Week 30 Preview: what you need to know
Home playoff chances getting thin
Since the Legion are playing a team they last saw barely a week ago – one we already know far too well – and the league’s regular season is coming to a close. we are going to do our weekly preview a little differently this time. We’ll take a quick look at every game and assess what each team in the contest needs to do this weekend and potentially over the next two weeks. We’ll start with the most important one of course…
(NOTE: with the exception of the final game listed, all games are Saturday)
Memphis 901 v Birmingham Legion (7:00pm)
Area Code FC have already clinched a playoff berth and are currently in the final home slot with Louisville City as the visiting team. But only on tiebreakers though, having 4 of the 6 head-to-head points. Their remaining games are El Paso Locomotive at home, then New Mexico United away. Those two are both below the playoff line in the West but are still in the running. Memphis can’t count on holding that spot.
The Legion are in a much weaker position than just a few weeks ago after a run of very poor form. Right now, to ensure a playoff spot the Three Sparks need 6 points from the final 3 games. With Monterey Bay at home followed by the Charleston Battery away, this is a must-win game.
Indy Eleven v. Detroit City (6:00pm)
Indy are 7 points adrift of Memphis and Louisville, so a home playoff game is unlikely at this point. They lead the Legion by 2 points, over whom they have the tiebreaker edge, but with two road games to close out the season they absolutely have to win this one. That being said, the Eleven can clinch a playoff spot this week, with a win and dropped points by FC Tulsa or with a draw and losses by Tulsa and The™ Miami FC. Those last two road games are at FC Tulsa, who are in a fight for a playoff spot, and at San Antonio who are never an easy out. But their opponent is also in a dogfight…
Detroit lost a midweek game 0-3 to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks, missing a chance to overtake the Legion on tiebreakers. They finish the season at Loudoun United then against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at home. Loudoun are eliminated, but are often very dangerous and of course Pittsburgh are in a fight for the top spot not only in the conference but in the league overall. Not easy. They are a point better than Tulsa who have the tiebreaker advantage. They are also 2 points better than Miami, but hold the tiebreaker in that one.
The Miami FC v. Hartford Athletic (6:00pm)
Hartford are out (and had a rough night Wednesday scoring two own goals in a 0-2 home loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies). Miami are on the outside looking in and are unlikely to get any more points after this weekend. They go on the road to Charleston and Sacramento to close out the year. If they are going to get into the playoffs it will be by the skin of their teeth and with some serious help.
Pittsburgh Riverhounds v. FC Tulsa (6:00pm)
Pittsburgh has a 3-point lead for the best record in the league (for once the top 3 point records are all in the East at the moment) and are the only team to have clinched a home playoff spot so fatr. They’ll want to maintain that lead ad in doing so will impact other races. We’ve already noted they finish the season at Detroit, but before that will be a game at Tampa, the team 3 points behind them. Maximum points from the two games around that contest will definitely be their plan.
That makes it a rough fixture for Tulsa, who also need the points, but could mange without them. The game next week against Indy is a slightly easier task, and finishing the year at Hartford even more so. They have a path to the playoffs without this game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t make it as hard on Pittsburgh as they possibly can.
Tampa Bay Rowdies v. Loudoun United (6:30pm)
The Rowdies got a lot of help Wednesday against Hartford and are probably looking ahead to that clash with Pittsburgh. They shouldn’t ignore Loudoun though, who are in the role of spoiler and could put a dent in their plans to take the top spot in the league. Moreover, the last game of the year is at Louisville. If they are to get past Pittsburgh, they are going to have to do it the hard way. The Rowdies clinch a home playoff spot with a win this week.
Colorado Springs Switchbacks v. Rio Grande Valley (7:00pm)
The Switchbacks are in 6th in the West, but are only a point back of the three teams directly above them. Two of those have a game in hand, but improving their final standing to a home playoff spot is certainly within reach. After this they play at the long-since eliminated Las Vegas Lights then host Phoenix Rising, who are one of the three teams in their way. Points here will therefore be critical if they are to stay home in the playoffs.
RGV are three points out of the playoffs and have El Paso, Monterey and Oakland between them and the postseason. They have the tiebreak advantage secured over Oakland and El Paso and currently hold it over Monterey on the third level and needing 1 in-conference point to lock it up. They also have 4 games left to play. After this will be a game at Hartford, then Sacramento and Loudoun at home. Not easy, but by no means impossible.
