Home Sweet Soccer Playoff Bracket Challenge
MLS is a whacky league and should never be gambled on. However, what’s the fun in brackets if you don’t win anything? This year I break down my MLS Playoff bracket and challenge you to submit a perfect one. The winner will win a MLS scarf of their choosing or a $25 Lids gift card. Check the breakdown of the knockout rounds and make sure to join the Home Sweet Soccer Playoff group.
(6) Philadelphia Union at (3) NYCFC
I firmly believe doing well in the playoffs is all about timing. Even when choosing March Madness upsets, I’m a firm believer of going with the team that’s streaking at the right time over a team that’s better on paper. With that being said, it may be too early to tell, but I think NYCFC getting Yangel Herrera back is a huge component of them being probably the most underrated team in this playoff race. Besides the fact that the Union have never won a game at Yankee stadium, the two main reasons why NYCFC will win are
1. They play on a miniature golf course and it plays against the Union’s style. The Union have done an amazing job this year possessing the ball with some beautiful through balls in the middle of the field from Haris and Dockal. The Union have been able to do this because Fafa, Keegan, and CJ play wide on the wings and spread the defense. But as you saw from the last game of the season, the Yankee Stadium field doesn’t allow for the wingers to be as wide as they usually are, allowing NYCFC to crowd and pressure the middle. No really, they don’t leave the middle.
These graphics from MLS and @OptaJack's NYCFC-Union box score are maps of touches by New York's Jesús Medina (19), Ronald Matarrita (22) and Alex Callens (6) in the center of the field from the edge of the Union's 18-yard box to the end line they attacked. pic.twitter.com/e5Fs7r7eQF— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) October 29, 2018
2. Haris Medunjanin is not a defensive mid and Curtin’s stubbornness to sub him for Derick Jones will allow NYCFC plenty of opportunities. Here’s an example of Haris trying to play the position during a counter attack.
(5) Columbus Crew at (4) DC United
Coach Berhalter’s playoff record:
3 wins, 7 losses & 2 draws.
DC’s home record this year
15 games, 12 wins, 2.46 PPG, +17 Goal differential
Not looking good for Columbus.
I’m not betting against The Roon Squad at home. Simple as that.
(6) RSL at (3) LAFC
Two teams who are really really good when all cylinders are moving but have some very inconsistent cylinders. RSL benefiting off of the Galaxy collapse means players are leaving Cancun to come back to play soccer, but will they be ready for LAFC’s fast pace offense?
There’s a lot of questions for this game. So let’s break them down.
Formation and roster?
Mike Petke is not a fan of both MLS officiating and a regular lineup/formation. His favorite
4-2-3-1 formation was ineffective against their last 2 of 3 regular season games against the Timbers where they were outscored 7-1.
Did you see how Chara made Kyle Beckerman look like the old guy trying to stop a fast break at the YMCA?
This isn’t anything new as Beckerman has struggled to keep up with speedy players at the end of this year, and I’m sure Rossi, Lee, Blessing, Vela, and Benny are licking their chops. But then that’s like pot calling kettle black.
Because who does LAFC have to stop the RSL midfield? If Bob Bradley gets coach of the year, I’d agree with it off the fact that he’s gotten them this far without replacing Kaye. And while they’re not giving up too many goals, it’s when they’re giving up goals that seems to be the issue. Since Kaye’s injury, LAFC has drawn 3 games while having the lead going into the 80th minute.
Line up Part 2?
Like RSL, LAFC has a bit of a rotating roster as Bob Bradley has been trying to get Vela and Dio in sync. Vela’s best position is in the middle of the field, but Atuesta in the midfield allows a better defensive formation. This same formation beat RSL 2-0 earlier this year, with RSL trying to physically beat the attack out of LAFC by committing 17 fouls and 5 yellow cards.
So while both teams have line ups and consistency issues, LAFC have shown better form by losing only twice since September, while RSL haven’t beaten a playoff team since July.
(5) Portland at (4) FC Dallas
FC Dallas finished the season with a three game losing streak (which is nothing new), dropping them from 1st to 4th. However, Portland hasn’t really had a strong campaign entering the playoffs, with recent losses to Minnesota, Vancouver, and Houston. Portland has only won 4 times on the road this year but they decided to rest their starters the last game of the season. So what separates these teams?
Portland’s 8th highest scoring offense in the league is dangerous when they are all connecting well, especially on the counter. However, their biggest struggle this year seemed to have been their defense. They have seemed to have found a good pairing of CB with Mabiala and Ridgwell but there should be concern about them keeping up with a fast striker. As well as allowing in through balls from 59878 yards out.
Portland also has to worry about their away form, as they have won only 1 away game since June.
However, Portland may catch a break as it seems FC Dallas’ biggest struggle is finishing.
I’ll go on record and say I’m a Badji fan. He does everything right, except probably the most important thing a striker is supposed to do, finish. When I look at him and opposing striker Jeremy Ebobisse, I see a lot of similarity. Both have great speed, both our athletically gifted and can get up for a ball. While Jeremy showed difficulties finishing last year, he has found his form and has made better decisions and positioning to be able to put the ball in the back of the net, playing his way into the starting line up over Armenteros. Badji in his 3rd year, unfortunately has not…
Two players who read the game well and set themselves up for great opportunities, but currently only one is finishing consistently. And while Badji has shown signs of being a good finisher, including a hat trick earlier this year, Portland has only lost one game this year that they’ve started Ebobisse. That could be the difference.