MLS: Three storylines from week 29

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: David Villa /

The march towards the playoffs continues in Major League Soccer, and 29 regular season weeks out of 34 are now in the books.

The regular season is winding down in MLS, and week 29 featured several battles for playoff positioning. Atlanta’s new stadium helped them break an attendance record, FC Dallas couldn’t find a win at home against a hot Seattle team, and Diego Valeri may just lead the Timbers to the top seed in the west.

Let’s look back at the entire week, and its top stories.

FC Dallas winless in nine

The Dallas-Seattle game was one of the more interesting matches of the week on paper, because of the contrast between the two clubs. Dallas hadn’t won in eight matches, and Seattle hadn’t lost in twelve. With a win, someone’s streak would have been snapped.

However, the streaks turned out to be like an unstoppable force and an immovable object. Nothing happened when they met, and there were no goals in the match. To be fair to Dallas, they weren’t just parking the bus, and they did come close to scoring.

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Mauro Diaz had a good chance of scoring inside of the first twenty minutes, but placed his shot just wide. Wide forward Roland Lamah would also have chances, but Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei had another good game and managed to get a clean sheet with three saves.

The result is a better one for Seattle than Dallas. While they aren’t completely out of the woods yet with the playoff race, they sit two places over the red line, with 44 points. On the other hand, Dallas has 38 points and is in 8th place because of tiebreakers. They’re behind RSL and Houston, and they won’t move into the playoffs unless those teams slip up or they improve their GD.

Increased fan support pushes Atlanta to comeback

Mercedes-Benz Stadium hosted its first Atlanta United game on Saturday, and the club confirmed that the attendance was 70,425. This beats out a Galaxy vs Metrostars match that had an attendance of 69,255 and took place at the Rose Bowl in 1996.

The record is even more impressive when you consider that Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the full-time home of the club, and not a stadium like the Rose Bowl that occasionally hosts one-off games. Previously, Centurylink Field was the largest full-time stadium in MLS. On the list of the top five attendances, two games were Seattle vs Portland matches at Centurylink Field.

The increased attendance and support seemed to help the team, as they fought to a comeback draw against main rival Orlando. They spent much of the match playing from behind, as Orlando scored first and repeatedly took the lead when Atlanta equalized. However, the last goal of the game was from Atlanta’s Josef Martinez, who tied the match at 3-3 in the 69th minute.

Martinez, who is only 24 years old, has scored seven in three matches, and has 16 goals overall. He’s very much a part of the Golden Boot race, too, even though that race is currently led by David Villa and his 19 goals.

Western conference race may come down to a point

While the top two teams in the Supporters Shield race are in the east, the race in the west is the closer one. It’s so close that the leading Vancouver Whitecaps only have a one point lead on the second place Portland Timbers.

Can you really say that the Timbers are in second, though? Both the Sounders and Sporting KC have 44 points, and Kansas City has two fewer games played than Portland does. Nobody around the top of the western conference table has a safe lead, and unlike the east, the leader hasn’t clinched the playoffs yet.

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Any team in the west could fall out of the hunt with a bad result or two, and there’s still teams like Houston and Dallas that could jump above the red line with one win and a bit of luck. Compare that to the eastern conference, where the New York Red Bulls are the last team above the playoff line. The gap between them and Montreal Impact? Five points.

The games come on later for east coast viewers, but if you want to see parity and high stakes matches where one mistake can ruin a season, check out the western conference games. Particularly the ones involving the top four, where every team can either claim the top seed or end up outside of the playoffs entirely.