Gary Smith: It Hurts but I Predict My Old Enemy RSL to Finish Top
THE PLAY OFF PICTURE.
The business end of the season is upon all the teams, and in many cases less than 10 games to play, any mistakes, suspensions and injuries will be felt twice as hard in these tense and tight closing games. The 6 pointers will come thick and fast as teams scramble for not only the post season berth’s but for the Supporters Shield as well and this season looks to be very tough to call on both those counts.
First my prediction in the West and with all due respect to Dan Kennedy’s morning comments, everyone except Chivas is in the mix. It’s going to be and incredible run for the line and MLS has done well creating a schedule which ends the season with such games.
My top five look like this, RSL finish top and what a fantastic season as well. My old enemy have had to make big changes in the off season and lost three very influential players in Jamison Olave, Fabian Espindola and Will Johnson. This cannot have been an easy transition, but Jason Kreis has been very shrewd in adding the likes of Lovell Palmer, Abdoullie Mansally, Brandon Mcdonald and Joao Plata, players that have MLS experience and have made the transition to their new team and surroundings quickly.
This is something Jason seems to do better than almost anyone; quickly integrate newcomers into his system and his club culture.
Second in the West, I place LA Galaxy. The Godfather of MLS soccer, Bruce Arena, will find the formula as he has done on so many occasions before and lead his Galaxay team in to the play offs in good form.
There were certainly signs earlier in the season that the team would struggle to fill the void of David Beckham, not only on the field but with his knowledge and presence in the locker room and with Landon still to decide his future it was a tricky first half of the season. That future has been decided now.
However goals are precious this time of year and who better than Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan to be spearheading your attack toward the post season.
That Robbie Keane admirably took little pride in scoring with a poor penalty on Saturday shows the high standards he sets himself.
He didn’t come to MLS to finish a career but to finish a treble.
In third place, I see Seattle.
It’s been an uncomfortable time for the Seattle faithful. Performances that have shown real promise are then followed by uncharacteristic displays.
There is no doubt injuries have played havoc with continuity, Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson have not had the run of games together that Sigi would have liked.
Before they could get them to build the rapport that all good strike partnerships have, Clint Dempsey arrived.
With games in hand and Dempsey in the building, I don’t see any way that they won’t make the play offs, just probably not seeded where they would like. That said, third would probably suit them if they could avoid the Galaxy initially. RSL would have less fears for them after beating Jason Kreis’s side in the play-offs last year.
In fourth, it will be Portland Timbers.
It was an outstanding start to the season for the rookie MLS coach, Caleb Porter, especially considering the number of changes within the team to contend with as well.
Will Johnson has been the stand out addition this season for me but with so many other players drafted into this team, Ryan Johnson, Diego Valeri and Michael Harrington, Porter has done a terrific job of getting his philosophy across this quickly. I don’t think they are a realistic championship prospect this year but give Porter a winter of player acquisition and removal, then all bets may be off for 2014.
Playing off against the Timbers and taking fifth,will be my old club Colorado Rapids.
The loss in Kansas should not upset their run. It was always to be a tough fixture whenever it fell in the calendar. I’ve tried to take into account that they are still sitting in a good spot right now, having played more games than most. They may benefit from longer rest periods in the run in than clubs with more games to play.
There were a host of changes again in the off season, shifting the style of play some what with the physical additions of Edson Buddle, Atiba Harris and Hendry Thomas that has made them a more resilient team than last year. However, the recent arrivals of Gabriel Torres and Vincente Sanchez have added flair and creativity to the mix.
Shane O’Neil and Dillon Powers have added new young blood in the side and with their first DP in the history of the club the fans will be hoping for a deep run into the play offs or better. There are still people about who remember the last time they did that!
Not making the cut but not through lack of trying are San Jose Earthquakes who just won’t be able to make up the lost ground. Their upsurge in form just came too late.
Dallas have lost their form at the wrong time and Vancouver who I think will get piped by Colorado for the final spot, will narrowly fail to make it. The Rapids and the Whitecaps play their final matches against each other. Whoever enters into that final week ahead will hold an advantage.