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Scoreboard Watcher: MLS Week 31 viewing guide and open thread for D.C. United fans

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Now that D.C. United have clinched a berth in the playoffs with a draw on Friday night, let's watch the rest of the league play through the weekend. In Scoreboard Watcher, we break down the implications of each game, and you provide the commentary.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Now that D.C. United are mathematically assured of a playoff appearance, it's time to start thinking about seeding - specifically, locking down the #1 seed in the East and maybe even sneaking our way past the Galaxy and Sounders and into an MLS record fifth Supporters' Shield. To that end, we are reviving the Scoreboard Watcher, an open thread for non-United games so we can keep tabs on the rest of the league. With five games this evening and another three tomorrow, there's a whole lot of domestic soccer to keep us busy. Let's get right to it.

New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo

Saturday, October 4 | 6pm | NBCSN
Red Bull Arena | Harrison, N.J.

Preview: The Metros host the Orange with both teams desperate for points. New York is perched on the red line, a mere point ahead of Toronto having played an extra game. With a two point gap up to fourth-place and in-form Columbus, the Red Bulls need every point if they're going to even qualify for the postseason a year after winning their first ever Supporters' Shield. (Yes, I threw up in my mouth writing that last bit.) If they're hard up for points, though, that would make the Dynamo junkie-in-withdrawal desperate. Down in eighth place, five points out of the playoff spots, Houston cannot afford to drop anything during the run-in. Both sides will be gunning for the W in the shadow of Newark on national TV.

Worth going out of your way for?: With word this week that there is "no chance" Thierry Henry returns to the Red Bulls next year, and given his team's precarious position just above the red line, this one could well be worth checking out. It also counts as scouting for next weekend's United game in the bayou. That said, you'd be forgiven for making dinner plans during this window.

Who you should root for: The first rule of Scoreboard Watcher is you tell everybody about Scoreboard Watcher. the second rule of Scoreboard Watcher is you root against the Metros unless doing so would be detrimental to D.C. United. Houston is all but eliminated from the playoffs and presents no threat to United. We'll deal with the Orange when the Black-and-Red go to Houston next weekend - for now, go Orange.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas

Saturday, October 4 | 7pm | Univision Deportes, MLS Live
BC Place | Vancouver, B.C.

Preview: It's almost hard to believe these two teams are adjacent in the Western Conference standings. Dallas sits fourth, on 48 points, with Vancouver not-so-right beneath them in fifth - eight points behind. FCD won't miss the playoffs, but Vancouver just might. They'll need three points at home to keep the Timbers at bay and below the red line, but to do that, they'll actually have to score some goals. Fabian Castillo and Blas Perez counterattacking a team that will need to push forward with abandon... on the slickest turf in the league? Well, okay.

Worth going out of your way for?: For sure. Even putting aside the major playoff implications, Dallas is among the most fun teams to watch right now, and watching Vancouver implode in new and entertaining ways is among the underrated trends of summer 2014. It's not quite a must-watch, but you'll be better for catching this one.

Who you should root for: This is a tougher question than it should be. I want to say FC Dallas for a few reasons: rooting for them is more likely to pay off in this game, and they're one of the very few teams with an outside shot at denying the Sounders and Galaxy the Supporters' Shield. But so is D.C. United, and we need to be looking at getting the best spot we can in the combined MLS standings to give us the best chance of hosting MLS Cup if/when United makes it that far. I'll reluctantly say we need to be behind Vancouver tonight.

New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew

Saturday, October 4 | 7:30pm | MLS Live, MLSSoccer.com Free Stream of the Week
Gillette Field | Foxborough, Mass.

Preview: The Eastern Conference's two "form" teams meet with a chance to tie or overtake second-place Sporting Kansas City on points. Both teams' strength is in their midfields, which rate among the most skillful in the league. The Crew haven't lost since August, and the Revs have lost only twice since the end of July. Neither side has punched their ticket to the postseason, though, so a loss here could end up being pretty dire. Luckily neither Gregg Berhalter or Jay Heaps is known to play for the draw, so the game at least shouldn't be dour.

