As week 24 goes into the books, we inch nearer to the playoffs. This year, perhaps for the first time in MLS history, I really think that every playoff match-up will be intriguing. Considering the star power we could see, this is definitely the most excited I've ever been for an MLS postseason.
The days of Adam Cristman missing chances in the MLS Cup final are over. No matter what match-up we get, the final will surely be better than that fudder-dudder from 2010. This is what the phrase "the league is growing" looks like on the field. Thank
Don Garber the soccer gods.
1. LA Galaxy (Last Week: 1)
If you ask me, it'll be a monumental upset if any team other than LA wins the MLS Cup. They are the overwhelming favorites. Keane and Dos Santos are already starting to create the chemistry that Keane and Donovan used to have, which made them the most feared strike pairing in the league two years ago. Gerrard doesn't look nearly as old as Lampard, and has the younger legs of Juninho to hide his age.
The freakish thing about LA is that outside of their aging stars Keane and Gerrard, they have a young nucleus to build around for years to come. Sebastian Lletget is the steal pickup of the year, and is only 22. Gyasi Zardes has become a national team regular and is only 23. Gio is only 26 and is going to be a star. Throw in Bradford Jamieson at 18, who got some experience and made and impression early in the year.
LA is here now, and is here to stay.
2. Sporting Kansas City (Last Week: 3)
Seriously, I know everyone in the world has said it, but how has Benny Feilhaber not gotten a look with the USMNT lately? The dude is really good.
3. New York Red Bulls (Last Week: 6)
4. Vancouver Whitecaps (Last Week: 4)
Sorry 'Caps. SKC just has a knack for late-game comebacks at home.
5. D.C. United (Last Week: 2)
This is a reenactment of D.C. United Head Coach Ben Olsen as he went through the game tape of D.C.'s 3-1 loss at NYCFC.
In other news, I have no idea how Conor Doyle is a professional soccer player. The dude looks like he has stiffer legs than Hank Hill's father.
6. FC Dallas (Last Week: 5)
Did you see that? It was a sellout for an FC Dallas game! Can you believe it?! I'm shocked!
There must have been a 10-gallon hat giveaway or something. There's no way that
Pizza Hut Toyota Park would be sold out just to see the Hoops play.
Quick aside: Pizza Hut Park is just one example of why I hate corporate naming rights on stadiums. No one will ever look back at the hallowed ground of something called StubHub Center or the Home Depot Center, no matter how many championship memories happened there.
7. Portland Timbers (Last Week: 8)
Thank God for Nat Borchers. We were so close to having to update the ineptitude standings again.
8. New England Revolution (Last Week: 13)
Remember when New England looked like the best team in the league? That team is coming back. The Revs are going to make a run right around playoff time.
Also, don't look now but Jermaine Jones is back (again).
9. Houston Dynamo (Last Week: 8)
We still haven't seen Houston's best lineup yet, and I'm not sure Owen Coyle is certain of what Houston's best lineup is. Do you go with three forwards? Do you drop Giles Barnes into the midfield (most likely)? Does Boniek Garcia figure into the mix? Should Coyle stop wearing pajamas on the sidelines and put on a suit like a real man?
10. Columbus Crew SC (Last Week: 10)
11. Toronto FC (Last Week: 9)
I'm really glad that Toronto is in the East because I really want to see Sebastian Giovinco in the playoffs. If Toronto were in the West right now, they would be four points back of the last playoff position. As it stands, however, the Reds are three points above the red line.
12. Montreal Impact (Last Week: 11)
13. Real Salt Lake (Last Week: 12)
RSL has lost three straight.
14. San Jose Earthquakes (Last Week: 16)
San Jose is my least favorite team to watch in the entire league. I hate the Quakes. They've scored more than two goals in a game just twice all season, and every game I watch of theirs goes as follows: Head tennis, scramble for the ball, more head tennis, clearance, crappy goal that came from nothing, hard reckless tackle, and then I fall asleep.
In other news, San Jose games are great background noise for naps.
15. Seattle Sounders (Last Week: 19)
It couldn't last forever, could it? Obafemi Martins made his return sans Oba-flip and Seattle should've put a five spot on Orlando. Nelson Valdes, despite playing for 10 teams in 15 years, had a good debut and looks like a welcome addition to Seattle's attack. Seattle hit the bricks for a little while, but now they look poised to return to the kind of team we always knew they were and make a long awaited run at the MLS Cup.
16. New York City FC (Last Week: 17)
17. Orlando City (Last Week: 14)
How long ago does that five-game unbeaten streak feel?
18. Colorado Rapids (Last Week: 15)
19. Chicago Fire (Last Week: 18)
20. Philadlephia Union (Last Week: 20)
The Chicago-Philly 3-3 draw this week was wildly entertaining, but in the same way that a featherweight boxing match might be entertaining; you know that neither team is a good match-up for a heavyweight, but they are a good match-up for each other.