Posts Tagged ‘Toronto FC’

MLS Predictions: Come October, We’ll See How Badly I’ve Done

March 15, 2011

While everybody’s filling out NCAA Tournament brackets (having worked in college athletics, I can’t bring myself to follow NCAA Division I men’s basketball anymore — doing so makes me feel dirty. Women’s college basketball and Division II and III men’s are another story, since they don’t have the same reek of exploitation), here’s my prediction for how the 2011 Major League Soccer standings will look by season’s end.

The Major League Soccer logo.I’ve decided to list it in a single-table format rather than breaking it down by conference. The top ten will most likely be the playoff teams, unless the Eastern Conference turns out to suck vis-á-vis the West even worse than anybody thinks right now. I won’t guess point totals, other than to say I think things will be very, very tight, especially from fifth to fifteenth place. There will be a lot of teams that will miss the postseason by just a couple of points.

  1. Los Angeles Galaxy
  2. FC Dallas
  3. New York Red Bulls
  4. Real Salt Lake
  5. Seattle Sounders FC
  6. Colorado Rapids
  7. Columbus Crew
  8. San Jose Earthquakes
  9. Sporting Kansas City SC
  10. Philadelphia Union
  11. D.C. United
  12. Chicago Fire
  13. Portland Timbers
  14. CD Chivas USA
  15. Toronto FC
  16. Houston Dynamo
  17. Vancouver Whitecaps FC
  18. New England Revolution
The Hindenburg crashes and burns.

Revs supporters, this is what you can look forward to — provided everything goes well.

One of the things that makes MLS predictions tough is that, as a whole, the league tends to improve quite a bit with each passing year. One team looks to be much improved, but you don’t know whether that’s enough compared to everyone else to make all that much of a difference. This is why I’ll end up saying Chicago and Chivas, for example, will be better than last year, but I still have them winding up 12th and 14th, respectively.

My ordering of teams from about #6 to #15 is basically a crapshoot. Clearly, I think Portland will be the better of the two expansion teams this year. Vancouver seems to be setting itself up to be a heck of a team in a couple of years, but this year will likely be necessary collateral damage from their long term plans. The only other two I see being truly bad are Houston and New England. Frankly, New England will have a season on par with D.C. United’s disaster last year or the Pink Cows’ epic 2009 adventure through the bowels of the standings.

Smashed can of Red Bull.

I'd say they have a shot at the Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup if it weren't for the fact the universe hates them even more than Philly fans do.

Conversely, L.A., Dallas and New York will be the big three this year, with Seattle and Salt Lake knocking on their door. The way things stand right now, the Galaxy have to be the favorites (as much as I hate to say it) with Dallas (as much as I hate to say it) and the Soft Drink Commercials (as much as I hate to say it) giving them a run for their money. Meanwhile, RSL and Seattle will be looking to crack that top tier (and could very well do it, but so far I’m viewing the first three mentioned as the safer picks). So, yes, I’m picking the three teams I despise the most to finish one-two-three.

I wasn’t sure where exactly to put Colorado, as they tend to be a very hot-and-cold team, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt from being the reigning MLS Cup champions and put them sixth. If they do finish that high, it’ll probably be in part because they totally ignore the CONCACAF Champions League and crash out of the group stage in totally embarrassing fashion to MLS (I clearly don’t think the Rapids’ MLS Cup win in 2010 is the same as RSL’s surprise win in 2009: a harbinger of the rise of one of the league’s — and the continent’s — great teams).

I’m going a little out on a limb by thinking Columbus has reloaded in the off-season more than begun a rebuilding process. I saw San Jose play at Philadelphia last year, and they frankly impressed the heck out of me. The ‘Quakes are a very well-coached, well-disciplined team that plays very well together and doesn’t seem to need a lot of big star power. I was tempted to flip-flop their place with that of Colorado; if there’s a “sleeper pick” for 2011, it’s probably San Jose. KC always seems to be on the edge of being a fairly good team, and it’s a total guess of mine in putting them ninth.

D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and Chivas will all be significantly improved over last year, but whether or not that’s good enough to get playoff spots is anybody’s guess. I will say I wouldn’t be surprised if a few or even all of them manage to crack the top ten by season’s end. I went with Philly at the top of that group, not out of personal bias, but rather out of the fact that when you look at the numbers from last year, they probably would have been a strong contender for a playoff spot if only they’d had a decent goalie. As long as Faryd Mondragón stays healthy, that problem’s been solved. If they’d had a decent goalie and held the red card/defensive brain farts to a minimum, they probably would have been in the playoffs as an expansion team last year. A year of experience for this young team and a few more acquisitions look like they’ll help there, too.

