Friday, October 23, 2009

Order from chaos, final weekend picks

"We adore chaos because we love to produce order."
~ M.C. Escher

In the delicious disorder that has marked the final weeks of the MLS season will come some order after this weekend, and it all started in that mudpit in Bridgeview last night.

So did anyone check out that Chicago/Chivas game last night? What a messy, messy beast. And I'm not talking about the weather. I honestly think Chicago's only hope in the playoffs, and I think they are a very, very good side, is to have games go to penalty kicks. Patrick Nyarko has go to be one of the worst-finishing starters in the MLS.

But as for the factors that mean something to the Naranjaverse, I would have to say that we all saw Chivas exposed again for what they are, a slightly above-average side with serious holes in the back filled by the aging Zach Thornton and an attack that can only be described in a way that does disservice to all those out there who are really are anemic. Yesteday I remarked on ow Dynamo is out of sync. But the comparison is that Dynamo is a Maserati that needs some new spark plugs, while Chivas is some random GM car trying to convince themselves and everyone else when they say "May the best car win."

So what I saw warmed my heart for the weekend and has me actually feeling some of that playoff mojo. I can only hope that those guys out on the near left edge of the color spectrum feel the same way.

As for the playoffs, here are my predictions from Oct. 2:

Crew, Dynamo, LAG, Fire, Rapids, Toronto, Sounders, Chivas

If the season were to end right now, I would be dead on with that prediction. Eight for fuh-reakin' eight. I would only have missed on the order, but hey, when you're sitting where I am on the weekly prediction, I will not quibble. However, I will not be counting those eggs just yet as there is some more hatching to be done over the next few days. The Rapids and Toronto have some work to do in order to make my ocho de perfecto come to pass, and you know what, I think they're going to do exactly that.

But before I get to that I just want to interrupt this prediction fest (my final one of the regular season, to offer a very short defense of the MLS playoffs. I know all about the arguments from purists (and I sympathize and agree to a point with ALL of them) that playoffs are anti-football, anti-tradition and make a mockery of the regular season. I agree. However, I also know some things, one is that if there were no playoffs there would be no interest in any games this final weekend. Instead, 11 teams (that's 11 out of 15 people) are playing meaningful games, important games, games that could turn the season on its head. Six of the eight playoff slots have been decided and still, every single game in the final weekend (including last night's of course) is crucial to one or both teams. That my friends is an argument right there for a meaningful post-season tournament. I have written before that the Regular Season Champion needs to be called that, (instead of the nominally meaningless Supporter's Shield) and that is an argument to note. That team, even though it's supported by the execrable Nordecke bunch, should be celebrated and awarded a meaningful trophy. But do not under any circumstances eliminate the postseason tournament. The MLS Cup winner is also a fitting championship and the two honors should sit side by side.

So that's my little soapbox moment, which deserves a separate discussion all of its own. Time to move onto the weekend, and these meaningful games I profess to love so much.

Last week: 3-5
Year to date: 87-121 (.418 or 18 games over blind chance)

TORONTO FC at RBNY. 2-1 Reds Toronto books passage into the postseason with this win, the final one at that awful pit known as Giants Stadium, thus ensuring that Costa Rica's Saprissa Stadium is far and away the worst soccer pitch in the New World. Now, being that this is the final Giants Stadium game, and that Red Bulls are trying to bury this awful season, they will come out inspired, or at least as inspired as they can be. But that turnip can only bleed so much. RBNY will take the early lead and then TFC will return with an improbable goal brought about by RBNY's own incomparable incompetence. Then I fully expect Big Game Dwayne to send his Reds over the top and into the playoffs. (I want so badly for TFC to play the Crew in the first round just because those games are always bloodbaths.) The not-altogether-healthy Stefan Frei steps up big.

(That)D(amned)CU(nited) at WIZARDS. 1-1 Draw Personally, I think Tom Soehn will have a very long and enjoyable offseason, unemployed though he will be as DCU expires with a whimper at the hands of the playing-for-pride Wizards. And just to add insult to injury, I think KC will score late with a goal past Steve Cronin (How bad is Kocic if Cronin is an improvement?) to sink DCU's hopes. And you know, this might just be the best thing for that organization, which is too good to be in this situation.

