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Ranking this week’s MLS games from best to worst.
1. Columbus (16-12-6, 5 seed) at Atlanta United (15-9-10, 4 seed), 7 p.m. Thursday. For soccer purists who appreciate passing, moving and aggressive tactics, this will be the game to watch. Both teams like to play out of the back, both teams like to try to create turnovers with aggressive presses, and both teams have technically gifted players. Though Atlanta United defeated the Crew twice in their only previous meetings, Columbus is unbeaten in its past 10 games. Atlanta United will have the advantage of playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where it is 5-1-2, and in front of a crowd that has set numerous attendance records this season.
2. New York Red Bulls (14-12-8, 6 seed) at Chicago (16-11-7, 3 seed), 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. This will also be an exciting game because of the two teams’ styles. If the Fire can give Bastian Schweinsteiger time on the ball to find Nemanja Nikolic and David Accam, Red Bulls could be in for a long night. Conversely, if Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan can find Bradley Wright-Phillips in just a bit of space, he is more than capable of taking over the game.
3. Sporting KC (12-9-13, 5 seed) at Houston (13-10-11, 4 seed), 9:30 p.m. Thursday. Thank goodness this game isn’t at Sporting KC’s home of Children’s Mercy Park, or it could be the antithesis of the two playoff games in the Eastern Conference. But it’s not. Houston is 12-1-4 at home, where it has scored 43 of its 57 goals and just demolished Chicago 3-0 in the regular-season finale. Sporting KC scored a total of 40 goals this season, including just 10 on the road and was beaten 2-1 at Real Salt Lake in its finale.
4. San Jose (13-14-7, 6 seed) at Vancouver (15-12-7, 3 seed), 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. And bringing up the rear is this game. Vancouver was beating teams with counter-attacks and set-piece prowess, but opponents have adjusted and the Whitecaps limped to the finish with just one win in their final five games. San Jose picked up seven points in its final three games, including scoring in stoppage time to defeat Minnesota 3-2 on Sunday, to edge Dallas for the final playoff spot.