The 2019 America's Major League Soccer(MLS) playoff lineup is now completed and most of the biggest franchise made the postseason championship. High profile players will get another opportunity to steer the team to glory, amongst these big guns includes; Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney, Carlos Vela, Josef Martinez and a host of others. The complete list of 14 clubs(7 each from both Eastern and Western Conferences) that made the Audi Cup is shown below, also see the detailed standings of both conferences here.
Eastern Conference: New York City FC(NYC), Atlanta United, Philadelphia Union, Toronto FC, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution(NER).
Western Conference: Los Angeles FC(LAFC), Seattle Sounders(SEA), Real Salt Lake(RSL), Minnesota United, Los Angeles Galaxy(LAG), Portland Timbers, FC Dallas.
LAFC & Carlos Vela:
There is no better place to begin this review than in Los Angeles, the City that houses rivals, LAFC and LAG. LAFC secured the top spot in the Western Conference and made history in the process, scoring 72 points, some 16 points ahead of the nearest rival in the Western Conference(SEA) and 8 points ahead of the Eastern Conference leader(NYC). LAFC now holds the highest points total in a single-season and scored a staggering 85 goals, also the highest by a club in a single season.
The manner by which LAFC stormed out of the block was remarkable, recording a commanding lead for the entirety of the regular season, securing the Supporter's Shield with matches to spare. One man stood out for LAFC success story, Carlos Vela. The Mexican ruthlessness in front of the opposition goal has seen him broken the MLS single-season goal haul with 34 goals(the former record was 31 goals scored last season by Atlanta United Josef Martinez). Vela's game is more than scoring, he also contributed 15 assists, 3rd on the assist chart this season. No doubt Vela is the overwhelming favourite for the season's MVP.
LAG & Zlatan Ibrahimovic:
Can Zlatan carry the LAG into the playoff? This was a burning question that has been asked in various quarters some weeks back, well, the answer is yes, Zlatan can. Having endured a tough season, a see-saw season that saw LAG dangerously languishing out of the playoff spot. Then, eyebrows were raised and the questions were asked whether LAG would miss the playoff for a 3rd consecutive season, however, the Swede star answered critics in style.
With the regular season coming to the home stretch, Zlatan went on a scoring spree of 14 goals in the last 10 matches of the regular season, lifting LAG from 8th to 5th on the Western Conference table. Zlatan eventually finished the season with 30 goals, 4 short of Vela for the golden boot race. The Swedish was recently quoted saying that he is the best ever in MLS history, maybe he was right or he was just being Zlatan.
Atlanta United & Josef Martinez:
Atlanta United will have the chance to defend the title she won last season, having made the playoff yet again by finishing 2nd on the Eastern Conference table. With 54 points, Atlanta fell short of their last season point total of 69, however, the postseason championship presents another opportunity to finish 2019 on a high. Atlanta United's standout player is Josef Martinez, the Venezuelan made a name for himself last season by winning not just the MVP but the Golden boot as well, scoring a record 31 goals that have now been broken by Vela. Martinez, at some point this season was neck-to-neck with Vela & Zlatan on the scorers chat but suffered injury and eventually finished the regular season with 27 goals, 7 short of Vela's 34.
D.C. United & Wayne Rooney:
D.C. United finished 5th on Eastern Conference log table and thereby made the playoff cut. Having made a decent start to the season, they wobbled at some stage but recovered quickly. Coming into the home stretch, D.C. United was unbeaten in their last 5 games of the season(W3, D2).
D.C. United also has a household name in their ranks, former Manchester United and England International Wayne Rooney. Rooney has been decent for D.C. United this season, directly involved in 19(11 goals & 8 assists) of D.C. United's 42 goals. The Highlight of Rooney's season was the 70 yards strike against Orlando City, however, his decision to call his time quit at D.C. United after just 2 seasons and join English Championship side Derby County marred his season.
Thank you all for taking the time out to read.