The MLS playoffs are in full force. It’s down to just 4 teams. San Jose battles Colorado while Los Angeles takes on Dallas. Here’s my take on the MLS Playoffs and some things to watch out for.
Players to Watch: Landon Donovan, Bobby Convey, David Beckham, Conor Casey, Dax McCarty
Landon Donovan-Oh, Landy Cakes, he’s one of the most dangerous players in the league. His large salary is justified since his speed and touch are world class. He’s hinted he’d like to take part in another Everton (EPL) stint. The U.S.’s all time goals and assists leader has one of his most stacked teams ever playing alongside Becks, Buddle, while Arena runs the show from the sideline. His 7 goals, 16 assists, and overall leadership will help propel the Galaxy into the final.
Bobby Convey-The former D.C. United and Reading (England) left side winger is having a bit of a late season resurgence. Maybe he’s got a chip on his shoulder after being all but kicked out of the U.S. national team squad (he’s made 46 appearances for the US)? He was named this year’s MLS comeback player of the year with a career high 10 assists and remains humble about this year’s success with San Jose.
David Beckham-Bend it like Becks. The world icon is back from Milan and seems to be physically healthy (for once). His two assists against Seattle in the quarterfinals were simply brilliant. Look for the Brit to take every free kick, set piece, and corner. Even at his older age, Beck’s presence and experience are invaluable.
Conor Casey-The New Hampshire native who enjoyed 6 quality years playing over in Germany has regained his younger form and has been a potent force for the Colorado Rapids. His twenty caps for the U.S. senior national team and 4 years in the MLS have been filled with ups and downs due to it being harder for a slower striker to really make his presence felt. However, Casey is resilient and recently became the all time leading scorer for the Rapids with 42 goals in just 4 short years there.
Dax McCarty-The Orlando native was recently called up to the US national team and at 23 is one of the up and coming midfielders. After two years playing at UNC-Chapel Hill (one of the top college soccer programs), he was drafted by Dallas and has been playing with them since 2006. The 23yr old has logged a ton of minutes this year and is a vital part of Dallas’ playoff run. It’ll be interesting to see what type of impact he can have against a well organized Galaxy squad.
Coach to Click: Bruce Arena
The New York native and former goalkeeper is one of the top coaches in the country at both the collegiate and professional level. He’s won two MLS titles, a college title, and basically put US soccer on the map with his 8 years and 3 world cup experiences running the show. He understands his new team’s strengths and (for me) is the top coach out of the 4 remaining coaches left in this year’s playoffs.
Predictions for the Conference Games and Final:
(East) San Jose v. Colorado: San Jose (2), Colorado (1)
(West) Los Angeles v. Dallas: Los Angeles (3), Dallas (2)
LA (2) San Jose (1)
Biggest Surprise of the Tournament: Donovan Ricketts
The Jamaica keeper played lights out against Seattle. He’s recorded 80 saves behind the net and his physical presence (6’4, 215, solid) intimidates most opponents. The Jamaican national team player and reigning MLS goalkeeper of the year has second division experience playing for Bradford City in England as well and helped the Galaxy win the Western Conference title last year.
MLS Cup MVP Prediction: Edson Buddle
The 2010 World Cup speedster finished second in the golden boot award with 17 goals. He’s proven deadly in the air as well. He’s playing alongside some incredible talent and will prove to be the difference maker as the Galaxy continues their deep run into the playoffs.
My Two Cents:
After 14 years, 2 failed franchises, and some great champions, the MLS looks to be a decent league. Let’s not compare it to the top leagues in the world yet. We may never see that day because of the unpopularity of soccer in the US, however, there’s still some hope. Next year, the MLS will add a 17th and 18th team with the Portland Timbers and Vancouver White Caps, respectively. Then, in 2012, the Montreal Impact will become the 19th team. The MLS will push to get to 20 teams shortly thereafter. It could be a second team in New York or a franchise in Detroit/St. Louis. Curiously enough, David Beckham has the option to be the franchise owner of the 20th team (as written into his initial MLS contract). Yet, many of his English compadres are calling for him to return to the EPL as soon as possible if he wants to secure a spot for what will surely be his final opportunity to make the England World Cup roster for Brasil in 2014. Another issue for me is the need for the MLS to install a relegation system that’s linked to the second and third division professional leagues. This is what the top soccer countries have and would make the games matter more because players are constantly fighting for their lives. We also need to find a way to raise the salaries of MLS players. Some are paid as little as 30 or 40k a year compared to 9 million for a player like Beckham. Additionally, the league should continue to attract fading stars from overseas like Beckham, Marquez, Henry, etc. The newly relaxed Designated Player rule will help with that. Finally, the US Soccer Federation is helping the cause by training top young talent in their systems and pushing for all players to strive for the professional ranks (think more of the European mentality here instead of the traditional high school to college route) which will make the talent pool better in the years to come. Now, if we could just figure out a way to have the MLS stage its games during the same season as the NFL while still having people watch it.
About the Author
Written by Timothy Ashe Jr.
Tim was born and raised in Downers Grove, IL (a suburb of Chicago). He graduated with a degree in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign and also holds University English Language Excellence certificates. He's fluent in Spanish and teaches both English and Spanish in his spare time. He's a Real Madrid and Chicago Fire aficionado and is partial towards the EPL and LFP. His hope is that the game of soccer can continue to grow in the U.S.A. and for our men's national team to eventually win the World Cup.