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Who to watch, root for this weekend in MLS

Here are the games NYCFC fans will want to track, the results they'll want to see.

Keep your eye on the ball | Graham Hughes

If New York City FC are to make the playoffs for the eighth consecutive season, they need to win key matchups like tomorrow’s game with Inter Miami. And they need their competition at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table to drop points.

Here’s a handy guide to the games on Saturday, September 30 that the NYCFC faithful should keep an eye on, and the results that will serve New York City best. All the games will be broadcast on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.

Now might be the time to reacquaint yourself with your spiritual side by lighting some incense and sending out a prayer — or four. The battle for the final postseason spots is getting spicy, and NYCFC could use the good feels.

• New Jersey Red Bulls vs Chicago Fire
Red Bull Arena, 7:30 pm ET
Best Result: An ugly and physical draw

New Jersey might be the team that can’t shoot straight, but last week they scored a season-high five goals on the road against a DC United which had one of the stingiest defenses in MLS — at least until that game. NYCFC fans will want New Jersey to revert to the mean for the matchup with Chicago, and hope that the Red Bulls are once again the physical, low-scoring team we know them to be.

At the same time, NYCFC fans will want Chicago to keep pace: The goal is a draw, so that both teams end the day with 35 points after 31 games and remain stuck at least two spots below New York City.

  • The good: Both New Jersey and Chicago can put the hurt on each other while not being good enough to seal a win
  • The bad: Chicago was a basketcase before grabbing a 2-2 draw with New England last week, and were held scoreless in their previous five games

UPDATE: The Red Bulls earned a red card, and Chicago won 0-1

• Orlando City vs CF Montréal
Exploria Stadium, 7:30 pm ET
Best Result: Orlando win

NYCFC and CF Montréal are even on points, but Montréal are up in eighth place because of the number of wins (the first tiebreak). If NYCFC are to finish in eighth, and host the 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs play-in game on October 25 or 26, they need to top Montréal on points.

Good thing Montréal are winless in their last five games, a streak that started with the 2-0 loss to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. You’re welcome.

  • The good: Montréal’s dip in form couldn’t come at a better time for NYCFC
  • The bad: Don’t count them out

UPDATE: Orlando won comfortably 3-0

• New England Revolution vs Charlotte FC
Gillette Stadium, 7:30 pm ET
Best Result: Revs win

Charlotte FC might trail NYCFC by four points but they have two games in hand, and that makes them dangerous. Even more concerning: Their final two games are both against an Inter Miami that might not have anything to play for at that point.

A loss to New England will go a long way to keep Charlotte down at the bottom of the table.

  • The good: Charlotte are winless in their last five games
  • The bad: The Revs have one win in their last five games

UPDATE: New England won 2-1

• Vancouver Whitecaps vs DC United
BC Place, 10:30 pm ET
Best Result: Vancouver win

DC United head coach Wayne Rooney must still be seething over his team’s farcical performance against the Red Bulls last week. United’s eh-not-bad attack managed to score three goals, but a defense that had allowed just four goals in their previous five games let New Jersey score five goals.

The truth is, that was the result NYCFC fans wanted. Well done, DC.

Now United will fly across the continent to face a Vancouver Whitecaps fighting to climb into the Top Four of the Western Conference and secure home-field advantage for the playoffs. Both sides will have a lot on the line, but you have to give the advantage to a Vancouver playing at home.

  • The good: DC last won a road game on July 4, 10 games ago
  • The bad: Vancouver won only one of their last five games, and that was against MLS punching bag Toronto FC

UPDATE: Vancouver and DC United drew 2-2