With Real Salt Lake’s loss in Houston last night, the tea leaves in the Western Conference have settled slightly differently at the bottom of the tea cup.
Seattle Sounders now look a very good bet for second place. Hunting down a nine point gap on San Jose is not impossible but the Quakes show little signs of embarking on the losing run that such an outcome would require.
If Seattle do catch San Jose, first place would bring them the winners of the 4th v 5th play-in, which would be a Galaxy v Whitecaps match up on current positions.
Sounders still trail Real Salt Lake in second place by two points. However they have three games in hand and RSL seem to be “pining for the fjords” judging by a recent run of one win in the last six league games.
Should Sounders and RSL finish second and third, they will meet once again in the first round of the play-offs with the higher finisher having home advantage in the second leg.
Should RSL continue to slide, then a second scenario in which Sounders meet LA Galaxy unfolds. Bruce Arena’s MLS Champions might finish third and Sounders would find themselves with the same play-off opponents as in 2010.
In the least likely scenario, Vancouver are now less likely to finish third after four straight losses but it is still possible if the next six weeks is a mirror reversal of the last six weeks in both Vancouver and Los Angeles.
Those are the possibilities, but what opponents should Sounders fans want?
We have been running a poll in the sidebar for a week or two without addressing the issue. This is your chance to vote if you haven’t already. You can actually vote for ONE team you would prefer, or TWO teams if you definitely don’t want the third.
For example, if you want to avoid the Galaxy but don’t care otherwise, you can vote for the other two.
Below the poll is a table summarising some Pros and Cons of each opponent placed after the poll so as not to influence your vote. (Unless you want it to or fancy picking an argument)[poll id=”32″]
There are arguments for and against each:
|They have never beaten Sounders in MLS. Their current form suggests they are struggling to adjust to some influential arrivals and departures. They have no experience in MLS play-offs. Easy travel for away fans.||Player for player, they may still be the best of the sides. Sounders have not played them at anything close to full strength and they are still partly an unknown due to new players.|
Real Salt Lake
|Their form is fading. They are prone to losses of discipline when their game plan is thrown awry. Revenge for last year.||They are very experienced in winning play-offs. They have a good record in Seattle. They tend to beat Sounders when they need to. Two matches between these sides will soften the winner up for their next opponents.|
|Sounders thumped them. Twice. With and without their stars. Their players dislike the CenturyLink surface. They allow themselves to be bullied out of a match more than RSL.||They are very experienced in winning play-offs. They are MLS Champions for a reason. In Keane and Donovan, they have quality up front better than the class Seattle has at the back. They are a big occasion club who know how to navigate the turbulent waters of the play-offs.|