There’s just one more playoff spot left to claim in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, while the West remains rather wild.
Toronto reigns above the entire league at 19-5-8 (65 points) this season. The Reds claimed the Supporters’ Shield last weekend with a 4-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Toronto has already secured the top seed in the East, along with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“From a traditional standpoint we are proud to win the trophy, proud to win it for fans who have been through a lot over the years,” coach Greg Vanney said. “We also know that we have one big one still in front of us and that is the biggest one.”
That biggest one? The MLS Cup. Toronto fell in the league’s championship game last season to the Seattle Sounders.
The Reds are about to get a big boost in that quest for the Cup. Sebastian Giovinco, who has missed the team’s last four games with a quadriceps injury, is expected to be back for the team’s next game on Oct. 15 against Montreal.
The other teams that have clinched playoff sports in the East are NYCFC, the Chicago Fire and the Columbus Crew. Atlanta became the first expansion club since the Sounders in 2009 to earn a playoff spot.
The Red Bulls are above the line in the standings with three matches remaining, ahead of the seventh-place Montreal Impact, who join three other teams clustered at 39 points and a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.
DC United has been eliminated in the East. In the West, both the Colorado Rapids and LA Galaxy are already out of the postseason, but the rest of the conference is still up for grabs, with only Vancouver clinching a spot.
The Whitecaps snapped Sporting Kansas City’s 24-match unbeaten streak at home with a 1-0 victory on Saturday to clinch the spot.
“We have a team with grit and character that this city can really get behind and be proud of, and we’re going to need everyone behind us to make this season something special,” Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi said.
The Portland Timbers missed a chance to clinch last week with a 2-1 loss to the Earthquakes in San Jose. Now they’re knotted with rival Seattle and Sporting KC for second place as teams jostle for position down the stretch.
In a scheduling twist, both the Timbers and the Sounders have their final two games at home.
“It’s massive. I think if you look at the schedule at the start of the season, seeing two home games toward the end of the season, we’ll take that,” Portland defender Liam Ridgewell said.
Sporting is in an interesting position because they have four matches left in the season — but three of those games are on the road.
Overall in the West, playoff position is still a long way from being decided. Of the teams still in the race, the situation looks bleakest for the expansion Minnesota United, who would need help to make it with three games left.
GAME OF THE WEEK: There are just three league games this weekend because of the international break for World Cup qualifying. The Red Bulls host the Whitecaps, Minnesota hosts Sporting KC, and the Rapids host FC Dallas.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: With his first career hat trick against the Red Bulls, Toronto defender Justin Morrow earned Player of the Week honors for the second time this season.
It was just the second time in league history that a defender has scored three goals in a game. He joins the Galaxy’s Jose Vazquez, who had a hat trick in 1997.
Morrow has eight goals this season to lead all league defenders.
“I think Justin has really evolved over his time here, before playing with us he was a stay-at-home left back, not really attacking very much. Over the course of time we got him to push forward and really start to attack,” Vanney said. “We obviously switched him to a wingback, and now we can’t get him out of the front of the goal. He is one of the most eager players to get to the back post and get to the goal.”
COACHING HOT SEAT: There have already been an MLS-record five head coaches dismissed this season: New England’s Jay Heaps, Colorado’s Pablo Mastroeni, San Jose’s Dominic Kinnear, Salt Lake’s Jeff Cassar and the Galaxy’s Curt Onalfo.
The list may get longer when the season winds to a close. There are persistent rumors about Montreal’s Mauro Biello, but the Impact remain in play for a playoff spot.