FEATURE: Western Conference clubs to watch during Week 26 of MLS action

MLS Ball - Avaya Stadium - San Jose Earthquakes - 2016

The San Jose Earthquakes are among the teams that do not play this weekend due to the FIFA international break, but that doesn’t mean a few key matches in the Western Conference aren’t taking place with potentially large playoff implications. Let’s examine which teams are taking the field and what results Quakes fans should be rooting for.

Saturday, September 3
New York Red Bulls at Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 4 p.m. PT

Vancouver and San Jose are fighting neck-and-neck to sneak back above the red line and are currently just separated by one point in the standings. This East-West matchup is a perfect chance for San Jose to get a little breathing room with the red-hot Red Bulls, who haven’t lost a match in any competition since July 3, heading to BC Place. 

Best-case scenario: New York defeats Vancouver, keeping San Jose one point above Whitecaps FC in the standings with two games in hand.  

Reasons for optimism: Vancouver has been somewhat vulnerable at home this year, holding a 5-3-5 record. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are undefeated in their last four road contests (0-0-4), including a 2-2 draw against the LA Galaxy at the StubHub Center on Aug. 7.

Colorado Rapids at New England Revolution – 4:30 p.m. PT

The Colorado Rapids are significantly ahead of the Quakes in the Western Conference standings and would require a pretty steep collapse for the two teams to finish near each other at the end of the season. However, there is very rarely a reason to root for a West side over one from the East, and a good result for NE could stifle any Rapids momentum ahead of their meeting with San Jose later in the month. 

Best-case scenario: New England defeats Colorado.

Reasons for optimism: Colorado is winless in their last three matches (0-1-2) and winless in their last five road matches (0-2-3) with their last road victory coming against Seattle on May 21.

Portland Timbers at FC Dallas – 6:00 p.m. PT

If the Quakes want to make the playoffs, the Portland Timbers are one of the teams standing in their way. Currently occupying the sixth and final playoff spot in the WC, San Jose should be rooting against the Timbers just about every week from here on out. 

Best-case scenario: FC Dallas defeats Portland, keeping the Quakes three points behind the Timbers with two games in hand. 

Reasons for optimism: FC Dallas is currently the Supporters’ Shield leader and have yet to lose a game at Toyota Stadium this season (9-0-4). Also, the Timbers have lost three consecutive road games and are the only team in MLS without a road victory in 2016 (0-7-6).

Columbus Crew SC at LA Galaxy – 7:30 p.m. PT

The Galaxy are currently eight points clear of San Jose, but a few positive results could see that gap begin to shrink.

Best-case scenario: Columbus Crew SC defeats the LA Galaxy. 

Reasons for optimism: The LA Galaxy haven’t won in their last six matches (0-5-1). Meanwhile, Crew SC have lost just once in their last four games (2-1-1) and have scored eight goals during that stretch.

Western Conference Standings
1.    FC Dallas – 48 (27 GP, 14-7-6)
2.    Real Salt Lake – 43 (27 GP, 12-8-7)
3.    Colorado Rapids – 43 (25 GP, 11-4-10)
4.    LA Galaxy – 40 (26 GP, 9-4-13)
5.    Sporting Kansas City – 38 (28 GP, 11-12-5)
6.    Portland Timbers – 35 (27 GP, 9-10-8)
7.    San Jose Earthquakes – 32 (26 GP, 7-8-11)
8.    Seattle Sounders FC – 31 (26 GP, 9-13-4)
9.    Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 31 (27 GP, 8-12-7)
10.     Houston Dynamo – 25 (26 GP, 5-11-10)