Contenders and Pretenders in the MLS Playoffs

Contenders and Pretenders in the MLS Playoffs

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On October 25, 2010
  • 2 Comments
  • 2010 MLS Cup, 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs

RSL has been jumping over teams all season long. (Getty Images)

So we’re finally here after 30 long weeks of the regular season. The western conference in Major League Soccer has shown its dominance this year over the eastern side with six of the eight teams in the post season.

Now that we’re down to the final eight its time to look at each club to see who can win and who will come up short. I think there is are a couple different groups of teams in the playoffs right now. You have a couple pretender teams that are more Cinderella then anything else; a couple clubs that are in the mix and wouldn’t be a total shocker to see them win it all in Toronto; and finally the teams that are the true contenders of the Cup.

I’ll give you reasons for an against each one as we go as well.

The Cinderellas of the bunch

San Jose Earthquakes

Why they’ll win it: One man, Chris Wondolowski. The Golden Boot winner of 2010 is the biggest reason why they’ll win it all in 2010. No one could have seen this coming out of him at the start of this year but 18 goals later (yes I said 18 goals!) and here the Quakes are in the playoffs again for the first time since rejoining the league. A first round date with New York is in their way but honestly I love the match-up for them against New York, a team they’ve had success in the past against.

Why they’ll come up short: Way too many issues on defense still and the injury bug continues to hurt them. For the most part this is still an above-average club with guys playing slightly above their abilities here. As we saw this past weekend in Kansas City they’re a team that can be beaten pretty handily when they don’t take care of the ball. I have to think the 4-1 loss in KC had to have killed any solid momentum that they had going into the post season.

Colorado Rapids

Why they’ll win it: Their offense is still very tough to handle. They have the best strike duo in the league with Omar Cummings and Conor Casey and their midfield can be strong as well when they possess the ball enough to create chances. In the back, their defense has been pretty solid all season long too. Gary Smith’s team has to remain consistent throughout the series with the Crew too. When the Rapids have been consistent the most this year they’ve seen plenty of success, especially at home.

Why they’ll come up short: Their inconsistency in play will haunt them. As we’ve seen time and time again they’ll go strong for 80 minutes but give it all away late in games. They have to be wrong for 90 minutes plus against the Crew. Opening with Columbus should be a challenge too. They beat the Crew early in the year at home but struggled in their lone meeting at Crew Stadium in a 3-1 loss. Smith’s club has to rely on the few players that have been in the post season or in big game situations. For the most part this club has little to no playoff experience outside of Paulo Mastroeni and Brian Mullan.

More In the Mix

Columbus Crew

Why they’ll win it: They’ve been there and know how to get there. They’re still one of the better clubs in the league and were able to actually find some momentum going into the playoffs as well with a 3-1 win over Philadelphia. As long as Guillermo Barros Schelotto remains solid enough for the playoffs and creates enough chances the club shouldn’t have too many issues going through a much easier eastern conference bracket.

Why they’ll come up short: The last two and a half months the Crew haven’t been themselves. The schedule wasn’t kind to them with the extra games in the Champions League and in the US Open Cup. Sure they looked good against Philadelphia at home yesterday but they also lost Will Hesmer for the playoffs, a big loss in goal.

Seattle Sounders FC

Why they’ll win it: Hard to argue against what Seattle has done for the last couple months in league play. Aside from Saturday’s loss in Houston, they’ve been pretty much the hottest team going into the playoffs. Offensively speaking they still have one of the most dangerous attacks with Fredy Montero, Steve Zakuani and Blaise Nkufo. Throw in the Qwest Field factor for any home games and you can bet Seattle will be in it.

Why they’ll come up short: A first round series with LA isn’t going to be kind on them. During the season they lost to LA twice including a 4-0 beating at their home field. Their defense is still a bit of an issue with them as they are using third and forth choices in the back to fill in for injured players. Remember they’ve given up the most goals of any playoff team and LA certainly knows how to score them.

FC Dallas

Why they’ll win it: That 19-game unbeaten run wasn’t just built on them drawing a bunch of games, they also won a pretty important game against Real Salt Lake in there too. They can score at just about any time in the game and are certainly the hardest team to put away late. Dallas may have a bunch of draws but a good chunk of them came due to some last minute goal scoring. Defensively the Red Stripes are one of the most improved in the league and as long as Kevin Hartman returns they should be fine.

