MLS Decision Day 2019 – Here’s What Is At Stake

MIAMI, Fla. (October 5, 2019) —

The last day of the MLS season is upon us. It’s called “Decision Day.” For most fans of soccer around the world, that means a final chance for some clubs to survive relegation, or for a club to seal the championship. For MLS, which follows the model of North American sports leagues, the final round of the season is a chance for some clubs to secure a place in the postseason tournament, known as MLS Cup.

For this season, MLS made some changes which definitely gives more emphasis to the regular season and rewards teams for better performances. The post season was revised to a single elimination format which involves single games at the home of the higher seed, rather than two legs that flattened the odds. This means teams are vying to finish high enough in the table to secure a very important home matches in MLS Cup.

All games kickoff Sunday, October 6 at 4 p.m. EDT.

Fixtures For Round 34

What’s at Stake? Here are the main 2019 MLS Decision Day Storylines:

  • In the Eastern Conference, three teams – D.C. United (4th place / 49 points), New York Red Bulls (5th / 48 points) and Toronto FC (6th / 47 points) – will be playing for the final spot available to host a playoff game.
  • In the Western Conference, four teams – Portland Timbers (46 points), FC Dallas (45 points), San Jose Earthquakes (44) and Colorado Rapids (42 points) – are competing for two playoff spots.
  • The Seattle Sounders FC and Minnesota United are tied for second in the table on 53 points. They play each other in Seattle at CenturyLink Field; the winner secures the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference.
  • The Los Angeles Galaxy can assure themselves of having a home game in the playoffs with a win over Houston. Last year, Houston’s win at Carson cost the Galaxy a spot in the playoffs. Zlatan and company are hoping to set the record straight this time.
  • Chasing the Golden Boot Award: LAFC’s Carlos Vela is tied for MLS’s most goals in a season record, set last year by Atlanta’s Josef Martínez, at 31 goals. If Vela scores Sunday, he gets the record. Currently at 29 goals for the season, LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic is chasing Vela for 2019 top scorer and the record.

Probing 2019 MLS Decision Day Questions:

Eastern Conference: Should Teams Watch out for the Revolution?

With the Eastern Conference qualifiers already set in stone, Atlanta versus New England looks to be the most interesting match of Round 34 on this side of the league.

Atlanta can lock up the number 2 seed in the East with a win against New England combined with a Philadelphia loss or draw.

Ironically, despite winning a lot of matches in their three-year history, the Five Stripes still have not won on decision day. In 2017, Atlanta drew 2-2 with Toronto FC at home. The following season, they were crushed 4-1 at BMO Field. On Sunday they’ll face a dangerous New England Revolution side that come into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on a high.

New England has been looking like a time on the rise under Bruce Arena, riding some serious momentum. New England clinched the seventh and final playoff spot in the east with a 2-0 win over top-seed New York City FC, a team that recently defeated Atlanta United 4-1 in the Bronx.

Toronto FC currently sit sixth in the table, just one point behind the Red Bulls from New Jersey.

Atlanta United has not done well versus the Reds, while the team from New Jersey has won in Atlanta before. It’s reason enough for Atlanta to want to avoid playing either of these sides right away in the first round of the playoffs.

New England comes into Atlanta with nothing to lose. They are in the playoffs, something that looked impossible until Arena took the helm. The pressure sits squarely on Atlanta United. This is Arena’s first visit to Atlanta with the Revolution. The way he sets up New England today could tell us how he may approach a potential playoff rematch. Expect New England to stay compact and look for the counterattack. Columbus Crew used this trategy in Atlanta on September 14th and came away with a win. Frank de Boer’s team failed to find the necessary attacking solutions, and were subsequently punished in transition. How will De Boer adjust? It should be a study in tactics.  

Western Conference: Can Los Angeles Football Club Finish With The Most Points In History?

LAFC has been the dominant team this season, with only a couple of blips on the radar. They will likely use the final game of the season to remain focused. As the top seed, after this game they will have a first-round bye that will give them two-and-a-half weeks’ rest. With a win, LAFC have a chance to finish with the most points in a single season. Will they do it?

Can Colorado actually sneak in to the playoffs?

The Rapids had been building up momentum for months. After starting the season 0-9-2, they rallied under interim coach Conor Casey toward something resembling respectability. Robin Fraser took over as the Colorado Rapid’s head coach in late August, with his only previous managerial gig having been with Club Deportivo Chivas USA.

