MLS: The “Penultimate” Weekend and the Short Road Ahead

I got so wired into the whole 30-week season concept that I fully expected two more weeks of Major League Soccer (MLS), but, in reality, next weekend is the end of the line. And Week 28’s results, a parade of the unsurprisingly surprising, left a couple teams twisting in the proverbial wind.

For the record, apart from seeing the two-car pile-up that was Red Bull New York continuing to put the hoodoo on the Kansas City Wizards, I experienced the penultimate weekend’s games at highlight speed. For all the one-eye-on-‘em viewing, results panned out as I expected, by which I mean few of the games ended as they should…hence the phrase “unsurprisingly surprising.” However you slice it, the teams winning now are the ones for whom the playoff bird should have flown…and still they’re there, more revenants given life by the toxic formula that is the MLS playoff format.

Getting back to that Red Bull/KC game, the entire evening quietly screamed for a set-up man, someone to bring the best out of two high-quality forwards. Because neither team has one who neatly fit the bill (Davy Arnaud? eh…), the teams more or less groped for loose balls in the wide band between one another’s penalty areas. The game ended to New York’s advantage due to a positively cursed evening for Jose Burciaga Jr.; he gave the Red Bull’s their first through a generous PK call and gifted them the winner with a pratfall. To the Red Bull’s credit, though, their forward, Juan Pablo Angel, was up to the job: on KC’s side of things, Eddie “EJ” Johnson botched the dubious PK call won by Scott Sealy when he shot hard, but too close to Jon Conway. Game, set, match – and possibly post-season dreams – to Red Bull New York. Kansas City, on the other hand, may wind up in the Inexcusably Absent Club with the Columbus Crew for the third straight season.

Mentioning the Crew provides a nice segue into the rest of the weekend’s action. Columbus finally won, and in some style thanks to the thing of beauty that Guillermo Barros Schelotto launced off his right boot; Eddie Gaven also played the game of his season a few games too late. Perhaps Gaven, along with the Crew as a whole, suffer from what ails Real Salt Lake, the inability to win games when it matters. The other big loser of the weekend was surely Chivas USA, who gave up their first home loss of the season when they gave the Colorado Rapids just their third road win. Apart from being depressing, this is hardly the kind of result to kill off suggestions that Chivas may have peaked too early; along with the team Columbus beat, the New England Revolution, form looks to be going sideways at precisely the wrong time for the clubs formerly known as MLS’s top-tier. Elsewhere, Chicago and DC looked to have played the proverbial Game of Two Halves (yes, caps seem appropriate): Chicago owned the first half, but couldn’t break through; the same snake bit DC in the second. There was one more game, of course, but in keeping with superstitions that hold that which goes unnamed can’t harm you, I’ll stay silent in this space and hope the haunting ends.

Well, that’s the week behind us, condensed as I saw it play out (and I invite visitors to fill in the blanks). My take on the short road ahead – mashed up with some observations on the week behind – comes below. And, as you look over my ramblings, do consider the standings.

Chicago Fire
Did they do enough in DC? Well, it wasn’t so far off from what one would expect, considering the opposition. Only LA remains and, blissfully, it’s a home game. And I think Chicago is a better team, which should combine nicely with home-field advantage to kill the damned, unmentionable zombies skulking just outside the playoff picture (then again, that assumes they won’t get gored this Thursday). Still, a road draw against the league’s best suggests Chicago will be the great playoff threat…assuming they make it (and I am).
Remaining game: LA (10/21)

Chivas USA
It took a loss to a
Colorado team with a chronic case Clavijo-itis to convince me of Chivas’ recent malaise; add the man down (Colorado lost Brandon Prideaux) and it amounted to a neon sign flashing “Ennui.” It will take something close to miracle for them to win the Supporters’ Shield (actually, it will take more); worse, if they’re not backing into the playoffs, they’re sliding down a hill in neutral into them.
Remaining Game: HD (10/20)

Colorado Rapids
For all the bitching I do about LA, I will really, really shit my trousers if the Rapids make it. On their day, they give ammunition to soccer haters.

