MLS The Daily Kickoff

By Anonymous (not verified), September 26, 2022
MLS Soccer
MLS Soccer
Good morning, y'all. Your pal Sam here. Let's soccer.


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MLS Kickoff StorySince the playoffs began expanding past four teams from each conference in 2014, teams that begin the playoffs on the road don't win MLS Cup. 2018 Portland finished fifth in the West then won a single elimination road game and two straight two-legged ties to make it to MLS Cup. They lost once they got there on the road to Atlanta.2016 Seattle finished fourth in the West and then won two two-legged ties where they were the lower seed, then a single elimination road game on their way to MLS Cup. But they began the playoffs at home. 2019 Toronto finished fourth in the East and won a home game and two true road games before losing on the road in MLS Cup. And 2021 NYCFC won a home game and then three road games on their way to the title.That kind of wraps it up for teams making total underdog runs to MLS Cup. No one has ever won all road games on their way to winning the title. And only one team has started on the road before making MLS Cup.But maybe this is the year we see someone survive despite four straight road trips? We still don't quite know which teams will fill into those final playoff spots in both conferences. However, we can still have a pretty good idea of which teams are MLS Cup-caliber or not. Let's go through each remaining team in the playoff race and take our best guess at their ability to pull off the near impossible. While, of course, keeping in mind that we're talking about the near impossible here and that I'm generally of the opinion that every single team is incapable of winning MLS Cup except maybe Philadelphia. It's who I am.WESTERN CONFERENCENashville SC - Away record: 6W-5L-5DThey got a shot?Honestly? Probably more than anyone on the list. I hate to start off so positive. If there's anything The Daily Kickoff isn't about, it's unbridled optimism and the triumph of the human spirit. The Daily Kickoff is about being a hater but I can't really find it in me in this case. If anyone's going to make some kind of near impossible run through a bunch of road games, it's the team that's known for defensive solidity and for letting the best player in the league turn the game on its head at a moments notice. There's really only one obvious problem to them potentially being the first road tripping team to win MLS Cup: They're in fourth place.The Coyotes are still on track to get a home playoff game at GEODIS Park. They're one point ahead of the Galaxy and Portland, and two points ahead of Minnesota with two games remaining. It wouldn't mean everything, but holding onto that fourth spot or even jumping Dallas for third would make Nashville a much more likely threat to make a run. Either way, I think it's plausible.LA Galaxy - Away record: 5W-7L-4DThey got a shot?I'm so torn here. They've been so inconsistent this year. In part because they haven't been able to find a consistent lineup due to players underperforming by a remarkable amount, or players coming in on summer transfers, or players over performing so much in substitute roles that it seems obvious they should be in the starting lineup. Still, there's such an absurd level of talent on the field at times that it's hard to say they outright can't do it.That being said, it feels like they can't do it. Even if they end up with a home game. It would take something special from Riqui Puig, Gaston Brugman and Chicharito to mask LA's deficiencies elsewhere, which isn't totally implausible. Just unlikely in a difficult conference.Portland Timbers - Away record: 3W-6L-7DThey got a shot?It's the Timbers. Of course they do. Even when they've been generally terrible on the road this year and honestly not all that good at home either. They frankly haven't been all that good at all this season and I can't remember a moment of thinking: "Wow, if they put it together, they've got a chance to do something." They've been invariably average.So, yeah, they've got us all right where they want us. Congrats to Portland on their shocking run to an MLS Cup title that we definitely didn't see coming.Minnesota United - Away record: 6W-9L-1DThey got a shot?If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago I would have said yes, but an injury to starting center back Bakaye Dibassy seems to have really derailed things for the Loons. Now I don't even know if they're going to make it to the playoffs. If they make it, I guess it's possible Bebelo Reynoso goes on the same kind of run that nearly dragged the Loons to the 2020 MLS Cup, but odds seem pretty low right now. They aren't playing well. Bad injury luck may be too much to overcome in this case.Real Salt Lake - Away record: 3W-8L-5DThey got a shot?They've been running on "We're the team that tries harder than everyone else" for so long that it's kind of become the only thing they've been doing well lately. The problem is, it's the end of the season. Everyone else is trying hard too. I can't see this one happening.Vancouver Whitecaps - Away record: 2W-10L-4DThey got a shot?To win MLS Cup they would need to win double the number of road games they won in the regular season and they would need to do it consecutively against playoff teams.Seattle Sounders - Away record: 3W-11L-2DThey got a shot?Never count out the Sounders. But. They would have to make the playoffs first for this to even be a possibility and it really, really, really doesn't seem like that's going to happen. Then again, it's Seattle. So. I don't know y'all, I'm really conflicted here.EASTERN CONFERENCENYCFC - Away record: 5W-8L-3DThey got a shot?I want to say yes. I'm still trying to figure out how much to take from their excellent week before the international break where they took down Atlas and the Red Bulls. Did they actually figure out how to play with the intensity and cohesiveness that they'd been lacking or were they just due for a couple of wins? I'm not convinced either way. But we know they have the talent to make a run no matter what. It would just be far easier for them if they got a home game or two. It seems like they will, but it's not implausible to think they finish fifth.Orlando City - Away record: 5W-4L-6DThey got a shot?This is a team that's been able to pull wins out of nearly any situation this year. The answer is yes. It's not always pretty, but they have enough talent and enough will power and outright luck in critical situations to be a threat. There's something Timbers-esque in how they've succeeded this season. They've got as good a shot to run through a bunch of road games as anyone.They may not have to though. A couple of wins to close the year (especially on Saturday against NYCFC) just might be enough to get them a home playoff game.FC Cincinnati - Away record: 5W-4L-6DThey got a shot?I love the Lions as a dark horse pick. It's not even a difficult choice really. They have a top-tier attacking trio in the league, they have quality underlying numbers and they've been improving defensively. It feels like if anyone could chaos ball their way to a bunch of road playoff wins, it would be this group.Inter Miami - Away record: 3W-10L-3DThey got a shot?The Herons have clearly not been great on the road this year. They'd need their attacking trio—probably at best the third most effective in their own conference—to go absolutely supernova. I just don't see it happening.Columbus Crew - Away record: 3W-3L-9DThey got a shot?The Crew were famously terrible on the road for their first few years under Caleb Porter. They've moved from "famously terrible" to "still pretty notably awful on the road." Like Inter Miami, they'd need Lucas Zelarayan and Cucho Hernandez to go absolutely wild.Anyway, in a related note to the entire premise of this section: anyone remember how many road games the 2020 team played on their way to MLS Cup? (Zero.)Atlanta United - Away record: 2W-9L-5DThey got a shot?They aren't going to make the playoffs, so no. But I could totally talk myself into this group winning a couple of road games considering how they've been playing down the stretch. Could they win MLS Cup? Well, they aren't going to make the playoffs so, no. Just enjoy the fact that we'll never truly know for sure, Atlanta fans.



Good luck out there. Practice something out of the ordinary.