Key Items For The Playoff Stretch

Key Items For The Playoff Stretch

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 7, 2007

This was something I had started to write yesterday but got sidetracked into other things around here. With the All-Star game a distant memory now and the heat of August upon us, it is a good time to look at some key factors facing each club going into the stretch run before the playoffs.

As of right now we have really 12 teams vying for eight playoff spots, in other words, Real Salt Lake will be sitting at home come late October and November (like it was no surprise to you that they would be at this point either). Every other club however is in the mix, that does include the LA Galaxy who may only have 14 points at this time but they still have plenty of games in hand as we all know.

Some of these items or factors are single players that need to be stepping up to carry their club and some things here are just general things that need to take place in-order for some of these clubs to make the playoffs.

I will start with the top and work my way to the bottom…

Houston Dynamo – Dwayne De Rosario

Some could say the defense needs to be able to hold up and some could say the offense needs to be able to produce but I think the key factor for the Dynamo is DeRo. He hasn’t produced nearly like he has in the past couple of seasons and probably won’t be an MVP candidate this season but that doesn’t mean his value to this club isn’t at an all time high. I think in-order for the Dynamo to be able to repeat this season, they need DeRo at his best in the final stages of the season. He drives that midfield like no one else does in this league I think and helps the offense produce. With him on his game the Dynamo are (and have been lately) nearly unstoppable. The biggest concern with him is his discipline, too many  yellows over the course of the season is hurting him. He missed out on the Salt Lake game and look what happen.

New England Revolution – Michael Parkhurst

You may think it would be Andy Dorman or Taylor Twellman but it really comes down to Parkhurst and the rest of the Revs’ defense. When Parkhurst is controlling the backline, the Revs are fine but when he isn’t back there things typically go south and the Revs drop points. With a healthy Parkhurst the Revs control their own destiny in the east but without him they may struggle defensively and that doesn’t bode well for their hopes of reaching the MLS Cup for a third straight season.

FC Dallas – Defense, defense, defense

Clearly defense wins championships in any sport. Dallas has to sure up their defense if they dream of reaching the MLS Cup this season. Guys like Clarence Goodson  have to step up to make the Hoops look like a legit MLS Cup contender. Also, once the defense situation is handled then the keeper situation in Dallas will be fine whether it is Dario Sala or the up and coming Ray Burse. Also, an honorable mention goes to the Dallas offense who will be getting Kenny Cooper back in a month or so and Ruiz is slowly getting back to being Ruiz.

Kansas City Wizards – Carlos Marinelli

When Marinelli is on his game, the Wizards are a tough team to break down in the midfield and a tough team to beat. However when he isn’t at his best the Wizards look like a team that won’t be able to catch the best that the rest of the league has to offer. The midfield is the reason why the Wizards have the points that they have this season, its not been all Eddie Johnson like some people think it has been. The midfield has made Eddie Johnson look great this season in my eyes. Marinelli is one of those reasons. Also, when the midfield and Marinelli aren’t on their game, neither is their defense, which ranks near the bottom of the league in goals allowed.

DC United – Winning on the road

They were able to do so against New England and that is a good start but the United have to learn to take care of business away from home. Also getting leaders like Jamie Moreno going would help. At times this club looks like the DC we know and expect and at times they look like a club that will struggle to reach the post season. Four of their next six are on the road. Big time test coming up for the Black-and-Red.

New York Red Bulls – Claudio Reyna

A lot of people think that Reyna has been nothing more than a disappointment so far in a Red Bull uniform. And to a degree I agree with them. For a guy making DP money he should be able to carry a team that had good form to begin the season. Think back to a couple months ago when this club was running on full blast and was beating just about anyone that they played. That seems like seasons go for some Red Bulls fans I bet. Reyna has to be the guy to pull things together if the Red Bulls want a title this season.

Columbus Crew – Scoring, scoring and scoring

Let’s face it the Crew are a mire image of themselves from last season in the offense department. However they have played much better than last season in the defense department and that is mostly why they are sitting in a playoff position right now. Guys like Andy Herron have to step up and become a scoring treat for the Crew to keep up this pace. The defense and the midfield is good enough to get them into the playoffs but the offense needs to pick up some of the load along the way.

Chivas USA – Sacha Kljestan

Let’s face it, the Goats are a team that you can easily forget about right now. And that isn’t a good thing at all. It is mostly because of their midfield, which has never quite revamped itself after the departure of Amado Guevara earlier this season. Kljestan has to step up as a leader in the midfield if the Goats want some respect and want to be seriously in the playoff hunt. The offense is good enough to put them in the position to be there but the midfield has to hold off things and carry them as well. Also, just like DC, this club has to win on the road to be legitimate down the stretch. Winning at home is all good and well but getting the job done on the road makes people fear seeing you. People don’t fear Chivas when they come into town.

Toronto FC – Health

Looking at the Reds right now most of their key players are out due to injury. That won’t be good enough to get them into a position to be in contention for a playoff spot. They aren’t too far away from a spot but with their main group of players out right now, it seems like six points is more like 15 points. Guys need to step up like Carl Robinson, Andy Welsh and Andrea Lombardo until Danny Dichio, Jeff Cunningham and Ronnie O’Brien return.

Chicago Fire – Chris Rolfe

Remember the early days of this season when the Fire were 3-0-1 and were tied at the top of the east after a month’s play? You may recall that Chris Rolfe was the biggest reason for that stretch of play. Since then Rolfe has been out and the Fire have been mostly dreadful since. Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Paulo Wanchope should help ignite the attack until Rolfe returns but if the Fire want a good push into the playoffs they need Rolfe back and playing at 100%. Something we haven’t seen in this season for some time.

LA Galaxy – Depth in the back and on the bench

I know goals will come from Donovan, Gordon and Beckham (when he starts playing) but if the Galaxy even expect being in the playoffs they have to have their defense step up and show their quality. It starts with Abel Xavier, if he anchors the backline then there should be enough depth in the back to help carry this club and make up the group in the standings. The Galaxy also need a push off their bench, I have liked seeing Carlos Pavon off the bench as a scoring treat in the late stages of the game, he has to show by the Galaxy went after him, so far he hasn’t though.

Colorado Rapids – Offense…defense…midfield…

I almost didn’t include the Rapids on this list because I really don’t believe they will make the playoffs anymore this season. But if they do expect a push, seeing how they aren’t too terribly far away from a playoff spot as it is they for one have to have some offensive power step up. Their defense isn’t too terrible these days but the offense and the midfield have to help keep Fernando Clavijo’s job, something that probably just won’t happen.