In Pictures: Seattle Sounders leave it late to lock in Knockout Round bye for 2018 MLS Playoffs

The Seattle Sounders kept momentum going as they left it late to beat San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 at CenturyLink Field on MLS Decision Day. A Raul Ruidiaz brace was enough to earn three more points, securing a Knockout Round bye in the Western Conference.

Seattle’s incredible end-of-season run has seen them lock in yet another playoff campaign. And they’ll head into their Western Conference semifinal in full confidence, given the way they stuck together to beat the Quakes on Sunday.

Chad Marshall’s own goal had dampened the mood around CenturyLink Field but Seattle stuck together and kept the pressure on San Jose’s goal. It paid off. Ruidiaz equalised in the 79th minute and then secured the win in dramatic style in the third minute of stoppage time.

Check out exclusive photos from Sunday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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2017 MLS Decision Day Predictions: Three-way battle for last playoff spot, plus a crucial Cascadia Cup battle in Portland

2017 MLS Decision Day Predictions – Here we go. The final day of the regular season. It’s the only day of the season in which all 22 MLS sides take to the field simultaneously. The result? A full 90 minutes of action-packed drama, with a whole host of goals expected. All 11 games kickoff at 4pm ET (9pm BST) on Sunday night. You don’t want to miss it.

The 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs are fast approaching and although 11 of the 12 postseason spots are already filled, there are teams across both conferences fighting for that all-important Knockout Round bye. Three teams are fighting for one remaining playoff spot in the East and that’s where you can expect most the focus to be on Sunday. San Jose Earthquakes, FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake all still have a chance of clinching a spot on the final day of the regular season and all three have the added bonus of playing at home.

Read on for all 2017 MLS Decision Day Predictions…

Atlanta United 3-1 Toronto FC

What a game this should be. The 2017 season’s best side and Supporters’ Shield winners travel to the league’s most exciting team of the campaign on the final day. Toronto don’t really have anything to play for here. They have secure their Knockout Round bye and can afford to rest players ready for the playoffs. But Atlanta could still finish second in the East. They must win and hope both NYCFC and Chicago fail to pick up victories. At least expect them to do their part of that job…

Embed from Getty ImagesDC United 1-1 New York Red Bulls

The DC United faithful will take to the RFK Stadium stands for the last time this weekend. Other than that there is nothing for either DC or Red Bulls to play for. The home side are guaranteed to finish bottom of the Eastern Conference, but they will be hoping to sign off at RFK in style. Red Bulls can’t finish anywhere other than sixth, with the playoffs looming they will want to avoid defeat, but more importantly, avoid unnecessary injuries. Expect an emotional one for DC, but not much else.

Embed from Getty ImagesMontreal Impact 3-2 New England Revolution

This is the final fixture of what has been an underwhelming season for both Montreal and The Revs. Both have failed to make the playoffs and there isn’t much to cheer about here. New England have failed to win a game on the road in the 2017 regular season. It seems unlikely that it will come away at Montreal, but given there is little but pride to play for here, it might just happen. Can they finally pick up three points away from home on the Decision Day?

Embed from Getty ImagesNew York City FC 2-1 Columbus Crew

New York City FC will look to hold onto second place in the East with a Decision Day win over the Crew. But they’ll have to try and do it away from their usual surroundings. That’s because Sunday’s game will take place at Citi Field, as a result of the New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on October 20. Columbus Crew fans have been threatened with a franchise move to Austin. They can lift spirits significantly with a good playoff run and could even get a Knockout Round bye still. A win at NYCFC, coupled with Atlanta and Chicago failing to win would do it. But it’s unlikely to fall into place for them. Second place is NYCFC’s to lose and we don’t see them losing it.

Embed from Getty ImagesPhiladelphia Union 2-2 Orlando City

Another game which will have very little impact on the rest of the East. Both are level on 39 points ahead of the game and having failed to make the playoffs. The result will confirm the finishing position for both sides but considering it’s outside of the top six, there isn’t much to get excited about. Signing off with a win will be the mindset for Philadelphia and Orlando, but with the stats not offering much to split them on, a score draw seems a likely outcome.

Embed from Getty ImagesFC Dallas 3-1 LA Galaxy

What happened to FCD? One of the early season favourites are who are now reliant on results going their way to make the playoffs. If San Jose pick up a win it is all out of their hands. This is easily one of the main fixtures to follow on Decision Day. LA Galaxy face the very real prospect of finishing bottom of the Western Conference. 2017 has been a season to forget for LA and although a win isn’t going to make things any better, they will still be looking to avoid propping up the standings.

