There are only five weeks left in the MLS regular season, and no team has been statistically eliminated from competing in the playoffs. Parity, it seems, has been delivered by the league as promised.
Unlike in the EPL where results are relatively easily to predict (or Serie A, where they are sometimes predetermined), MLS results seem to be almost arbitrary this season. Just when you think you can write someone off (San Jose or L.A., for example), they come fighting back. The only thing that has been foreseeable is that something unforeseen will happen.
For example, take a quick look at last week’s game between Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake. The Goats had been pretty bad this year (especially on the road), despite the fact they currently sat third in the anemic Western Division. RSL had been looking impressive and hadn’t just been solid at home, they were freaking undefeated. Throw on top of all that the fact that it was RSL’s last game ever in Rice-Eccles Stadium, and you better believe gamblers everywhere had RSL as a sure winner in this match-up.
But then, they played the game and Chivas won. It didn’t make any sense on paper but it happened.
Such has been the theme of the entire 2008 MLS season. On paper, some things look to be certain, but on the pitch, it’s been a whole other story. Even Miss Cleo couldn’t have predicted the following:
Columbus was supposed to be mired in defensive battles all-season. Instead, Schelotto’s touch has made them the second highest scoring team in the league this year.
New England was supposed to take a step back after losing Dorman and Noonan. Instead, unheard of guys from Africa have stepped up and made the team a contender again.
Houston was supposed to lack fire power after losing two important strikers to clubs overseas. Instead, they brought back some homegrown talent to dominate the West.
Chicago was supposed to be fractured after a falling out with their old coach. Instead, their new coach has rallied them into a cohesive unit for a great run.
New York was supposed to be out of luck when Altidore jetted for La Liga. Instead, crafty veterans have kept their playoff dreams afloat.
DC United was supposed to dominate after “upgrading” from Gomez to Gallardo. Instead, Soehn’s bunch has looked schizophrenic and Gallardo is easily the biggest flop of the 2008 season.
Chivas was supposed to build on last season’s success. Instead, Preki’s players have stalled and must now fight for their post-season lives.
Kansas City was supposed to finally achieve offensive acumen with Lopez. Instead, the Louse has rivaled Gallardo as one of the biggest disappointments in MLS.
Colorado was supposed to shed their defensive image for Gomez’s run and gun offense. Instead, the Rapids have run dry on offense and have had to rely on no-name defensive mids to keep their playoff dreams intact.
Real Salt Lake was supposed to stay at the bottom of the table in obscurity. Instead, their inspired play have taken them within grasp of their first playoff berth.
Dallas was supposed to flat-out stink without their offensive spark, Ruiz. Instead, Kenny Cooper has the seeming also-rans looking to run straight into the playoffs.
Los Angeles was supposed to be darn good, what with Beckham, Donovan, Ruiz and Co. Instead, the Gals have been bad. Really bad.
San Jose was supposed to sink to the bottom of the league table. Instead, they’ve been the best MLS story of the year by refusing to quit.
Finally, Toronto was supposed to stink this year. Instead…
Well, I guess they have stunk.
One out of 14 ain’t bad.