The 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs are set to begin with the ten fortunate teams that were able to survive the regular season and are now aiming for cup glory. The wonderful thing about end-of-season playoff games to decide the MLS champion is that every team is now basically on a level playing field and has a fair chance to prove themselves and win the cup, regardless of how many points separate the clubs. Another feast for the eyes is set to begin for MLS fans across the country.
First up is the one-game wildcard matches between the clubs who just scraped into the tournament. Tonight features a match between the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo. The Dynamo was in the MLS Cup Final last year and has experience on their side. However, their recent form has been average. After leading the Easter Conference standings in August, the team slumped to a 5th place finish, barely sneaking into the playoffs by a single point. The team is led by young striker, Will Bruin, who has scored 12 goals in only his second MLS season. Another dangerous player for the Dynamo is Brad Davis, an experienced winger who was an MVP finalist last season. He missed out on last year’s MLS Cup Final through injury and will be ever hungry to get another shot.
Chicago has better recent results, and actually defeated Houston 3-1 in September. They have an excellent young goalkeeper in Sean Johnson, who has already been called up to the United States Men’s National Team several times. Chris Rolfe will lead the attack, and Chicago will hold the home field advantage. However, as it is Halloween, I am picking the orange and black to succeed 2-1 and progress to the next stage.
The Western Conference Wildcard round features a match between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Vancouver has several great young players in Brazilian Camilo and Jamaican Darren Mattocks, who led the team with 7 goals as a rookie. However, Mattocks hasn’t scored since July and the team has only won one of their last ten matches.
The Los Angeles Galaxy features more star power than any other MLS team with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and David Beckham. Although these players are older, veteran experience is key in playoff games and the Galaxy is the reigning champion. Not only that but their recent run of games shows that they have only lost in one of their last ten matches. They will have the home support and are heavily favored in tomorrow’s match. The Vancouver Whitecaps do not look good at the moment and will surely fall 3-0.
The road will be long and hard for whoever wins in the wildcard round. Up ahead is a two-legged fixture against the top seeded teams in the conference, which are the San Jose Earthquake and Sporting Kansas City, two very formidable opponents. However, this is the reason that the playoff games take place, and every single team does have a fair shot at reaching the MLS Cup Final so nobody can be counted out just yet. The real games have now begun! Welcome to the MLS Playoffs!