MLS: 5 Big Questions Heading into the Final Weeks of the Season
We are finally into the final third of the MLS season, and there are a lot of things to look forward to. Once we get to this point in the season, the stakes rise and the competition often increases as teams try to make a late-season push with the hope of eventually being crowned champions.
From the playoff race to the Supporters' Shield battle, there are so many different stories to follow and questions to be answered. Here are five big questions that we should recognize as the end of the regular season approaches. Enjoy!
Will the Red Bulls Finally Be Consistent?
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The Red Bulls have truly been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league the last couple of seasons. One week they look absolutely hopeless against Houston. The next they put forth a fairly dominating performance in which they beat the same squad 2-0.
The addition of Tim Cahill hoped to give this team a stronger presence in the middle of the field and create attacking opportunities, but whether that signing will keep the Red Bulls from being totally two-faced remains to be seen.
Can the Galaxy Make Up the Ground?
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Few teams in the league have been hotter the last couple months than the defending champions. Apart from a tough loss in Seattle, the Galaxy have earned 16 out of a possible 18 points since early July and have been scoring in bunches.
The incredible attacking performance that LA put forth against Chivas last weekend shows that this team truly can be unstoppable when all the pieces are working correctly. So the question needs to be asked: Can LA make up all the ground?
While they are 11 points back from San Jose, they do have a number of easy games remaining on the schedule including two against Colorado, Dallas, Toronto, Columbus and all their difficult games (RSL, SJ, Seattle) are at home. After seeing this team finally perform how we all expected them too, it is perfectly reasonable to think LA could make a miraculous push to the top of the Western Conference.
Will the League's Young Stars Ever Show Up?
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After a strong 2011, many were expecting the young stars of last season to come and take the league by storm yet again. However, some of the must-know names of a year ago have really underperformed leaving many questioning whether we all anticipated their greatness a little too soon.
Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo, Fredy Montero and Teal Bunbury all are struggling to really make an impact despite being named future stars of the league by many last season. Will they turn it around and get hot before the postseason or fade from relevancy in an ever-changing league? It is truly a mystery right now.
Will Any Teams on the Outside Make a Strong Playoff Push?
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The postseason teams have never looked so firm this early in the season in the history of the league. In both conferences, there are five teams that have really solidified themselves as the contenders, while the others are left stuck looking up across a big gap.
Of course, nothing is impossible, as the Fire made an incredible late-season run last season only to miss the playoffs by a few points despite their horrible start. It just takes a very strong month to turn around a season and do the improbable.
That being said, will there be a late-blooming team that can push and make the race to the playoffs a little bit more interesting? As of right now it doesn’t look like it, but you never know.
Can San Jose's Magic Last All Season?
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This has possibly been the biggest question all season long: Can San Jose really keep up this type of luck? Of course, it is expected that the best teams in any sport are the ones that can pull out late victories, but there might not be another team in the world so efficient in the final minutes of a game than San Jose right now.
The Quakes netted their seventh game-winner in stoppage time last weekend and those seven goals are the difference between them in the driver’s seat of the Supporters' Shield race and fifth place in the Western Conference.
Can San Jose’s magic really last the whole season or will their late-game luck finally come to an end? Only time will tell.