Remaining Games: RSL (10/20)

Columbus Crew
If I had to put a word to watching Schelotto slip past his teammates to celebrate his winner it would be “sweetbitter.” The Argentine finally looked happy – and that’s paramount to the moment – but,  y’know, damn shame it was wasted. Another tragic season ends for the Crew, but with things looking on the up…though you have to wonder if that means anything. At least they can crap on DC’s Supporters’ Shield parade (actually, they can’t).

Remaining Game: @ DC (10/20)

DC United
The highlights tell me DC stirred mightily toward the end. But DC has slowed generally of late, raising the question is even they have run out of gas. I doubt it – or, more precisely, I like the think someone is entering the post-season on top of their game – but the shine has come off a bit. Whatever happens, they won the Supporters’ Shield, so don’t end the season empty-handed.

Remaining Game: Crew (10/20)

FC Dallas
I tell you what: that home draw against Chivas looked a whole lot better before Sunday. Add to the fact that they showed on-off flashes of danger and Dallas may yet make some post-season noise…oh, wait…no, I just typed that didn’t I? Yep, they’re jinxed. Sorry Dallas fans. The last game of the season, however, is eminently winnable. And lord knows they can use the momentum.
Remaining Game: KC (10/20)

Houston Dynamo
If Houston can sweep their next two, they could very well go into the playoffs looking like the hottest team. The first test comes tomorrow.
Remaining Game: @Real Salt Lake (10/15), @ CUSA (10/20)

Kansas City Wizards
Do they even deserve to be in the playoffs? In a kinder world, perhaps. But the Lord hates sometimes and it’s clear he had something against Burciaga this past Saturday. At the same time, they are a win away from the post-season, silly as that seems. If it weren’t for a certain other match-up, Dallas v. KC would be the game of the closing weekend.
Remaining Game: @ FCD (10/20)

Los Angeles Galaxy
OK, I typed their name….ten Hail Marys, six Our Fathers’, etc. Nothing changed…well, apart from the scare LA survived over the weekend; due note that Toronto scored after losing Marco Reda on a call I’d dub tough, but fair.
Remaining Game(s): RBNY (10/18); @ CF (10/21)

New England Revolution
Am I alone in not believing in these guys? Yeah, yeah, on their day they can beat anyone, blah, blah, blah. But why would assume they would? The TFC road game doesn’t look like confidence-booster it once did.
Remaining Game: @ TFC (10/22)

Red Bull New York
OK, this weekend’s game was a bit fortunate, even if deserved. All that matters now? You can end the season by providing the same service as that dude did from The Exorcist. Just do it; end the evil.
Remaining Game: @ LA (10/18)

Real Salt Lake
I’m torn here. If RSL beats Houston, it’s going to be hard to feel like any teams are hot heading into the playoffs. At the same time, I really, really want them to beat the Rapids, thereby retaining what is left of decency on the domestic soccer scene. So, three points stacked right and RSL stays in my soft spot.
Remaining Game: HD (10/15); @ CR (10/20)

Toronto FC
I don’t care what you do. No offense.
Remaining Game: NE (10/20)

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2 Responses

  1. […] Jeff wrote a fantastic post today on “The âPenultimateâ Weekend and the Short Road Ahead”Here’s ONLY a quick extractI got so wired into the whole 30-week season concept that I fully expected two more weeks of Major League Soccer (MLS), but, in reality, next weekend is the end of the line. And Week 28’s results, a parade of the unsurprisingly … […]

  2. […] The Chris Rolfe Experiment + More – Tolerably pleased as I am with my (repeatedly edited) wrap of Week 28/9, the need for brevity kept me from dwelling on a point or two. Surprisingly, most said dwelling […]

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