MLS: Who Do I Want to Win?

As a Western Conference Semi-Final penalty shoot-out spins the Los Angeles Galaxy 2016 season off it’s mortal coil, we’re left contemplating the four clubs still standing.

As we come to terms with some scouser making off with $10m out of AEG’s coffers, it’s time to look to the future and ask myself, who do I want to win this thing now that LA are done.

The usual temptation is to root for the underdog but if there’s something I’ve learnt about US soccer in 2016, it’s that there are other considerations where Major League Soccer and it’s plentiful batch of detractors are concerned.

One of the chief accusations is that the playoffs render the regular season meaningless.  This is – in my humble opinion – absolute nonsense.

Should the Seattle Sounders manage to go all the way in this thing, they will have done so by defeating the first and second placed clubs in the entire league, having been forced to play an extra away game just a few days before taking on FC Dallas.  If the Colorado Rapids do it, they won’t have played a single higher seed.  Just because MLS is competitive, it doesn’t change the fact that the lowest seed has to overcome the worst odds.

Nonetheless, this “regular season doesn’t count” mantra does exist and it would be better for the sake of whittling away at that perception, if a higher seed did become Champions this year.

The competitiveness of the league is something I’d like to see promoted.  MLS has had among the highest number of champions in the world since its inception.  In winning the 2016 version, FC Dallas became the 11th club to lift the Supporters Shield (awarded for finishing 1st in the league).  It would be nice to see MLS Cup keep pace and also be won by an 11th team in 21 years.

Then there are my own personal feelings about the clubs in question.  There are clubs I like and others I’m less partial to.  Let’s break that down and see if my emotions trump the above criteria.

Montreal Impact (or Impact de Montreal)

Despite finishing higher in the Eastern Conference than the Seattle Sounders did in the West, they came into the postseason lower on the overall table, making them the underdogs of the surviving crop.  With that said, I’m somewhat indifferent to them.

I was actually rooting for them to make the final until yesterday, but that was mainly because they were the only team that the Galaxy could have hosted the final against.  Knocking out a Red Bull team (boo! hiss! *fist shake*) was a happy bonus.

If Montreal do win the whole thing, it will certainly give rise to the aforementioned “the playoffs are a crap-shoot” accusations.  Therefore, they I will not be rooting for them.  Also, Didier Drogba.

The Colorado Rapids

I suppose it does offer a tiny sliver of solace when the team that eliminates you, winds up winning the title.  It would also complete a dramatic turnaround from last season, when the Rapids finished 19th in the overall table.

As the highest seed remaining, it would certainly add credence to the regular season to see them win it.  However, they did win the MLS Cup not so long ago, so it wouldn’t extend the list of champions.

A strong contender, nonetheless.

Toronto FC

It’s been a long road for the TFC faithful – and heaven only knows that if a set of fans deserve that label, it’s these guys.

Ambitious from the start, TFC have done their best to bring in big names to earn the success and prestige their followers so sorely crave.  The only thing bigger than their ambition to date, has been their repeated failure to come close to delivering it.

Habitual missers of postseasons past, they’ve always found a way to foul things up.

Not so in 2016.  After pulling off a massive coup in signing 28 year old Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus last season, the guy has been nothing short of excellent for the club and it’s this type of signing that helps raise the prestige of MLS and drag it away from the reputation as a league that only gets quality players as a wind-down to their retirements.

This would also be the first time a Canadian team has won the league and therefore, a brand new MLS champion.

Seattle Sounders

Vying with LA Galaxy as the most despised team in the league, they have roared into the postseason from absolutely nowhere.

Shocking for most the year, resulting in Sigi Schmidt’s, they suddenly had a massive resurgence at the back end of the season and surprised observers that had written them off months ago.

With a massive fan base, huge attendances and a loud stadium, the fans nonetheless, have gained a reputation for being a bit to self-congratulatory.  Is this fair?  I certainly wouldn’t want to tar them all with the same brush.  Some of my best friends are Emerald City Supporters.

However, if there is one reason why I would want to wish against any club having success it’s the prospect of rewarding this…

 

So it’s between TFC and the Rapids.

On one hand we have a worst-to-first story, lending a juicy chunk of narrative to the proceedings.

On the other, you’ve got an ambitious team with a star player that could become the face of the league.  History would be made in terms of it being both Toronto and Canada’s first MLS trophy.

On paper, the historic manner of the victory makes me lean a smidge towards Toronto.  Emotionally however, we see a reward for a club that Pablo Mastroeni has built something into special, without a bevy of expensive DPs to aid him.

There’s something a little more romantic about the Colorado story.  A compelling x-factor.  So I guess I’m going with them.

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