Once again all 20 MLS teams finished the season playing 10 simultaneous games in order to prevent any shenanigans and when the dust cleared on Sunday evening much had been determined on Decision Day.
Defending Champs Chopped Down
I hate to start off on a negative but when the league’s defending champions go into the final game of the season knowing a win will get them back into the postseason and still proceed to lose 4-1 to a team that was already eliminated, well that is noteworthy.
Hats off to Vancouver, who showed up and took the Cascadia Cup for their efforts but Caleb Porter will have some tough questions to answer in the wake of this flop. Question number one? How did your team go 17 games without winning even once on the road? 0-11-6 is awful, I don’t care how difficult MLS travel conditions are.
1a) Here is a late breaking capper to Portland’s season-ending swoon; team captain Liam Ridgewell and goalkeeper Jake Gleeson were arrested Monday night on charges of Driving Under the Influence.
The pair were released on bail and are due back in court on November 16.
2) FC Dallas Claim Supporters Shield- Alive for the Triple
Having already annexed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 4-2 victory over the New England Revolution in front of a rare sellout crowd last month, one point from Sunday’s season finale allowed Dallas to claim the league’s best record and add the second leg of the domestic triple, the Supporters Shield.
The Shield secures for Dallas the home field advantage for as long as they are in the playoffs, up to and including the MLS Cup Final, should they get that far. And with a place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals theirs as well, FCD could pick up a fourth piece of silverware before long.
But for all the pride and honor attached to the other competitions, the trophy that matters above all else in this league is the MLS Cup. Will Dallas win it?
They might. But to do so Dallas will have to get past the loss of influential playmaker Mauro Diaz who is out for the year. A look back to Dallas’ Open Cup victory shows just how important the 25-year-old Argentine is to Oscar Pareja’s side.
Diaz set up three of Dallas’ four goals in that championship match and scored the other from the penalty spot. Dallas is far from a one-man show, it’s just that if there is one man that they cannot do without, it is Mauro Diaz. Can FCD overcome that absence? That’s what the playoffs will show.
3) Say Bye! Bye!
And I mean that in a good way. Along with Dallas; Colorado and both New York clubs secured coveted first-round playoff byes, although only New York City FC needed a result on Decision Day to claim the prize.
And while the improvement engineered in the Bronx by first year NYC coach Patrick Vieira was remarkable it pales in comparison to the bizarro world turnaround fashioned by the Rapids to finish second in the West, just two points behind Supporters Shield winning Dallas.
With Pablo Mastroeni back at the helm the Raps very nearly went from worst to first, improving its point total from 37 to this year’s 58 behind the league’s stingiest defense. And Colorado’s dee had to be tight, the Rapids scored just 39 goals in 2016, more than just San Jose (32) and the same as Houston. As a point of reference, those teams finished ninth and 10th respectively in the Western Conference this season.
Skipping out on a midweek match and the attendant quick turnaround is a nice reward for doing well over the course of a long season, so the quartet at the top of the divisions will no doubt enjoy the rest while the remaining contenders are forced to battle it out on Wednesday and Thursday.
Here is the KO Round schedule:
Wednesday, Oct. 26
7:30 p.m. ET: Philadelphia Union @ Toronto FC (ESPN2, UniMas, MLS Live)
10:30 p.m. ET: Real Salt Lake @ LA Galaxy (UniMas, MLS Live)
Thursday, Oct. 27
7:30 p.m. ET: Montreal Impact @ D.C. United (UniMas, MLS Live)
10 p.m. ET: Sporting KC @ Seattle Sounders (FS1, UniMas, MLS Live)
4) Two MLS Stalwarts Call it a Day
At the end of every season, retirements are inevitable as veterans review their situations and consider their futures. This year has already been marked by the loss to the league of two men who leave an indelible mark on the league with recent word that Ned Grabavoy and Brad Davis will hang up the boots at the end of the season.
For Grabavoy that moment came with Portland’s spectacular failure on Sunday, for Davis he plays on for at least one more night as a member of playoff bound Sporting Kansas City.
The two are multiple MLS Cup winners, Grabavoy in 2005 with the Los Angeles Galaxy and in 2009 with Real Salt Lake, the club where the heady midfielder made his most lasting impression.
Davis won back to back crowns with the Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007, highlights of a career that included Cup losses in 2011 and ‘12, six all-star selections, one MLS Best 11, and a late career recall to the U.S. MNT that included a trip to the 2014 World Cup, where Davis started against Germany.
Known for his cultured left foot and his expertise with a cross from both play and dead ball situations Davis retires third on the all-time MLS assist chart. The nearest active player to Davis’ total of 123? This season’s MLS assist king Sacha Kljestan, who has 66 MLS helpers.
5) MLS Sets Attendance Mark Again – 6th in World Attendance
For the third year running MLS has set a new high in attendance reporting an average attendance of 21,692, up from 21,558 in 2015.
Seattle remains the crowd king with a reported 42, 636 average attendance with Orlando and New York City FC maintaining the next two spots, although each of the top three saw a downturn from 2015.
There was good news in Canada where Montreal and Toronto reported the biggest increases, up to 20,669 and 26,583 respectively. Some of Montreal’s league-best increase of 16.4% is attributable to playing an extra game this year at the Olympic Stadium and Toronto’s climb to fourth received a bit of a boost from the completion of construction at BMO Field.
However, the news continues to be bad in Frisco, Texas, where treble-chasing FC Dallas rank dead last in attendance, down over 16% to last in the league with just over 14,000 coming out to see the league’s top regular season team.