Why they’ll come up short: Those two losses down the stretch to close out the year really took the fire out of this bunch. In a way they shouldn’t have lost to LA yesterday but that’s another story. We saw some defensive issues spring up in those two games which has to be a cause for concern. If Hartman isn’t able to go and Daniel Hernandez isn’t fully healthy the club could struggle. Also, if David Ferreira doesn’t show back up for the club they will struggle offensively.

New York Red Bulls

Why they’ll win it: The culture of this club has turned into a winning on this season with Hans Backe. Let’s not forget the big games that both Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez have been in over the years. Their experience will be so valuable for the club in the post season. Their midfield should continue to be strong with Joel Lindpere and Toni Tchani too. They have an attitude about them that just wants to win this season, something few others around the league have right now.

Why they’ll come up short: I still don’t believe this is their year. Marquez and Henry aren’t staying healthy which causes issues with their consistency. I think the first round series with the Earthquakes will be tough as well with them having to travel across the country (yes I know both teams have to do it). San Jose will give them fits if they get too complacent and expect to just win. If they stumble big on the road it could put too much pressure on them to get a result at home.

Contenders

LA Galaxy

Why they’ll win it: They still have more difference-makers than any other club in the post season. Landon Donovan wants to win. David Beckham also wants it bad. Let’s not forget Edson Buddle who just missed out on winning the Golden Boot this year (those World Cup games probably kept him from getting it). This right mix of veterans and young players has been getting the job done all season long and knows how to win in any environment.

Why they’ll come up short:  They’ve been very inconsistent down the stretch. Put them against a team with speed and they’ll struggle too. Oh and Seattle certainly has one of those speedy attacks that I just mentioned too. If the Sounders follow the blue print that we’ve seen Colorado and others use this season on the Galaxy then it will be a short post season run for the Supporter’s Shield winners.

Real Salt Lake

Why they’ll win it: Have you seen the way RSL plays at home? Hell, have you just seen how they play anywhere period since about the middle of May? Exactly. RSL is truly the biggest contender in this playoffs and looks very good to repeat as champion too. Their defense is sound, their midfield is lead by an MVP candidate and their offense just knows how to score. Oh and speaking of that sound defense, they’ve just past the all-time mark for a single season in the goals given up department with 20. Yes they gave up 20 goals all season long. That is simply ridiculous.

Why they’ll come up short: The opening series with Dallas does present some issues as the Red Stripes were one of the last teams to beat RSL. But finding weaknesses in this team is like finding Waldo. They’re there but good luck finding them right away. I’d say if you can pressure Jamison Olave into foul trouble with some yellow cards you could set yourself up nicely around their penalty zone. Still that is easier said than done.

  • ViperLAG

    Attended the Galaxy vs FC Dallas match yesterday (Galaxy season ticket holder). Another tough match to sit through, and not because of the play of the two teams. The Galaxy was barely able to eek out a win with their dreadful play in the midfield and poor passing, but most importantly, another pitiful display of officiating by the ever so despicable USSF soccer officials. Someone needs to slap Dan Flynn and wake his ass up in regards to the officiating that goes on in MLS. I wish Garber would just say enough is enough and employ their own officials, because obviously USSF doesn’t care who they throw out to officiate matches. Most, if not all, can barely keep up with the “high paced” action of MLS (note my sarcasm – MLS is one of the slowest in terms of ball pacing than any other league in the world). To ask them to know or even understand the rules of soccer, is something else. It is taking every ounce of my being to keep my ass in the seat, rather than jumping over the wall and doing the officiating myself. Let alone, remaining a loyal fan of MLS. The officiating is ruining the integrity of the game. Its time for a movement of some sort and not one that involves Flynn / Gulati’s bowels. I just hope, they can get it together for the playoffs and not being a deciding factor of the outcome of any of the matches. But sadly, I am sure it will.

  • NYRB

    Awesome MLS Playoffs Article here guys
    http://garbagetimesports.squarespace.com/mls/