MLS: Remaining Schedules and, Yes, Calling the Final

Well, this is swell.  Ian Plenderleith’s Major League Soccer Week 26 review touches on all the points I intended to make, so I’ll just rip off large portions of his work and enjoy the morning cuppa.  Not only did he provide righteous coverage of everything down to the Rico Clark incident (I posted on this earlier, but feel compelled to link to that post again because the comments it received makes Witness Relocation seem like a good call for Carlos Ruiz), but he pointed to a virtuous trend I don’t generally track:

“The season’s average crowd is now at 16,387, almost 1,000 per game more than last season.  It’s not necessarily a significant increase, given the Beckham push, and it doesn’t reflect actual numbers in the stadium, just the number of tickets sold.  Still, it’s a boost up from the stagnating figures of recent seasons.”

Even though average attendance is just one of those things I typically file and forget, there’s something I have noticed this year above any previous year: the crowds aren’t dying this fall as we head into the playoffs.  Assuming I’m not imagining it, this is the most optimistic indicator I’ve come across in the life of the league as it suggests people committing to MLS as fans.  So, yeah, I hope I’m not dreaming this or that it isn’t artificial.

Getting back to day-to-day realities of the league, though, Plenderleith’s handy and dandy framing of the playoff race paints the big picture:

In the playoffs: DC United, Chivas USA, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution.
In line behind them: RB New York, FC Dallas
No longer quite so sure: Kansas City Wizards
Edging their way in, tie by tie: Chicago
Slipping out the picture: Columbus, Colorado
Never saying die: LA
Looking towards 2008: Salt Lake, Toronto

Looks about right to me, though “in line behind them” doesn’t speak to the death-spiral into which FC Dallas is spinning; his framing on the status of Columbus, Colorado, and Chicago, well, that’s pure, bankable gold.

If there’s one thing that irks me about Plenderleith’s column, it’s the fact he beat me to the punch on a bold prediction I had been planning since just before Houston thrashed Dallas, thereby confirming my general expectations:

“As for goals, they were hard to come by in some places, but if you were at DC there were four goal of the week candidates out of the five scored.  Houston fired three at Dallas, reflecting the fact that these two in-form sides are still convincing favorites to compete for the MLS Cup in November’s final.”

To state that directly, it is looking an awful lot like DC v. Houston in the final.  What is it about the teams everyone expected to reach the final actually reaching the final that is such a buzzkill?  I don’t know…maybe I’m just freaked out by any hints there is no such thing as free will.  And you bet I’m trying to jinx it.

OK, with Plenderleith’s column essentially reprinted there’s nothing left to do but look forward – and I’ll down that down below.  Here are the standings for context and here’s the key to decipher everyone’s remaining games:

Chicago Fire: CF
Chivas USA: CUSA
Colorado Rapids: CR
Columbus Crew: Crew
DC United: DCU
FC Dallas: FCD
Houston Dynamo: HD
Kansas City Wizards: KC
Los Angeles Galaxy: LA
New England Revolution: NE
Red Bull New York: RBNY
Real Salt Lake: RSL
Toronto FC: TFC

Right…now, here goes:

Chicago Fire (3 games)
NE (10/6); @ DCU (10/13); LA (10/21)
A Couple Pennies: If I were a Fire fan, all these ties would be making me sick to the point of madness.  The question now isn’t why Chicago has to hate, but whether they can stop.  Sadly, that Revs game has draw written all over it; I wouldn’t be surprised if they rack up three straight ties to end 2007.  The question is whether that will be enough.

Chivas USA (4 games)
@ RSL (10/6); @ FCD (10/11); CR (10/14); HD (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: These guys are falling off the pace.  I can’t say why, but they’re looking snake-bit and having the next two on the road ain’t the cure; I can even see them losing both.  Whatever happens, that final game will be a doozy.

Colorado Rapids (3 games)
TFC (10/7); @CUSA (10/14); RSL (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: To get right to the point, this is a USL-quality side right now, serviceable at best.  They might beat Toronto at home, but only a heap of luck – or spiking the opposition’s Gatorade with “roofies” will rescue the others.

Columbus Crew (3 games)
FCD (10/6); @ NE (10/13); @ DC (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Writing as a Crew sympathizer I can only say, crap, I’m disappointed in these guys; can’t imagine how real Crew fans feel.  On  the other hand, just two points separate these guys from Nirvana and with Chicago collecting ties like blind philatelists grabbing fistfuls of post-marked stamps, the Crew is still in it.  Be the ball, guys.  Be the ball.  Make me a Crew fan, ‘cause I’m sick of New England.

