"Can your team win MLS Cup? Sure, why not? It could happen. It probably won’t, though – better to get that out of the way now."
That’s how I started this column back in March, in which I did my best to make a case for all 23 teams to win MLS Cup. Let’s just say there were some serious logical fallacies in there. Looking at you Colorado Rapids, San Jose Earthquakes, Orlando City and all the other clubs for whom the dream is dead. Better luck next year.
For those left standing in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs there’s another case to be made for lifting the Phillip F. Anschutz trophy on December 8. There’s also a chorus of haters waiting to bring everyone down.
Here we go, in reverse order of points and all in 280 characters or less:
Can the Timbers surprise folks this postseason under first-year coach Giovanni Savarese | USA Today Sports Images
They'll Win BecauseDiego Valeri is healthy this year, Sebastian Blanco can win a game singlehandedly and Diego Chara lives to smother your happiness, assuming you aren’t a Timbers fan. Gio’s got titles. He knows there’s no need to overcomplicate things. Solid defensive block and counter … all the way to MLS Cup.
Haters Will Say You can’t play Real Salt Lake every game. Since winning 3-2 at Seattle back on June 30, the Timbers’ only regular season wins against playoff teams were the Union and Crew SC at home and the double vs. RSL. That’s two No. 6 seeds and a No. 5. Same period, against other playoff teams: 0W-3L-2D.
Sporting Kansas City clinched the top spot in the Western Conference with their victory over LAFC on Sunday | USA Today Sports Images
They'll Win Because They’re balanced. No more defense and timely goals win championships … or perhaps more accurately, get you eliminated in the Knockout Round. Bad jokes aside, this version of Sporting can shut you out and blow you out. They’ve got loads more attacking quality and they’re deeper than ever before, plus the back six and Tim Melia are rock solid.
Haters Will SaySeth Sinovic is the key to everything and he’s missing the first leg of the conference semis. I’m only partially kidding. Dude only scores in the playoffs. Look it up. Haters will say that they still don’t have a primary goalscorer. It’s true. They’ve got a whole bunch of sporadic scorers, and that’s been more than enough. But in the playoffs when there’s no room for a dry spell?
Striker Josef Martinez scored an MLS record 31 goals during the 2018 regular season | USA Today Sports Images
They'll Win Because they’re the most talented team in MLS, and they keep things tight in the first leg of the Conference Semifinals to buy time for Miguel Almiron. He helps finish off NYCFC, then Atlanta get two weeks to rest up and recover for Crew SC or the Red Bulls, who bottle it like usual. MLS Cup at MBS? That’s a win.
Haters Will Say “Hahahahahahaha [deep breath] Hahahahahahaha”
That’s literally what they’ll say on Reddit and Twitter. They’ll say it because Miguel Almiron wasn’t ready to be Miguel Almiron again, Josef Martinez’s historic season sputtered at exactly the wrong time and Tata said adios before the job was done. Don’t worry Five Stripes faithful, you’ll be fine.
New York Red Bulls
A young Red Bulls fan celebrates the club capturing its third Supporters' Shield on Sunday | USA Today Sports Images
They'll Win Because they’re MLS’s best team. Most points ever, and nobody understands their collective ethos/identity better than these Red Bulls. That goes a long way in the playoffs, when the games get more physical and the margins narrow. Then there’s the legacy aspect. This club isn’t lacking for motivation or pressure.
Haters Will Say “That’s so Metro.”
Need I say more?