Rivals lose, giving Inter Miami an opportunity to climb the standings, but will have to do so sans Messi, Alba

La Rosa Negra’s brain trust has made winning the U.S. Open Cup a priority higher than a once highly unlikely playoff run, but last night’s MLS results reminded fans the Herons might do both.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Perreira before a match earlier this season at Charlotte.
Orlando City head coach Oscar Perreira before a match earlier this season at Charlotte. / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

1. Saturday’s Key Results

Atlanta 4, Montreal 1

Red Bulls 5, D.C. United 3

Cincinnati 3, Charlotte 0

Chicago 2, New England 2

When Matchday 34 started yesterday, Inter Miami was in 13th place with 31 points and six matches left to play; they need to finish ninth or higher in the Eastern Conference to squeak into the playoffs after being dead last in July.

Ahead of them in the standings: Montreal (37 points, 5 matches remaining); D.C. United (36 and 4); New York City FC (34 and 4); Chicago Fire (33 and 5); and Charlotte (33 and six). The Herons were ahead of the New York Red Bulls (31 and 5) and Toronto FC (22 and 5).

Charlotte, D.C. United and Montreal all lost, and Chicago was held to a 2-2 draw at home; as this is being written, hapless Toronto is playing NYCFC trying to postpone playoff elimination. A Reds win, though unlikely, would keep the Pigeons within Inter Miami’s reach. A Herons win and NYCFC loss could see four teams — Inter Miami, Red Bulls, NYCFC and Chicago — all with 34 points, just three points behind Montreal for eighth place and D.C. United for ninth.

United has played 31 matches and has just three remaining to pad its playoff resume. Inter Miami and Charlotte — who meet in the final two match days of the season, still have five matches to play, while the others in the hunt all have four left.

The Herons are playing without Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi again today, but Inter Miami has some quality attacking options and serviceable if inconsistent defenders. Beating second-place Orlando City will be a tall order, but not a remarkable upset. A win puts the Men in Pink in the thick of the playoff hunt down the stretch; thanks to yesterday’s results, a loss isn’t disastrous but will dig the Herons’ playoff hole a little deeper.