its own soil this season. No other club in MLS is anxiously awaiting a visit.
A victory this Saturday ensures another uncomfortable situation for the opposition.
The Match to Watch: Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City
As previously mentioned in this piece, the first domino will fall Saturday afternoon.
The implications surrounding the clash between the Union and Sporting Kansas City far exceed three points. The result will have lingering effects that shift the landscape of the entire league.
For Philadelphia, a victory piles pressure on an already congested Eastern Conference. For Kansas City, a victory puts the heat on the New York Red Bulls. A draw would no longer be enough for the club to capture its first-ever major title.
...let's just halt right there.
A scientific calculator is still not in our possession.
The umpteen repercussions of this match cannot be transcribed in minimal words. Just know this: Whatever transpires following the result at PPL Park will shape the rest of your weekend. It is the first of nine crucial ties that determine the rest of the postseason.
Do you need another reason to pay attention?
Three match notes to consider:
- This will be the third and final matchup between the two clubs. Kansas City captured a 3-1 victory in Week 1. Philadelphia captured a 1-0 victory in Week 31.
- Five members of SKC are in danger of a suspension entering the weekend. Claudio Bieler, Benny Feilhaber, Seth Sinovic, Peterson Joseph and Lawrence Olum will face a one-match ban if they are cautioned on Saturday.
- Union midfielder Sebastien Le Toux is questionable with an injury to his plantar fascia.
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