“By the end of the first session, I thought that not only were they a good team, that they have a really good spirit, and a lot of belief in themselves,” Fraser said. “That’s when I felt like this could be a really fun project.”

Now, on the last round of the season the Rapids have a chance, though admittedly a slim one, of making the playoffs. Can they do it? To reiterate, despite having started the season winless through 11 games the Rapids are still alive heading into the final round.

If Colorado upsets LAFC — the best team in the league, already owning the Supporters’ Shield and with the top playoff seed already clinched — and Dallas loses to Kansas City and San Jose loses to Portland, the Rapids are in. Even if the ‘Quakes draw with the Timbers, Colorado can still qualify through tiebreakers if they win by two goals or more. This ‘perfect storm’ isn’t exactly likely. LAFC is the top team, Dallas is at home, and Kansas City is playing only for pride. But wouldn’t it be a great story of overcoming odds?

Colorado has been scoring goals. Kei Kamara and Diego Rubio are both in the double digits (13 and 11, respectively), while Andre Shinyashiki and Jonathan Lewis have come on stronger. Fraser wants to inject a possession style of play but joining so far into the season has made that difficult. Yet he’s optîistic.

“I really admire the character of the team. They care about each other, and I think you see that in how they play, adds Fraser.”

No matter what happens on Sunday, that’s something to build on and carry over. And if they can get into the playoffs they will definitely be a team to watch.

Which club, the Portland Timbers or San Jose Earthquakes, will stumble into the playoffs?

Their game at Providence Park in Portland is the only semi-do-or-die matchup on the schedule in Round 34. Despite going a combined 1-7-3 in September, at least one of them will drag themselves into the playoffs on Sunday afternoon. Portland has played its last three games to a draw. Portland can lose this game and still get into the postseason torunament if Dallas also loses. The Earthquakes, who need a win, won the first meeting between the teams, 3-0.

There is a sense that both teams might be approaching unhappy endings.

This could very well be Diego Valeri’s last game as a Timber. Negotiations over a new contract have not gone well, and the two sides have different demands. Valeri has been the face of the Timbers since his arrival in 2013. He’s gone above and beyond — not just on the pitch, but as an ambassador in the community as well. Yet neither side looks likely to budge at the moment. This might be it.

Moving past Valeri’s situation, the Timbers have had a strange and trying year, summed up by Brian Fernandez’s goal drought and red card that has him suspended for this all-important finale.

San Jose sits just below the playoff line on 44 points. But if you had offered them this position at the beginning of the season — win one, final game and you’re in — surely they would have taken it. The club has done much better under head coach Matías Almeyda in his first year with the team, who has imparted an exciting style of play.

San Jose has slumped late, however. They have lost eight out of 10 since early August. Either opponents have figured them out or Almeyda’s physically demanding high press has ground them down. There are also rumours out of Mexico that Club de Fútbol Monterey are looking for a new manager, and, you guessed it, his name is Matías Almeyda.

Almeyda is a bigger name that most people realise, having been successful in his native Argentina and leading Chivas Guadalajara to the CONCACAF Champions League title just last year Earlier this week, he admitted that links with Monterrey and a return to Liga MX made him “happy.” How quickly the sand can shift in the world of soccer.

Is Seattle or Minnesota a real contender?

The victor of the Sounders-Loons game at CenturyLink Field in Seattle will lock up the No. 2 seed in the west, and home-field advantage all the way to the conference final. However, If Real Salt Lake wins in Vancouver and the LA Galaxy win in Houston, whichever side loses the match at CenturyLink Field would drop to fifth.

Seattle seems to feel rightly disappointed by this year’s performance: “I think anytime we don’t compete for the Supporters’ Shield, with the talent that we have, is a fail,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said this week.

“Maybe it’s more of a redemption-type game for us,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “We’ve had so many opportunities to make a statement game, and we’ve squandered quite a few of them. … We’ve been very, very fortunate. Let’s be honest. I think our season has been not the best. It was nice to finally start on top, but the remainder of the year has been a struggle. At some point, we have to make that statement.”

Minnesota has qualified for the playoffs for the first time. Their highlight moment of the season was a 2-0 away win at LAFC, which is also LAFC’s only loss since El Tráfico on July 19th. Carlos Vela was absent that match. But with the MVP favourite reinstated last weekend at Allianz Field, Minnesota still ground out a 1-1 draw. The Loons formula against Los Angeles was to stay compact, give LAFC possession in less dangerous areas, and have a ruthless mentality on the counter.

