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MLS weekend preview: Playoff race heated up

Sporting Kansas City v Chivas USA

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Graham Zusi #8 of Sporting Kansas City looks on prior to the MLS match against Chivas USA at StubHub Center on September 12, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Sporting Kansas City defeated Chivas USA 4-0. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

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We have an exciting round of MLS matches this weekend, many of them having heavy playoff implications considering the proximity to the playoffs at this point in time.

Tonight, the New England Revolution downed the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with a brace from MLS MVP candidate Lee Nguyen. The Revs have clinched a playoff spot, but their contention for the No.1 spot has improved, as Jay Heaps’ squad is now three points back from D.C. United.

Here’s a quick preview of each game this weekend.

Portland Timbers vs. Real Salt Lake: Currently sitting just outside of the fifth-place playoff spot one point behind Vancouver, Portland could definitely use a win in this match, while Real Salt Lake has already clinched a postseason birth. The Timbers are coming off back-to-back wins against the San Jose Earthquakes, and Real Salt Lake broke their two-game losing run last week. This year, the series between these two teams is tied at 1-1.

Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact: The good news for the Montreal Impact is that Marco Di Vaio should be available in this match after a journey to Italy this week. But the Impact are completely eliminated from the playoff race, so they don’t have huge implications riding on this game. Toronto FC is still alive at sixth place in the East, but stands six points back from the Columbus Crew in fifth place. In order to rescue themselves from a severely disappointing season, the Reds will necessitate a playoff appearance.

Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas: Oscar Pareja and FC Dallas have definitely enjoyed a successful MLS season. After falling to eight place a year ago, the Toros have already clinched the playoffs. The Rapids lost to Chivas USA 2-1 last week, seeing their winless streak extend to a massive tally: 12 games. All signs point to an FC Dallas victory, but Colorado still has a great chance to end their streak on home turf.

Philadelphia Union vs. Sporting Kansas City: The reigning champions unsurpsingly find themselves as an MLS Cup contender once again, and Peter Vermes certainly isn’t setting his sights low as his squad has secured a postseason opening. The Union haven’t lost to Sporting this year, managing a victory and draw in two 2014 contests, but a five-game winless stretch buried their playoff aspirations.

D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire: There’s no better Cinderella story in MLS this season than D.C. United, the team that has literally gone from first to worst. Fifty-five points is the third largest point total in the league, behind both the Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. Players like Fabian Espindola, Luis Silva, Chris Rolfe and Perry Kitchen have done their jobs wonderfully, and the Chicago Fire haven’t won since Aug. 30 against FC Dallas. If United puts forth an effort consistent to their performances this season, expect at least a draw.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Carl Robinson’s side has an ideal opportunity to get ahead in the playoff race with a win against the ailing San Jose Earthquakes. Opposing teams always have to be wary of Chris Wondolowski around the net, but the Whitecaps boast offensive firepower that has surfaced a bit during their current three-match winning streak. And fortune just hasn’t favored San Jose in 2014.

New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew: Bradley Wright-Phillips and the ageless wonder Thierry Henry have catapulted New York to fourth place in the East. The Columbus Crew have also found themselves in strong contention for the playoffs, and compared to last year’s eight-place finish, Columbus’ improvements are numerous. This game is steeped in postseason implications.

LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders: This game is not only a clash between two top Western Conference teams, but it is also Landon Donovan’s last home regular-season match. The best forward duo in MLS, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins will take the field at the lively StubHub Center in a match that will look to strengthen both squads’ playoff rank. The LA Galaxy are, of course, star-studded as well, with youngster Gyasi Zardes breaking out this year and veteran Robbie Keane constantly displaying his magic.