Here are the ten things we learned from Week 27 of the 2017 MLS season.
1. The Playoff Picture Clears Up
With Real Salt Lake and San Jose losing this weekend – and despite the fact that Dallas continues to stare into the abyss – the Western Conference playoff race appears to be settled.
Houston and Dallas both have games in hand on the ‘Quakes and RSL, and points to spare. Positioning is very much up for grabs in the West, but there’s a clear top six and bottom five.
The Eastern Conference is coming into focus as well. Montreal’s loss to New England on Saturday night leaves the Impact firmly on the outside looking in for a playoff berth, three points below the red line and a distant seventh on points-per-game.
Even if Montreal wins their two games in hand on Columbus, they’d still be trailing the Crew by a point – and two of the Impact’s next three are at Toronto and at Atlanta.
2. As the Supporters’ Shield Race Ends
The Supporters’ Shield race, meanwhile, is over as early as it ever has been.
Patrick Vieira conceded the regular season championship to Toronto FC several weeks ago, but his team’s loss to Portland on Saturday – coupled with TFC’s win over San Jose – makes it official.
Toronto is nine points clear atop the league, with a goal difference 18 better than the next best team. They’ve been dominant.
How dominant? Last year’s Shield winners Dallas finished the season with 60 points. The 2015 Shield-winning New York Red Bulls finished with 60 as well. TFC this year – with six games remaining – is already at 59.
3. Atlanta Opens New Home With A Bang
The league’s second best team on goal difference? That would be Atlanta United, who raised the curtain on Mercedes Benz Stadium with a comprehensive 3-0 win over free-falling FC Dallas.
The win was Atlanta’s first since July 21, and it could be the beginning of a run to threaten the likes of NYC and Chicago for the second spot in the East.
The Five Stripes have five more home games before the end of September, and finish with seven of their last nine in Atlanta – where they’re 6-0-1 since the beginning of May.
By every metric, Atlanta has been one of the league’s best teams all season. By the end of the month, the standings should reflect that.