The Loons are playing with confidence, no matter the opponent.

Who Will Win The Golden Boot?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is second in the goal-scoring race with 29 goals. In fron is Carlos Vela of LAFC, who has 31 goals, a mark which places him in a tie with Atlanta United Josef Martínez for the most goals in a single MLS season. Zlatan had this to say:

“I am trying to score goals every game, that is part of my responsibility, part of what I have to do to help my teammates,” I have 29 goals in 28 games. If I would have the same amount [of] games like the other ones, it would be different. But now I’m chasing someone that has more games than me. If we score we score, we’ll have to see what the end number will be. If there still is a possibility, we’ll try.”

Still, the LA Galaxy star insists the ultimate aim is to achieve team glory.

“I prefer the collective win, when we win that game, that is more important,” he said. “With the collective success the individual success comes with it. If I can do good for my team, with my team, I know I’m doing good. I’m not focusing on the individual bonuses, I always say it’s like a bonus. Without my teammates those things would not be possible. If I win, it’s my team that wins. Whoever wins the Golden Boot has to think it’s not because of him, it’s because of his teammates.”


Credit to The Athletic for providing inspiration and perspective.

LA Galaxy and their looming DP issue

The Los Angeles Galaxy are over-the-limit. The club went to training camp this season with four designated players [DPs], one over the league limit. They must solve the problem prior to the March 1, 2019 roster compliance date. In December, LA signed star player Zlatan Ibrahimović to a league-record $7.2-million contract, putting him into the category of a DP.

2018 – 2019 MLS Player Salaries (As of September 15th, 2018)

NamePosBase Salary Total Compensation

Romain Alessandrini

M

$1,539,996.00

$1,869,996.00

Jonathan dos Santos

M

$2,000,000.04

$2,000,000.04

Giovani dos Santos

F

$4,250,000.00

$6,000,000.00

Zlatan Ibrahimovic*

F


$1,500,000.00

$1,500,000.00


*Ibrahimović has since
signed a new contract
and is now a DP.

Various options exist to solve this problem. One option the team has is to restructure the contract of one of its other three DPs to squeeze the contract under the league’s salary cap. Or it could take the financially painful path and give Giovani dos Santos the $6-million-plus he’s owed in the final year of his deal, then transfer him to another club.

The latter option did not receive a warm welcome with Gio’s brother, Jonathan dos Santos. “Gio queda,” said Jonathan, insisting in Spanish. “The team needs him. He’s a good player. Not all teams have a player with the quality of Giovani and we need him this year and he’s going to stay. No doubt.” New coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto wouldn’t say if he agreed with that. But he didn’t disagree either.

The rumour of a trade of Gio has been the most persistent offseason speculation, either via a transfer, with LA likely picking up part of his salary, or the club buying out his contract – or a transfer sending Romain Alessandrini to Montreal, but Barros Schelotto would prefer to keep all four.

What will happen? If the club cannot transfer Gio, then the next most-likely scenario would be for Alessandrini, dos Santos, or his brother Jonathan dos Santos – to take a restructured deal or for the Galaxy to use Targeted Allocation Money (“TAM”) to lessen his impact under the salary cap.

MLS rules allow teams to use TAM to convert a DP to a non-DP by buying down his contract at or below the maximum charge of $504,375


Barros Schelotto insists, “We don’t have any problem about the designated player. We are talking with the player about that, an no problem. I think maybe it can happen. I think we need to talk with him.” Who the manager means when he says “him” is not clear.

For his part, Alessandrini thinks he’s earned his DP stature: “If I have to choose, I stay there. I stay, like, as a DP,” the French winger said. “I don’t want to be too much confident, but we work I did the last two years, I think I have to stay like a DP. We’ll see what’s going to happen. “The club has to make a choice. Soccer is complicated sometimes, but it is what it is. We’ll see what [the club is] going to do, and we have to accept it.”

«Si je dois choisir, je reste là. Je reste comme un DP », a déclaré l’ailier français. «Je ne veux pas être trop confiant, mais nous travaillons comme je l’ai fait ces deux dernières années, je pense que je dois rester comme un DP. Nous verrons ce qui va se passer.

«Le club doit faire un choix. Le football est compliqué parfois, mais c’est ce que c’est. Nous verrons ce que le club va faire et nous devons l’accepter.»

