Major League Soccer 2011, Week 27 Preview And Schedule: Four Intriguing Matchups Feature Playoff Favorites Facing Off

Week 27 of the MLS season features a number of games between potential playoff teams

The playoff picture won't be decided in Major League Soccer until the end of October, but Week 27 might give us a good idea of who is a playoff lock and who's going to be contending for an MLS Cup title. Four of the weekend's games feature teams currently in playoff spots facing off against each other. San Jose-Houston doesn't fall into that category, but could turn into an intriguing match. In the first match of the week, on Friday, the Portland Timbers will look to continue their quiet climb back into playoff places.

Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution

Friday, 11:00 pm ET, 8:00 pm local

TV: FOX Soccer Channel

The Revs currently appear to be outside of the playoff picture, but they're on a decent run of form, avoiding defeat in their last four straight games. Last week, the strike pairing of Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio was effective in a surprise 2-0 win over FC Dallas, suggesting that New England might be a little better than their current record. Portland played to a respectable, though relatively boring 0-0 draw away to Philadelphia last week, but had won their last two games prior to that. 

Both of these teams are likely to come out in attack-minded 4-4-2 formations with a fairly direct style of play and a couple of talented two-way central midfielders. In formation, style and talent, these teams are fairly even and that should make for an even game. Portland's 8-4-2 home record suggests that they'll have an advantage, but this one screams draw to me.

Pick: 1-1 draw

Toronto FC vs. Colorado Rapids

Saturday, 1:30 pm ET

TV: TSN (Canada), Matchday Live and Direct Kick

Why is this game on at 1:30 pm? There's no hockey on. The Blue Jays are irrelevant. The Toronto Argonauts are in last place. Am I missing something? Anyway, both of these teams are really good at picking stupid lineups that don't make any sense, and this game has some overlap with Roma-Inter Milan. Why is this even a thing?

Pick: 2-1 TFC

Chicago Fire vs. Chivas USA

Saturday, 4:00 pm ET

TV: Telefutura

Chivas USA are in absolute free fall mode, while the Chicago Fire decide to suck or play respectably in completely random intervals. This is a stupid cliche, but with Chivas in free fall and the Fire in decent form, surely we're 'due' for a Chivas win here? Especially with Chicago's massive injury list? Right? 

Pick: 2-1 Chivas

Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew

Saturday, 7:30 pm ET

TV: MDL, Direct Kick

The Philadelphia Union spent a good deal of time on top of the Eastern Conference this season, but they've struggled immensely since trading away Jordan Harvey. Anyone can play left back, right Peter Nowak? Hell, if one of those twins you have isn't playing too well there, you can just swap in the other one! Left back problem sorted!

No, we're not going to stop making fun of Philly for making this trade, because trading Jordan Harvey for allocation money mid-season was an insane move, even if they needed to do it to obtain Freddy Adu. The good news for the Union is that the Crew haven't won in their last three games. The most recent game, a 2-2 game against the Dynamo, was so bizarre and had such poor officiating that it's unfair to even take it into account when evaluating the Crew's form. 

Columbus will be thin in the midfield with all of Emmanuel Ekpo, Eddie Gaven and Tony Tchani unavailable for selection. With Freddy Adu getting more comfortable each week and Sebastien Le Toux's effective play dropping back into midfield, Philly should be able to keep the ball well against a depleted Columbus midfield. Whether or not they can defend on the break remains to be seen. Separating these teams is tough.

Pick: 2-2 draw

Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Saturday, 8:30 pm ET

TV: MDL and Direct Kick

The substandard level of officiating across MLS is a constant topic of conversation, but I swear, the Houston Dynamo seem to get involved in more games with ridiculous refereeing decisions than any other team. It's like there's some kind of law, passed down from a higher power, that the refereeing has to be exceptionally inconsistent and nonsensical when the Dynamo play. 

It's so bizarre that I almost don't feel comfortable picking their games. Meanwhile, San Jose are a very inconsistent team with a lot of injuries. They also have a knack for scoring jaw-dropping goals as a part of crappy performances. MLS needs one absurd result that makes no sense every week, right?

Pick: 3-1 San Jose. This pick is baseless.

FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls

Saturday, 8:30 pm ET

TV: MDL and Direct Kick

FC Dallas lost last week and will be without Brek Shea. Meanwhile, New York are terrible and continue to luck their way into draws. This result is insanely obvious and this pick requires no further analysis.

Pick: 1-1 draw

Seattle Sounders vs. DC United

Saturday, 9:00 pm ET

TV: MDL and Direct Kick

I know it's Week 27 and I'm beating a dead horse here, but what the hell is with the spacing on these matches? Why aren't Philly-Columbus and Seattle-DCU two hours apart instead of 90 minutes apart? What the hell is wrong with you, MLS?

Having said that, this should be an excellent game. Seattle are obviously favorites at home, and they're in fantastic form. Last week's loss to Real Salt Lake hardly counts as a dip in form, as the referee took it upon himself to completely ruin what should have been a fantastic match. Regardless, Seattle will be without Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, which is a huge loss.

DC were downright stunning in a 3-0 win over Chivas last week, but they suffered a massive blow afterwards. Chris Pontius, one of their most consistent players all year and their best player in that game, has suffered a broken leg and is going to be out for at least the remainder of the regular season. Joseph Ngwenya or Josh Wolff is going to have to step up and fill his spot. Both are respectable, serviceable MLS players, but the loss of Pontius makes Seattle a clear favorite.

Pick: 2-1 Seattle

Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City

Saturday, 9:00 pm ET

TV: Direct Kick and MDL

With a trip to Rio Tinto Stadium, Peter Vermes' team has a chance to prove that his team's form and attractive style of play, despite his odd team selections and roster moves, is more than just dumb luck. Personally, I'm still in the "they're getting lucky" camp and think there's a downturn in form on the way for the Sporks. 

Meanwhile, the previously underachieving Real Salt Lake have won three games in a row and appear to be firmly into the playoffs. There's never, ever a sure thing in MLS, but this is a rare MLS game that I'd be willing to bet money on.

Pick: 3-1 RSL

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Saturday, 10:30 pm ET

TV: Direct Kick and MDL

Can anyone tell me why this game doesn't start at 11? Jesus! 

Vancouver are not very good.

Pick: 3-1 LA

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