The end of our long, frustrating, painful journey is near its end.
As the Chicago Fire meekly limp toward the finish line, teams around the league are playing in high stakes matches with everything on the line. Even other teams below the all-powerful red line are giving their fans moments of magnitude. Last night’s clash between Real Salt Lake and San Jose was a battle for survival, with only the winner allowed to stay within the glow of the red line. San Jose and Quincy Amarikwa march on.
Even in the case of the too-little-too-late newcomers in New York, the City Blues have given their supporters reason to dream of a brighter 2016.
Fire supporters are left with blind optimism. We must hope the addition of Nelson Rodriguez is the front office restructuring that has been sorely needed. We must hope Rodriguez is capable of finding the coach this team needs. We must hope maligned but mighty Andrew Hauptman is as frustrated and disappointed with the results as reports indicate and willing to spend even more. We must hope because even if he is shouting frustration in LA, it sounds like a whisper by the time it reaches Chicago.
But we have suffered enough for one season. Soccer goes on without the Men in Red and there is no reason supporters shouldn’t bridge the gap between the rubbles of 2015 and the promise of 2016 by watching the teams left standing vying for the league’s top prize.
All three trophies remain up for grabs, with either Sporting Kansas City or the Philadelphia Union set to claim the first one this week. After the U.S. Open Cup is claimed, the Supporters Shield will be claimed, likely ending up in the hands of either the LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps or FC Dallas.
The coveted MLS Cup is always there for the taking for any team that makes the tournament.
So because Fire fans deserve some fun, who are you pulling for as the season turns to the playoffs?
Are you a fan of dynasties, looking for the Galaxy to continue its unprecedented run? Do you want to see the perpetual bridesmaid Seattle side finally lift the MLS Cup? Or do you pull for the underdog and want to see a team like Montreal or Portland unexpectedly blitz through the playoffs?
Perhaps you are crazy and possibly sick in the head and can find some space in your brain to set aside hatred for Columbus and pull for the fun duo of Ethan Finley and Kei Kamara to go all the way? (I am not that person. Sorry Columbus, but I hope you experience a painful wild card exit).
So we would love to hear who you will be watching the rest of the year and why in the comment section. But allow me to start it off.
New York Red Bulls
That’s right. I am going to be pulling for the jerks that essentially knocked the Fire out of the 2013 playoffs. This is a team I can respect and admire from a far. It is the kind of team that loses players like Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill and refuses to make excuses.
They find ways to bring in players like Sacha Kljestan. They revive players like Felipe. They develop players like Matt Miazga. In essence, they operate with efficiency on every level necessary to build consistent contenders.
Searching for its second Supporters Shield in three seasons, the Red Bulls are a beacon of consistency and quality in a conference that is often mocked as the lesser of the two. Should conferences even exist or matter? I don’t know. Am I unreasonably loyal to the conference in which my team resides? You bet I am! (Except Columbus. Again, sorry.)
Look at this ridiculous statistic. Since 2008 when the MLS Cup was contested by Columbus and New York, only ONE team that is still in the Eastern Conference has participated in an MLS Cup Final. Every single Cup Final has featured two teams currently in the Western Conference except for last season when the Revolution fell to the Galaxy.
I want the East to take a Cup. I hope the Red Bulls win the double and rub one in the face of the Galaxy and the other in the face of the Sounders. Oh, and Fire favorite Jesse Marsch leads the way as manager. All the more reason to hope for a magical end to the Red Bulls’ season.
Now tell me why I'm wrong.