Embed from Getty ImagesReal Salt Lake 2-2 Sporting Kansas City

Another Decision Day clash that’s worth keeping an eye on. Real Salt Lake could still finish in a playoff spot, however it seems an unlikely outcome. They are reliant on Dallas and San Jose to both fail to win. The pressure is far from intense for Sporting Kansas City considering they have already secured their place in the post-season action. They can however still end the season with a Knockout Round bye, similarly to RSL, it’s an outcome that is out of their hands as they will need Portland and Seattle to fail to win. A fixture with an outside chance for both sides, with SKC the happier ahead of kick off.

Embed from Getty ImagesPortland Timbers 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps

A Decision Day rivalry clash. A battle for top spot in the West. And a battle for the 2017 Cascadia Cup. This is going to be one hell of a ride. The Whitecaps beat the Timbers 4-1 on Decision Day a year ago to clinch the Cascadia Cup and also eliminate their rivals – and reigning MLS Cup champs at the time – from playoff contention on the final day. There won’t be anything that dramatic this time around but one of these sides would guarantee a Knockout Round bye with victory. A win would also secure top spot in the West for either. Portland have won five-straight games at home and should get revenge for last year’s final day loss at BC Place.

San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 Minnesota United

The San Jose Earthquakes are 90 minutes away from clinching their first playoff spot since the Supporters’ Shield winning season of 2012. But standing in their way are the ever unpredictable Loons, who will be looking to spoil the party. The Quakes control their own destiny. Win, and they’re in. Anything other than that would open the door to Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas, who will be looking to pounce on any San Jose slip-up. Don’t expect this one to be pretty, but the Quakes should get the job done.

Embed from Getty ImagesSeattle Sounders 3-0 Colorado Rapids

The Sounders are unbeaten in 12 games at CenturyLink Field and will be looking to sign off for the regular season in style. They still can earn a Knockout Round bye with a win, regardless of any other results and that will be the main aim for the reigning champions. Colorado’s season ended a while ago but they’ve been busy ruining other teams’ seasons over the past few weeks. They’d love to sign off with a win but it seems highly unlikely.

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Chicago Fire

Both these sides have done incredibly well to clinch playoff spots after promising seasons. Both were well out of the picture 12 months ago but have improved dramatically over the past 12 months. They’ll both now be thinking of the postseason but Chicago have a really good chance of securing a Knockout Round bye if they can win at BBVA Compass Stadium. They’ll guarantee home-field advantage with a win anyway and that will be their aim. Although the Dynamo are unbeaten in five and will want that streak to keep going into the playoffs. Score draw.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Portland Timbers vs Colorado Rapids

Competition: Major League Soccer – Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids

Venue: Providence Park – Sunday, October 25 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Portland Timbers 4/9 – Draw 100/30 – Colorado Rapids 6/1

Match Preview

Portland Timbers take on Colorado Rapids at Providence Park on Sunday evening as the home side look to secure a playoff spot on MLS Decision Day.

The Timbers are currently fourth in the Western Conference with 50 points, two ahead of fifth and sixth placed Seattle and SKC who both have 48, so a draw would do the job for Caleb Porter’s men.

Although, a victory for Portland would not only guarantee a top six finish but they could also sneak in through the back door to clinch an automatic semi-final spot should LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps both fail to win.

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Portland should come into this game full of confidence after an incredible performance last weekend saw them thrash LA Galaxy 5-2 away from home, sealing their third win in four games.

Portland Timbers’ MLS record: P33 – W14 – D8 – L11

Colorado Rapids cannot qualify for the playoffs and haven’t been able to for a while now – they will also certainly finish bottom of the Western Conference, irrelevant of their result here.

However, they did put an end to a run of four straight defeats with a remarkable 2-0 victory away at Sporting Kansas City in midweek to record their first win in seven games.

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Pablo Mastroeni’s side can play with freedom on Sunday in the knowledge that this is no more than a formality for them and there is no pressure other than to end on a high.

Colorado Rapids’ MLS record: P33 – W9 – D10 – L14

The Timbers won the last meeting between these two sides 2-1 back in May. They also beat the Rapids 2-1 the last time they met at Providence Park in July 2014. Colorado have beaten Portland just once in their last seven meetings (D2, L4).

Team News

Diego Valeri will miss the game for Portland Timbers through suspension after picking up too many yellow cards. Ben Zemanski (knee) remains a long-term absentee, while Will Johnson (leg) is a major doubt.

