MLS Playoffs Picture: Eastern ConferenceBy: Juan Mesa
DC UNITED: The four-time MLS Cup champions led the Eastern Conference this season after having the worst record in last year’s MLS. The off-season reengineering paid off, allowing coach Ben Olsen to put together a good mix of veterans and youngsters. Designated player Eddie Johnson hasn’t been that influential but he looks happy and ready to make some impact in the playoffs. The team’s balance between defense and attack is enough reason to believe a fifth crown may come to the nation’s capital.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: Coach Jay Heaps’s junior year has everybody dreaming of an early graduation in New England. The voice in the media is the Revs are title contenders, especially for what they have shown in the final third of the season. Playmaker and MVP-candidate Lee Nguyen is scoring from any angle, and USMNT’s star Jermaine Jones is mastering the midfield in every game by just being the smartest guy on the field. This is a fun team to watch, and aggressive soccer at its best.
COLUMBUS CREW: It has been a season of ups and downs for the Crew, but the team is getting to the playoffs in great form. The squad is led by Argentine playmaker Federico Higuaín, whom coach Gregg Berhalter surrounded with tactically disciplined young warriors. Will they make it to the final? Not clear.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY: The first half of the season was promising for the current MLS champions, but things weren’t the same after the team transferred midfielder Uri Rosell to Sporting Lisbon in June. Injuries had also limited coach Peter Vermes this season, but whatever, the team is in playoffs defending the title, it has magical Graham Zusi on its side, and forward Dom Dwyer seems to always be on fire. A champion must be respected.
NEW YORK RED BULLS: The Red Bulls couldn’t replicate the most successful season in their history in 2014. The best record in the 2013 regular season has been reset by an inconsistent year, in which the defense is a fans’ headache. The hopes of the Bulls rely mostly on Thierry Henry’s—a 37 years old man, that is—lucid moments and on Bradley Wright-Phillips scoring abilities. The usual internal dramas came back and have also affected the performance on the field, especially in connection with the uncertainty about Henry’s contract extension, a possible sale of the team to new owners and Tim Cahill’s lack of commitment. It’s up to them to make us change our thinking, but it seems like the Bulls’ season is already over.