Heading into the last week of the MLS regular season before the 53 week playoff campaign it’s time to take some stock of how the year has gone.
- Toronto FC met everyone’s expectations and were one of the strongest teams in the league.
- DC United had no chance at making the playoffs but their new stadium didn’t fall apart on opening day.
- The old European strikers who came to the league flopped horribly and embarrassingly because if there is one thing that is true of MLS it is that teams invest in defenders who are good enough to mark them.
- Orlando City finally made the playoffs.
- Columbus is such a terrible market for MLS that it HAD to re-locate the team to Austin and there is no way that the city could also have a team if Cincinnati was getting an expansion side and there’s not an ownership group that would touch the market.
- The SUM/MLS/SSFC conspiracy to keep Michael Bradley in the National Team picture would finally fall apart.
- This is the year young American attackers would take the league by storm...
Well, at least all that made for good content I guess.
Here’s an update on the Americans in MLS for week 33.
A big weekend for an All-American backline
If there is one thing that we learned this MLS season it is that America can develop defensive players. The all-American backline of Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, and Seth Sinovic kept a clean sheet in front of keeper Tim Melia as Sporting KC beat FC Dallas 3-0 to take first place in the Western Conference, or as it’s better known - third place in the MLS table. A win this weekend secures them first place and home field advantage through the conference playoffs for whatever that’s worth.
Coming to a playoff series near you - DC United?
Well the Washington District of Columbia United did it, they rode Wayne Rooney to the playoffs. This is a fairly spectacular accomplishment given that they lost their first 30 or so games of the season. In all seriousness, nobody had given them a chance to make the playoffs and here they are. Not helping was Chris Durkin who watched from the bench after playing midweek for DCU, though he may be back in the line up for the last match or first round playoff game. However, one member of the team that perhaps has been overlooked in the story of Rooney is Bill Hamid who won nine of his 13 starts with the team once he returned from Europe.
The kids have played
Atlanta United seems to be sleepwalking into the playoffs. After a bad loss to the New York Red Bulls and a decent win against the New England Revolution, the Five Stripes needed an own goal and a lucky ball that fell to Franco Escobar to beat the Chicago Fire 2-1. Part of their struggles can be attributed to Andrew Carleton who was starting for the injured Tito Villalba. Carleton played for 67 minutes and managed three shots with one on goal as Atlanta struggled to maintain possession or take advantage of their chances against the Fire.
After mutually parting ways with Caleb Porter it didn’t seem clear how the Portland Timbers would approach this season. It turns out having a manager that could secure a lead past the 75th minute would be a good start. The team kept a lead for 90 minutes against Real Salt Lake with outside backs Jorge Villafana and Zarek Valentin keeping RSL scoreless. For their part the Claret and Cobalt was so ineffective that they couldn’t score on Steve Clark. As things stand now the Timbers would face the Seattle Sounders in a first round playoff marquee matchup for the league that will air mid-week at 11PM Eastern Time.
Not going quietly into that good night
The worst run franchise in MLS won their second game since May over the weekend. Orlando City welcomed future US Men’s National Team manager Gregg Berhalter and the Columbus Crew to town and handed him and future 20 national team cap a year striker Gyasi Zardes a 2-1 loss. The win came thanks in part to Sacha Kljestan helping to fulfill his destiny and actually convert a penalty for once in his career against currently very hyped goalkeeper Zack Steffen in the 96th minute. The win firmly secures Orlando in last place in the Eastern Conference, or as it’s also known 22nd in the overall table.