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Your Rooting Guide for the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs Wild Card Round

Don't know who to root for in the playoffs without your dog in the fight? That's ok, we've got the Rootability Index up and working!

On Thursday, #CUSA4Caps
On Thursday, #CUSA4Caps
Victor Decolongon

Well, our beloved Chivas USA did not make the MLS Cup playoffs again in 2012, and that is certainly a bummer. Still, the playoffs are moving ahead, and we're here to give our picks. Plus, it's the 2012 debut of the Rootability Index! Rachna, Matt and I are all weighing in as well, so there's a variety of perspectives. Without further ado:

Eastern Conference Wild Card: Chicago Fire Vs. Houston Dynamo (Wednesday, 6 p.m., ESPN2)

Chicago Rootability Index: 50

The Fire nearly made the playoffs last year after getting their act together, but this year, they did so well that they flirted with the top seed in the Eastern Conference before a skid at the very end left them in 4th place. As a result, they have the disappointment of starting the playoffs early, but they get to host the game.

They had some early bumps, among them the acrimonious departure of playmaker Sebastian Grazzini, plus some terrible early signings like Rafael Robayo and Federico Puppo, and saw overrated/underrated midfielder Marco Pappa depart early for Holland. It is still unclear if they have figured out the international signings, as Sherjill MacDonald has looked very good, and Guillermo Franco somehow convinced them to sign him. But is there anything to root against on this team? I don't think so. Is there anything to specifically root for? Not necessarily. Chicago is a team that could make a run, but could they go to the MLS Cup Final? That seems like a bridge too far. Still, they are a team right in the middle of the Rootability Index.

Rachna gives a reason to root for Chicago as well: "I like the way they play and am happy to root for a team needing a comeback from a poor couple of seasons."

Matt also tips Chicago: "Though I vividly remember Houston's stunning win over Sporting last year and would love to see that rematch, I'm rooting for Chicago. In Section 8, they have one of the oldest and proudest supporter's groups and with Chris Rolfe returning to form, they boast a striking corps that can beat you so many ways. Plus Austin Berry, the favorite for Rookie of the Year, had his first start and goal against Chivas in April."

Houston Rootability Index: 50

See what I did there? This match looks pretty even on the whole, and the Rootability Index is kicking out similar numbers, meaning this whole game is a dead heat. I think people respect the fact that Houston is a hard-working team, that they have a coach who has not been infected with the apathies or had a mental meltdown (ahem, Steve Nicol and Peter Nowak, respectively), although maybe his year is coming? They moved into a new stadium, although that didn't have quite the bump effect I expected, and Dominic Kinnear fundamentally altered his tactics and formation to fit the personnel. They lost Geoff Cameron, so that may account for some of the struggles, but they still did enough to make the playoffs, and they certainly have experience that the Fire does not.

As ever, many of the players on the Dynamo are pretty boring, but they don't really offend, either. Brad Davis had another good year, but he came back to earth, while the most shocking news might have been that Brian Ching made it through the season without a major injury. Oscar Boniek Garcia has been a good pick-up midseason, but they can still drag out games. As a result, the Rootability Index puts them right in the middle as well.

Prediction: All three of us agree - Chicago gets the home win and advances to face Sporting Kansas City.

Western Conference Wild Card: LA Galaxy vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network)

Galaxy Rootability Index: -400

Rachna and I agree, ugh. They won last year, so that should be good for a real long time, right? They were down for the first part of the season, and it looked like they would limp and bicker their way through the season, but no, they had to wake up and play well. Even scrappy Mike Magee, who I thought seemed like a decent guy despite playing for the Galaxy, turned heel and started talking to the refs like he was David Beckham. A wild card round upset at home would be so sweet.

I'm not sure how this happened, but Matt's selections were totally disregarded by the Rootability Index. It must be like dividing a number by zero or something. Here's why he went with the Galaxy: "Vancouver has started strong and has only faltered since coach Martin Rennie started tinkering with the engine, jettisoning Sebastian Le Toux and that other guy (editor's note: there are so many to choose from, but I think he means Davide Chiumiento). Since the mid-point, they have gone 4-9-5 and been shutout in half of those games. Meanwhile they lead the league in fouls but are last--even behind Chivas!--in shots. They may have a combination of dynamic and technical attackers up front, but they've got no one to get them them ball.

I'd like to see the Galaxy quickly dispatch them so they can get on to play the San Jose Earthquakes. The bad blood between the LA and San Jose following their last match was picked up in the media and ought to make for a scintillating two game series."

Vancouver Rootability Index: 85

Although this is not how these things work, the Whitecaps are representing Canada! They are the first-ever team from Canada to make the playoffs. I know we live near the other border, but still, that's got to count for something. Although I'm not a huge fan of Barry Robson yelling at his teammates at every opportunity, there aren't many unlikable players on this team. Sure, you could say that Martin Rennie, coaching in MLS for the first time, messed matters up with his constant tinkering on the roster during the season, as he did things like trade for Sebastien Le Toux and then dump him for Dane Richards, who is leaving for Europe after the season. But wouldn't it be cool to see a team make a run with an unwieldy frankenroster? Plus, they are playing the Galaxy, so the enemy of my enemy, as they say. And they are a huge underdog, and Chivas fans know what that's all about.

Prediction: Unfortunately, the Galaxy is still going to win. A frankenroster with a novice head coach and no playoff experience against the defending champs on the road is not the stuff of victories.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!