[MLS SPOTLIGHT] In theory, any of the 18 MLS teams can qualify for a playoff spot; in reality, even with one-half of the season to be played, more than a few teams don’t seem to have the horses to get there.
The prospects can certainly be jumbled by significant additions in the next few months, and for some teams – D.C. United, Chivas USA, Toronto FC, Vancouver, Chicago – coaching changes in the past year have yet to take full effect. A slew of bad-weather games and/or matches marred by red cards muddies the picture still further, but with the midway point of the season approaching, here’s a rundown of who’s looking good, and who isn’t ...
NO DOUBT:FC Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Real Salt Lake, Seattle.
The glamorous Galaxy will hit a bumpy spot later this summer when Concacaf play commences, but the star-studded Red Bulls are not involved. Seattle and FC Dallas are also Concacaf-bound, yet only their final placing amid the qualifiers is in question. The tough defense deployed by RSL could set a league mark, and unless Philly’s own resilience unravels, Union fans will pour into PPL Park for playoff pleasure. FCD needed little time, all things considered, to ride out the long-term injury to David Ferreira in the wake of a significant offseason shuffle.
Defending champion Colorado and the two teams they beat in the playoffs en route to winning MLS Cup have been hit-or-miss for the past three months, but the Crew looks stronger than either the Rapids or the Quakes. Columbus, in the weaker Eastern Conference, should be able to at least finish third and grab a guaranteed slot, but its 1-3-3 away record is a concern. It fattened up its home mark (5-1-3) by stuffing Colorado, 4-1, on Sunday.
MAYBE: Colorado and San Jose.
They are currently fifth and sixth, respectively, in the Western Conference, which is where they finished last year as the last two playoff qualifiers. Injuries have hit them hard and the Rapids have the added burden of Concacaf competition.
DARKHORSE: Sporting Kansas City.
With 14 home games remaining, Designated Player Omar Bravoback in form, and the defense taking shape, SKC is right in the hunt.
NOT LOOKING GOOD:Chicago, Chivas USA, D.C. United, Houston, New England, Portland.
The Fire can’t win, Chivas USA can’t sustain momentum, United can’t defend, the Revs can’t score, and the Dynamo and Timbers can’t travel.
NO CHANCE:Toronto FC, Vancouver.
Nothing against Canadian teams, per se, but the Whitecaps have fallen too far off the pace and TFC has too many stiffs. (By coincidence, they play on Wednesday: should be riveting stuff. When will Juergen Klinsmann take over as TFC head coach?)