RAPIDS at RSL 2-2 Colorado Conor Casey will be a beast in this game as Colorado books passage through to the postseason with the draw. RSL salvages some pride with a late goal to draw level, but the Rapids' quality does exactly what they need. Jason Kreis, who deserves to stay coach of this team, will have a long time over the offseason to find out what he needs to do to transition this squad back into the championship contender they were in 2008. Unfortunately, with this draw, Colorado finish with the eighth seed and face Columbus for that great Col v Col match-up instead o the blood battle that Col(umbus) v Tor would make.

FC FRISCO at SOUNDERS FC 3-2 Seattle The Battle of the Dreams. And this, my friends, is where the dallas' dream comes to an end for dallas for a lot of reasons, the first of which is that it's running smack into the face of bigger dream. It has been a truly amazing season for the Seattles, with a USOC trophy, a playoff berth, a chance on the final day of the season to win the West, 30K in attendance every game at home, etc. etc. I hate them grudgingly for all of that, but I'm also realistic enough to see that a final regular season home game with all of that going for them is going to be too much for a Schellas Hyndman coached team, with Superman Cunningham or no. Also, the truly awful Baldomero Toledo will be reffing this game, the same guy who gifted Seattle with that goal that Chabala knocked off the line back in July. That's mojo that Seattle doesn't need, but will enjoy. I think Cunningham will definitely score, but Dallas will fall short here.

EARTHQUAKES at GALAXY. 2-2 Draw I just have to tell you that there is no way on Earth I can be objective in assessing this game. For the Naranjaverse to evolve as it needs to, the Gals MUST lose or draw this game. The thing is, San Jose is a truly awful, awful side, not RBNY awful, but still, you know, B.A.D. Now San Jose helped us last week as much as they could by drawing with Chivas at the HDC, so is it too much to ask for them to do it again? I'm not asking for anything superhuman here, just a draw against their most-hated rivals. Let's face it, as any Bay Area person can tell you, screwing LA is enough motivation no matter the situation. Well, beating them will screw LA the most, but I'm not too sure that's possible. I mean, they're not Rubin Kazan here. But they are a Bay Area side with a chance to really deliver a nasty blow to a SoCal team. So I'm relying on that to beat Donovan, that English guy and Ricketts. My head says there's no way that a team with the quality of LA, in the most important game they've played since the 2005 final, should lose or draw here. But my heart, the organ in my body that is 100 percent Orange, will NOT be overruled. Go San Jose, you bastards, GO!

REVOLUTION at CREW 1-1 Draw And here's where you see the end of the road for Steve NIcol's playoff run. Mister3D and I have spoken often how much we respect what he's accomplished, but also how much we hate the way his teams play, chippy, defensive and quick counter attacks. To be truthful, you can't but respect Shalrie Joseph and those guys, but the Revs have just been snakebit all year, the final blow coming when Steve Ralston went down with that horrific injury. For them to make the playoffs would be amazing considering, but they just would not be able to advance far and provide just a simple, simple opponent for whomever they face. The Crew, on the other hand, have looked nothing like the worldbeaters they were in August and September, but that could be attributed to a number of facts, the main being the early date at which they earned their berth. So I think they'll do just enough to keep from losing at home and then put their focus on the playoffs.

And finally:

DYNAMO at las chivitas 1-0 Orange Dynamo will be without Ching and Ashe (thank you Rayados), and Cam Weaver and Ricardo Clark are nursing knee injuries. However, I still think this team has enough to deny the Amerigoats and come out of the HDC with the top spot in the West. Now, to be sure, things can happen to give us that second leg of the Western semis at home with just a draw here. But Seattle would have to tie or lose to FCD at home to open that window, which I don't expect to happen. So just for once this season you Orange, win and make it simple for all of us. Might this be the game where Luis Angel Landin finds his communication with Brad Davis, Stuart Holden and, most importantly, Brian Mullan? Here's the lineup I would like to see:


But if Rico and Cam can't go, how's this one:


Option B is not as good as Option A up top, but to beat Chivas, the strength will have to come in the midfield and a tough as nails back line. Option B might just be a tougher back line than A with ERob in there. And if Thompson can hold and create space for Landin and Holden on dangerousrun, it might just work. We'll see. Just win baby. Just win.

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