The 2017 MLS season comes to a close as the Houston Dynamo host the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon (3 p.m. | TICKETS). The match will be one of 11 simultaneous matchups across the league with all 22 teams competing at the same time as playoff positioning will be decided.
The Dynamo were able to clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, their first since 2013, last Sunday in a draw against Sporting Kansas City. While their playoff destiny is still to be decided, the Dynamo could finish as high as third in the Western Conference standings depending on Sunday’s Decision Day results.
“It’s massive,” said Goalkeeper Tyler Deric when asked about the implications of Sunday’s games. “We have a great opportunity ahead of us to get ourselves in a good spot going into the playoffs. We have a great mentality going into the weekend and beyond.”
The Dynamo are locked into the Knockout Round of the Playoffs, meaning they’ll open the postseason on Wednesday or Thursday. What is yet to be decided is if the team will have to travel - which is currently the case if they remain in 5th place - or play in the friendly confines of BBVA Compass Stadium.
A draw will not help the Dynamo clinch a playoff home match. They’ll need a win and some help in order to jump Seattle Sounders FC and/or Sporting Kansas City in the standings.
The Chicago Fire have plenty to play for as well. With a win, the Fire can help their case to clinch the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and skip the Knockout Round in the process.
“We know there are a lot of things at stake for them and for us,” said Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera. “It’s going to be challenging, positive, but it’s going to be tough, and we need to be focused on that game and that game only.”
Cabrera will have the majority of his players available as only Memo Rodriguez (right knee sprain) is out and newcomer Phillipe Senderos (right adductor strain) is probable. Chicago has seven players listed on the injury report, including 2014 World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger (out) and midfielder Juninho (questionable).
Midfielder Alex, the Dynamo’s leader in assists (10), and defender DaMarcus Beasley - two former Fire players - may be key players in Sunday’s match for the Dynamo. Beasley, a four-time World Cup veteran with the United States, knows Sunday can be a real catalyst as the team heads into the playoffs.
“It’s an opportunity to move up in the table,” said Beasley. “We’ve gotten to the playoffs; we made it over the first hurdle. The club hasn’t made it to the playoffs since I’ve been here. That part is good, but for a soccer standpoint we have to do a lot better to keep going to December.”