Ah, the business of guessing the postseason finishes of unpredictable MLS teams.
We mean: Totally forecasting Major League Soccer’s season with alarming accuracy. Yeah. That’s it.
It’s tricky, you know? Forget the massive changes that can come with massive midseason additions — *cough, Didier Drogba* — or new coaches. Just the status of whether young players will kick on or old players lose a step can change the entire dynamic of a player race.
[ MORE: 2016 MLS Eastern Conference preview ]
Take the Eastern Conference. For me — given team health — there are four playoffs locks, and how they finish in the standings is highly arbitrary considering the difference between Supporters’ Shield and duking it out for the final playoff spots is 3-4 wins.
In Toronto, you have a team I’d select to win 75 percent of its games but has to play its first nine on the road. So, I’ll go with Columbus? Who could lose Ethan Finlay for the Copa America and Wil Trapp to the Olympics? Will a full year of rested Didier Drogba work, or was the half-year part of what kept his legs brilliant in Quebec? How will RBNY cope without Matt Miazga, and handle CONCACAF Champions League schedule congestion? Which ones will try to win the Open Cup?
Then, with apologies to Chicago — and Philadelphia given my colleagues’ predictions — there’s a batch of five teams that can make the playoffs if their ships come in.
We saw what can happen when a single, revolutionary force joins an attack (Giovinco, Jermaine Jones, Sacha Kljestan, Drogba). What if that’s Shkëlzen Gashi in Colorado? What if Ilsinho opens up defenses for the Union? How about the chances of Jack Harrison, Fabian Herbers, Jordan Morris, Omar Holness or Julian Buescher pulling a Cyle Larin and exploding as a rookie?
So, please, please, please, let us be close to correct MLS. The difference in 2nd place and 7th in the East last year was nine points. In the West, it was six! Whether you’re playing on a postage stamp (NYC) or a small city (Seattle), anyone can make a run (Yes, even you Chicago, with a new coach and GM).
|JPW||Nick Mendola||Andy Edwards||Kyle Bonn||Kyle Lynch|
|1. Toronto||1. Columbus||1. Toronto||1. Red Bulls||1. Columbus|
|2. NYC||2. Toronto||2. Red Bulls||2. Montreal||2. Toronto|
|3. Red Bulls||3. Montreal||3. Montreal||3. Toronto||3. Red Bulls|
|4. Columbus||4. Red Bulls||4. Columbus||4. Columbus||4. New England|
|5. Montreal||5. Orlando||5. Orlando||5. New England||5. Orlando|
|6. Orlando||6. NYC||6. NYC||6. Orlando||6. Montreal|
|7. New England||7. New England||7. New England||7. DC||7. NYC|
|8. DC||8. Philadelphia||8. DC||8. NYC||8. DC|
|9. Philadelphia||9. DC||9. Philadelphia||9. Chicago||9. Chicago|
|10. Chicago||10. Chicago||10. Chicago||10. Philadelphia||10. Philadelphia|
|WESTERN CONFERENCE||WESTERN CONFERENCE||WESTERN CONFERENCE||WESTERN CONFERENCE||WESTERN CONFERENCE|
||2. Vancouver||2. Dallas
|6. Dallas||6. Portland||6. Seattle||6. San Jose||6. Houston|
|7. San Jose||7. San Jose||7. RSL||7. Houston||7. KC|
|8. RSL||8. Colorado||8. Houston||8. LA||8. San Jose|
|9. Houston||9. RSL||9. San Jose||9. RSL||9. RSL|
|10. Colorado||10. Houston||10. Colorado||10. Colorado||10. Colorado|