After last night's entertaining All Star Game, the MLS season is about to enter its second half. The push for the playoffs promises to be an eventful one, with plenty of excitement and great soccer. Here are five predictions on what will unfold in the coming months of MLS.
5. LA Will Win The West
I know, they've been the most wildly inconsistent team in the entire league. Nobody has scored more goals than the Galaxy (36) and nobody has conceded more (33). But a look at how the Western Conference is shaping up will tell you that LA is the team best-equipped to make a second half run.
Chivas had been battling with LA for the top spot out West for most of the season, but has begun to lapse a little bit. Their struggles will only continue with the departure of Brad Guzan to Aston Villa. Houston is in third place, right behind LA, but has struggled to find any consistent form in the league this season.
Real Salt Lake, currently tops in the West, may find themselves as a low seed come playoff time. They are only up on LA by a single point and have played more games than all the teams behind them. They have also played a little over their heads for a good part of the season.
4. New York Will Disappoint...Again
Jozy Altidore is off to greener pastures in Villareal and Claudio Reyna has retired. This means that the bulk of the Red Bulls' offensive firepower is coming from Juan Pablo Angel, who is at times susceptible to injury. Ideally, they would use the summer transfer window to bring in help. Don't be surprised if it doesn't matter.
New York's record at home has actually been a very respectable 4-1-3. They have not been able to experience any success away from the Meadowlands, posting a 1-5-3 record away from home. These kind of numbers will not get you into the playoffs unless you are in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
3. Columbus Will Make The Playoffs
The former team of both Brian McBride and Kasey Keller has not made the playoffs since 2004, when they finished first in the East. Look for the 2008 edition of the Crew to buck that trend. Coach Sigi Schmid has quietly assembled a very talented group of players though.
Robbie Rogers would have been the youngest player at the MLS All-Star Game had he not received a call to play in the Olympics. Alejandro Moreno and Guillermo Barros Schelloto are proving to be very dangerous in the attacking third of the field. And we can not forget about Frankie Hejduk, who at 33 years old, is still one of the most dangerous backs in MLS.
2. Dallas Will Lose Some Very Talented Players
Both Kenny Cooper and Juan Toja have been the subject of several transfer inquiries from European clubs. Juan Toja's deal to Steaua Bucaresti is apparently almost complete, which would be a big blow to Dallas' midfield.
Kenny Cooper has scored nine goals for FC Dallas so far this season, and has thus attracted the attention of Norwegian club Rosenborg BK. Rosenborg are the most successful club in Norwegian history, and have put in a serious bid for Cooper. Several other clubs have allegedly expressed interest in Cooper as well, but Rosenborg is named as the most likely destination.
1. Chicago Will Be The Best Second Half Team
With the addition of Brian McBride a done deal, Chicago have landed one of the best finishers in American soccer history. Cuauhtemoc Blanco should provide McBride with far better service than he ever received at Fulham (Jimmy Bullard excluded), and McBride will return the favor by pouring in the goals.
Chicago are only eight points behind Eastern Conference leaders New England, but have a game in hand. If McBride does indeed add the offensive spark he is expected to, Chicago will be able to turn matches that would have been draws in the first half of the season into some second half wins.