The MLS playoffs start today. The local Chicago Fire are nowhere near the 12 teams that made the league's second season, but there's still plenty of entertainment ahead.
This is the first year of the expanded 12-team playoff field, meaning there are four play-in wild card games (or whatever you want to call them) instead of two. Kicking things off tonight is New England at D.C and Los Angeles at Seattle. That nightcap is one of the premier rivalries in the league and it's a bit sad to see it so early in the playoffs, but it's also incredible that one of these monied teams will go home early and that they have to play in a do or die game.
Anyway, on to my predictions.
East first round
New England at D.C. United
Toronto at Montreal
I'm going with New England and Toronto. Picking the road teams is a bit risky, but D.C. slumped horribly at the end of the season and New England is the defending Eastern Conference champions. The all Canada match creates intrigue based on proximity alone, but the fact that two of the league's hottest new foreign stars headline each team adds a lot to this one. Sebastian Giovinco and Didier Drogba are world-class strikers gracing MLS stadiums. This should be about which one has the better showing. I'll probably regret betting against Drogba, but I'm going with the younger legs of Giovinco. (Did you know that he scored this goal a day after playing for Italy and just hours after landing from an intercontinental flight?)
West first round
Los Angeles at Seattle
Kansas City at Portland
LA and Portland. I almost went with KC and therefore all road teams, but Portland's home field advantage is massive and both teams are inconsistent enough for that to make the difference. Seattle is going to be hungry to knock off LA, but they've been inconsistent as well. LA has struggled on the road, but it would be a total shock to see them lose this early in the playoffs with the most talented roster in the league.
Columbus vs. New England
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto
I'm bucking the underdog trend and going with the better seeds here in Columbus and New York. The Red Bulls have been super solid all year with a deep, balanced squad and I don't think anyone can beat them in the East (spoilers).
Dallas vs. LA
Vancouver vs. Portland
LA owned Dallas late in the regular season. After an early season road loss in Dallas, the Galaxy won both in LA and in Dallas in the past nine matches of the regular season. I think it's a match up that favors them and they move on. Meanwhile, Vancouver is a bit more solid than Portland and advances as well.
NY vs. Columbus
Vancouver vs. LA
The Red Bulls are more solid defensively than Columbus so I'm sticking with the Supporters' Shield winners. In the west, I'm going with Vancouver. For the same reason I picked LA to beat Dallas, I like Vancouver to beat the Galaxy. The Whitecaps are a good countering team and won both regular season meetings against the Galaxy.
Whitecaps at Red Bulls
The one-game home field is the difference here. I'm going with the Red Bulls to win their first MLS Cup.
Filed under: MLS