Major League Soccer is often slated by the lesser educated football fans across the globe, but the division is finally beginning to get rid of its ill-described label as the Western Conference title race has opened up to a whole host of teams with only four games remaining.
Houston Dynamo currently stand in eighth position, but could still lodge a bid to win the Western Conference, should they win the rest of their games and other teams drop points. The Texan side is only nine points adrift from league leaders, LA Galaxy, and their upcoming fixture list would suggest that a title bid is still in contention.
Steven Gerrard’s new suitors, LA Galaxy, enjoyed victory against fellow title chasers, FC Dallas on Sunday night and the former Liverpool legend got on the score sheet as they topped the table for the first time since April.
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Vancouver Whitecaps who have been the pacemakers throughout the season have finally run out of steam as their recent form would suggest; back-to-back home defeats to Seattle Sounders and New York City FC and losing on the road to Houston Dynamo.
Seattle themselves are also in the hunt for the top spot and picked up a worthy point against Sporting Kansas City, who too are trying to claim the crown.
Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes, both picking up fortunate victories over the weekend, also remain hopeful of winning in the West.
Over the course of the next four to five weeks, the league is expected to spread out much more as teams from the top eight prepare to go head to head in a blockbuster of brilliant fixtures.
Next week sees Houston Dynamo take on their vicious Texas rivals, FC Dallas, knowing that defeat will virtually destroy their hopes of lifting the trophy, whilst Seattle Sounders host LA Galaxy in Sunday night’s televised game. There will be plenty of former Premier League players battling it out on the night in an attempt to gain an advantage in the Western Conference. Steven Gerrard and Obafemi Martins, both in fine form of late, will be the star picks.
Also, Vancouver Whitecaps will be hoping to revitalise their record on the road at Avaya Stadium where San Jose’s distant title hopes could be crushed by the ‘Caps.
And don’t forget about Portland Timbers. They are only six points away from LA, and should their form continue, they could see off Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night.
That’s just the next week of fixtures. In weeks to come, Vancouver Whitecaps have a home and away tie against FC Dallas, Portland travel to Los Angeles, Houston go head-to-head with Seattle and San Jose host Sporting KC and before Peter Vermes’ men welcome the Galaxy on the final day. Also taking place on game week 36 is Vancouver’s home fixture against Houston Dynamo, who they failed to beat a few weeks ago.
Who will be crowned champions?
Former Burnley and Bolton Wanderers boss Owen Coyle has a major task on his hands if he wants to lead Houston to the top. Reaching the playoffs is going to be hard enough, so he’ll be more concentrated on accomplishing that. Likewise, so will San Jose gaffer Dominic Kinnear with a difficult set of fixtures approaching.
Portland may be a little out of their depth to challenge for the number one spot, also, but will give anyone who stands in their way a scare.
Sporting Kansas City have really let themselves down in recent weeks, throwing away costly points against Orlando City SC and Houston Dynamo on the road. Similarly, Vancouver Whitecaps’ slump in form could prove to be detrimental with a challenging schedule ahead.
So, that leaves FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. There have been some breath-taking fixtures between this triad of teams throughout the season and each of them deserves to win the Western Conference title.
All three sides have had excellent stars on show such as Robbie Keane for LA, Obafemi Martins for Seattle and Fabian Castillo for Dallas. Whoever can shine in the last four weeks will be the one who lifts the trophy on October 25th.
Exciting Eastern Conference shouldn’t be ignored
Such a free-for-all in the West has drifted the concentration of MLS fans from the Eastside where a title race of its own is currently in the process.
Only six points separate the top six, and Montreal Impact who accommodate that final play-off place, now fully equipped with Didier Drogba, should not be ruled out of being crowned champions after a six game win streak.
New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, Columbus Crew and D.C. United are enduring turbulent times at the top whilst Canadian duo Toronto FC and Montreal Impact are playing catch-up.
Make sure you’re tuned into America for all areas on Sunday 25th October. It’s going to be one of the most historic, dramatic, indescribable days in world football at club level.