The MLS season is not really very long, but it sure feels that way. With well over half the league making the playoffs, and nobody getting relegated (not even sorry Real Salt Lake), the last month or two of the season can drag on torpidly for a number of teams. Whilst DC United fans are undoubtedly delighted they finished top of the regular season standings again, it won’t cut much mustard if they don’t win the MLS Cup in their own yard next month. At times it seemed the most exciting element to the second half of the season was Toronto’s valiant effort to set a new standard in global goalscoring futility.
Yet this Sunday, the league actually has a finale that might wean perhaps 0.5% of American sports fans away from the National Football League for a couple of hours: an unlikely victory streak by the Los Angeles Galaxy, despite the absence of a certan injured Englishman, sees them in with a shot at squeezing into the final playoff spot. And of course, the team they’re facing — my Chicago Fire — are themselves the team currently atop of that battle for the remaining open playoff spots. I would love to outline all the various permutations to you, but given the deciding factors involve head-to-head records, the size of David Beckham’s marketing contract, and several NASL-style shootouts (those last two things are jokes, kids), it’s all a mystery to me. Plus, the Washington Post already did it.
So this Sunday, I will head, as always, to Toyota Park to watch the Fire take on the Galaxy at 2pm. Our own designated player, the magical Mexican Temo Blanco, has notably surpassed expectations so far, though I would say the toll of an extremely long season and growing defensive attention has slowed him up a touch lately. But the Fire still have the talented Chris Rolfe, whose blog is giving Bobby Boswell’s a good run for its money, as well as the zombie impersonating Paolo Wanchope up front. The Beckham (Our David may return for the finale) versus Blanco hype is already brewing. Suddenly, new MLS fans are crawling out of the woodwork all over the place.
Excitement. MLS. Hype. Sell-out. High stakes. Words not always seen on the same line. Alright, some are not so excited at the prospect of a Colorado or LA sneaking into the overly generous post-season bonanza. We’ll admit it’s a bit of a joke that the playoffs feature teams below average by default. Still, we as supporters can only enjoy the system as it is as best we can. And we’ll be sure to report back on this historic day: presuming the Fire win, that is. After all, there’s bound to be one very disappointed Englishman at Toyota Park by 4pm Sunday, one way or another.