Good Monday morning Caps fans, hope you all had a lovely fall weekend and that you’re mentally prepared for work today.
We are officially in the final week of the MLS regular season and the Caps now know what they will have to do on Decision Day against LAFC: win.
A win won’t be enough to ensure home field advantage, as RSL and Houston will both need to draw or lose. The Caps got a bit of help from LA Galaxy on Saturday, who managed to hold Real Salt Lake to only a draw (though the home side was winning in the second half before letting RSL grab a goal — grrrr).
Houston very well might drop points in the final match — they are taking on a Portland Timbers side who must get a result to guarantee a postseason appearance, with three teams on 43 points. I don’t envision all three of Dallas, San Jose and Minnesota/Sporting KC winning but Portland can’t chance it and badly will need a result.
RSL, meanwhile, will be taking on the lowly Rapids in a Rocky Mountain Cup finale. Not exactly the ideal opponent for Vancouver’s purposes. And, of course, Vancouver will need to win to give themselves any sort of chance.
The nice thing about the new playoff format is that the home-team advantage is much more muted given that a team will need to win on the road (or take care of business at home twice) in order to advance, Going immediately from regular time to penalties in the event of a draw will also give the road team a bit more of a leg up. The Caps are much less of a “park the bus and play for a draw” style team this season but Leagues Cup showed they can grit out a tough result against teams that are superior on paper. Let’s hope they’ve been practicing their penalty kicks in the last few months, though.
The mediocrity of the Western Conference, however, will also do them some favors. The Caps will take on one of RSL/Houston/LAFC/Seattle in the first round and while both Houston and RSL have given them fits, they beat three of those fours teams at some point this season (the LAFC result on the road).
We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves with one more game to play in the regular season. But no matter what happens on Decision Day, there is much to be optimistic about this fall.
Best of the Rest
A look at why MLS teams struggle so darn much away from home
In NWSL, the San Diego Wave closed out the regular season as Shield winners
The U.S. Men’s National Team fared no better than Canada, falling 3-1 to Germany on home soil
If you’re setting your calendars for the next few weeks, here’s the lowdown on the CPL playoff schedule