DC United (3 games + Copa Sud.)
@ KC (10/5); CF (10/13); Crew (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: I’ve mentioned this before, but there’s a reason I hate DC.  They were my first MLS team, you see, but they got success too easily and I’m all about paid dues giving meaning to triumph, etc. and these guys don’t know adversity (sorry, three years in the wilderness ain’t enough, not with that trophy cabinet.  Suffer you FUCKERS!!  Then…we’ll get back on speaking terms).  So, I dumped them when I moved to Boston.  Now, I look at the way the play and it’s like seeing an old girlfriend become hyper-accomplished while remaining drop-dead beautiful.  I think the word is bitter.  I want them to flame out, but 1) don’t think for a second they will, and, 2) don’t believe they deserve to, either.

FC Dallas (3 games + US Open Cup final on 10/3)
@ Crew (10/6); CUSA (10/11); KC (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: I didn’t mention this in my bit on the Crew, but I expect the sound of choking to be deafening at Pizza Hut Park this weekend.  If Dallas won, would it even matter?  Will that prevent the first-round flame-out all sentient followers of MLS correctly expect?

Houston Dynamo (3 games)
LA (10/7); @ RSL (10/15); @ CUSA (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: They came back exactly as I thought they would.  Moreover, I fully expect them to run the table and hold on to the top spot in the West.  The inevitable Rico Clark suspension could hurt a bit, though probably not enough.

Kansas City Wizards (3 games)
DC (10/5); @ RBNY (10/13); @ FCD (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: I can’t figure these cats.  I have to think they’re playoff-bound, though that’s only down to the several incapables toiling below them in the standings.  With the suspensions they have, DC will friggin’ slaughter them.

Los Angeles (4 games)
@ HD (10/7); TFC (10/13); RBNY (10/18); @ CF (10/21)
A Couple Pennies: I think talk of LA making the playoffs goes silent this weekend.  They can win two of these games, but I can’t see them getting all four.  I mean, there’s the fact we know they’ll draw Chicago for starters.

New England Revolution (3 games + US Open Cup final of 10/3)
@ CF (10/6); Crew (10/13); @ TFC (10/22)
A Couple Pennies: Is the love dead?  I suppose we’ll know by the end of the night Wednesday; if I cheer for them in the Open Cup, I’ll know whether to explore some kind of counseling.  The disposition of my heart aside, they’ll make the playoffs but it’s really hard pulling for the Revs these days, never mind imagine them lifting the, um, the trophy that counts.

Red Bull New York (3 games)
@ TFC (10/4); KC (10/13); @ LA (10/18)
A Couple Pennies: Can RBNY bone Thursday’s primetime game against TFC?  Oh yeah.  I only know they’re entering the post-season with the enthusiasm and inspiration of a football fan heading to a baby shower on Super Bowl Sunday.

Real Salt Lake (3 games)
CUSA (10/6); HD (10/15); @ CR (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: RSL stands tall as the best of the no-hopers; they’re better right now than most teams in the bottom half of the playoff picture.  Every team they face before hitting the links needs to bring it or they’ll drop points.  Looking farther forward, has Jason Kreis finally built a team for Salt Lake, a team strong enough to shake the annual slow start – a.k.a. the Salt Lake Kiss of Death – or is this just a fourth false dawn?

Toronto FC (4 games)
RBNY (10/4); @ CR (10/7); @ LA (10/13); NE (10/20)
A Couple Pennies: Dead and buried, approaching or past mathematical elimination, Toronto looks too feeble to even play spoiler.  The four teams above should thank their lucky stars for the three points they’ll likely receive.

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4 Responses

  1. Suffering? Did you not pay attention to 2000-2003? Hristo Stoichkov? We payed our dues, we just ran up a bit of credit first.

    Now I think we’re payed through, oh, 2076 or so.

  2. No, no, the line about 4 years in the wilderness acknowledged those years. But, with long-time suffering so widespread in MLS (think, Columbus, Dallas, Red Bull/Metro, New England, Real Salt Lake, Colorado…all those teams, really, that have lifted one or fewer trophies), saying DC fans having paid their dues is like waving around a paper cut in a room full of amputees…double amputees where Columbus is concerned.

  3. You missed the Fire friendly vs. Cruz Azul on October 10th. If you though that Blanco was looking tired before wait for the three games in one week.

  4. […] Challenge: Find Me an MLS Club to Love As noted in my post on everyone’s remaining schedule, my love for the New England Revolution, which once burned strong and true as blue flame, has […]

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