Sport Reporter Jake Davies recaps the final day of the MLS regular season and previews the upcoming playoffs
The regular season of Major League Soccer 2019 reached its climax last weekend with Decision Day – the final day of the league series. Los Angeles FC had already sealed the Supporters Shield, awarded to the team with the best record in the league, but the dominant side went on to break records on Sunday. Their 3-1 victory over Colorado Rapids ensured they finished with the most goals in a season with 85, and the most points in MLS history with 72. LAFC have been hailed by many as the best team to emerge since the founding of American soccer, and a crucial factor in their success is the league’s top scorer, Carlos Vela. The Mexican netted a hat-trick in Sunday’s win to smash the MLS record for most goals in one season with 34 in 31 games, along with 15 assists. Bob Bradley’s men are favourites to go on and win the MLS Cup as the postseason begins next week, but they face fierce competition across the country.
One such competitor is LA Galaxy, LAFC’s local rival whom they were unable to defeat this season despite their successes. The Galaxy rounded out a disappointing season with a 4-2 away defeat to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, which meant they finished the year in fifth place and thus face fourth-placed Minnesota United in their first postseason game. Most expect them to progress, although Galaxy are weak defensively and this could be their undoing in the games to come this month.
Another threat to LAFC are Atlanta United, who benefitted from the return of Josef Martinez in their 3-1 victory over New England Revolution on Decision Day. The Venezuelan recovered from injury to score in their final home game of the regular season, displaying his importance to last year’s MLS Cup champions, who will be glad to have the striker back in time for the playoffs. Atlanta finished second in the Eastern Conference, but they are definitely in the running to win America’s premier soccer competition.
The MLS sides now have a week off before their first playoff games, including an international break before the postseason begins. Rampant LAFC are crowd favourites to nab the title, and the Supporters Shield winners will be hoping to face local rivals Galaxy in their first playoff match at the end of October. Having been unable to vanquish their neighbours in the regular season, they will be desperate to earn bragging rights in their bid to win MLS for the first time. If one thing is for sure, it will be difficult for any side to topple LAFC off their podium in the coming weeks.
Other teams through to the playoffs include Toronto FC, DC United, Philadelphia Union, New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and New England Revolution in the Eastern bracket, alongside Atlanta. In the Western bracket, Real Salt Lake, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas join the two LA teams. The first round begins on 19th October, with the final of the competition taking place on 10th November.
The MLS full playoff bracket can be found here.