Colorado’s Michael Harrington (foot) is unavailable, while there are also doubts over the fitness of Drew Moor (foot), Dillon Serna (hamstring) and Jared Watts (toe). Sam Cronin is suspended after being sent off against SKC.

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Key Points

Portland Timbers’ last five: L/W/L/W/W

Colorado Rapids’ last five: L/L/L/L/W

Key Stat: Portland Timbers have recorded just one victory in their last six home games.

Key Player: Fanendo Adi – The big Nigerian forward is on fire. He’s bagged five goals in his last four games, including a brace at LA Galaxy last weekend. He’s a real handful and the Rapids will struggle to stop him.

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Score Prediction

Portland Timbers 3-1 Colorado Rapids – The Timbers should comfortably seal their playoff spot and if results go their way, they may even pinch an automatic semi-final place.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Sporting Kansas City vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy

Venue: Sporting Park – Sunday, October 25 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Sporting Kansas City 6/4 – Draw 5/2 – LA Galaxy 13/8

Match Preview

Sporting Kansas City welcome LA Galaxy to Sporting Park for a crucial MLS Decision Day encounter on Sunday evening as both sides still have it all to play for.

SKC are currently sixth in the Western Conference and clinging on to a playoff spot by the skin of their teeth with just one point separating them from San Jose in seventh.

Their fate is still in their own hands and they know that a win in this game is vital in order to secure a place in the postseason – a draw may still be enough but they would be relying on San Jose failing to beat FC Dallas or Seattle Sounders losing against Real Salt Lake.

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Peter Vermes doesn’t bring his team into this game in particularly high spirits after a poor run of form. They’ve lost their last two games without scoring and have won just two of their last 11 (D2, L7).

Sporting Kansas City’s MLS record: P33 – W13 – D9 – L11

LA Galaxy arrive in Kansas having experienced similar fortunes to their opponents recently. Since a run of four straight victories through August, the Galaxy have managed just one win in their last six (D2, L3).

Most disappointingly, they were convincingly beaten 5-2 at home to Portland Timbers last time out in MLS, although they did pick up a 1-1 draw away to Guatemalan side Comunicaciones in midweek, which saw them win their CONCACAF Champions League group stage and advance to the quarter-final.

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Despite a run of poor results, Bruce Arena’s side are still second in the Western Conference and will clinch an automatic semi-final berth with victory – a draw would be enough if Vancouver Whitecaps and Portland Timbers both fail to win.

Whatever the outcome, LA Galaxy will be in the postseason having already secured a top six finish.

LA Galaxy’s MLS record: P33 – W14 – D9 – L10

The last meeting between these two sides saw LA Galaxy edge a 2-1 home victory back in April. The last clash at Sporting Park was a 2-1 success for SKC in July 2014.

Team News

SKC have a number of doubts as Ike Opara (achilles), Seth Sinovic (hamstring), Amadou Dia (knee) and Roger Espinoza (foot) are all struggling with injuries.

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LA Galaxy will be without injured goalkeeper Brian Perk (ankle) and Bradford Jamieson IV (concussion). Todd Dunivant (foot) and Baggio Husidic (leg) are also doubts.

Key Points

Sporting Kansas City’s last five: L/D/W/L/L

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/L/W/D/L

Key Stat: LA Galaxy have only kept one clean sheet away from home in MLS this season.

Key Player: Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy have scored more goals than any other side in the Western Conference and Keane is one of the main reasons why. He has 19 goals and eight assists this season and has netted in his last three. He will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday.

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Score Prediction

Sporting Kansas City 1-1 LA Galaxy – Neither side comes into the game with any real form to boast about. As a result, we could see a tight affair with both sides relying on other results to decide their fate.

MLS Preview and Prediction: FC Dallas vs San Jose Earthquakes

Competition: Major League Soccer – FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Venue: Toyota Stadium – Sunday, October 25 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 2 – Red Button)

Match Odds: Dallas 4/5 – Draw 14/5 – San Jose 3/1

Match Preview

FC Dallas host the San Jose Earthquakes in one of the biggest games on MLS Decision Day this Sunday with both left with enormous amounts to play for in the Western Conference.

The final regular season game for both will ultimately decide the success or failure of their seasons to a degree. Dallas are chasing a first-ever Supporters’ Shield, while San Jose are looking to make the playoffs for the first time in three years.

Dallas have already sealed top spot in the West, with last weekend’s 1-0 win at Real Salt Lake ensuring they can enjoy a bye week through the knockout rounds of the upcoming playoffs.

