[MLS] Why is Real Salt Lake favored to repeat as MLS champion and what makes San Jose the longest shot? Soccer America's Ridge Mahoney puts the odds on the 2010 championship contenders ...
Each MLS team is ranked by its odds to win MLS Cup, given the teams' performances this season and their grouping in the playoff brackets. If all eight teams had an equal chance, each would be ranked at 7-1 (one chance in eight, 12.5 percent).
1. Real Salt Lake (4-1). RSL set a league mark by conceding only 20 goals and tied the league record for fewest losses (four). It has added depth and a very dangerous goalscorer, Alvaro Saborio, to last year’s championship group, and is also hardened by qualification for the Concacaf Champions’ League quarterfinals. If not worn out from an arduous schedule, RSL should get back to the final.
2. Los Angeles (5-1). The Galaxy blew through the first half of the season so impressively that hysteria erupted when the results cooled off a bit. The 2010 team is younger and faster than the 2009 squad that fell a PK short of the title, and would host RSL if both reach the conference final. Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and David Beckham get most of the headlines yet this has been a very good year for the other Donovan, as in goalkeeper Ricketts.
3. New York (6-1). Yes, it has three DPs, but Juan Pablo Angel is 35 and Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez have yet to start together in four consecutive games, which the postseason demands. The form of Joel Lindpere, Dane Richards, Bouna Coundoul and Carlos Mendes -- and how well rookies Tim Ream and Tony Tchani handle playoff pressure -- may determine the Red Bulls’ fate.
4. FC Dallas (8-1). Losing the final two regular-season games doubled the number of defeats this season to four; still the defense is solid and David Ferreira is one of the league’s best game-breakers. But several starters are still rounding back into form after injury layoffs, an especially important factor in the case of keeper Kevin Hartman.
5. Columbus (8-1). Is backup keeper Andy Gruenebaum ready to lead a team to the title? Can Guillermo Barros Schelotto replicate or approximate his double MVP (regular season and MLS Cup) performance of 2008? The Crew shouldn’t choke again like it did last year in the first round, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
6. Seattle (9-1). The Sounders are hard to beat at Qwest Field and hit the playoffs with Steve Zakuani and Sanna Nyassi in very good form. But unless Fredy Montero – without a goal or assist in his last 14 games (all competitions) – perks up, they could have a tough time ousting LA in the first round. The play of their central pairings – midfielders Nathan Sturgis and Oswaldo Alonso, centerbacks Jeff Parke and Pat Ianni --- will be decisive.
7. Colorado (10-1). None of the darkhorses can be counted out, and the Rapids are potent because of a solid midfield core (Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni) and an array of attacking talents (Omar Cummings, Conor Casey, Macoumba Kandji, Jamie Smith, Brian Mullan). Can their defense measure up?
8. San Jose (12-1). The Quakes are still assimilating Brazilian attackers Geovanni and Eduardo into their system. Opponents can focus on the league’s leading scorer Chris Wondolowski (18 goals), but that doesn’t faze him; he’s netted his team’s last 10 goals, an MLS record. They are certainly good enough to upset the Red Bulls, and if that happens, well, anything is possible.