MLS Cup Playoffs: The how-to-root guide for neutrals/eliminated fans
So, chances are, your favorite Major League Soccer team has already been knocked out of the 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs — that’s if they even qualified in the first place. Don’t feel bad, though, you’re far from alone — your team is just like a vast majority (80 percent) of the league as a whole.
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I know, that probably does nothing to make you feel even the slightest bit better, especially if you’re a fan of the Seattle Sounders or Montreal Impact — brutal way to go out on Sunday, guys. But you’re still watching the rest of the playoffs. You know you are.
What’s the fun in not having a team to root for, even if only halfheartedly, though? In truth, there’s a lot to like — and very little to dislike — about this year’s last four standing. Still not sure which of the remaining four teams best suits your personal soccer ideology, likable characters and/or need for U.S. national stars of the present/future? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
New York Red Bulls
What’s to like: They’re built on the smallest on-budget payroll in the league, yet they finished top of the league in the regular season; they got rid of D.C. United for the rest of us - thanks, Red Bulls; Dax McCarty is the hardest-working man in MLS, yet so often he goes unnoticed; they’ve never won an MLS Cup
What’s not to like: They’re “the New York team” (though they play in New Jersey), which on its own is enough to put off half the nation.
Who can/can’t root for them: Can’t - D.C. United or New York City FC fans; Can - Those hoping Matt Miazga is the savior of the USMNT
Root-a-bility ranking: 4th-of-4
What’s to like: Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri, Lucas Melano, Rodney Wallace and Fanendo Adi is an extremely enjoyable attacking unit to watch, when set out properly; the Providence Park atmosphere (Timbers Army); they’ve never won an MLS Cup
What’s not to like: Does Caleb Porter rub anyone else the wrong way? Perhaps I hold a slight grudge over his refusal to accept that the Timbers could have been a dominant counter-attacking side for two full seasons, until October of this year.
Who can/can’t root for them: Can’t - Still-hurting Sporting Kansas City or Vancouver Whitecaps fans; Seattle Sounders fans; Can - Those hoping Nagbe is the savior of the USMNT; pretty much anyone else
Root-a-bility ranking: 3rd-of-4
Columbus Crew SC
What’s to like: Lightning-quick, counter-attacking soccer that completely overwhelms opponents - they know no other way to play, for better or for worse; Kei Kamara’s breakout season (22 goals) at age 30; Wil Trapp, Wil Trapp and Wil Trapp; their secondary kits (black checkered) are the best in the league, hands down
What’s not to like: If Plan A isn’t working, there is no Plan B, which can make them extremely frustrating to watch against a bunkered midfield and defense.
Who can/can’t root for them: Can’t - Still-hurting Montreal Impact fans; Chicago Fire and Toronto FC fans; Can - Literally everyone else
Root-a-bility ranking: 2nd-of-4
What’s to like: The youngest core unit in MLS, by some way (14 players appeared in 20 or more regular-season games — average age: 25.4 years old); they’re proof that academies are the way forward in MLS - all hail Oscar Pareja; Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo combined to create arguably the best one-two punch in MLS; they’ve never won an MLS Cup
What’s not to like: Blas Perez’s antics could singlehandedly make you hate any team in the world, unless you the type that roots for the villain.
Who can/can’t root for them: Can’t - Still-hurting Seattle Sounders fans; Houston Dynamo fans; Can - Those who enjoy the constructing of a team as much as the playing of actual games
Root-a-bility ranking: 1st-of-4