Much to the commissioner's delight I'm sure, the race for the MLS Eastern Conference playoffs is coming down to the wire. I suppose that must be the case when half the teams enter the post season. But the wheat is now being separated from the chaff. Even the left-for-dead Crew have not been officially eliminated though they will be watching anxiously from the sidelines as the shovels of earth are readied for their grave. Their "Who to Boo" is outlined succinctly here. But let's hope that a ray of hope remains in the Ohio state capital for one more week - we will want a motivated Columbus squad to square off against New England one week from Saturday.
According to the mathematicians, this isn't exactly a must-win game for the Fire. But that's mainly because it's still possible for disaster to strike for the Revs and the Union as well. And, very likely, if the Fire miss the grabbing the 5th spot, it's one of those teams that will snatch it. Just like last week, all the games are on local TV and will be available on Direct Kick or MLS Live. And apart from Wednesday's game in Houston, all games are on Saturday.
Kansas City @ Houston, (tonight, 7:30 p.m.), MLS Live/DirectKick
Who to boo: Houston
Along with the idle Red Bulls, the Sky Blues can clinch a spot in the playoffs this weekend. That said, their ambitions are lot higher than making it to the play-in game. Houston can clinch with a win and a Fire loss. Very likely, the result of this game will not affect whether or not the Fire are playing games in November. But Houston's next game is at home vs. the Red Bulls. So, it's not out of the question that in a couple of weeks we're talking about playoff position, not just presence.
New England @ Montreal, (Saturday, 1:30 p.m.), MLS Live/DirectKick
Who to boo: New England
Alex's winner (and John Louie's controversial pick to free Magee for the equalizer) last month loom large as it gives us a shoulder ahead in our playoff push vs. the Revs. The Limp Act must be suffering from terrible neck pains after all the looking back they've been doing lately. Let's hope they pull the rip cord on the parachute this weekend and slow the free fall. They have a game in hand on everyone else but that only means something if you win those games. A victory here would do a lot to staunch the bleeding and put New England on the brink of elimination.
Philadelphia @ DC United, (Saturday, 6 p.m.), MLS Live/DirectKick
Who to boo: Philadelphia
Just when The Union looked like it would succumb the Who to Boo whammy, it grabbed 2 extra points thanks to Klebersen bringing a little Brazilian World Cup magic to PPL Park. On the other hand, Ben Olsen's boys somehow conspired to get slaughtered in a game from which they certainly deserved much more. The surprise US Open Cup champs could very likely pull off the home victory the Fire so desperately need to pop back up above the red line.
Chicago @ Dallas, (Saturday, 7:30 p.m.), My50/MLS Live/Direct Kick
Who to boo: Dallas
The Fire retook the Brimstone Cup last year at Toyota Park. This year they travel to Toyota Stadium to defend it. Not since 2001 have the Fire successfully retained the MLS's oldest fan-initiated trophy. Of course, this is the first time they've had a chance to defend it since 2002. FC Dallas has lost 3 of their last 5 and haven't won since early September. At 41 points, Dallas is very close to elimination in the high-powered Western Conference. So the Fire can expect a hard-fought game.
Hexagonal bonus Who-to-Boo!
Costa Rica @ Honduras 4:00pm, beIN Sport
Who to boo: Honduras
Jamaica @ USA, 5:30pm, ESPN
Who to boo: Jamaica
Panama @ Mexico, 8:30pm , UniMas
Who to boo: Panama
I know there are those that will disagree with me, but I think CONCACAF and US Soccer benefit a lot more with Mexico in the World Cup than Honduras or Panama. So I am rooting for the big bullies from the south to make it. Given the choice, I'd prefer they limp into Brazil after fighting their way past New Zealand but I hope they get there one way or the other. The World Cup has reached must-see status around the US. But if El Tri don't book their ticket to the big dance, there will be a palpable drop in interest in the tournament next year.