While the Los Angeles Galaxy or the Chicago Fire may not win the Supporters' Shield for the league's best regular-season record, both clubs have an opportunity to make the playoffs this weekend.
Los Angeles and Chicago meet Friday night at The Home Depot Center (11 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN360.com) with each needing a win plus some help Saturday to secure a postseason berth.
With a chance to overtake Houston atop the Western Conference standings, the Galaxy (10-6-11) lost 2-0 at Columbus on Saturday.
Los Angeles was 7-0-5 against Eastern Conference teams heading into Crew Stadium.
"The game had no rhythm," said Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, whose team trails the West-leading Dynamo by two points. "A lot of fouls were called, a lot of yellows. Sloppy game, but I think Columbus for 90 minutes was first to most of the plays tonight.... They basically won most of the matchups all over the field."
Los Angeles, though, has an opportunity to wrap up its first playoff berth since winning the 2005 MLS Cup if it defeats Chicago while D.C. United fails to beat Chivas USA on Saturday night.
"We're not comfortable yet and we haven't made it," Galaxy defender Todd Dunivant said. "We've set ourselves up well, though, and have three games left. Really, it is in our hands. If we do our business, we don't have to worry about other teams and other results."
Chicago (10-6-11) finds itself in a similar position with three games remaining. A win over Los Angeles plus a loss or tie by United will secure the Fire's postseason spot.
Chicago is five points behind East-leading Columbus, which has a league-best 46 points.
"I stopped looking at the scoreboards the last couple of games so I don't know where we stand (in the Supporters' Shield chase)," defender C.J. Brown told the Fire's official Web site. "I do know we need points. If the Shield is still out there, yes, we are going for it. If not, we still need a win because we need to gain the confidence so we have a little bit of an edge going into the playoffs."
Chicago and Brown didn't have that edge in Saturday's 2-all draw against visiting Toronto FC, playing one of their most lackadaisical defensive games of the season.
"Tonight defensively, we were no good," said Fire coach Denis Hamlett, whose club is a league-best 6-2-5 on the road. "We gave them two goals tonight. Two easy goals. We talk about wanting to win championships, the defense gotta get better. Individually, collectively, as a whole."
Chicago's Brian McBride scored his team-high seventh goal of the season on a header in the 78th minute. It was his first goal since a 2-0 win at Toronto on May 16.
McBride missed eight games following shoulder surgery in July, including the 2-0 home loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 19.
Galaxy midfielder David Beckham missed that match -- Los Angeles' first-ever win at Toyota Park -- after receiving a red card in a 2-0 loss against Seattle on Aug. 15.
Beckham was a scratch in Saturday's loss with an injured right ankle. He is questionable for Friday.
Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who leads the team with seven assists, is also questionable after missing Saturday's draw with a left hamstring strain.
Los Angeles is 7-5-3 at home versus Chicago.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press