Written by: JP Lococo (@jp_lococo)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Believe it or not, we are already halfway through the 2013 Major League Soccer season and what an action-packed four months it has been. As the clubs begin to enter play in July, they also will begin mid-season reviews, finalizing roster sizes, and making any changes necessary to put themselves in playoff contention. Personally, I think this is one of the more interesting parts of the MLS season. Dropping two consecutive games in the months of July or August can bring your club from second place in the conference to out of the playoff race. Go look at previous years for examples. Additionally, teams that begin to consistently pick up points at home and on the road will find themselves quickly at the top of the table. Only four points currently separates four teams in the East, and the West is just as tight. The fan bases are delicate and will be along for an up and down couple months as we progress towards October.
So, as front offices begin to plan for the coming weeks, I thought it would be a good time to give everyone my top two teams in both the East and the West to watch in the second half of the season.
- I love Sporting KC moving forward in the second half of the season for a couple of reasons. They have always been one of the most talented teams in the East but haven’t had many opportunities to get a consistent line-up together. Injuries and US Men’s National Team call-ups have slowed their progress as a unit. With Graham Zusi coming back and veteran Kei Kamara finding his scoring touch again, this offense should be difficult to defend. Let’s also not forget, despite all the line-up changes for Kansas City over the last couple months, they are still in fourth place in the East. Look for Sporting KC to continue to climb in the standings.
- The Chicago Fire are, well, on fire. Okay, I know that was lame but my poor attempt at a joke was also true. They are unbeaten in their last six matches and have won four of those, including the last three. What has caused this current spike in performance? I have one name to give you, Mike Magee. Chicago recently received Magee in a trade from the L.A. Galaxy and the Fire couldn’t be happier about it. After losing three straight games without Magee, the Fire inserted him in the line-up and the results were dramatic. Magee has scored seven goals in the last eight games and is literally carrying this team into the playoff picture. Keep an eye not only on Magee, but the Fire as a whole as they are really finding an identity.
Los Angles Galaxy
- Yes, the L.A. Galaxy is the team to watch for in the West again. Maybe you are saying, “JP, of course we are going to watch for them. They have all the big names and a huge budget.” Well, you would be right in saying that. I have added them to this list because despite all the big name players they have, the fifth place Galaxy are barely holding onto playoff life. After winning the MLS Cup last year with David Beckham and company, all has not been so swell for the Galaxy. The sole reason I believe that L.A. will be there in October is because of Landon Donovan. At the beginning of this season, he was being questioned on his will to play or if he even cared about playing in L.A. anymore. After some time off, Donovan is beginning to look re-energized. He has been left off countless U.S. National team roster spots over the past couple months and he realizes its time to pick it up if he plans on playing against Mexico in Columbus, OH on September 10th for a World Cup birth. If you are a U.S. Soccer fan, keep an eye on how Donovan plays down the home stretch. We will need him in Brazil next summer.
- I have two reasons to watch the Sounders as the playoff picture continues to approach. Head coach Sigi Schmid is experienced and savvy. He is beginning to have a full roster of healthy players and with one MLS Cup under his belt and no Open Cup play to distract them, Seattle will continue to play well at home and rack up the points. My second reason is simply the fan support. With over 35,000 fans at every home game, they will continue to push the team forward to get results when at home.
I am extremely excited for the second half of this season and every soccer fan should be too. The parity within the league keeps teams in the hunt through the next couple of weeks and anyone has an opportunity to pick up their play and make the playoffs. These teams I mentioned are all capable of not only making a push for the playoffs in November, but capable of making a run at the MLS Cup. Let the race begin!