Toronto, which has spent every previous off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again, will see more of the same this year as it once again spent the off-season retooling its staff and roster to the extent that it’s like getting an expansion team all over again. At least this Toronto might-as-well-be-an-expansion team will be a little better than some of the others they’ve had, but it won’t make a difference against an equally improved league.

Advertisements

Independence + Union = 1970s Oakland Raiders?

April 21, 2010

A “criminal element.” That was Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Chuck Noll’s description of the Oakland Raiders’ defense in 1977.

After seeing last week’s games on TV, it’s my belief that maybe, just maybe, Philadelphia’s two professional soccer expansion teams, the Union and the Independence, are supposed to be the respective MLS and WPS equivalents of the Raiders teams of yore.

The Union of Major League Soccer have been getting into card trouble from the very beginning; we all know that. From piling up three ejections in a preseason game against FC Dallas, to the season opener at Seattle where it took the team less than 40 seconds to get its first regular-season yellow card and less than a half of play to get its first red, it became very obvious very quickly that this would be a rather physical team, to say the least.

Still, I don’t think anybody would have predicted that defender and team captain Danny Califf would deliver an on-the-run clothesline to Dwayne De Rosario to get a red card in the first half against a sad-sack Toronto FC side Thursday night, thereby helping to blow a game the Union really should have won. You can see it close up in the video below at around the one minute mark.

Upon watching the replay, Califf said, “After seeing it, I would have thrown myself out.” The thing that Califf was lacking on that play was the wiliness of Philadelphia Independence defender Heather Mitts.

I admit that, at first glance, the roster for the Independence of Women’s Professional Soccer did not scream, “goon squad.” Sure, one of the team’s defensive starters didn’t get to play in their opening game because she had to serve out a suspension from getting red carded in the WPS title match the previous season. Sure, they’ve also got a player who’s nicknamed “The Beast.” Sure, in their opener against Atlanta, the Indies racked up a lot more fouls than the visitors, but it didn’t seem like an overly physical game. Then they went to Boston on Sunday.

It took just six minutes or so into the game for Mitts to outdo Califf, as she managed to get former Breakers teammate Kristine Lilly in a brief headlock, spin her around, and pull her down, all in one quick motion, and all in the box. And here’s the best part: while the referee immediately called a penalty kick for Lilly, the call was reversed right away. Turns out Lilly was offside just before the Mitts mugging occurred. The result? Philadelphia got the ball, and Mitts got away with the whole thing. That’s how you play defense, kids.

Take a look at the foul that somehow didn’t end up as one in the beginning of the video below, and “recognize awesome” (although probably not in quite the same manner the WPS marketing folks hoped you would):

At around 4:15 in the same video, you can see another Independence player, Jen Buczkowski (who happens, like Califf, to be a team captain), flatten a Boston player for her second yellow card in the game, resulting in an automatic red card and ejection. The difference between Califf’s red and Buczkowski’s is that latter occurred so late in the game that it didn’t have a chance to make an impact on the final score, which was a 1-1 tie. Once again, the Independence seem to indulge their violent impulses more intelligently.

It’s probably fitting that the Philadelphia teams are playing in such an aggressive, and perhaps overly-aggressive, style. After all, if there’s anything sports fans have historically loved around here, it’s goons and teams that are basically a collection of oddballs and psychos. Plus, one of the things MLS and WPS have been lacking is a team in a villain role, one that everyone — except its borderline sociopathic followers — loves to hate.

Every great pro sport needs a Snidley Whiplash, and Califf and Mitts came close to at least supplying the whiplash part. American soccer fans, it appears your old-school Oakland Raiders are here at last.

Update: The apparent essence of Philadelphia soccer has been distilled into a single image. The Independence front office actually just posted the photo below on the club’s Facebook page with the caption, “Okay, we can admit it…we may have gotten a liiittle lucky with the offsides call on Sunday.”

Heather Mitts gets Kristine Lilly in a choke hold.

From the Philadelphia Independence Facebook page.

At Least We’re Not Dorks

April 16, 2010

So Toronto FC’s fans finally got to see their team get its first win of the season last night, at the expense of the again man-down Philadelphia Union. At least we can say that we’re not this collectively dorky:

"Win You Must," Say's Toronto's Yoda.

From Yahoo Sports.


%d bloggers like this: