Know your Major League Soccer -- Five things we learned from Week 26:
And all proceeded meekly toward their postseason Waterloo. We're talking to you, Chicago Fire, Toronto FC and Kansas City Wizards. Tsk tsk.
Worse still, Toronto and Kansas City squandered fantastic comebacks from their previous outings. The Wizards had rallied midweek for a historic 4-3 victory against Houston, positioning them to really add pressure to the teams above them. But
Toronto was similarly wasteful. A week earlier, two blazing free kicks by
Here's what interim Toronto coach
Holy capitulation! No, it isn't! You can ask them to rise to the challenge. To do something special that will finally bring playoff soccer to BMO. There are two DPs on the roster who just haven't done enough, plain and simple (
The bottom line here is that teams at this point must do something to prove playoff worthiness. There's none of this "bad teams sneaking in" mess that we've seen too much in past MLS years. Finally, there's more prejudice in the MLS playoff system. And clubs that can't make a stand just aren't going to get it.
The Fire still has a sliver of a chance, but only because of a game or two in hand over the teams in front of them. But how exciting might it have been if they hadn't dropped all three points Saturday to Seattle -- one of the teams holding a playoff pass at the moment?
Speaking of quotes that carry the faint stench of capitulation, and speaking of DPs who don't deliver, check out what
OK. If you say so, Freddie.
On the one hand, credit the Fire manager for going all-out in search of the points. He put the Fire in an attack-minded 4-2-1-3, with Ljungberg aligned behind three forwards. On the other hand, what does it say about management's ability to assemble a roster that works when you play three forwards and none is named
This one rates high on the "psychological boost" scale. As Backe himself was quick to tell us last week, the Red Bulls had been nothing to brag about against the best of MLS this year. So the memories of Friday's victory will go far in stockpiling confidence for the playoffs.
And what to say about L.A.? Start here: It seems that
They are both good players. But they work about as well together as tires and nails. The players around them need to know: Are they working to support the way Beckham does it or the way Juninho does it?
"Our problem was just our effort,"
Well, maybe the problem wasn't effort, per se. Maybe it was a collection of guys who aren't sure about what to do anymore. And by the way, Beckham is a great playmaker from those deep-lying spots. But when he creates from so deep it muddles the midfield structure. Once L.A. loses the ball, it's a mad scramble to get into position to repel the coming thrust.
Speaking of being better, this should be said about Beckham: The man is demonstrating that he's committed to the cause, that he's willing to fight for the side and make up for time lost. Even the Beckham boo-birds should give the man his due. He returned earlier than expected from a tough injury and now he's not exactly pacing himself out there. He's looked committed emotionally. In his third appearance overall and his first start in six months, Beckham huffed and puffed and wore himself out over 90 minutes Friday, putting in more work than anyone could realistically have expected.
On top of it all, his passing remains precise. So if the team can sort out the best way forward, a former England captain still full of fire and desire will have something to say about the upcoming playoffs.
Several mid- and late-season midfield upgrades have fortified that part of the field at a few MLS addresses. Here, then, is a look at who has the horses -- and who still looks a little ordinary through the middle third.