Full recap of Decision Day presented by AT&T above, and a full preview of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs to come. In the meantime… everybody’s got something to worry about. Let’s run through all 14 teams and just take a quick peek under the hood:
1. LAFC: The Black & Gold have fewer worries than anybody else, but more than they did a couple of months ago. They haven’t beaten a playoff team since August 17, they won just two of their final eight games, and they’re just kind of making due with a rotation of false No. 9s in the absence of Adama Diomande.
But the big worry is the status of Walker Zimmerman, who left this past weekend’s game after a nasty collision with Kei Kamara and has withdrawn from US men’s national team camp. There is no like-for-like replacement for him on the roster if he’s not good to go in two weeks.
2. Seattle Sounders: Seattle finished their season with three shutouts in four after mostly getting lit up through summer. That is still probably my main concern – I straight-up don’t believe in their defense against playoff teams.
I am only slightly less concerned about the form of striker Raul Ruidiaz, who’s now gone five games without scoring and is a shadow of the player he was at this time last year. He’s still finding chances, but hasn’t been as quick and sharp in his movements and judging by his body language, his lack of production is starting to weigh on him.
3. Real Salt Lake: We talked about it a bunch on Extratime and I mentioned it in my Sunday night column, but that won’t stop me from saying it again: RSL are 1-9-2 with a -9 goal differential against Western Conference playoff teams, which is abysmal. They had repeated chances down the stretch – against LAFC, Portland, Minnesota and the Galaxy – to prove they could hang with the big dogs, and took 0 of 12 points. Not great.
Their five wins all season against playoff teams is the fewest of any group that made the postseason.
4. Minnesota United: 10 goals in their final 10 games of the season.
5. LA Galaxy: I’m going to go further than just saying “bad defense,” though I don’t think I’d get much of an argument if I just left it at that. If you give up 21 goals in your final seven games with homefield advantage on the line, “bad” is a perfectly appropriate descriptor.
Better ones, though, are probably “immature” and “ill-disciplined.” This is not the type of thing a mature, disciplined team allows to happen:
Losing that game to the second-worst team in the league cost the Galaxy home field. I still can’t believe that goal.
6. Portland Timbers: Doing what they did over the final few games – the results weren’t incredible, but the attack came alive – without Diego Valeri and Brian Fernandez speaks to the talent of the rest of the squad. Portland still have match-winners.
But yeah, “without Valeri and Fernandez” is still the operative phrase here. Fernandez has checked into the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program and could done for the duration of the playoffs, while Valeri’s status thanks to his pulled calf remains a mystery. Going into the postseason without those guys is not what anybody had in mind.
7. FC Dallas: Dallas‘s road form and hot-and-cold attack are the two big worries. Drill down a little deeper, though, and you’ll find some questions remain at defensive midfield and whether they can deny teams the chance to play between the lines:
That’s way too easy. Dallas have to great defensively in order to have a shot this month.
1. NYCFC: Pretty much any team in the league would’ve taken 3-1-2 over the final six games of the season, and with most of their squad getting healthy there aren’t any gigantic concerns. But two warning lights are going off
- They lost the xG battle in four of those final six games
- They’ve pitched one shutout in three months
2. Atlanta United: Josef‘s healthy again, so the big worry is no more. So let’s focus on something tactical:
Teams have gotten better at and more clever about finding space in behind Atlanta‘s fullbacks, either by leaving a winger high or just making an inside-out run. Philly, the Crew, NYCFC… all those teams put on clinics. The Revs showed some of it on Decision Day and created a bunch of chances that way, and I suspect they’ll be ready to create more in a couple of weeks.
3. Philadelphia Union: Even if Kacper Przybylko was healthy I was going to question whether or not Philly had enough raw talent to do damage in the playoffs. Without him… I mean, that was the story on Sunday. The Union had no problems creating chances against NYCFC. They just couldn’t finish them.
4. Toronto FC: Jozy Altidore, limping off the field on Sunday. If that’s it for him in 2019, then that’s it for the Reds’ playoff hopes.
5. D.C. United: They’ve scored 11 goals in 12 games over the past three months, and generated almost nothing at home against nine-man FC Cincinnati on Decision Day.
6. New York Red Bulls: They don’t press as well as last year – or haven’t, anyway – and they don’t defend as well in a low block, and they’re not as competent at creating chances from open play, and they don’t have the speed to hurt you on the counter, and they no longer have a go-to goalscorer. On top of that their mid-season DP signing provided them 0g/1a in 478 minutes.
Lots of worries. Pick one.
7. New England: Just being here is a victory for the Revs. Nobody worries when they’re gambling with house money, least of all this guy: