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MLS Playoff Watch: Atlanta United looks to clinch; Revs-Orlando meet in massive clash

A victory over the Columbus Crew would secure the Five Stripes’ place in the postseason.

Aug 31, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) and Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) give chase for the ball during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 31, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) and Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott (3) give chase for the ball during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta United could become the fourth Major League Soccer side to clinch a playoff berth if they win Saturday night at home against the Columbus Crew

The Five Stripes enter Week 28 third in the Eastern Conference and are six points ahead of Toronto FC and D.C. United, who are fighting for the final hosting position. 

If Frank de Boer’s side does not win versus the Crew, it still can wrap up a playoff spot through a few scenarios. Should the Montreal Impact fall to a defeat or tie against FC Cincinnati, Atlanta would clinch not matter its result. 

If the Five Stripes tie, they need a loss or tie by D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls. Atlanta would clinch even with a loss if both D.C. and the Red Bulls also lose. 

Outside of these, no direct clinching scenarios are in play, but there are plenty of fixtures with postseason implications, including the New England Revolution’s trip to Orlando City Saturday night. 

Below is a look at the Week 28 matches that will impact the playoff races in both conferences. 

Columbus Crew at Atlanta United (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

Aug 31, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union defender Kai Wagner (27) and Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) battle for the ball during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. (Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

As detailed above, Atlanta has one foot in the door for the postseason. 

The primary goal for the Five Stripes is not to clinch a playoff berth, but to earn the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and they could take a big step forward with a win over New York City FC Sept. 25. 

For now, they just have to keep winning, and they should breeze past a Crew side that will be officially eliminated from contention with a loss or tie combined with a New England victory, or a defeat partnered with a Montreal win. 

Atlanta has won three of the past four regular-season meetings with the Crew, but Caleb Porter’s side pulled out a victory in March. That was well before the defending MLS Cup champion found its stride under de Boer. 

New England Revolution at Orlando City (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sep 7, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City SC forward Santiago Patino (29) and Los Angeles FC defender Tristan Blackmon (27) fight for the ball during the second half at Exploria Stadium. (Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)

Saturday’s showdown at Exploria Stadium is the game to watch in the Eastern Conference this weekend. 

Bruce Arena’s Revolution sit four points clear of the Lions in the competition for the No. 7 seed. A road victory would help them feel much more comfortable going into a closing stretch that concludes with NYCFC and Atlanta. 

Orlando is the only team in the top 10 of the East with a home record below .500. In addition, James O’Connor’s side has a four-game winless run bookended by draws with Minnesota United and Los Angeles FC.

Home draws will not get the Lions anywhere, and if they come out victorious Saturday, they have a real chance to grab the final playoff spot in the East since they finish with games against the Houston Dynamo, FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire

D.C. United at Portland Timbers (Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

Sep 7, 2019; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Timbers forward Jeremy Ebobisse (17), left, and forward Brian Fernandez (7) celebrate after a game against Sporting Kansas City at Providence Park. The Timbers won 2-1. (Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

Many thought Portland’s spell of home games to end the season would result in a high seed in the Western Conference playoffs. 

That theory has not been proven yet, with spots No. 2 through No. 8 separated by four points entering the weekend. The Timbers currently sit sixth with a game in hand on the rest of the competition.

Portland needs to take full advantage of its matches at Providence Park. But taking three points from Sunday afternoon’s meeting with D.C. United will not be easy since Ben Olsen’s side is in the thick of the fight for a home playoff game in the East. 

The Black-and-Red are locked on points and an 11-10-9 record with Toronto FC, and they face a two-goal deficit in goal differential, which is the second tiebreaker behind wins. 

D.C. has to outgain Toronto in points for the rest of the regular season in order to secure the No. 4 spot. A road result Sunday is imperative. 

Real Salt Lake at Minnesota United (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sep 11, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Damir Kreilach (8) celebrate his goal during the second half against the San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)

It is a shame that Sunday’s most important match will not be nationally televised. 

Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United have two of the best on-field stories in MLS this year, and the victor will earn some separation in the race for second in the West. 

The runner-up and third-place spots carry importance because those clubs will avoid LAFC until the Western Conference final.

The past two meetings between RSL and the Loons have been 1-1 draws. Adrian Heath’s side holds two home victories over the Claret and Cobalt. 

New York Red Bulls at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sep 7, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA;Seattle Sounders midfielder Danny Leyva (75) and forward Handwalla Bwana (70) following the loss to the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

Similar to the D.C.-Portland match, the New York Red Bulls’ trip to Seattle will affect both playoff races. 

Chris Armas’ side enters CenturyLink Field on a two-game losing streak and in danger of being dragged into the red-line fight if they lose Sunday and the Revs win Saturday. 

The Sounders are rooting for a draw between RSL and Minnesota so it can leap into second with a victory at home, where it is 9-2-3. 

Seattle has one fewer win than RSL, and its goal differential is worse than both of its closest rivals for the No. 2 seed. 

A multiple-goal victory would be ideal for Brian Schmetzer’s squad, and if it keeps pace for No. 2, it could clinch the runner-up position on decision day against Minnesota. 

Sporting Kansas City at LA Galaxy (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Sep 11, 2019; Commerce City, CO, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Uriel Antuna (18) controls the ball in the second half against the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

Sporting Kansas City’s playoff hopes are close to dead, but it could drag the LA Galaxy down too with a road win Sunday night. 

Galaxy fans should have two hands positioned right above the panic button going into Sunday, and anything but a win is cause to hammer that button into oblivion. 

The Galaxy have one win since July 27 and slipped down to eighth after a midweek loss to the Colorado Rapids. With other teams above them playing much better, dropped points this weekend could be catastrophic. 

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