FC Dallas’ MLS record: P33 – W17 – D6 – L10

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They have never won the Supporters’ Shield but are tied with the New York Red Bulls at the top of the league standings going into MLS Decision Day, though New York have a superior goal difference of six. If the Red Bulls fail to win in their earlier game with Chicago Fire, then the door will be wide open for Dallas to claim the shield.

San Jose come into the final weekend of the regular season one point below the playoff line in the West. They have found form late on and are unbeaten in three now. A point in Dallas could be enough for a top six finish but a win will obviously boost their chances.

San Jose Earthquakes’ 2015 record: P33 – W13 – D8 – L12

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

The Quakes will be hoping Sporting Kansas City and/or Seattle Sounders slip up on the final day to give themselves a good chance of making the postseason, though a loss in Texas would end their dreams for another year.

This is a repeat fixture of both clubs’ opening games of the 2015 MLS season. Dallas won that game 1-0 thanks to a very late Blas Perez goal. The most recent meeting at Avaya Stadium ended 0-0 in June. San Jose have not won in their last three meetings with Dallas.

Team News

FC Dallas will be without Rolando Escobar for this one, while Bakary Soumare and Kellyn Acosta are both doubts.

San Jose Earthquakes travel to Dallas without Innocent Emeghara, Steven Lenhart, Jordan Stewart, Paulo Renato and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi. Anibal Godoy will also miss out as he serves a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.

Key Points

FC Dallas’ last five: L/W/D/W/W

San Jose Earthquake’s last five: D/L/W/D/W

Key Stat: San Jose haven’t scored against FC Dallas in their last three meetings. It’s now been 316 minutes since the Quakes last netted against FCD.

Key Player: Fabian Castillo – The Dallas winger leads the team in goals with nine. He’s a constant threat and one of the most productive players in MLS on his day. He will look to shine on a big day for Dallas.

Photo: Denise McCooey

Photo: Denise McCooey

Score Prediction

FC Dallas 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes – This is an enormous game for both clubs and a really tough one to call. Both have key playmakers that can turn matches in one play but home advantage and the chance of winning a first Supporters’ Shield mean we’re just edging with FC Dallas. San Jose will put up a real fight but they haven’t beaten Dallas in their last three and may come up short at the final hurdle.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs DC United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Columbus Crew vs DC United

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Sunday, October 25 – 17:00 ET (21:00 GMT – Live on Sky Sports 2)

Match Odds: Columbus Crew 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – DC United 12/5

Match Preview

Columbus Crew host DC United in a key Eastern Conference clash as part of the first ever MLS Decision Day on Sunday evening.

All ten Eastern Conference sides will face off against each other at the same time, with Columbus and DC fighting for a second-place finish. That’s important as a top two finish will earn them a knockout round bye in the upcoming MLS Playoffs.

Both sides have secured a playoff slot but a bye week will be a huge prize and effectively makes this a playoff game as we end the regular season.

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Columbus will be without Federico Higuain and goal machine Kei Kamara. That will hamper their chances but they have won three of their last five in MLS.

Columbus Crew’s MLS record: P33 – W14 – D8 – L11

They have lost their last two at home though and that will give DC United some much-needed confidence.

DC hadn’t won in six coming into October but back-to-back wins over New York City and Chicago Fire have put them back on track.

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A third-straight victory would be huge before the playoffs and would push them straight through to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

DC United’s MLS record: P33 – W15 – D6 – L12

This will be the third meeting between the two sides this season. Both previous games were at RFK Stadium with DC winning 2-0 in the earlier meeting, before Columbus won 2-1 in September.

Team News

Columbus will be without star attacking duo Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara as both will serve a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation. Chad Barson and Kristinn Steindorsson are ruled out through injury, while Matt Lampson is a doubt.

DC United travel to Columbus without Eddie Johnson, Chris Korb or Davy Arnaud as all three remain injured.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/W/L/L/W

DC United’s last five: D/L/L/W/W

Key Stat: Columbus have conceded at least two home goals in each of their last five games in MLS and haven’t kept a home clean sheet since mid-April. Leaky.

Key Player: Chris Rolfe – Rolfe is DC United’s leading goalscorer with ten and found the net in the most recent meeting with the Crew in September.

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Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 2-2 DC United – This is an enormous game for both clubs as a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference is up for grabs and that will mean a knockout round playoff bye. DC have struggled away from home of late, though Columbus can’t seem to keep clean sheets at MAPFRE Stadium. That should lead to an entertaining game but a draw looks the most likely result. That would see DC seal second place.