Romain Alessandrini

Ibrahimovic says he hopes all three players will be on the Galaxy side this year “Hopefully, everybody gets satisfied and happy, and we can continue to work just like we’re doing.”

“Gio quiere quedarse aquí”, dijo Jonathan a periodistas en Los Ángeles en noviembre. “Sabe que este año fue complicado. Tuvo la desgracia y la mala suerte de no poder jugar muchos partidos”.

“Creo que Giovani tiene que estar aquí, es un gran jugador, es un jugador importante para nosotros”, dijo Jonathan. “Lo extrañé y todo el equipo lo extrañó mucho la temporada pasada. No dependería de esa decisión si el equipo ya no quiere a Giovani en el Galaxy, no creo que eso suceda”.

“Para mí, Giovani es un jugador que tiene que estar aquí. Tiene que ser el mejor jugador del equipo la próxima temporada y mostrar al gran jugador que es”.

Jonathan Dos Santos

Asked about the coming season, Barros Schelotto said, “I think we have a really good roster, but maybe we can get [additional players], more in defense. We are seeing our possibilities. We have important players like Ibra, Romain, both Dos Santos, so we will see what possibilities we have so that all our players have the freedom to feel comfortable on the field and give their best.”

Barros Schelotto – El Nuevo Técnico del Los Ángeles Galaxy

Miami, 2 de enero 2019, por Kenneth Russo

El club de la MLS, Los Ángeles Galaxy, presentó hoy el argentino Guillermo Barros Schelotto como su nuevo entrenador. El director técnico de 45 años llegó desde Club Atlético Boca Juniors y firmó un contrato por dos años.

“Estoy emocionado, esta es una tremenda oportunidad para mí”, dijo el entrenador.

Enlaces de videos:

“Esto es ungran paso para mi.” Barros Schelotto es oficialmente el nuevo DT

Declaración de Guillermo Barros Schelotto

Schelotto acabó de completar su tercera temporada con Boca Juniors, donde llevó el club famoso a ganar dos campeonatos de la Primera División Argentina. Dijo el nuevo técnico: “Me siento honrado de ser el director técnico del club más ganador de Major League Soccer. Esta es una tremenda oportunidad para mí y estoy emocionado por comenzar a trabajar. El LA Galaxy ha sido durante mucho tiempo el referente en la MLS y estoy listo para llevar al club a lo más alto.”

El Gerente General del Galaxy, Dennis te Kloese, por su parte, estaba muy satisfecho con el anuncio, y declaró: “Después de una extensa búsqueda, nacional e internacional, creemos que Guillermo será un fichaje emblemático para este club. Guillermo es un técnico ganador que tiene experiencia como entrenador, jugador y ganador en grandes clubes. Esperamos que el estilo de Guillermo y la familiaridad con la MLS traerá trofeos y campeonatos a los aficionados del LA Galaxy y a la ciudad de Los Ángeles.”

Antes de ser el entrenador de Boca Juniors, se pasó cuatro temporadas con el club argentino Lanús. En marzo del 2016, Schelotto fue nombrado director técnico de Boca Juniors. En su primera temporada con Boca, se ganó el campeonato de la Primera División Argentina. Logró hacerlo de nuevo durante el torneo 2017-18.

Schelotto también fue un jugador. Su carera comenzó en el club de su infancia, (nació en La Plata, Argentina) Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, en 1991. Pasó cinco años con Gimnasia antes de ser fichado por Boca Juniors, donde llegó a acumular más de 300 partidos jugados y 80 goles marcados como un delantero.

En 2007, Schelotto se fue de Argentina para fichar con el Columbus Crew, y se convirtió en el primer jugador franquicia del Crew. Durante la temporada 2008 de la MLS, Schelotto sumó 7 goles y 19 asistencias y fue nombrado Jugador Más Valioso de la MLS. Llevó al Crew a ganar el trofeo Supporters’ Shield y la primera Copa MLS del Crew en la misma temporada. Fue nombrado Jugador Más Valioso de la Copa MLS 2008, por sus tres asistencias en la victoria 3-1 sobre el New York Red Bulls. Un año después, en 2009, Schelotto llevó Columbus a ganar otra vez el Supporters’ Shield.

En la temporada 2011, Schelotto regresó a su primer club, Gimnasia y Esgrima, y se retiró del fútbol profesional.

Guillermo Barros Schelotto