We’re a little over the halfway point of the 2014 MLS season and there have been plenty of shocking results along the way. Some teams have fallen from grace while others have flown away from the ashes and found new life in the playoff picture. Rather than focus on those who are having struggles though, I am instead going to focus on the three teams that I feel have shocked us with their play this year and give you my thoughts on whether they can hold on or not.
Number 3: Chivas USA
I know Chivas USA is currently out of the playoffs right now, but you’d be lying if you said you weren’t expecting more of the same from them after witnessing a winless streak that lasted from mid-March to nearly mid-May. However a switch seems to have flipped as of late and the Goats now find themselves only three points out of the Western Conference playoff picture with a game in hand against fifth place FC Dallas.
Chivas USA hasn’t exactly been blowing away competition, but they have shown the grit and determination that is needed to make a playoff push over these last few months. Their recent 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps could end up being a huge road marker for the squad as Vancouver is right there on the bubble with them.
How do I think this will turn out? Call me crazy, but I think I am becoming a believer that these guys could actually make the playoffs this year and turn some heads. There have even been rumors that USMNT star Jermaine Jones has contemplated joining the team and regardless of the outcome, none of the publicity is bad for the mindset of the Goats. They should be fun to watch down the stretch.
Number 2: Toronto FC
This was a tough one, because I could have just as easily included New England Revolution in my Top Three, but given the fact Toronto is in a position to make the playoffs for the first time ever? I had to go with the Canadian side.
I know many people will argue that the Reds stacked their team during the offseason with names like Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley, but let’s be honest, this team has struggled so much since their inception that it takes a lot more than two superstars to right the ship.
Their road hasn’t been one of the more consistent ones this year, but they have been in every match and their play is a vast improvement from what we are used to seeing. As I said, it will take a lot more than a couple superstars, but Jermain Defoe’s ridiculous work ethic doesn’t look like it’s coming to an end any time soon and if Jonathan Osorio can get even better with his services, he and Defoe could become a potent 1-2 punch.
I am still not sure I see Toronto making the playoffs this season unless they can find a little more consistency week in and week out. With The New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union hot on their tail, there will be no time for relaxation in these last few months. That said, I do believe this is only the start for Toronto FC and they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future. New York City FC cross-border rivalry anyone?
Number 1: D.C. United
After a 2013 season that saw only three wins for the storied MLS club, D.C. has seen a HUGE improvement in 2014 kicking it with reigning Champions, Sporting Kansas City at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Although United did snag former Sounders star, Eddie Johnson during the offseason, it’s actually been Argentine, Fabian Espindola who has been the standout this season with seven goals and eight assists so far. They didn’t let a rough 0-2 start to their season worry them and have been consistently solid ever since.
I have little doubt that D.C. United will make the playoffs this year. Barring any ridiculous meltdown, they have shown to be an above average squad. Wins against Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC are very promising and I don’t think it’s crazy to think that they might in fact be a realistic contender to represent the Eastern Conference in the MLS Cup. As for beating the Western representative? Well that’s for another day.
What do you guys think?