If I had to pick my playoff teams today:
New York City
Atlanta or Toronto
Philadelphia is currently below the line, but they look pretty good. Chris Pontius was so-so and often injured on DC, but he is the engine making Philadelphia go these first three weeks. I am frustrated by Bedoya on the national team, but he is rising to the challenge of the added responsibility of being the playmaker for the Union. Sapong is probably the second best target man in the league behind Fanendo Adi. And Onyewu looks classy despite hardly playing for two years. And Andre Blake is one of my favorite goalkeepers. I think the Union will steadily rise up the table.
Atlanta may be too soon to call. They scored 6 goals in the snow in a game I would have postponed. It seriously looked dangerous out there with the tackles sliding in, and at least on TV it was difficult to see the ball. They followed that up with 4 goals after a red card playing most of the game against 10 men. They do look very incisive. You don't often see that many through balls played on the ground either behind or directly in front of the defense. They look good, but there is still time for the league to figure them out once they can study some film. They will be fun to watch just to analyze coaching adjustments on both sides.
Red Bulls are still feeling their way, but I have high confidence in Marsch to figure out something special in the long run. They really went after Seattle on the road with a swarming press in the first 10 minutes. They didn't get the opening goal, but it shows a tactical flexibility from week to week most other teams are not capable of organizing...much like their always interesting set pieces.
Houston or LA Galaxy
Dallas is pulling off wins in the Champs League with the A-Team and wins in the MLS with the B-Team. They don't do anything particularly new or inventive, but they are building depth, never and easy out and will certainly make the playoffs. The bottom of the Western Conference feels pretty far off the top half of the conference. Vancouver, Minnesota and Salt Lake I feel like we can write off already with Colorado not much better off.
Seattle looks like a complete team. Dempsey looks good after his time off. Jordan Morris feels like the second coming of Michael Owen in Emille Hesky's body. I hate Osvaldo Alonso, and that's the exact quality you want from your #6 position. I hate Chad Marshal but he reads the game very well. Shipp is the player I am not convinced about yet for the Sounders. He needs to find his place, but with Lodeiro, Dempsey and Alonso drifting right, all of the play seems to go away from Shipp. Seattle needs somebody to pull things back to the left a bit.
Portland better hope that Adi goes through a cold spell, because the way he is playing now, he will get bought by a lower half of the table Premier League Team. He is such a perfect target forward right now, you could make an instructional video.
LA is the team on the fringe here. I assume they will buy what they need in the transfer window. Zlatan would certainly help. Houston looks good right now, but they are playing very differently from last season. Like Atlanta, I assume teams will start to figure them out with more video evidence. I need to see more before I am willing to put them in above LA.
The last two games in Kansas City have been great atmospheres. What a nice stadium that is. KC has modeled the best transition from MLS 1.0 to MLS 2.0. We shall see if DC United, Chicago and New England can pull that off nearly as well. DC seems to be in a holding pattern waiting for their new stadium. New England seems to be in a funk, perhaps due to some criticism their front office took for lack of caring just before the season started.
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