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DSS Does MLS, Week 12: Portland rising in West; East leaders look to pull away

Storylines, observations and more for week 12 of the MLS season.

MLS: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

We’re already 12 weeks into the season, and we’re starting to get a good picture of how things may shake out in MLS - by no means is the season over, but I think we have an idea of who the truly legitimate teams may be this year (with a few exceptions). Atlanta United got a huge away win at Orlando City to take a two-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield Race over Sporting Kansas City, headed into a Sunday home match with the Red Bulls. The Portland Timbers gotten hot over the past few matches. And D.C. United and the Montreal Impact continue to fall off the map.

-Interestingly enough, a look at the West shows that no team is truly out of a top six spot (the Seattle Sounders are 5 points back), but if I’m the San Jose Earthquakes, Colorado Rapids or the Sounders, I’d look to start winning games ASAP. Seattle didn’t do itself any favors with a loss to Portland this past weekend, but perhaps there are signs of life for the Sounders if you look closer.

Say this for the Sounders in their last four road games: They’ve competed and shown no signs of quitting. If not for a mental lapse in Kansas City, they likely get three points there; if not for a rare physical mistake by Stefan Frei at LAFC, they get a point there; they were deserving 2-1 winners in Toronto; and a point would have been a perfectly fair result in Portland. Yes, they were out shot 10-5, but they also held a 13-8 tackles advantage and won the 17 more duels than the Timbers.

Personally, I’m confident that the Sounders, who have the CCL well in the rear-view mirror now, can climb back into the playoff race. It won’t be the first time they’ve turned a season around.

-For the Rapids, they’ll have a tough ask ahead of them as they head to NYCFC on Saturday. NYC’s psyche was a little damaged after an embarrassing loss to the Red Bulls, but it did well to stay composed enough to grab a point at the Banc against LAFC on Sunday night after falling behind 2-1:

They scratched and clawed their way to the finish, and the result was a valuable road point. The question after the debacle that was the Hudson River Derby was how they’d respond against another tough opponent, especially one that would copy the Red Bulls’ game plan. The answer has to be encouraging for Pigeons’ fans.

Meanwhile, Colorado are in a four-game slide and are five points behind RSL for sixth place, but there are several opportunities to move up in the standings:

Going to NYC to take on one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference is going to be tough. But after that, the schedule lightens up a bit: Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps at home, then they go to Houston, and then come back home to play the Chicago Fire and the Seattle Sounders. The Rapids have the opportunity to get a big chunk of points. The Western Conference is pretty weak this year, and 9-11 points is both realistic and would be enough to get the Rapids back into things.

I’d definitely agree that those are winnable games after NYCFC. Portland, who are in a solid run of form with four straight wins, will be another toughie despite it being a home match for Colorado, but the Rapids aren’t in a position to drop more points than necessary.

-There’s a bigger gap in the East between sixth (New England, 17 points) and seventh (Chicago and Philadelphia, 11 points). It’s not impossible for the Fire and Union to make that up, but, like Colorado, they can’t afford to keep dropping points. However, the 3-0 loss Chicago absorbed on Saturday perhaps is an accurate look at the gulf in class between them and the Crew, or much of the top six, for that matter. Philly finally picked up an away win, but it was at Montreal.

-Columbus can keep pace with Atlanta at the top of the East with a win against the Revs at MAPFRE. After three straight disappointing seasons with the Galaxy, I (and probably a lot of other people) didn’t think Gyasi Zardes would be in the Golden Boot race right now, but time will tell if that can continue.

Last week

Best goal: Have to tip your hat to Christian Ramirez for his strike against San Jose. Not as good as Zlatan a few weeks ago, but...

Worst miss: Holy smokes, Brek Shea.

Worst dive: Take it away, Will Johnson.

MLS Week 13 viewing guide

Date Game Time (ET) TV/Streaming
Date Game Time (ET) TV/Streaming
Fri., May 25 Toronto FC vs. FC Dallas 8:00 PM ESPN+
Fri., May 25 Houston vs. NYCFC 8:55 PM ESPN+/Twitter
Fri., May 25 LA Galaxy vs. San Jose 11:00 PM ESPN+/Twitter
Sat., May 26 Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake 5:00 PM FOX/FSGO
Sat., May 26 FC Dallas vs. Vancouver 5:30 PM ESPN+
Sat., May 26 New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia 7:30 PM ESPN+
Sat., May 26 Orlando City vs. Chicago 7:30 PM ESPN+
Sat., May 26 Minnesota United vs. Montreal 8:00 PM ESPN+
Sun., May 26 Colorado vs. Portland 9:00 PM ESPN+
Sun., May 26 LAFC vs. D.C. United 10:00 PM ESPN+
Sun., May 27 Sporting KC vs. Columbus 6:00 PM FS1

Non-Atlanta United match you should watch: Portland vs. LAFC. They went 5 winless to start the season, but here come the Timbers: they’ve captured max points over their last 4. Meanwhile, LAFC’s 4-0-2 in their last six. Remember when they lost 5-0 to Atlanta?

Non-Atlanta United match you shouldn’t watch: San Jose Earthquakes vs. D.C. United. Yeah, don’t.