The 2012 season has been one emotional roller coaster ride that has enhanced that unhealthy vivacious feeling we get in the catacombs of our stomachs when we’ve eaten too much Chinese food. We’re content at first, but as time goes on, we want to go comatose on the couch, only to feel the need to eat after three hours of lazily lounging in front of our telly’s. That is my spectacularly thought out analogy of our MLS season.
As Rapids fans, most of us have come to that "Chinese-y" food realization that our playoff hopes have been all but dashed and we will spend the off-season months regaining our hopes until the MLS rises again, (And I do have high hopes for the 2013 season, quite realistically).
That being said, I would like to give you my top two sleepers from the west, and top two sleepers from the east. Now, for those of you that skip words when you read, I did say sleepers, meaning these are not predictions of the MLS Cup 2012, but predictions of teams that I think have the capability to come out of the wood works to take down the heavily armored favorites to possibly make the twenty-twelve Cup. And no, Colorado is not one of them.
In the East:
Barring a setback against a New York Red Bulls team that should be much better than they are, and squeezing past the bottom feeders, Chivas USA, the Crew find themselves in playoff contention. The 5th place black and gold of Columbus have bolstered their attack with the new addition of Federico Higuain who becomes the team’s 3rd designated player. Since his debut against the Houston Dynamo on August 19, the Crew are an incredible 5-2-1. A month before Higuain’s debut, striker Jairo Arrieta, who signed with the Crew back in April, made his debut against Sporting KC on July 14th. The Crew went 3-2-1 with Arrieta before Higuain’s Crew opener, which would make them 8-4-2 with these newly acquired attacking monsters. The beginning of the season was mediocre at best for Columbus. Until July 14th, when Arrieta set foot onto the pitch, the Crew were a measly 6-7-4. Of course, we cannot forget the American middleman, Eddie Gaven, who leads the Crew in goals, but I will say, Higuain leads the team in assists, only playing in 8 matches.... just sayin’. Needless to say, though they be in 5th place (get it? The Crew? Pirate talk? Yeah, I went there), Columbus is a force not be trifled with. Watch for the bumble bees to make some kind of playoff run, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them destroy the hopes and dreams of some teams feasting comfortably at the top of the table.
Let me start with this, 4-0-0. That’s what the Impact were in the month of August. This sweep of the month included a 3-1 win over San Jose, who is undoubtedly one of the best two teams in Major League Soccer. We see flabbergasting winning streaks from this northwestern team, but we we also watch them die in flames just as often. This is a winning or losing side, pulling the least amount of draws of any other team in the MLS with 3. They are 12-15-3 and in 7th place in the east, only 6 points behind the Crew and playoff contention. IF, and I use that term heavily, if they can go on a run like they had in August (and September hasn’t been a great start), they can lick their wounds and still make playoffs. And as we’ve seen, they can play with anyone, or lose badly to anyone. This one’s a shot in the dark here folks. With D.C.’s Dwayne De Rosario out for the remainder of the season, I’m not sure Chris Pontius and company can fill his role. The Impact will be hoping for exactly that. But the trick for the Impact will be whether or not they can jump not only DC, but either the Crew or the Dynamo as well. So, sit down with some Canadian french fries and gravy, and see if Patrice Bernier can lead his team on a duplication of August’s wild streak.
In the West:
Let’s keep it in the Great North, just move west a bunch of miles. I don’t have the patience to calculate it, or pull up a new window on Firefox to look at a map. You all know the misfortune that has befallen the city of Vancouver. Their five game losing slide has separated them from the four team pack in front of them by nine points, tailed by Real Salt Lake. Yet, the Caps are still in 5th place in the west and holding a playoff spot. But as they say, the playoffs are a whole ‘nother season. They just have to hold onto their dogsleds and pray that the rest of the way is downhill with their comfy home schedule. The fact they’re still even sitting in 5th place should tell you about the "threats" that are behind them, other than FC Dallas, and I’ll get to them. If they can turn strikers Camilo Sanvezzo and and Darren Mattocks loose and hope Joe Cannon’s brittle old legs don’t fall off, they could put in for a playoff run. Again, that's an IF. But I doubt it.
One point is all that separates FCD from that red line drawn between those that will continue down the road to glory, and those that will join their fans at home with heads between their knees. That may have been harsh, but that’s the reality. Dallas just took down Vancouver to close that gap to one point, oh, and one more thing, their attackers, they’re all healthy. In my un-biased opinion, (which is extremely hard for me to write), Dallas is the most dangerous they’ve looked since the beginning of the season. Even as I sit here writing this, my hands shake at my own disappointment that I’ve even mentioned Dallas. They were written off! They were done! But now, we all sit watching them squat on their skis as they gain speed to the bottom of the mountain, surpassing those around them. If they can overcome their deficit at defense, that being injuries to Ugo Ihemelu and George John, by battering the opposing goal with shots, they may be the team in the west to watch. Oh, that was a hard paragraph to write.
Who are your sleepers? Agree? Disagree? Aaaaand discuss.