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The Forecast wonders why Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC are making the playoff chase harder than necessary before tackling the abbreviated Week 30 schedule.

By Kyle McCarthy

Isn't it hard enough to make the playoffs without placing unnecessary obstacles in the way?

Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC apparently didn't think so if this week is any indication.

The self-inflicted damage started in a TFC training session on Tuesday morning. For reasons that aren't quite clear, TFC invited three trialists to join the squad as it prepared for perhaps its most important match of the season. One of those three trialists, according to multiple reports, collided with Robinson during Tuesday's training session, forcing the former Welsh international midfielder out of action for the next six-to-eight weeks with a fractured cheekbone. Robinson likely would have started in tomorrow's crunch clash with San Jose in Amado Guevara's place (Guevara is away on international duty with Honduras) had the Reds not felt the pressing need to evaluate players they couldn't sign straight away.

Real Salt Lake managed to come away with not one, but two potentially critical injuries in Wednesday night's not-so-friendly 1-1 draw against Chivas de Guadalajara. While RSL may have increased the bottom line with the proceeds collected from the 16,646 in attendance for the so-called friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium, the beancounters' happiness won't do much to heal Ned Grabavoy's suspected broken foot or Javier Morales' severely sprained ankle. If Morales isn't fit enough to go for RSL's do-or-die clash against New York next Wednesday, RSL may end up wishing it scheduled another college team to give its players a second collegiate run-out during its nearly three-week break from MLS play rather than booking a lucrative match always likely to descend into chaos at some point.

The Forecast, with the aid of some surprising results last weekend, made the Week 29 slate more difficult than necessary and suffered through yet another down week. With the international calendar also in full swing this weekend, the Week 30 schedule offers only three matches to help the Forecast turn things around as the season enters its final fortnight.

Last week: 2/6 (33%)
For the season: 81/178 (46%)

The Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 30

(Note: End-of-season tiebreakers are not in play in this table.)
(X – Denotes clinched a playoff spot)

Eastern Conference
1. Columbus (12-5-10, 46 pts., 3 games remaining) - X
2. Chicago (10-7-11, 41 pts., 2 games remaining)
Western Conference
1. Houston (12-8-8, 44 pts., 2 games remaining) - X
2. Los Angeles (11-6-11, 44 pts., 2 games remaining) - X
Wild Cards
T1. Chivas USA (12-9-5, 41 pts., 4 games remaining)
T1. Seattle (10-7-11, 41 pts., 2 games remaining)
3. Colorado (10-8-10, 40 pts., 2 games remaining)
4. New England (10-9-8, 38 pts., 3 games remaining)
==
FC Dallas (10-12-6, 36 pts., 2 games remaining)
D.C. United (8-8-12, 36 pts., 2 games remaining)
Toronto FC (9-10-8, 35 pts., 3 games remaining)
Real Salt Lake (9-11-7, 34 pts., 3 games remaining)
Kansas City (8-11-8, 32 pts., 3 games remaining)
San Jose (7-13-7, 28 pts., 3 games remaining)
New York (4-18-6, 18 pts., 2 games remaining)

Saturday

San Jose @ Toronto FC – 4:00p.m. (CBC)  

Aside from Robinson's injury, the circumstances surrounding this match almost completely favor the home side. The Earthquakes simply don't have enough bodies to compete at this point after Frank Yallop named just 16 players in his squad for Wednesday's 2-1 home loss to FC Dallas. Unfortunately for San Jose, most of its key absences are straight down the middle of the park with Jason Hernandez (right hamstring strain), Andre Luiz (left knee sprain) and Ramon Sanchez (international duty with El Salvador) all expected to miss the match. TFC also has key absences in the middle with Guevara and Robinson ruled out, but the Reds have considerably more depth there with Sam Cronin, Dwayne De Rosario and Amadou Sanyang all candidates to play alongside Julian de Guzman in the center of the park. In truth, it shouldn't really matter who TFC throws into the engine room against the Earthquakes because the Reds will boss the tempo and the play regardless with de Guzman head and shoulders above anyone San Jose can offer. Barring an epic collapse or an inability to contain Ryan Johnson, TFC should coast to a relatively easy three points and insert itself into the thick of the playoff chase.

Prediction: Toronto FC win.

Columbus @ New England – 7:30p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)


Robbie Rogers | Columbus' in-form winger will miss the trip to Gillette Stadium while away on international duty with the United States

As much as the Forecast hates to say it at this time of the season, this match might be more about the missing players rather than the ones who are available for the belated first meeting between the two teams this season. Both sides will be missing several starters due to injury (among the most notable: Columbus' Chad Marshall remains sidelined with a knee injury, while New England will continue without Steve Ralston and his torn ACL), suspension (Columbus' Danny O'Rourke) and international commitments (Frankie Hejduk, Alejandro Moreno and Robbie Rogers will all miss the match for the Crew). New England will hope to have Jay Heaps (hamstring), Edgaras Jankauskas (adductor) and Jeff Larentowicz (knee) available, with Heaps looking the most likely of the three to feature.  The Crew tends to put out a coherent and consistent effort no matter who takes the field in its strip and should do so again knowing that a win would clinch a second straight Eastern Conference title. With half a dozen starters ruled out, Columbus could opt for three at the back out of sheer necessity with Eric Brunner, Gino Padula and Jed Zayner all but certain starters. The three-man backline could prove troublesome for the Crew after New England tormented Colorado's back three with wingers Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi for a half last weekend. Both teams want this game for different reasons, but the Revolution probably needs the three points just a touch more with its season-ending trip to the fortress known as Crew Stadium looming. Shade it to the comparatively stronger home side, but don't be surprised if this one ends all square.

Prediction: New England win.

Kansas City @ Chivas USA – 10:30p.m.


Many of those who watched Chivas USA travel to R.F.K. Stadium last weekend and emerge with a relatively comfortable 2-0 victory over D.C. United would expect this fixture to pose few problems for the Western Conference title challengers. However, there may be more to this match than the first glance suggests. Kansas City still harbors faint playoff hopes and must win in order to keep that dream realistically alive for another week after a good run of form has kept it flickering. Although the Wizards play on a tight home surface, they often play better soccer when they have more room for Claudio Lopez and others to roam. In order for the Wizards to pull off a shock win here, they'll have to find a way to spread out a Chivas USA unit doesn't lose its shape easily and isolate Josh Wolff's speed on Yamith Cuesta and either Carey Talley (if he plays in the middle) or Shavar Thomas in order to exploit Jonathan Bornstein's absence (U.S. national team duty) and the resulting lack of pace in coverage. The problem for Kansas City, particularly if Maicon Santos (right knee) somehow recovers in time to feature, is at the other end of the park. Without Jimmy Conrad (U.S. national team duty) available, the Wizards are particularly vulnerable at the back. Considering the Red-and-White's attacking nous last week, Kansas City will be hard pressed to keep the Goats from scoring a couple here. Add in Chivas USA's stellar home record against the Wizards (two wins and three draws in five meetings in all competitions) and the Goats look likely to heap further pressure on Houston and Los Angeles by emerging with all three points.

Prediction: Chivas USA win.

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at kyle.mccarthy@goal.com and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page.

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