With half of the season in the rear view, it’s starting to get real in the race to the playoffs. Both conferences are offering major shake-ups in the usual contenders above the line, and the East looks the toughest it’s been in a long time.
But for teams swimming around just below the line, all hope isn’t necessarily lost, either. Remember the Seattle Sounders at this point last year? A coaching change, a painful losing streak, dipping morale – all of that vanished as the team managed one of the most dramatic turnarounds ever, resulting, of course, in the 2016 MLS Cup.
So is another Seattle story possible this year? Going from losing to a Cup is a rarity, but some sides could at least make a run in the playoffs. Let’s just take a quick look at a few options…
The ’Caps sit roughly (roughly!) around the same record the Sounders had about this time last year. They also sit just under the line, just one point behind the Quakes, who currently sit at number six in the West.
They’ve got a few factors going for them. Head coach Carl Robinson too, meanwhile, seems to have found an important balance in setting up his squad, particularly around using figures like Cristian Techera and Brek Shea.
But probably most importantly, there’s road form. Besides clawing an important draw from the Rapids on Aug. 6, they managed to take down the mighty FC Dallas a whopping 4-0 on July 29. (Dallas went down to 10 men on that night, but still.)
Add that to the fact that Vancouver had the third-easiest remaining season schedule as of mid-July, and there’s reason for some optimism.
Real Salt Lake
Newish head coach Mike “Freakin’” Petke, has, with his spirit and passion, breathed new life into a team and fan base whose overall aura had badly curdled. (Let us never, ever pass up an opportunity to link to the famous recent post-game press conference that launched a thousand North American Soccer Twitter memes, T-shirts, and scarves.)
It’s turned into results trending positively – though it’s been a lot of draws. Still better than losses, but even Petke said, after the most recent 0-0 draw with the Dynamo, that RSL are going to have to “push it a bit more.”
One thing’s definitely working in Real Salt Lake’s favor to at least make it to the post-season, though. On that handy mid-season strength of schedule chart, they came in with the absolute easiest of the rest of the year. Not bad if they can steel themselves for the task.
Eh, okay, frankly it’s a troll move to add them here, given that they’re dead last in the East. But the team is arguably winning this transfer window, with the addition of Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber, reportedly now USMNT star Paul Arriola, and everything in our transfer tracker.
They’re basically an entirely new team, and even if it’s more about a reboot for 2018, they do have a decently chill rest of the 2017 season. Watching them take the most of all that will – whoa – make D.C. an essential team to watch through the rest of the year.