Contenders, Pretenders Game: 2011 Edition

Contenders, Pretenders Game: 2011 Edition

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 27, 2011
  • 0 Comments
  • 2011 MLS Season, Pretenders

Seattle and RSL could be battling it out for a Supporter's Shield this season. (Getty Images)

Aside from a handfull of teams, we are at the halfway point in the Major League Soccer season. Most teams have played 17 games or more at this point so we should have a very solid understanding as to who is contending and who is just flat out pretending.

In theory everyone is still in contention. But halfway through the season some teams have put themselves in a bigger hole than others have while the race at the top is getting really interesting. Red cards, injuries and coaching changes have all affected this standings this season but so far things are playing out just as we expected them to with the Western Conference dominating the Eastern side in points and on the field.

For now I see the teams grouped into five sections.

Supporter’s Shield Contenders

Teams: Los Angeles Galaxy, FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake

Notes: Three of the four have played more games than RSL but you have to credit LA and now Dallas and Seattle for making the most of their games here as of late. All but RSL are past the 30 point barrier for the season and RSL isn’t too far out on that either. What will be interesting to see is if RSL can catch up in the standings with the four games in hand over the Galaxy and the Sounders (they only have two games in hand over Dallas). It will be important to see them use those games wisely as one of these four will be left out of an automatic playoff spot later this season.

Contending but at times pretending (still safe to make playoffs)

Teams: Philadelphia Union, New York Red Bulls, and Colorado Rapids

Notes: This group will go either way. On one hand you could easily see Philadelphia or New York slide up into the top contender portion of things but there are plenty of times when they don’t look like they’ll be competing for the Supporter’s Shield (notice how I didn’t say MLS Cup, I still think each are still good candidates to make a deep run).

There is little doubt in my mind that both New York and Philadelphia will make the playoffs here this season. Even though the Rapids have looked bad at times this season they’ve also stuck around in the top half of the standings for the majority of this season. They’ll be in the playoffs but I don’t see a repeat right now based on the lack of depth and the pending CCL games they have to deal with later in the season.

Darkhorses

Teams: Sporting Kansas City and Columbus Crew

Notes: Being in the weaker Eastern Conference I see these two battling it out for the final automatic bid out of that conference. It helps them both that their conference is so much weaker this season as if were last year neither would be seeing the playoffs this season unless they went on an unbelievable run to finish the year in the top of their conference.

Columbus is here because of their defense and with the evidence of their offense starting to show up. KC is here due to the amount of home games they have left on the slate. They are starting to dig themselves out the early hole they put themselves in with their 10-game road trip. As long as Omar Bravo continues to stay healthy and their defense doesn’t get too leaky, this could be a very tough team to deal with late in the season.

Outside looking in

Teams: San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, D.C. United, Chivas USA, Portland Timbers and Chicago Fire

Notes: A big group that could easily change before long. San Jose is still a club that could very well sneak back up into the “contending but pretending” role here. They’re good enough when they want to be but are just getting sucked down the pipe in the Western Conference at the moment. Same goes for Chivas and Portland, both could contend when they want to but seeing how deep the West is here, they are finding it harder and harder to get points when they need them most.

As for the three Eastern teams in this list. Houston could make a run if their offense and defense come together. D.C. has a similar problem though its more residing in their defense. Then you have Chicago who isn’t winning or losing here. Fact remains you can’t tie your way into the playoffs. At least not anymore you can’t.

Better luck next year

Clubs: New England Revolution, Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC

Notes: New England baffles me to death. They could be so much better than they are here but fact remains their defense is crap. Same goes for the Canadian sides listed here as well. At least for Vancouver and Toronto, they’ll have a Canadian expansion brother to pick on next year. Gotta hang your hat on something here I suppose.

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