Soccer is a tricky and unforgiving game. A few missteps can be the difference between a win, draw, or loss, and even good teams can find themselves with poor records if they’re not careful. That makes the MLS, which allows for upsets in their playoff system, a very interesting league to watch toward the end of the season.
The league’s best teams – the LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps, DC United, and New York Red Bulls – can point to records that show their greatness, but that’s not true of every team. Several MLS squads are much better than their records indicate, which could make them interesting as playoff contenders or spoilers as the season winds on. Let’s take a look at three of them.
New England Revolution
The Revs went to the MLS Cup Final last year for a reason. They have a stacked squad that includes Jermaine Jones – when he’s healthy. Jones missed the beginning of the season while recovering from surgery, and he also missed more than two months recovering from a sports hernia. He returned on August 15 and led the Revolution to a solid 2-0 victory.
The Revs acquired their unimpressive 11-7-9 record mostly without their star. With Jones back in the lineup, the Revolution has won all three games they’ve played, and they can be expected to maintain that dominance through the end of this season and beyond.
New York City FC
NYCFC are a dismal 7-7-13, but that’s thanks in a large part to a rocky start that saw the club win just one of their first thirteen matches. Since then, their record has improved dramatically, and it may still be an underperformance given the amount of talent that the club has. NYCFC have made the biggest signing splashes of the year by inking aging European stars to big deals. If those players start to gel more (and they should) NYCFC will start to win matches. That won’t make them the class of the league, but there is no way that a record with nearly twice as many losses as wins accurately represents the current NYCFC squad.
It’s way too late for NYCFC to make a run at the leaders, but don’t be surprised if this team sneaks into the playoffs and makes trouble for a better-seeded team.
Real Salt Lake
Real Salt Lake are a perennial playoff team, but they’re not looking so hot this year. Sitting at the bottom of a stacked Western Conference with a 8-8-11 record, they’re very much outside the playoff picture this year. So are they really that bad?
In a word: no. Real Salt Lake’s squad has been the victim of the injury bug, with several key players missing significant time throughout the season. Joao Plata, the team’s leading scorer last year, missed the beginning of the season and was out again with injuries as recently as last week. Starter Chris Schuler was just diagnosed with a foot fracture and will miss the rest of the season – thanks to meniscus surgery, he’d already missed 16 games before that. The team has been trying to adapt by signing new players like Juan Manuel Martinez.
With a little time for the new teammates to adapt, and with the recent return of Joao Plata, Real Salt Lake will better reflect their true potential – one that their mediocre record belies.
image courtesy of empireofsoccer.com