As Major League Soccer prepares for the playoff season to start, here is a quick look at some of the highlights from the league’s 17th season.
Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes—who is quickly becoming one of the league’s, and America’s, rising talents—will be repeating as the league leader in goals scored (he has 27 with 1 game remaining), only this year he won’t be sharing the title as he did last year with D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario, and he has scored far more goals this year compared with last year when he scored 16.
The Portland Timbers proved that even lost seasons can have silver linings, as they defied the odds and managed to win the Cascadia Cup—an annual, season-long competition held between the Timbers, Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC—with a 1-0 victory over the Whitecaps last night. It was the Timbers’ only road win all season and only their third in the team’s two-year history, two of which have come at the hands of the Whitecaps.
However, it is not all doom and gloom for the Whitecaps, because in one season they have gone from last place in the Western Conference and tied for the lowest point total in MLS, to being the fifth seed in their conference, proving that fortunes can change quite fast. The sting of losing again to the Timbers should be tempered by the knowledge that they will be in the running for the MLS Cup in only their second season, while Portland has yet to make the playoffs in its first two seasons.
That being said, six of this year’s playoff teams were in last year’s playoffs, so the balance of power is not shifting that much. The LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake are back for the West with Vancouver and San Jose joining the fray; and in the East, Sporting Kansas City, the Houston Dynamo and the New York Red Bulls return, while D.C. United and the Chicago Fire have rebounded with strong seasons, almost doubling their win totals from 2011.
San Jose has won this year’s Supporters’ Shield title for the most points in the league and will head into the playoffs as strong contenders to dethrone the reigning champions, the LA Galaxy, and prevent them from becoming the league’s first repeat champions since 2006-2007 when the Houston Dynamo won back-to-back titles.
Expect Sporting Kansas City--currently in the midst of a twelve-game unbeaten streak--Seattle Sounders FC and possibly D.C. United to make some noise as well.