It’s back! We’ve dusted off the old Rootability Index just in time for the opening games of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, which kick off on Wednesday. If you’re looking for guidance on which teams to pull for, look no further.
One note: This is not a prediction piece. Frankly, the home teams are overwhelming favorites for this round, so if you were to bet on the Knockout Round, home teams are the smart bet.
But without further ado, your Knockout Round Rootability Index:
Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union (Weds, 4:30 pm PT, ESPN2)
There’s a lot to like about both teams here, at least from the other side of the continent. Both have less-than-stellar track records, and have each only been in the playoffs once before this season.
On one hand, it would be neat to see the Union blow up and really go on a Cup run, but given the way they backed into the playoffs (still counts!) you can’t really hang your hat on them. And Toronto are one of the most complex teams to root for. They belong to a big market, they have big stars, including probably the single most exciting player in the league in Sebastian Giovinco, and they have a lot of young players who finally got a chance to play this year. And until last year, they basically always stunk out the joint. The Index says we’ve got to go for Toronto in this one.
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake (Weds. 7:30 pm PT, Spectrum SportsNet, UniMás)
Ah yes, the “swallow up the stadium game” of the round. Given our position as a non-Galaxy LA MLS soccer blog, you can probably guess we won’t advocate for the Galaxy here.
So that leaves RSL, but they don’t entirely scream “root for us.” Times have changed, as the post-Jason Kreis/Garth Lagerwey era has led to RSL being more inconsistent, less able to back up their fanbase’s outsize demands for respect all the time. Time was, RSL fans would block non-RSL fans for making entirely innocuous comments on social media, demand to be on national TV and complain about not getting respect even though their possession-based style of play was constantly discussed and applauded. Times are a bit shakier nowadays, and they do have some exciting players, so Rootability Index says we should ignore the past and run with the RSL train in the game in the here and now.
D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact (Thurs. 4:30 pm PT, UniMás)
This is another tough call. Two teams with very different narratives, Montreal being by far the most entertaining team to follow off the field, and D.C. looking to get back atop the MLS heap after dominating the MLS 1.0 days. With two teams effectively being underdogs, the Rootability Index is struggling to make a decision, but if you want a true wild card in the playoff field, Montreal is the way to go. They can win (or lose) a game 1-0 or 5-4. They will definitely have to deal with the ongoing Didier Drogba saga as long as their season continues. Impact owner Joey Saputo may need to make more random press conferences to address the Drogba or (fill in the blank) drama of the day. And we’re more likely to see chaos the longer the run goes, so the Index rules Montreal it is.
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City (Thurs, 7 pm PT, FS1)
This one’s easy. The Index says the overwhelming pick here is Seattle. Sure, they are a big team and aren’t afraid to let you know again (and again, and again) but they are still underdogs in the MLS Cup Playoffs, mostly because they haven’t reached MLS Cup yet. Sure, they are favored against Sporting, who play hard and can play well at times, but the Sounders are in the peculiar place of being much-hyped underdogs. It’s a tricky balance, one many folks don’t like, but the Index says Seattle all the way.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!