New Mexico United v. Louisville City (8:00pm)
New Mexico are in 11th and 4 points out of the Western playoffs. They have a very unlikely path to the playoffs, needing a lot of help. They play at Phoenix next week then have Memphis at home. They will have a big effect on the Eastern standings if they are going to make it. None of their opponents should be discounting them.
Lou City, as noted above, are tied on points with Memphis. Both teams are going to have to beat New Mexico to have a chance at that final home playoff spot. Two home games to finish the season: Hartford and then Tampa Bay. It’s all very murky right now. A lot of shuffling could occur between now and the end of the season.
El Paso Locomotive v. Charleston Battery (8:30pm)
El Paso have crashed out of a playoff spot in a big way, with a record of 2-9-5 over the past 16 games after starting 9-3-2. Even so, they are one point out of the playoffs and have a game in hand. This game won’t be easy, of course, and San Diego at home followed by Memphis and Oakland away won’t be picnics either. The Locomotive look to have squandered a great start to the season. Doing an Arsenal when playing the Battery is ironic.
Charleston are 4 points back of Pittsburgh and 1 back of Tampa. They’ll be looking to maximum points here as the top spot remains attainable. They finish with home games against Miami and Birmingham. Both those teams are looking to get as many points as possible too, so those games cannot be automatically placed in the win column. A tough end to the season, but an exciting one.
Oakland Roots v San Antonio (9:00pm)
Oakland are holding on to 7th in the West, but like El Paso have been on a downward track lately, having earned just 1 point from their last 5 games. They are tied on points with Monterey, but lead on tiebreakers. They also have 4 games left to play, so hold a double advantage. The games after this one are no walk in the park though: at Orange County, at San Diego and finally against El Paso. And they have to get past San Antonio first.
San Antonio had been on a rough stretch as well, but righted the ship last week with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Orange County. They sit 1 point behind Sacramento for the Western lead. Next week they have the return fixture in Orange County, which will be very interesting, and end the season against Indy. They are 7 points clear of San Diego in 3rd, but that is not an entirely safe lead…
San Diego Loyal v. Monterey Bay Union (9:00pm)
San Diego will be wanting to protect their current home playoff spot, to stretch this season as long as possible for their fans apart from anything else. They are on 47 points, tied with Phoenix and Orange County. They currently hold the edge in a 3-way tie, but that could be affected by the next game on this list. However, they have the luxury of 4 games remaining, so have some wiggle room. The last 3 games are at El Paso, against Oakland, at Las Vegas. But getting past Monterey and Oakland, who are in a cage match of their own, won’t be easy.
The Union are in the final playoff spot in the West and need to stay on terms with Oakland and El Paso or possibly improve. After this they travel to Birmingham and finish the year against Orange County, so points in this game are likely to be crucial. If they are to get their first ever playoff game, it will be by the thinnest of margins.
Phoenix Rising v. Orange County (9:00pm)
This game has implications all over the Western Conference as indicated above. The 3-way tie these two have with San Diego is as follows: the Loyal have a head-to-head PPG of 1.75, Phoenix 1.33, Orange County 1.00. San Diego has a head-to-head goal differential of +2, the others are both -2. The various 2-way situations: San Diego is 1-0-1 over Phoenix with a +3 GD. San Diego is 1-1-0 with Orange County with a -1 GD. Phoenix beat Orange County 1-0 in the previous game. So each team currently has an edge in one matchup, but that could change depending on the result here.
Any one of the three can clinch a playoff spot with a win and an El Paso loss; Phoenix can do it with a win and an El Paso draw. Phoenix is otherwise at a slight disadvantage having only 3 games left, following this with New Mexico at home and Colorado Springs away. Orange County’s last three games are Oakland and San Antonio at home and Monterey away. This will be messy right up to the end.
Sacramento Republic v. Las Vegas Lights (Sunday, 6:00pm)
Las Vegas were the first team done for the year and are facing the top team in the West. SacRep lead San Antonio by one point and will be focused on maintaining that lead. After this they have RGV away and Miami at home. That’s a slightly easier schedule than San Antonio’s, so they have a fairly good path to the top spot. Beating Pittsburgh, Tampa and Charleston will be a harder task though. The West is tight enough that they cannot clinch a home playoff game this week.
Back in the Old Country
Birmingham City have been off since last Friday and so have had a chance to get over a few poor results. This Saturday they play at Norwich City (9:00am, no ESPN+). Norwich are 8th, two places and one point better than the Blues, so this will be a chance to get back on track and potentially move up in the standings a couple of places.