Exactly one weekend is in the books in MLS, and that seems like it's time enough to start speculating about which teams will make it into the playoffs. If that sounds odd to you as a long time soccer fan, keep in mind that I come from the world of college football, where fan bases start deciding in February when schedules are released if their teams will be contenders for conference championships and major bowl titles or playoff berths six months before they ever take the field for fall camp! So by the time one game is under their belt, every fan base in America is an expert on whether their team has the makings of a contender or is just going to be lucky to not come in last place.
The most impressive wins of week one were notched by Seattle and the LA Galaxy. This is no surprise as the West seems like the stronger conference and Seattle and the Galaxy are two of the stronger sides in the conference. Additionally FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo were also winners in Week 1 and also earned the maximum three points on the weekend.
In the East, DC United and Toronto FC both earned victories and stand at the top of the table in the conference. While it may be too early to tell if either of these sides can continue their winning streak over the next several matches, they do have a leg up in points over the other sides in the conference in the early going.
The Crowded Pack
There were many draws in the first weekend, a few of them scoreless affairs. Your Orlando City Lions looked aggressive and definitely attacked the goal more than fellow expansion side NYCFC in the first match between the two clubs. But each team exited the game with a goal, and NYCFC coach Jason Kreis put it aptly when he said both teams showed some skill but both definitely have room for improvement. To be honest, if either side had come out looking like world beaters in the match, I would have been a bit skeptical because both teams are assembled from a majority of players that have never played together before, and it will take weeks of practice as well as many minutes in live games on the pitch together to see how well they learn each other's tendencies and strengths.
In the West you can lump Colorado, Portland, Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC together in a pack (though I think there are some quality clubs in that group that will move up in the table as the season progresses). And over in the east, along with expansion sides Orlando City SC and NYCFC, the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union are also in the middle of the pack.
Hit the Panic Button
While Gillette Stadium in suburban Boston may be big enough to hold a soccer pitch, it's obviously not big enough to host two championship teams in the same calendar year. After the Patriots won the Super Bowl, the very next game played by a resident team saw the New England Revolution get crushed by Seattle in a 3 - 0 loss. If Bill Belichik were coaching the Revolution, someone would be benched or fired after a loss like that. The Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire also lost their opening matches, as did the Columbus Crew SC. Interesting that the Colombus Crew also share a home city with a team that won a national championship in American tackle football this year and then choked in their opening match. I wonder if the sports gods are saying that this year any city can only have one championship team.
Over in the west, the San Jose Earthquakes were shaken down in their first match, and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC also were storm-tossed in a loss. Quick--someone better break out the rescue dogs and the maritime patrol because they've got a long season ahead and they can't keep losing like that.
Who will ultimately wind up in the playoffs? It's way too early for me to tell, except I can make one prediction with my heart: Orlando City FC will earn a spot in the expanded twelve-team playoff picture this season and continue the tradition they established from their days as a USL Pro side of being a serious contender every season. As for the other eleven teams, I can't say for sure, but I do know it's going to be a lot of fun watching the matches unfold as the season progresses.
Who do you think will make it into the playoffs this season?