The most absorbing storylines for Major League Soccer's final weekend:
END OF THE LINE: Much has been made, and for good reason, of Brian McBride’s final game, but his teammate C.J. Brown, a Chicago Fire original, also will be bowing out when the club visits Home Depot Center on Saturday night to play Chivas USA. It’s also the final game with the Goats, at least for the near future, for Mexico-bound midfielder/defender Jonathan Bornstein.
Jaime Moreno’s long tenure with D.C. United ends, too. The Bolivian forward, who shares MLS’s all-time goals record (with 132) with FC Dallas’ Jeff Cunningham, figures to play on somewhere, and he’s suggested in recent weeks he could be tempted to stay in the league, if there are any offers. D.C. interim coach Ben Olsen, who played alongside Moreno for a decade, says the last remaining player from MLS’s inaugural 1996 campaign will start in Saturday’s game against Toronto FC.
As for McBride, the iconic forward who represented the U.S. at three World Cups, he says the game against Chivas is “the same as any other game,” and Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos hasn’t determined whether he’ll be in the starting lineup.
AWARDS: Last chance for players to make impressions for the big awards: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, Best XI -- we’ve got to missing one or two, right? … Coach of the Year, but that won’t go to a player.
L.A.’s Landon Donovan says he’d give the MVP honor to FC Dallas’ David Ferreira, and we tend to agree. San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski says he’d give it to L.A.’s Edson Buddle. All four of them are viable candidates.
PURE GOLD: The Golden Boot -- that’s soccerese for scoring champion -- comes down to the final game, with Buddle and Wondolowski both at 17. “Wondo” got there with a hat trick Wednesday against Chivas USA. Buddle has scored his in fewer games (24 to 27), but Wondolowski has been much hotter down the stretch, scoring nine goals in San Jose’s past eight games and 11 in the past 12.
What favors Buddle? The quality of service: from Donovan and David Beckham, especially. What favors Wondolowski? He takes San Jose penalty kicks -- he’s 3 for 3 this year.
Buddle doesn’t shoot from the spot for the Galaxy, but say L.A. draws a PK with a two- or three-goal lead, we wouldn’t be surprised if the big striker got the call.
HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE: New York claimed the Eastern Conference crown with Thursday’s victory over New England. The Galaxy can win the Western championship -- and the Supporters’ Shield -- with a win Sunday over FC Dallas, or a Real Salt Lake loss Saturday at Colorado, or with a tie with FCD as long as RSL doesn’t win. The Utahns, one point behind L.A., will win on goal difference if the teams finish even on points.
The big reward for finishing first in the conferences is home field for the single-game conference finals should the top teams get through the home-and-home first-round series.
POSTSEASON MATCHUPS: We’ll know who plays whom in the playoffs come Sunday, and the possibilities are staggering. No, really. FC Dallas (50 points) or Seattle (48) will finish third in the West; FCD can’t fall further than fourth, but Seattle could finish fifth or sixth. The West’s Nos. 5 and 6 teams will be placed in the less stringent Eastern Conference bracket with New York and Columbus.
Fourth-place Seattle (at Houston), fifth-place San Jose (at Kansas City) and sixth-place Colorado (home vs. RSL) play on Saturday. Assuming that FC Dallas finishes third, there are 27 possible outcomes in determining the order they’ll finish. Three of those outcomes would depend on whether San Jose beats K.C. by at least two goals. Crazy scores (like 11-0 or 6-5) also could play an impact if Seattle and Colorado or Seattle and San Jose finish even on points. It’s folly trying to predict how it’ll turn out.
But if we consider pure mathematics -- in other words, if we throw out the clubs’ and their opponents’ quality and current form and the home/away equation, and look only at the numbers -- here is how the 27 possibilities can play out:
Seattle: Fourth -- 20½, fifth -- 5½, sixth -- 1
San Jose: Fourth -- 4½, fifth -- 13½, sixth -- 9
Colorado: Fourth -- 2, fifth -- 8, sixth -- 17
The full slate:
Seattle Sounders FC (14-9-6, 48 points) at Houston Dynamo (8-15-6, 30 points), 1 p.m., TeleFutura (KFTR/Channel 46)
Toronto FC (8-13-8, 32 points) at D.C. United (6-19-4, 22 points), 4:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
San Jose Earthquakes (13-9-7, 46 points) at Kansas City Wizards (10-13-6, 36 points), 5:30 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
Real Salt Lake (15-4-10, 55 points) at Colorado Rapids (12-8-9, 45 points), 6 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
Chicago Fire (8-12-9, 33 points) at Chivas USA (8-17-4, 28 points), 8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel and Fox Deportes
Philadelphia Union (8-14-7, 31 points) at Columbus Crew (13-8-8, 47 points), 1 p.m., MLS Direct Kick
FC Dallas (12-3-14, 50 points) at L.A. Galaxy (17-7-5, 56 points), 5 p.m.
All times Pacific