I’m going to start a new series on the 2019 MLS Playoff Picture — and it might still evolve, so bear with me (or better yet, help me develop it by tweeting @SportMuseNet). How I’m envisioning this MLS Playoff Picture series is to give you the facts, like who is in the running for each conference. I will also put together the notional MLS playoff bracket although I have no intention of piecing together potential outcomes for you, that’s something you have to do! The final component of this series is going to involve isolating my two favorite teams of the moment (not necessarily the best) but the ones that look like they might have something to put together in route to an appearance in the MLS Playoffs.
With no further ado, the inaugural 2019 MLS Playoff Picture begins with…
If the Major League Soccer playoffs began today, March 20, this is what we’d be seeing:
Firstly, in a new change to the MLS Playoffs format this year, the top-7 places from each conference will advance. Let’s take a look at who that would include competing for the Conference’s Playoff place in the MLS Cup. The first place team in each conference gets an automatic bye into the second round.
For the Eastern Conference, the 2019 Playoff Picture looks like this…
And in the Western Conference, the 2019 Playoff Picture looks like this…
In the East, the MLS Playoffs automatic bye is looking like it may go to the Philadelphia Union setting up the following matchups:
In the West, the MLS Playoffs automatic bye is looking like it may go to LAFC setting up the following matchups:
This week I’m not a big fan of any of the Western conference teams if I had to write about one – it’d be Houston. However, I’m going to do my own thing (because this is my series) and instead of doing one of each conference, I’m going to cover two serious Playoff Contending Eastern Conference teams.
Ironically, they also residing right next to each other in the Playoff bracket. I’m going to talk about Atlanta United and NYCFC.
“Tata” Martinez departed the club after their inaugural season MLS Cup win in order to coach the Mexican National Team. After his departure of Atlanta United, the team struggled mightily under the club’s new manager, Frank de Boer, who was appointed December 23, 2018. The team had what can only be described as a horrendous run to begin de Boer’s tenure. They looked like they had no chance of making the Playoffs, let alone being a contender in the Playoffs. However, something seems to have started to click and this team has been on a tear.
Atlanta United started the season with terrible form opening with 2-0 loss to D.C. United. They went on a run of only 5 points in the first five games (the first win of the season came on the fifth game) and then they would drop six more points before beating the bottom-dweller Colorado Rapids. Needless to say, Atlanta United were not looking like a favorite to repeat their inaugural season MLS Playoff dreams…
…However, when I say something has clicked, I mean that they have won five of their last six games in Major League Soccer vaulting what once was a bottom-dwelling team, to a mid-table position looking like a serious possibility to show up in the MLS Playoff Picture come October. There is still one thing that makes me nervous about this club – goalscoring – and I know that sounds ridiculous for what this Atlanta United team did last season. This season though, they are the third-worst goal scoring team in the division having scored only 13 goals (even 11th place New England has 14… and the 1st place Union have 23). Long story short, they still have a ways to go to catch up with the most serious contenders for the MLS Playoffs, but they are definitely in the Playoff Picture.
Although the team finished in third-place in the Eastern Conference last year, at the end of the season wholesale changes occurred. It took them a bit to get the whole thing back on track; but it seems to be going well now.
NYCFC began much as Atlanta United did, recording not a single win in the first six games they played with five draws and a loss. However, the next five games couldn’t have been more different, they took all the points in four of those games, keeping three clean sheets in the process. The lone blemish in NYCFC’s recent past is a 1-1 draw with Orlando City at home.
Last Updated: May 22, 2019