Worth going out of your way for?: Yes. Yes. Oh, most definitely yes. There's a reason this was voted the free stream of the week on the league website. These are (unfortunately) probably the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference right now, and they could absolutely torpedo each other's playoff ambitions. The quality of play should be good, and the stakes are high. What more could you want as a neutral?

Who you should root for: The Crew. We want New England as far away from United on points as possible down the stretch, so swallow your completely rational hatred of the hack that is Bernardo Anor and just focus on the magic of Federico Higuain. NO! DO NOT THINK ABOUT LEE NGUYEN'S SKILL OR NEW ENGLAND'S SURPRISINGLY PROGRESSIVE PLAYING PHILOSOPHY. WE ARE ROOTING FOR THE CREW TONIGHT.

LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC

Saturday, October 4 | 10:30pm | MLS Live
StubHub Center | Carson, Cal.

Preview: Two different versions of whatever the opposite of Moneyball is. The Galaxy have used every player acquisition method to put themselves near the top of the table (again), while the Reds have found new and exciting ways to implode and potentially keep their playoff-less streak alive. Of course, Michael Bradley and Toronto will be looking to change all that with a road upset over his USMNT teammates Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez.

Worth going out of your way for?: Clearly. There aren't many possible matchups that pit more dollars against one another, and both teams are desperate for all the points they can muster. The Galaxy want to beat D.C. United to that fifth Supporters' Shield by banking points before their season-ending home-and-home series with Seattle, while TFC are simply scrambling to even make the playoffs for the first time in their history.

Who you should root for: I mentioned that LA is the only team with as many Shield's as United? Boo this team. Come on you Reds.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers

Saturday, October 4 | 11pm | NBCSN
Buck Shaw Stadium | Santa Clara, Cal.

Preview: This is the game that has NBCSN wishing for flex scheduling in MLS. Portland are in the hunt for the final Western Conference playoff spot, and the Quakes have started playing a more watchable style of soccer since early summer. As it stands right now, though, these are a couple teams deservedly below the red line.

Worth going out of your way for?: I guess Portland is fighting for their playoff lives, and Tommy Thompson can be fun to watch. But this isn't close to being among this weekend's top matchups.

Who you should root for: Reader's choice.

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders

Sunday, October 5 | 3pm | UniMas
Dick's Sporting Goods Park | Commerce City, Col.

Preview: If you want a view of what Ben Olsen's critics think he is, look no further than Pablo Mastroeni. The former Rapids midfielder has taken a promising young team and molded it into a misshapen ball of mediocrity that hasn't won a game since the month of July. The Sounders are, of course, the Sounders, and I won't spill any more virtual ink explaining that more than is necessary.

Worth going out of your way for?: I'm clinging to the hope that Mastroeni will somehow get his team ready to play in spite of himself. If that impossible dream comes true, the Rapids have the talent to put a scare into Seattle, which would be worth watching. But it won't, so this game's watchability comes down entirely to Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, which ain't nothing.

Who you should root for: Colorado. If the Sounders come up short in the Supporters' Shield race, that means the end of the word "treble" for the rest of this season. That is a noble goal, and we can only hope the fates are in our favor.

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact

Sunday, October 5 | 5pm | MLS Live
Toyota Park | Bridgeview, Ill.

Preview: It's the Frank Derby!

Worth going out of your way for?: Nope!

Who you should root for: It couldn't possibly matter less.

Chivas USA vs. Real Salt Lake

Sunday, October 5 | 7pm | MLS Live
StubHub Center | Carson, Cal.

Preview: RSL have a chance to clinch their first playoff berth in the post-Jason Kreis era with a win over the soon-to-be-ending tire fire that is Chivas USA, who have lost 11 of their last 12 and scored in just three of those games. What better team for RSL to get back on track against after losing two of three?

Worth going out of your way for?: Sure, if only to watch the final minutes of Chivas USA.

Who you should root for: Chivas. RSL have an actual chance to catch LA and Seattle and deny one or both of them the Supporters' Shield nobody wants either of them to win. But the same holds for D.C. United, who currently have position on RSL. Besides, it would be kind of mean not to root for the Goats at this point.

Welcome to your open thread for the weekend, folks. Have fun with it.