Decision Day aims for teams out of the MLS Cup playoffs

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Decision day is upon us. While for some it is to do or die in the race to get to the MLS Cup playoffs, it marks for the second end of the 2021 campaign.

Although seven teams from each conference can recover after the season, it still leaves another 12 together who can go no further. In fact, no less than eight clubs – four from each conference – are already eliminated from the playoffs on their way to the decision day.

Sure, each of these teams – except for the Houston Dynamo, which are ready for the year – and the players within them have something to play for, right? Let’s choose one goal each for the unfortunate fighters.

Brandon Vazquez has four goals and two assists in his last eight games. / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

For the third year in a row, FC Cincinnati will finish in last place. They enter Decision Day with an 11-match losing streak, 14 losses in their last 15. No one would blame them for shutting them down and leaving Atlanta United free to riot at TQL Stadium.

But at least striker Brandon Vazquez will want to continue his recent rise in front of goal, especially against his former club. Atlanta United can still secure a home advantage in their opening playoff game with a win here and other results going for them. Cincy could really start the work by going out on a high.

TFC still has a chance at silver this season. / Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Armas was not even close to replacing Greg Vanney and held only 15 games in the TFC dugout. His successor, Javier Perez, has fared much better, but Toronto is still in second place in the East.

But there is a silver lining; the Reds beat Pacific FC earlier this week to set a date with CF Montreal in the Canadian Championship final. TFC hosts DC United on Decision Day and while it’s probably tempting to ruin Hernan Losada’s playoff dreams, it may be better to rest like Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo. After all, the Canadian Championship is not just a trophy, it is also a way into next year’s Concacaf Champions League.

Slonina has had a wonderful breakout campaign with Elden.

17-year-old goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina has been one of the few rays of the sun in an otherwise disappointing campaign for Elden. But there is a certain optimism for next season, with a major upheaval in the player list.

With that in mind, their Decision Day trip to Columbus could be a perfect opportunity to throw a few more young people into the mix. People like Javier Casas and Brian Gutierrez may well be the key to rebuilding the fire, so why not give them minutes?

Phil Neville has some big roster decisions to make this offseason. / Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sport

Phil Neville has already told us what these final games of the season are all about: deciding who will stay and who will go for 2022. Basically, their trip to the Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution is the last the trial for some as they appear to convince the herons of their value.

“Construction has started for next year, but these next two games are a good spectacle to say how much these players want it,” Neville said in late October.

“They are suffering, they are hurting, they are disappointed, they are frustrated, they are angry, they are sad. Saturday is another opportunity to go out and prove that they deserve to be at Inter Miami on January 17 when we are back in pre-season training. “

Austin can still end a tough expansion year by finishing over Houston and Dallas. / Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas has already lifted the Copa Tejas, but Austin can still finish over its rivals in the table.

Verde must win a very tough away game against the Portland Timbers and hope Dallas fails to win in San Jose to do so, but that would at least put an end to what has been a challenging expansion year.

Their fantastic fans have at least deserved it.

Ricardo Pepi has 13 MLS goals for himself so far this season. / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas’ media department has made a great effort to get us all extremely enthusiastic about Ricardo Pepi. And to be fair, they have the right to do so, with the 18-year-old scoring 13 goals for a struggling team in his breakout campaign.

But Pepi has found the net only once in his last eight games. There are some important World Cup qualifiers underway that the United States really need the teenager keen for and pushing Dallas to an away win at Quakes would be a good start. The same applies to Jesus Ferreira, who has been recalled to Gregg Berhalter’s side.

The Quakes can be a little crazy and chaotic, but incredibly entertaining. / Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

“I am always happy to know that I have players who want to play and compete for a place,” Matias Almeyda said during his press conference in the middle of the week. “Throughout the season, I think 98 percent of our players have played. We have been able to find a balance in each of them. We will wait and end the week to decide how San Jose will continue.”

So we already know that Almeyda is evaluating its list for 2022. But this is Quakes. Even when they are awful, it is in the best possible way.

What we all want to see on Sunday is another captivating interpretation of their humane, high-intensity, chaotic style of play. It has the potential to tear Dallas apart, while leaving Ferreira and Pepi free in JT Marcinkowski’s box and, yes, that’s just fine with us.

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