Major League Soccer is rolling toward the playoffs and on Sunday the New York Red Bulls became the first team book its place in the league’s annual postseason jamboree.
1) Ali Curtis Redeemed!
Who? Ali Curtis the Red Bulls Sporting Director. He’s the guy that fired the Red Bulls very popular and fairly successful coach Mike Petke this offseason, incurring the wrath of the team’s most rabid supporters with his first act as the new boss.
The Curtis plan included allowing DP Tim Cahill to pack his bags and go, and did not include signing a big name or two to make up for the departures of Cahill and French legend Thierry Henry.
What Curtis had in mind was a low budget, under the radar approach, all of this while NYCFC were swaggering into town. It was a risky approach in the nation’s biggest market, and the playoffs are hardly the final goal, but so far the Curtis Plan is looking pretty good.
2) Red Bulls Up – DC Down
While the Red Bulls have been climbing the Eastern Conference table, the team’s longest term rival has been sliding down.
DC hasn’t won a league game since August 8, losing four times and tying just once over that span. DC also has lost its previous grip on first place, falling all the way to fourth.
Still, even given this swoon United are just three points back of the table-topping Red Bulls, and two behind Columbus while a single point separates DC from third place New England.
With four games left in the regular season Ben Olsen’s men still have it all to play for, but wherever DC finish in the standings, a couple of wins would be nice heading into the playoffs.
3) Deuce + Oba = Wins
It really shouldn’t have been a surprise when Seattle slumped earlier this season without Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey. Losing two of the best, and most exciting players in the league will slow any team.
With the duo back and looking healthy the Sounders went into Vancouver and hammed first place Vancouver over the weekend with Obafemi Martins scoring twice and adding an assist while Clint Dempsey chipped in with two helpers.
The win moved Seattle within three points of the Whitecaps, although the Sounders sit fourth in the tightly packed Western Conference. All is not rosy in the Emerald City, however. Two of the club’s defensive lynchpins, center back Roman Torres and d-mid Osvaldo Alonso are hurting.
Torres, the powerful Panamanian center back is out for the year, and we await word on Alonso after he left in the 85th minute at Vancouver.
The win makes Seattle the winner this years’ Cascadia Cup and sets up yet another grudge match this Wednesday when the team’s meet in CCL play in Seattle.
4) Drogba and Biello Spark Impact
With Didier Drogba and new coach Mauro Biello leading the way, Montreal is in an enviable position in the standings with playoff time rapidly approaching.
Drogba debuted in the starting lineup in Biello’s first match in charge and the Ivorian superstar supported the new boss with a hat trick in a 4-3 win against Chicago back on September 5th.
The team tied two matches since then before clubbing New England 3-0 on Saturday in front of an appreciative home crowd at Stade Saputo.
Montreal is in the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot four points back of Toronto and one up on Orlando. NYCFC and Philadelphia lurk two and three points back of the Impact, with Montreal having played two games less than TFC and three less than its chasers.
Of course games in hand are only a good thing if you win those games, but Montreal head into the homestretch holding its fate in its own hands.
5) Yallop Cut Loose By Fire – New GM Hired
No real surprise here. Chicago has been terrible this season, the least points in the league being a fair barometer. So Yallop is out and the Fire has brought in Nelson Rodriguez from the league office to clean up this mess.
Because make no mistake, the Chicago Fire is a mess. The Fire were an early league power, winning MLS Cup in 1998 and finishing second in 2000 and 2003. But as Fire faithful will surely attest, the early aughts are a long time ago.