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MLSPR: Regular season title up for grabs
Supporter’s Shield comes down to the wire
In the majority of countries around the world, particularly in Europe, winning the regular season championship is seen as the ultimate goal.
But that is not the case in MLS.
The regular season champions are never mentioned as the top team -- that honor goes to the last team standing when the playoffs end. This is not surprising given how other American sports decide on a champion, but it does take away from the excitement of the final matchday of the regular season.
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This weekend both RSL and the L.A. Galaxy can be crowned as regular season champions, but it is not creating the excitement that such a close finish should.
The playoffs add a different kind of excitement, but it is much more of a cup competition in which the team that hits top form at the right time and not the best team overall ends up winning. It would be nice to see the regular season champions get the plaudits for coming out on top after a grueling season, but the reality is that as long as the playoffs are around, that is not likely to happen.
Keep Angel In the league
Juan Pablo Angel’s time in New York may be almost up but MLS should do everything in its power to keep the talented striker in the league.
Angel is arguably the best finisher in the league and there are several teams that would benefit from acquiring the Colombian international.
Angel had been linked with a move to several different clubs when the Red Bulls signed him and many of those teams would still be prepared to pay Angel well to don their colors.
One of the teams that was linked with the New York striker was the Galaxy and I believe he would be a perfect fit in Los Angeles. Landon Donovan would benefit from playing alongside another experienced international, while it would ease the goal-scoring burden on Edson Buddle.
Angel is still a top level talent and if he is to be persuaded to stay in MLS, it will have to be with a team that can challenge for honors. The L.A. Galaxy fit that bill perfectly.
Portland sign up four
The Portland Timbers began to assemble their squad for their first year in MLS with four signings.
Three of the players are from the current Timbers squad, while the fourth has had a tremendous season at the USSF level this year. These signings are not likely to increase the demand for season tickets in Portland, but it is important that MLS clubs do not look past the talent in the lower leagues of U.S. soccer.
The Sounders brought up Sebastien Le Toux when they made the jump to MLS and within two years he has become a genuine MVP candidate for the league. The salary cap restricts teams from splashing the cash so it is vital for the teams to try and unearth gems that other MLS teams may have looked past.
MLS: June 23-25
|Thursday, June 23|
|Saturday, June 25|
|San Jose||0-0||LA Galaxy||Recap|
|Real Salt Lake||3-1||Toronto||Recap|
|Sunday, June 26|
|MLS Scores | Table | Fixtures|
Steve Cronin and Ryan Pore have already had spells in MLS, but their drop down a level has helped them both develop into more rounded players and they will return to the league with a much better chance of succeeding.
John Spencer will sign more high profile players over the coming weeks but don’t be surprised to see these first four signings playing a huge part in the future of the Portland Timbers.
Who is the hottest?
The team that is hitting form as the season begins to wind down more often than not wins the playoffs.
The Galaxy and the Red Bulls may top their respective divisions but it is Seattle and RSL that look like the most dangerous teams as the regular season draws to a close.
RSL has not lost in MLS action since July and they are almost unbeatable at Rio Tinto Stadium, while the Seattle Sounders have won five straight games in MLS play.
The Sounders turnaround over the last few weeks has seen them go from a team struggling to make the playoffs to a side that nobody really wants to face.
The first round match-ups for both sides will be tricky with RSL potentially facing a Dallas side that has proven to be the most difficult team to beat in MLS, while Seattle will most likely face Los Angeles.
These four teams could quite easily lay claim to being the top four sides in MLS, but while the Galaxy and Dallas are great teams, it would be hard to bet against Salt Lake and Seattle in the form they are currently in.
On to this week's MLS Power Rankings ...
1. Real Salt Lake: RSL may not win the Supporter’s Shield but they will be the team to beat heading into the playoffs.
2. Seattle Sounders: Steve Zakuani is developing into one of the best attacking players in MLS.
3. Colorado Rapids: The Rapids may not possess the strength in depth of some of their rivals, but their potent forward line at least gives them a fighting chance in the playoffs.
4. FC Dallas: It will be interesting to see how Dallas bounces back from its first defeat in 19 games.
5. Los Angeles Galaxy: L.A. is on the brink of securing the Supporter’s Shield crown, but needs to sort out its defensive issues if it is to make a run deep into the playoffs.
6. New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls produced an awful display at PPL Park last weekend and missed out on a golden opportunity to sow up the Eastern Conference crown with their loss to Philadelphia.
7. Columbus Crew: Maybe Wil Hesmer is the answer to the Crew’s goal-scoring problems.
8. New England Revolution: If Shalrie Joseph had been available for every game this season then the Revs would be in the playoffs.
9. San Jose Earthquakes: The Earthquakes played like a team that had already secured their playoff spot as they fell to a shock home defeat to the Dynamo.
10. Philadelphia Union: The Union continued its superb home form with a win over the Red Bulls and if it can improve its away play next year it can challenge for the Eastern Conference crown.
11. Kansas City Wizards: The Wizards' late season push for the playoffs has run out of steam but their recent play has given the fans reason to be optimistic for next season.
12. Chicago Fire: The Fire is a club in disarray and the bold decisions they made throughout the season have obviously not paid off.
13. Chivas USA: Chivas fell to defeat in Seattle but at least their players are showing some fight despite having nothing to play for.
14. Toronto FC: Wil Hesmer’s freak late equalizer denied Toronto a rare win and summed up how little luck this team has had throughout the year.
15. Houston Dynamo: Houston players finally showed some fight as they won at San Jose. It’s just a pity it took this long for it to happen.
16. D.C. United: The most inept team in front of goal in MLS history.
Keith Costigan is a writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer.