(Photo credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports)
St. Louis City became the first team in the Western Conference to clinch a playoff berth with a 0-0 draw against defending MLS Cup champion Los Angeles Football Club on Wednesday. But there's still plenty to play for during the regular season for the expansion team as it heads into Saturday night'smatch with Minnesota United in Saint Paul, Minn.
With four games and a possible 12 points remaining, St. Louis (15-10-5, 50 points) can still break the expansion-season points record 57 set by LAFC. A top-four finish would guarantee home-field for the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs. And St. Louis City also holds a five-point lead over the second-place Seattle Sounders (12-9-9, 45 points) in the race for the Western Conference title.
"From day one we spoke about being competitive and I think we've proved that," St. Louis coach Bradley Carnell told mlssoccer.com. "We checked that box (for making the playoffs). Now what's next for us? Can we get a top-four finish? Once we get that box checked, then can we win the Western Conference? So it's all things in baby steps and stages."
Another box that could be checked is revenge for a 1-0 home loss to Minnesota United (9-10-10, 37 points) earlier this season.
The Loons handed a then 5-0-0 St. Louis City team the first loss in team history on April 1. Luis Amarillo scored on a penalty shot in the 78th minute, and Dayne St. Clair made three saves while picking up a clean sheet.
Minnesota United enters the contest in 10th place in the West and off a bitter 4-3 loss to the LA Galaxy on Wednesday. The Loons led that one 3-1 in the second half before imploding. Defender Ethan Bristow got sent off in the 74th minute after picking up his second yellow card, and Diego Fagundez then scored the game-winner eight minutes later for the Galaxy.
"We managed to throw a game away that we should have won," Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Moving forward, we can't keep doing this. We can't keep putting ourselves in great position and come away with nothing."
The Loons enter Saturday's contest just one point behind FC Dallas for the final playoff spot.
"It's still in our hands," Heath said. "There are enough points to play for, but we can't keep doing the same stiff and expect different results."
Bristow is suspended for Saturday's match, and midfielder Joseph Rosales will also miss the contest with a hamstring injury. The Loons are holding their breath that star midfielder Emanuel Reynoso, who left Wednesday's loss at halftime with a thigh injury, can play Saturday. Heath listed Reynoso as day-to-day.
--Field Level Media