LAFC Wins MLS Supporters' Shield; Galaxy, Seattle, Minnesota Into Playoffs
When the dust settled on a wild night in MLS, the Supporters' Shield was officially claimed, as were three more places in the playoffs.
LAFC put the finishing touches on the best regular-season record–and home-field advantage as long as it's alive in the postseason–with a 3-1 win over the Houston Dynamo.
After being the only team in the Western Conference to have clinched a playoff berth, LAFC was joined by three others in the postseason picture, with things finally starting to shake out in a congested game of standings musical chairs.
Here's the latest look at the MLS picture, with all teams now having two matches left to play:
SHIELD GOES TO LAFC
What was long a foregone conclusion became official Wednesday night, with LAFC winning the Supporters' Shield. Carlos Vela inched closer to Josef Martinez's single-season goal record, and has now posted the first 30-goal, 15-assist season in league history. He'll have two chances to match or pass Martinez's 2018 tally of 31–though he's not alone. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is within range after scoring his 28th goal Wednesday night.
Now, LAFC will look to set the single-season points mark, something that has fallen in each of the last two years. Toronto FC set the standard in 2017 with its 69-point season, only to be eclipsed by the New York Red Bulls in 2018, when they posted 71 points. Two wins or a win and a draw in the final games of the season would do the trick for LAFC, which could also tie the Red Bulls' 2018 mark of 22 wins in a season, also the most in MLS history.
THREE MORE JOIN
The LA Galaxy and Minnesota United each won their way into the playoffs Wednesday night, while the Seattle Sounders sat back and watched results unfold favorably to them, allowing them to punch their ticket as well.
For LA, it puts an end to a two-year stretch in which it missed out on the postseason. Last season, in which it had the power of Zlatan and a chance to clinch at home on Decision Day only to blow a 2-0 lead to Houston and miss out, was particularly brutal to stomach. After toeing the line in recent weeks, the Galaxy have won three in a row to cement their place, and in a one-off, single-elimination bracket, they'll be a feared side given Ibrahimovic's penchant for showing up on the big stage. They finish up against Vancouver and Houston–two non-playoff teams with little on the line–and could wind up as high as the No. 2 seed out West.
That is, if Minnesota United stumbles along the way. After two tough seasons, the Loons are in, thanks to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City. Rookie sensation Hassani Dotson cemented the berth with a 90th-minute winner, one that shot Minnesota up to second in the conference.
Games against LAFC and Seattle to close out won't be simple, but Minnesota controls its destiny as it relates to the second seed and hosting at least a first-round match, though it could drop out of the top four if it loses out and Real Salt Lake wins out.
Seattle, meanwhile, benefited from the Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes both blowing home leads and failing to win. Portland blew a 2-0 lead late vs. the New England Revolution and sits tied with FC Dallas just a point clear from safety. The Earthquakes could've made it worse for the Timbers, but a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union–the club's fourth straight defeat–sent shorthanded San Jose tumbling into eighth. With games against Seattle and Portland left on the schedule, it'll have to earn its playoff ticket the hard way.
IT'S LOOKING GOOD FOR NYCFC
NYCFC issued a statement in a 4-1 win over Josef Martinez-less Atlanta United, with Alexandru Mitrita's first-half hat trick taking all suspense away early in a table-topping showdown in the Bronx.
The win puts NYCFC in the driver's seat for the top seed, a first-round bye and home field through the conference final at the very least. With two games to go, NYCFC holds a six-point lead over second-place Philadelphia, meaning a single point will secure the top spot. If it doesn't come in the next game, though, it could make for an intriguing Decision Day, with NYCFC playing at Philadelphia to close the regular season.
As it stands, NYCFC is unbeaten in its last nine matches and is entering the postseason with a full head of steam.
BETTER LUCK NEXT YEAR
By virtue of the midweek results, Sporting Kansas City, the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew are out of playoff contention, joining bottom feeders FC Cincinnati and Vancouver Whitecaps.
For Sporting KC, it snaps an eight-year run of making the playoffs.