Looking ahead: Possible interesting MLS playoff storylines

Photo: Earl Gardner

We’re getting closer and closer to the halfway point of the Major League Soccer season, and there have been a number of great stories thus far. For as excellent as the ascendance of Montreal and Dallas has been, maybe the best thing for a Union fan has been the train wreck that has turned RFK Stadium into a ghost town. Of course, San Jose and Chicago have also been on the ride down the MLS Success Elevator, and are looking to get it back together for a possible playoff run.

But the other day, one thing that came to mind was the potential for some great playoff matches come the end of the season. I know, this type of article could really cause some eye-rolling, and I’ll admit it’s a little premature. Still, the storylines developing in MLS this season have been some of the best in a long time. Cut a guy some slack for imagining what could be.

So here are some interesting potential playoff match-ups that could be on the way come November:

Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls

Yes, DC vs NY had a great feel to it last year, with the snow and all. But if the Impact can keep their old guard healthy, a Thierry Henry vs. Alessandro Nesta matchup would be just the start of it. How would New York’s backline of Jamison Olave and Markus Holgersson handle Marco Di Vaio?

There are some other subtle tactical differences. Felipe is a great technician in the hole, while Tim Cahill bashes and bruises defenses. Dax McCarty works his tail to the bone, while Patrice Bernier has the class to boss the midfield while directing the play from deep.

F.C. Dallas vs. Portland Timbers

In Portland, you have a possession and high-attack kind of team with lots of weapons. Caleb Porter has built one of the most entertaining teams in the league, and a neutral can only hope their form doesn’t drop. And it would probably violate some unwritten law to ignore the spectacle which is the Jeld-Wen Field faithful.

In Dallas, you have a resurgent team that is probably better than the MLS Cup runner-up team in 2010. Getting George John back to pair with Matt Hedges has strengthened a shoddy 2012 defense. They have solid defensive midfielders in Andrew Jacobson and new addition Michel. Their ultra-fast, counterattacking wingers Fabien Castillo and Jackson make teams pay for over-committing on the attack. And Blas Perez is just warming up. This would be a tactical tit-for-tat, numbers forward vs. knife-sharp ripostes.

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders 

The Sounders haven’t climbed there yet, but it would be a real shocker for them to miss out on the playoffs. Seattle has played second fiddle to the Galaxy for awhile now. The Sounders draw the most attendance in the league, and while we’ve had this match-up before, they seem to have even more offensive firepower with Obafemi Martins replacing the disappearing Fredy Montero.

L.A. demolished the Sounders recently, in Robbie Rogers’ first match for the team. Speaking of Rogers, MLS’ first openly gay player in a major playoff series? Will Omar be going to Europe? Will Landon retire?

Will Robbie Keane hurt himself somersaulting like a court jester? This could finally be Seattle’s year to get a leg up – of course, LA could also get that 3rd DP…

New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo

First of all, I’m sick of Houston-Sporting KC. I can’t wait for Houston to return to the West when NYCFC begins. The Houston/SKC matchup is more annoying than the love child of Fran Drescher and Ben Stein. They are two teams that have plenty of talent, coached by the most cynical lunks in MLS who ask their players to dive and play dead. And truthfully, I was ready to put Jay Heaps into that camp in my earlier article which blasted the Revs as the worst team in MLS. Somehow, someway, Mr. Heaps has righted the ship (as opposed to shipping his pants a la Ben Olsen), and a lot of that has to do with transplanted Uruguayan Diego Fagundez. They were already starting to push the envelope, and then they absolutely pillaged Chivas USA to get Juan Agudelo. They could still flame out, but this is the most hope Revs fans have had in years.

As for the potential opponent, you could have KC or Houston in there. They are both quite similar in the way they approach the game. My question would be whether Heaps reverts to defensive, unimaginative football when faced with one of these pseudo-super teams in the East. New England has an excellent defense, plus two advanced attackers in Fagundez and Lee Nguyen who can create chances from open play. I’m ready for an East team to finally solve the Dom Kinnear bunker tactics. The Revs might have the right formula, if their youth doesn’t betray them.

This could all be futile daydreaming. Still it’s worth noting, especially in the case of a team like Montreal which has the solid European talent to match up with the big dogs. And trust me, I didn’t forget what many would consider the ultimate fan matchup – Portland v. Seattle. Getting that would be a primo showcase for the league’s most impressive home displays.

And it may cause some consternation that I have not pushed the Union on this list. Frankly, the Union have not played like a playoff team in recent weeks. They wouldn’t be in 5th place if not for the remarkable start for Jack McInerney. If the rest of the squad can begin to match the form he has shown in the early going, it will be a sight for sore eyes.

I’m just hoping we get one or two of these matchups. Just so long as, if I forgot to say it, there is not another Houston vs. Kansas City.


One Comment

  1. Scottymac says:

    Wait…Ben Stein tapped Fran Drescher?!?!

    I miss everything since canceling that Us Weekly subscription

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