Monday, July 25, 2011

Season's half over... What does the table look like?

With every MLS team now over the halfway mark in the 34-game season I thought it would be good to look at the overall table. Currently, most MLS teams are playing ridiculous friendlies that and the media like to think are more important than MLS Cup, US Open Cup or CONCACAF Champions League. Usually, we see some teams tail off after this point in the season due to fatigue, heat and loss of form and I'm sure one or two teams will do the same this year as well. Match congestion should play a massive part in this season with most teams playing worthless summer friendlies and five of those teams playing Champions League football.

Overall table as of 7/25/2011

1. LA Galaxy 42
2. FC Dallas 39
3. Seattle Sounders FC 38
4. Real Salt Lake 33
5. Philadelphia Union 31
6. Columbus Crew 31
7. Colorado Rapids 31
8. New York Red Bulls 29
9. Chivas USA 26
10. Sporting KC 26
11. Houston Dynamo 24
12. San Jose Earthquakes 24
13. DC United 23
14. Portland Timbers 21
15. New England Revolution 20
16. Chicago Fire 18
17. Toronto FC 18
18. Vancouver Whitecaps 15

Currently, Sporting and Chivas USA sit in the final playoff spots on 26 points and Vancouver looks to be the only team out of the play-off picture. TFC and Chicago will need something special in the second half to reach the post season. The Fire, however, are in the semi-final of the US Open Cup and may focus on that competition. MLS had the initial idea of making more play-off spots to make the league more competitive down to the end of the season. However, as the season wears on I think we'll see the league turn out similarly to the past few seasons. Now with the added bonus of two more undeserving teams having chance to win the MLS Cup.

Sporting KC has been on a 12- match unbeaten run in which they have amassed 22 points. This has gotten them right in the hunt for the play-offs after a disasterous start. However, KC supporters should slow down a little bit. Of the the 12 teams they have played, only five of them are currently in the play-offs as of now; and of those five, Sporting only managed one win while drawing the other four. That win came against FC Dallas, and was an unexpected result at 4-1. Other than that result, KC has played just as well as the other play-off teams around them, but rarely better; and were lucky to escape with draws against the likes of Philadelphia, Chivas, Houston and Colorado. Meanwhile, Sporting's four wins other than at FCD have come against teams currently below 11th place: San Jose, Vancouver, Portland and TFC. Despite being on a roll at the moment, lets see where Sporting KC is at the end of August after they play RSL, Seattle and FCD. Arguably, the other hot teams in the league right now.

The two teams that I feel most sorry for (if you can feel sorry) are LA Galaxy and New York Red Bull, for two different reasons. LA is the best team in the league hands down, but again this team will most likely fall in a one-off play-off match come the autumn. With all the fixtures of MLS, Champions League and ridiculous friendlies that this team has added to it's full schedule I cannot see this team keeping up come play-off time. The Red Bulls on the other hand have spent money and tried so hard to get to the next level. But despite all the spending and tinkering they just aren't as good as they should be. Tim Ream especially has looked vulenrable as of late, and the defense has been extremely shakey. The upside for the Red Bulls is they could enter the play-offs like Colorado and RSL in years past and make a solid run to the cup final.

The more this season goes on the more it looks like seasons past. Teams beat up on each other, a few run away teams and a play-off that gives underachieving teams the chance at a trophy. Yes, it keeps the league interesting. How many people would go out and watch a New England or Chivas game if they weren't in the hunt for the play-offs? It's unfortunate the league believes to make people care they must hold meaningless friendlies and have over half the teams in the league make the play-offs. MLS keeps the soccer mom culture
going in a country that doesn't want it anymore. If the league tried to breed the culture they sell during the meaningless World Football Challenge they would attract the fans they have always targeted. But alas that's another story.

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