MLS: Week 17 to the Playoffs!

Help! I’ve tripped and fallen off the MLS info-treadmill! I'm working on getting back on, but it turns out one little weekend away may as well be a month. Maybe that’s what has me feeling all Big-Picture-y right now - e.g. thinking about future prospects more than past results, hence the semi-predictive post. I’ll get to that below, but would feel like a total hack if I didn’t acknowledge the power rankings and power tools of the pundits who didn’t take off Week 17.

My Soccer Blog
MLS Underground (reporting from new digs)

So, there’s some substance for you. Now for the Crystal Ball Fluff: what follows is my sense of which MLS teams are headed up or down in the standings and which will hold their current position, good or bad.

For the record, I tried to copy/paste the standings from and, good Lord, can that be dubbed a failed experiment. Still, I’ll take the teams in the order in which they appear, with East going before West.


1) New England - HOLDING HIGH: The win over Real Salt Lake was borderline unwatchable, but with each returning starter, or each starter returning to health, the Revs will improve just that little bit.

2) Kansas City - A WOBBLING HOLD: I think the Wizards will improve their defense. If it doesn’t - and I say this as an admirer for what he’s trying to do - it’s on Kurt Onalfo for failing to adjust. Could really go either way.

3) Red Bull - DOWN: Unless talk of reinforcements come true, I think these cats’ best days are behind them. Blame this walk through the Valley of Mediocrity on a slow, old midfield. With how tight things are in the East, missing the playoffs could happen.

4) Columbus Crew - HOLD/INCH UP: I think Columbus will not only make the playoffs, but they’ll do so before the final weekend of the season.

5) DC United - UP: Starting to sputter again after that May/June resurrection; a good, solid team, but not a complete one. Still a smart bet for the playoffs, but I can’t see them going deep when things get serious.

6) Chicago Fire - UP: I’m sold on the “attacking triangle” of Blanco, Wanchope, and the Return of Chris Rolfe (in the link, see the second blurb after the main article). Speaking of Blanco, I haven’t heard or seen a bad thing; in fact, I’m reading superlatives.

7) Toronto FC - HOLD: And that’s bad. TFC has enjoyed a proud start to franchise history and I hope like hell they keep it up. But, the playoffs? Not this season.


1) Houston Dynamo - HOLDING HIGH: I’m really hoping against a repeat of last year’s MLS Cup...and I’m a New England fan. But Houston just looks rock-friggin’-solid, so I won't mind if they make it.

2) FC Dallas - HOLDING HIGH: I’m sold. Damn them. I’m sold. In spite of showing continued vulnerability at the back, FCD is better than your average MLS team. And I think they’re going to keep improving at the back - to the extent they become a title threat.

3) Chivas USA - DOWN: Even as they are the fifth best team in the league, something about these guys feels thin. At the same time, I view this as the call I’m most likely to get wrong.

4) Colorado Rapids - DROP: Even with hints of the “thug act” returning - even Mehdi Ballouchy is trying to fit in with the new guys, however badly - this team looks like crap. Retaining head coach Fernando Clavijo is insulting at this point, so much that I’m going with calling them the Colorado Stupids, a name I love for its juvenile tone.

5) Los Angeles Galaxy - UP: Ignore the 14-point gap separating them from Chivas USA and focus on the 12-point gap between them and Columbus. Between their 4-6 games-in-hand camouflage and the gridlock in the East, count LA the team most likely to force an even split between the conferences come playoff time. An implosion is definitely possible, but I wouldn’t count on it....even as I pray for it and Alexi Lalas’ resultant unemployment...

6) Real Salt Lake - HOLDING IN HELL: Climbing the Ladder put it brilliantly in a post about all-time streaks of various kinds: “RSL + futility = BFF.” I read their on the verge of signing a lot of players, but I also think they’re good candidates for worst in league history.

So...when the playoffs roll around, who do I think will make it and where?

Eastern Top Two: New England Revolution, Kansas City Wizards
Western Top Two: Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas

The Rest: Columbus Crew, Chivas USA, DC United...and, to go miles out on a limb, let's say the Los Angeles Galaxy dukes it out with the Chicago Fire for the last spot. And, with Steve Davis' caveat about LA's schedule acknowledged (something about 14 of the remaining 18 on the road, with lots of Thursday/weekend turn-arounds; but is that correct? not based on the schedule on, where I'm counting 11), LA gets more games against the West's, um, "lesser lights." Given that, and with an eye on Chicago's East-heavy schedule, it says here, from way, way out here on the thinnest tip of the loneliest limb, LA makes the playoffs. And they do it by beating the Fire on the final day of the season. Nice.

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