In case you haven't heard, the Sounders lost. Again.
Since the matches were few and far between, this is going to be more of a standard post rather than a quick series of game recaps.
But that's hardly what matters.
While the Sounders might be in the midst of an atrocious(ly delicious) flat spin and headed out to sea, their spiral downwards almost seems inconsequential considering what's going on in New Jersey.
For the first time since becoming the McDuck Enterprises of MLS, the New York Red Bulls are looking at the very real possibility of winning meaningful silverware. The Supporter's Shield is right there for the taking, and they would clinch it with two more wins against Houston and Chicago. There's other scenarios possible, but the scenarios aren't the focus here.
The focus is that it's a bit surprising that New York would be the team most likely winning the shield. Seattle and the LA Galaxy looked like safe bets to start the season, while Real Salt Lake and the Montreal Impact made a strong case in the middle of the season.
But New York? Yes, they had Thierry Henry and Dax McCarty, two players who can win you most things there are to be won. But they also started out with a defense that had a terrible track record, an unproven head coach, and a TIm Cahill coming off a not-so-swell debut season.
We can pooh-pooh those concerns away though. Tim Cahill has been excellent, Dax McCarty is almost as likable as Drew Moor (though definitely more talented), Thierry Henry is his usual self, and Mike Petke has managed to keep the whole thing together. That's pretty tough to pull off in one year, but the investment finally paid dividends. The skill, dollars and personalities have all blended just so, and the result is one heck of a team.
For New York, the potential dominance of the Red Bulls over a few years would be good for the league as NYCFC enters play in 2015. Having a local, monied, and talented team to compete against would help bring in eyeballs and cash. People can hate that these two NY teams will throw money around like they're made of it (which they are), but it's ultimately good for the league to raise its profile.
Every league needs its Manchester Uniteds, it's Chelseas, its Liverpools.
Montreal have effectively ruined their season's excellence, though it doesn't undo all the great things they did. It must sting to know their chance at the shield is gone, but for a second year team their campaign was none too shabby.
In the meantime, Seattle will be left wondering how and why they squandered away the Supporter's Shield lead. It was almost as if they threw the damned thing in a fire and walked away.
It can technically still happen, them winning the shield. Technically. They're two points behind Portland and New York.
Editor's Note: (Portland wasn't mentioned because they hardly need more attention. The short version: They're close to nabbing the SS too.)
Food For Thought:
- Are you surprised that the Red Bulls can clinch the Supporter's Shield, or did you believe they had what it took to start the season?
- Seattle's fall from the top has been hard and heavy. Do you realistically think that Dallas can take them out this weekend? For the record, the best I can see Dallas managing is a draw.
- I would be sad to not see Mexico in the World Cup, turth be told. It's more fun with them in it. Do you feel the same way, or do you want to see them crushed and scattered to the winds?