Tuesday Lunch: MLS Playoff Picture

Posted: July 19, 2011 in mls, professional sports, soccer, sports
Tags: , , , , , , ,

By Evan Ream

At the end of Week 18 in MLS, every team (except Real Salt Lake) has played at least half of their games. For a great look at the standings, check out the always amazing Setting the Table. But I’m not here to give you the standings; I’m here to talk about who I think will be in those coveted ten slots that will qualify for the postseason when the regular season is finished.

Before I talk about the teams that I think will make it, I want to eliminate two teams from consideration: Vancouver and New England. Vancouver just signed their second Designated Player, but even think he will take time to acclimate to the league. With the roster Vancouver put out every week, their team was always going to be more than a one-year project. They don’t have enough quality or depth to compete right now. Sitting at just 14 points from 20 games, things don’t look so bright.

New England has just two more points than Vancouver has and has played 19 games, but they have picked up just 3 points in their last five matches and are trending the wrong way. New England’s entire organization is a mess right now, on and off the field. On the field, they can’t find a goalscorer or a consistent defense. Even with the strong midfield duo of Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph, they aren’t getting things done. New England has scored just 16 goals this season, the fewest in MLS. They also sport the second worst goal differential in MLS at -11. For these two clubs, it would be wise to focus on next year.

Now, for the teams that have a chance at making it, I will split them into four groups and rank them in their group as the most likely to make it.

Locks: LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC, FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union, Real Salt Lake

These five teams are the only teams at or above 30 points. Last year, the cutoff for the playoffs was 46 points, so these teams would seemingly have to average just about a point per game to be guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Just to give you an idea of how easy this is, 14 of the 18 teams in MLS are averaging at least a point per game right now.

There isn’t really much more to say about this group; any MLS fan should be able to see why these teams are all locks.

On the Cusp: New York Red Bulls, Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids

New York: They may be the most talented team in the league, but their results haven’t shown it. They have scored 34 goals, good for first in the league, but also lead the league in draws with 11. A lot of their dropped results have been due to inconsistent goalkeeping, but that looks to have changed with the addition of Frank Rost. New York still loses to teams it shouldn’t but with the amount of talent they have, they shouldn’t be kept out of the playoffs.

Columbus: This team has been one of the surprising teams this year. They started out the season with a 1-3 loss at DC United and many thought that results like that would continue over the year, but somehow they have turned it around. The Crew haven’t scored many goals, but they have gotten timely finishes from Andres Mendoza and have played solid defense, letting in just 19 goals this year. What is really promising about this team is their young midfield nucleus. The Crew recently added potential star Tony Tchani to the already quality midfield of Eddie Gaven, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers and Dilly Duka. This team won’t be exciting, but they should be able to grind out enough results to make the playoffs.

Colorado: They haven’t been in impressive form this year, but the Rapids are always dangerous with Omar Cummings and Conor Casey up top, and have already accrued 27 points. I don’t really think this team has a chance at repeating, but they should sneak into the playoffs unless Conor Casey misses too many games.

Rounding out the 10: DC United, Sporting KC and…Toronto FC?

DC: Right now DC is a middle of the table team that has struggled for consistent results and hasn’t won two games in a row since 2009. They have 23 points and are smack dab in the middle of a giant pile of teams that are seemingly equal… only DC isn’t. Since the Dwayne De Rosario trade, DC has played the third and sixth place teams on the road and the fourth place team at home and gotten 5 points of a possible 9. They showed what they can do against the league’s best, but now it will be time for them to show what they can do against the league’s worst. DC’s next eight games are against opponents with losing records, including home games against New England, Toronto and Vancouver. DC should be able to get 14-16 points from these eight games, which would then require them to only get about 8-10 points out of their last tem games to qualify for the postseason. Of note: DC has also shut out two consecutive opponents who have ranked first and fourth in goals scored.

Sporting KC: Sporting is also a mid-level team right now with just 23 points from 19 games, but of those 19 games just 5 of them have been at home, meaning they have 13 home games left and only 4 away games left. Sporting has gotten 9 points from their last 5 games and are definitely trending upwards. All that is left for them to do is get the results they should get at home and they will be in.

Toronto FC: This should be the real head-scratcher for anyone reading this. Toronto have 18 points from 21 games and boast a league-worst -19 goal differential. They have just overhauled almost their entire roster midseason, and I have absolutely no idea what their starting lineup will look like. Still, I want to give Aron Winter the benefit of the doubt and see what he can do with his two recent Designated Player signings: Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings. If these players live up to the hype, and Andy Iro helps shore up the defense, Toronto could be in for a second half surge of the season. Surprisingly they are only 5 points out of a playoff position right now and I’m betting on these European veterans being able to make up the difference.Two-new-signings-in-Toronto-FC,-Dutchman-Danny-Koevermans-and-German-Torsten-Frings-MLS-News-796

Better luck next year: Houston Dynamo, Chivas USA, San Jose Earthquakes, Portland Timbers, Chicago Fire

Quickly: Houston doesn’t have enough quality players; Chivas doesn’t have a goal scorer; San Jose has too many average players; Portland can’t defend or score from the forward position; and Chicago has pretty much all of those problems.

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