The Knockout Round is over for the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, and so we turn attention to the next round, the conference semifinals.
It’s where the truly big teams of the season enter the fray, and with it, there are four new teams going through the Rootability Index. What team will emerge in each match-up? Let’s put the info into the Index and see what happens!
Reminder: This is not a prediction post. It’s a post to help you decide which team you should root for, all based on totally mysterious science that we can’t legally share with you. Just take our word for it.
All game information listed is for the first leg of the two-legged series.
Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls (Sun. 12 pm PT, ESPN)
Montreal was the only road dog to win in the Knockout Round, and the Rootability Index very clearly favored them for the off-field chaos, that je ne sais quoi that comes from having a global superstar pouting his way to the end of his contract, and an owner that just loves drama.
That said, the Red Bulls often play an eye-pleasing brand of soccer, one that could even produce pleasant, goal-provoking play in an MLS Cup final. You can see this team refusing to tighten the gears to the point of immobility and just going out there and playing. And that’s a compelling reason to root for them as a neutral.
But the Index insists: The potential for chaos with the Impact makes them irresistible. They can soar to amazing heights or set up an on-field team fight that Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain would be proud of. The Rootability Index is way in Montreal’s favor here.
LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids (2 pm PT, ESPN)
Once again, the Galaxy are in the hard to swallow match-up of the round, but even though the Rapids play dreadfully dull, plodding but effective enough soccer, the Index acknowledges the narrative that goes with Colorado.
The Rapids are the ultimate underdog, finishing at the bottom of the conference standings last year before jumping to within a day of winning the Supporters’ Shield this season. Yes, they are hard to watch, as you will find yourself spending far more time watching their defensive midfielders than you thought was possible. But damn, if they were the ragtag winners, that would really be something. It may be a variation of 2010 all over again, but the Rapids are the upstarts, and who really wants to watch the Galaxy zoom through the playoffs again? The Index is firmly in the Rapids’ camp for this round.
Toronto FC vs. New York City FC (4 pm PT, FS1)
These teams are really pretty similar in makeup, with a few big stars, several older complementary pieces, and a passel of youngsters stepping in to make a difference every now and then. There are those that would root against NYCFC by virtue of their Citeh connection, or because at times they have seemed to be of MLS but not in it, so to speak. I think those concerns are overblown in the main, however.
But the Rootability Index is firmly touting TFC in this one. In addition to the irresistable force of Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto just won their first playoff game. It took them 10 seasons. For all the good times that the club is now going through, it wasn’t that long ago that they were one of the most wretched teams in the league. In the broader narrative tradition, they’re like this year’s Rapids, only with way more woe and much more entertaining to watch play soccer. So you know where this is going — the Index is all the way in TFC’s favor.
Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas (6:30 pm PT, FS1)
When the numbers were put into the Rootability Index for this one, the needle moved back and forth and back again. A real tough call, as they say. You may recall that the Sounders are in the “popular underdogs” role, a very tricky balance but one they’ll remain in for the MLS Cup Playoffs until they reach the MLS Cup Final. Even with winning their Knockout Round game against Sporting KC (with no flag going up on Nelson Valdez’s winner), the fanbase is still largely in “Yeah? And what’s next?” mode.
FC Dallas, on the other hand, enter the playoffs as a weird kind of favorite. Yes, they’ve won both trophies available to American teams so far this year. But their playmaker, Mauro Diaz, is out, and while Dallas have been better the last two seasons in accounting for a key player’s absence, most think Dallas can’t possibly win MLS Cup this year, too.
So this Dallas team may not be a juggernaut when it comes to the unpredictable nature of the playoffs. But they are still the favorite, and when it comes to watching what is a team that eschews big stars, builds from within, and has quite possibly the best young coach in the game right now, there’s no shame in wanting Dallas to win the treble. Don’t forget, they didn’t even win a trophy until this season for 19 years. They may be making up for lost time, but the favorites are still a team worth rooting for, and the Index ending up stopping in FC Dallas’ favor.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!