Good morning Caps fans — Congrats sailors, you made it to Friday!
And it is a Friday where we get MLS back after an interminable international break and it is not just MLS, no no. It is the MLS Cup Playoffs (TM).
Yes, yes even though the playoffs involve such juggernauts as [checks notes] Nashville SC and Montreal Impact, they are still likely to be must-see TV.
That’s in part for the reasons we talked a bit about earlier this week — there is just a lot of uncertainty, ranging from international duty to players testing positive to the fact that there is not a clear-cut favorite headed into the tournament.
And then there is the single-elimination format returning, a move that will likely duplicate the fun-as-a-neutral playoffs from last year, as well as the generally entertaining MLS Is Back competition earlier this year.
I said after the 2016 election that I was done making predictions in politics and I’ve mostly held true to that. I think that the 2020 playoffs might be push me to (finally) do what I should have done awhile ago and that’s give up making predictions about MLS.
That point hasn’t happened yet, though, so here is my best guess at what the first round will look like.
Montreal v. New England: I get that anything can happen but Montreal just aren’t very good and slipped into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. The Revs are in poor form but should get by a Samuel Piette-less Impact. Prediction: New England
Nashville v. Inter Miami: This one is very much a toss-up—Nashville have overperformed in year one, despite some middling contribution from their Designated Players. They will likely bunker against a Miami team with more firepower and who am I to pick against a team doing that with Walker Zimmerman, although I expect a competitive one tonight. Prediction: Nashville S.C.
Orlando City v. NYCFC: This is the one I’m most excited for in round one and I honestly can’t seperate these two teams. I give the slight edge to Orlando just due to NYCFC’s defensive lapses this season, although the playoffs tend to favor teams with postseason experience (which NYC has). This will be the one to watch. Prediction: Orlando City
Columbus Crew v. New York Red Bulls: The Crew should be one of the favorites in the east which means I’m sure they’ll lose to a Red Bulls team without a permanent manager. In all seriousness, the Red Bulls are in good form but so is Lucas Zelarayan and Co. Prediction: Columbus
Sporting KC v. San Jose Earthquakes: Who knows what to expect from San Jose at this point, as they’ve been the ultimate yo-yo club this season. Sporting KC have been a lot steadier and you know that Peter Vermes will have them well-drilled for this. Gadi Kinda should be fit, which seals the deal. Prediction: SKC
Minnesota United v. Colorado Rapids: The glimmer of hope exists for the Loons that key players, including Robin Lod and Jan Gregus, will be back. But Minnesota has not been in the best form and it would be Peak MLS if the Rapids won this — and they certainly have the quality to do so. Remember, they have less tread on their tires right now. Prediction: Rapids
Portland Timbers v. FC Dallas: Easily the most intriguing match on the western conference side. Portland have a lot of injuries piling up and you wonder at what point Diego Valeri can’t bail them out anymore. Andrés Ricaurte has been in form for Dallas and they have the quality to beat the Timbers in a one-off. I expect this one will go to extra time, which favors FC Dallas. Prediction: FC Dallas.
I expect all of these will make me look like an idiot come Monday.
Shameless Self Promotion
Sam Rowan gives you his (probably better informed) predictions here.
And we have the first in a series of stories where we vote, Survivor-style, which Caps players to keep and which to boot. Read our first one with the current/former DPs
Best of the Rest
MLS HQ was forced to layoff 20 percent of its staff due to financial strain from COVID-19. Best wishes to those affected
How Black players are continuing to push the league for action after a summer of protest
The SuperDraft is getting slashed to three rounds and that probably is two rounds still too many
A more tactical look at the first-round playoff matches