By Luis Bueno – RIVERSIDE, CA (Oct 24, 2018) US Soccer Players - The final weekend of Major League Soccer’s 2018 season is near and both Los Angeles teams are in the midst of the playoff race. LAFC has already qualified, poised for a final regular season game that will determine the Western Conference champion. The LA Galaxy meanwhile needs to just beat Houston and the club will secure a postseason berth in what has otherwise been a tumultuous year.
As an added bonus, there exists the real possibility of LAFC playing the LA Galaxy in a midweek knockout round game. For the local MLS sides, there is no shortage of drama.
Having two MLS teams playing within a dozen miles of each other has produced three dramatic regular-season meetings but until recently had not provided for much more. With this late-season surge by the Galaxy and LAFC’s quest to set expansion records, the intensity and intrigue have carried over from those three LAFC vs LA Galaxy meetings.
While this is just the first year of this new world that features two MLS teams in Los Angeles, it may seem unfair to draw many conclusions on a potential future. However, if this season is any indication, MLS in Los Angeles will be a theatrical masterpiece played out over nine months every year.
This year’s story line may yet lead to unexpected twists and turns. LAFC and the LA Galaxy could play in what would be the most anticipated match of the year in the entire league. For that to happen, the stars would need to align. The Galaxy would need a win over Houston and LAFC would need to not beat Sporting KC and be overtaken by just one of FC Dallas or Seattle.
The Galaxy beating Houston would see the club finish in 6th-place in the Western Conference. LAFC meanwhile has 57 points, the same number as FC Dallas and one ahead of Seattle. LAFC would need to tie or lose at Sporting KC and for FC Dallas to win while Seattle does not, or the other way around, to drop to 3rd-place.
It is just one of many possibilities that could play out for the Los Angeles clubs. It's a finish that marks the culmination of a successful regular season for LAFC while the potential salvaging of a campaign from the Galaxy.
The Galaxy appeared dead in the water, destined to miss the playoffs in two consecutive years for the first time since 2007 and 2008. The club got rid of coach Sigi Schmid, perhaps salvaging their season. The Galaxy has found some late life under interim coach Dominic Kinnear and needs just a win over a bad Houston team to reach the postseason. Houston has a terrible 1-10-5 road record this season. Houston though needs just a draw to play spoiler and keep the Galaxy from reaching the postseason.
While it may be an incentive for Houston to try and avenge some big playoff losses suffered in Carson to the same LA Galaxy side over the years, Galaxy players will not stand for it. If Galaxy players have any heart, and they have proven they have, the Galaxy will easily advance to the postseason.
LAFC meanwhile has already booked its ticket to the playoffs but now is eyeing a solid playoff position. LAFC has a tough draw, though, as the club will close the season out at Sporting KC. The winner of the match will win the Western Conference as Sporting KC has 59 points, two more than LAFC. More importantly, the winner avoids the midweek knockout round match while the loser will likely have to play a midweek do-or-die match.
LAFC enter the final weekend tied with FC Dallas on points with 57. Seattle is in fourth place on 56 points while Portland is in fifth on 54. FC Dallas plays at Colorado while Seattle hosts San Jose, which means favorable matchups for the playoff-bound teams. Should form hold, FC Dallas would wind up with 60 points while Seattle would finish with 59.
An LAFC win means the Western Conference title:
2. FC Dallas
4. Sporting KC
6. LA Galaxy
The Galaxy would face Seattle in the knockout round while LAFC would await the winner. However, if Sporting KC beats LAFC, the final standings would be:
1. Sporting KC
2. FC Dallas
6. LA Galaxy
That would mean the Galaxy would play at Seattle while Portland would visit LAFC.
The possible LAFC vs LA Galaxy matchup seems difficult simply because of the caliber of opponents FC Dallas and Seattle face and the likelihood of wins by both of those squads. Still, a matchup with the Galaxy would be the worst possible introduction to the MLS Cup playoffs for LAFC. The club’s first-ever playoff game would be against the team with the most MLS Cups and a team that can pull out postseason results seemingly on sheer will.
Adding to the potential heartbreak for LAFC is the three regular-season meetings. The Galaxy won the first one and the other two finished in draws. The Galaxy was clearly the better side throughout the course of the three matches.
The Galaxy won the only other local MLS playoff matchup when the Galaxy played Chivas USA in the first round of the MLS playoffs. The Galaxy won on a 3-2 aggregate score. That meeting would mark the only time both LA teams were in the MLS Cup playoffs. The Galaxy went on to reach the MLS Cup, losing to Real Salt Lake on penalties. Including that year, the Galaxy would play in four of the following six MLS Cups. Chivas USA meanwhile never recovered from the playoff loss. The club failed to reach the postseason in any of the following five seasons and folded following the 2014 campaign.
Should the LA teams reach the postseason, they would each have a chance of winning MLS Cup. Why not? Once the playoffs arrive, it is a crap shoot and any team can walk away with the title regardless of how good or bad the regular season went. What both teams qualifying means is simple. Two opportunities for Los Angeles to produce the 2018 MLS Cup champion.
Luis Bueno is a veteran soccer writer. Follow him on twitter @BuenoSoccer.
More From Luis Bueno :
- Is 2018 turning out worse than 2017 for the LA Galaxy?
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- MLS Power Rankings: Seattle and DC's show
- The Galaxy shows why the MLS playoffs still need work
Photo by Michael Janosz - ISIPhotos.com