There are a number of game-changing players in the MLS playoffs, and these ones could sway the balance of who winds up lifting the trophy.
Landon Donovan. You can’t argue with six MLS Cup rings. Now that he’s fit and starting games, there’s no reason he can’t be a real factor in the playoffs.
Jermaine Jones is the ultimate wild card even when he’s healthy and engraved onto the lineup sheet. He changes games and he changes teams. The Rapids went 5-0-3 in Jones’s eight starts this year, during which he had three goals and two assists. But they did pretty well without him as well. Jones finally returned to the field Sunday and played 22 minutes as a reserve. His fitness—and whether his presence makes Colorado that much more dangerous or disrupts a team that finished second in the league without him—will shape the Rapids’ postseason.
Isn't Donovan back with the Galaxy precisely for this reason, to help the club lift a record sixth Cup, and for him, a record seventh? He looked pretty darn committed to the cause in the knockout-round win over Real Salt Lake. Also, how about Carlos Freaking Ruiz? Would it stun anybody if he scored an MLS Cup winner 14 years after his last one? Pescadito is not of this world.
Didier Drogba. If he can get over his recent injury issue, return to the Montreal Impact and happily accept whatever role Mauro Biello offers to him, he has all the quality and experience necessary to be a big factor against the Red Bulls. If he continues to pout about being given a reserve role, as he did at the end of this season, it will be yet another unneeded bit of locker room disharmony at a time when that is most needed.
How about Tim Howard? Not that he's been bad or injured lately, but Colorado hasn't exactly been in top form. Howard is just the type of 'keeper that could carry the Rapids through a two-leg series, even if they get outplayed, with one or two Herculean efforts.