So had it not been for a Edson Buddle own goal, I would have picked the big two matches that impacted the Supporters' Shield perfectly.
I had predicted a 2-0 win for RSL and that is the exact scoreline that ended up happening despite missing the match and having to watch it from home.
It is clear that RSL is a very good team, even in the first half when they played a bit lackluster and appeared to lack urgency, they were the better side. After what I am sure was a high intensity halftime talk, RSL came out and played like the team they are capable of being. They dominated possession, took quality shots and had a total team effort with Ned Grabavoy (and yes he has good hops) getting a great goal for the 1-0 lead, it was a great run and pass from Robbie Findley that allowed Javier Morales to get the goal that sealed the 2-0 win for RSL.
The other big match was Colorado at Los Angeles, and to be honest the Galaxy are one of the most confusing teams out there. They took an early lead but failed to close it out and allowed Colorado to get 3 unanswered goals, LA had better hope they figure things out in a hurry or they might only have 3 matches left this year. Colorado didn't want to back into the playoffs and they went out and play well and if they end up in the Eastern Conference they could pose some real problems.
So can the rest of the perfect storm come together for Real Salt Lake as they battle for the top spot in the West and the Supporters' Shield, my forecast after the jump:
Well week 30 won't impact what teams are in the playoffs, that is settled as it will be the New York Red Bulls and the Columbus Crew from the East, the question of who ends in the number one and two spots is still up in the air as New York have 48 points and will face off against New England on Thursday and a win would secure the top spot. The Crew will look to get back on the winning track on Sunday as they will play host to the Union (who beat New York this weekend), and they are just a point behind the Red Bulls so should NY stumble on Thursday the Crew could take over the top spot in the East.
The other 6 teams will come from the Western Conference and the shame is that it isn't the best two wildcard teams who get to go to the East and face a weaker set of opponents, nope the number 7 and 8 place teams will head to the Eastern Conference. So the biggest question will be how do the 6 teams from the West end up, right now this is how they stack up:
Los Angeles Galaxy - 56 points
Real Salt Lake - 55 points
FC Dallas - 50 points
Seattle Sounders - 48 points
Colorado Rapids - 45 points
San Jose Earthquakes - 43 points
The biggest question mark would have to be San Jose, who will play twice this week (Wednesday against Chivas USA, and Saturday at Kansas City), should they find a way to win both matches they could jump as high as the #4 spot. Seattle controls their own destiny as they will head to Houston on Saturday and a win or draw would secure them to stay in the Western Conference (which might be the tougher path to MLS Cup).
It is great that 4 of the top 5 teams in the West will face off against each other as one of the two Sunday matches (why don't all the teams play at the same time and on the same date in the final weekend? This seems cheap) will feature the LA Galaxy playing host to FC Dallas. Should LA find a way to get the win, they would secure the top spot in the West and claim the Supporters' Shield for the first time since 2002. FC Dallas will be looking to get their offense back going after being shutout by RSL 2-0, no team wants to go into the playoff having lost two straight, so this one should be a very exciting match. I think this one actually ends up a 2-2 draw as both teams find some offense but neither does enough to get the win.
Of course the pressure will be put on LA, as on Saturday the Colorado Rapids play host to Real Salt Lake, and should Seattle lose in Houston and Colorado win, the Rapids would go to the tiebreakers and since Colorado and Seattle split this season it would go to goal differential and that would benefit the Rapids who are +12, while the Sounders are just a +5. The upside for Seattle is that Colorado isn't going to get a win, despite the attempt by their front office to make it look like they own the Rocky Mountain Cup:
The RMC hasn't seen those colors for 3 years and with the first match ending in a 1-1 draw it is clear that both teams will be looking for a win on Saturday to head into the playoffs with some momentum. For Real Salt Lake it will be a chance to show what their first team can do against the Rapids as it is unlikely that RSL will go with 5 bench players in starting roles on Saturday. RSL wins this one 2-1, to keep the RMC and to take the top spot in the Western Conference and win the Supporters' Shield. So after 30 weeks the West will look like this:
Real Salt Lake - 58 points
Los Angeles Galaxy - 57 points
FC Dallas - 51 points (taking 3rd place via tiebreaker)
Seattle Sounders - 51 points
San Jose Earthquakes - 47 points
Colorado Rapids - 45 points
Just for the record
New York Red Bulls - 49 points
Columbus Crew - 48 points
So the Playoffs will see
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. FC Dallas
New York Red Bulls vs. Colorado Rapids
Columbus Crew vs. San Jose Earthquakes
you read it here first, the perfect storm took a little different twist than my initial forecast but things are looking very good for Real Salt Lake and the Western Conference.
OFF MY SOAPBOX