FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 01: Kevin Alston #30 of the New England Revolution and Fredy Montero #17 of the Seattle Sounders FC battle for the ball in the first half on October 1, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
The dog days of summer are quickly approaching, which can only mean one thing: the race for the playoffs in Major League Soccer is about to become as hot as the weather. Old school powerhouses are returning to the top (D.C. United) and a few new kids on the block are staking their claim to the title (Sporting Kansas City).
Here in New England, it's time to make the donuts (kids of my generation will appreciate that D&D throwback). Currently sitting on 18 points, which, to be fair, is ahead of last year's pace, the Revs currently occupy the #7 slot in the East, however only trailing #5 Houston by 2 points. If New England is going to make a run at this, they've got to not only keep pace with the rest of the pack, but steal a few results on the way.
Here's the problem: The East is good, and to make matters worse, expansion side Montreal Impact are for real. So, the task at hand is two-fold, really: keep pace with those in front of you, and don't get beat by Montreal, who happens to be right behind you only on goal differential.
After the jump, we break down this weekend's marquee match-ups in the Eastern Conference playoff race!
Things are getting a little tighter at the top of the table after New York defeated D.C. United last weekend at Red Bull Arena, and the top three sides are now only separated by a single point. In fourth place is a surging Chicago Fire team coming off of last night's huge six-pointer over Sporting Kansas City. So, in essence, a mere three points is the difference between home field advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, and having to play in the first round "play-in" game. Crazy.
The fight for the final spot may be just as entertaining as the summer goes on, as Houston, Columbus, New England, and Montreal all have realistic chances at making the playoffs. Every match between those sides is going to be a six-point affair from here on out so this final spot may very well be decided right on the field.
MARQUEE MATCHUPS for WEEK 16
D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact. Our Quebecois friends from the North are for real boys and girls, and with the strength of a new stadium behind them as well, the Impact are not your typical expansion pushovers. D.C. United will be looking to bounce back in front of the home fans after losing to I-95 rival New York. If Montreal wants to make a push for the playoffs, they're going to have to steal a few road wins along the way, and what better way to start than a win over a top of the table side?
Houston Dyanamo vs. Philadelphia Union. What a difference a new coach makes in Philadelphia. The Union are looking more and more likely to play the role of spoiler down the stretch and with the recent addition of Bakary Soumare, the defense will only continue to improve. Perennial playoff contenders Houston Dynamo are playing well, also armed with a new stadium, and are holding onto that precious final playoff spot. This match will go a long way in showing us if Philly is really back, or if it's more of the same for the boys from Chester, PA.
New England Revolution vs. Seattle Sounders. In a classic East vs. West showdown, playoff hopeful New England plays host to the Seattle Sounders in Foxboro. Jay Heaps' boys have the talent, but they've yet to really break through in 2012. Seattle comes to the East Coast in a poor run of form, but as they always say, beware the wounded dog. New England wants to make the playoffs for the first time under Heaps, and the Sunders are looking to improve on their fourth place spot in the West. Expect lots of early fireworks in this one ahead of the national holiday on Wednesday.
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