The 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs are underway, with the Houston Dynamo and all of their experience predictably knocking off the Chicago Fire tonight at Toyota Park. And so it's time for your five favorite writers from your fifth favorite blog to share our predictions for the MLS Cup.
Chest: Back in March, I declared that it was time for a fifth star for United. It wasn't so much a prediction as a demand, and to submit it as my preseason MLS Cup pick was blatant homerism based on little more than what I wanted to happen. Since that time, United has seen a series of unlikely events happen. Designated Players? Super subs. Injury to the 2011 MVP? Seven-game unbeaten streak. Branko Boskovic? Not a starter. Marcelo Saragosa? A starter. Andy Najar? Right back.
Despite all the changes, and despite the fact that the two teams above us in the overall standings comprehensively outplayed us in each of the combined three matches we had against them, I'm sticking with it. United will win the 2012 MLS Cup 2-1 over the San Jose Earthquakes out in NorCal. The winning goal will be scored by Lionard Pajoy. It is written in the stars.
Stephen: The 2012 MLS Cup will feature Sporting Kansas City versus the Seattle Sounders. It’s interesting that Peter Vermes rarely gets mentioned as a coach of the year candidate, yet all he has done is built Sporting into a two-time Eastern Conference regular season champion with one of the strongest team playing identities of any in the league, and all with the third lowest team salary in the league. Coupled with his outstanding development of young talent and unparalleled team defense, expect Vermes to lead Sporting past D.C. United in a very close Conference Final (hope I’m wrong!). Sporting Kansas City’s opponent in the MLS Cup will be the Seattle Sounders who combine the league’s second best defense with the second best overall goal differential. This is a team with individual talent all across the field, and their superior firepower should get them past Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference Semifinals, while their superior defense will put them through against the San Jose Earthquakes in the Conference Finals. Too bad for Seattle, but they won’t host the MLS Cup in front of their rabid, 60,000+-strong fan base. In a game in which home field advantage rules, Sporting Kansas City will win a close 1-0 match at LIVESTRONG Park and complete the domestic double.
Benuski: Playoffs are always a heady time in MLS. And while some may call for promotion and relegation for MLS, I like our North American emphasis on playoffs. There is plenty of variation in the setups of seasons around the world that they don't all have to look like the Premier League and Serie A. Regardless, I think that the MLS Cup final will be a repeat of the US Open Cup Final, with Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders facing off in Livestrong Park. And just like the US Open Cup, I am going with a 2-0 win by the Sporks, giving them the Double.
Martin: The following are my rootability guidelines for all sports: I root for D.C. teams first, obviously. And then I root against teams I hate (there are lots of them). And then I root for storylines. Well you know what a good storyline this year is? The New York freakin' Red Bulls are a good freakin' storyline, hard as that may be to admit. They've never won a trophy in their 17 years of existence, they have a lame duck coach who already seems to have checked out, and then they had to go and have a natural freakin' disaster hit their city. They're a poor man's 2009 New Orleans Saints.
The Red Bulls going to the 2012 MLS Cup would be a good story. But they won't win it. Because Red Bulls. Despite having the greatest collection of attacking talent ever assembled in this league, they'll still manage to Red Bull it up. Nothing I've seen this season has convinced me that anyone other than the San Jose Earthquakes is the best team in the league, so I've got them winning the Cup and being the second team in a row to capture The REAL Double.
AMT: As much as I want to put United into the MLS Cup Final, I think we'll have trouble getting past Sporting Kansas City, and it's the Sporks that I have raising the Anschultz Trophy on December 1. I think RSL will come out of the West - something tells me San Jose's love of late game theatrics will end up biting them against L.A. or Salt Lake - but come just short of a second star above their crest (and, importantly, just short of the allocation they'll need to keep that core group together for another year). I've got SKC beating RSL in penalties at JUICESTRONG Sporking Park.
You know what? Screw it. Give me United winning 3-2 over RSL in RFK Stadium, 3 assists from Boskovic and goals by Chris Pontius and LEWIS NEAL with the winner coming from Dwayne De Rosario during extra time. In the hours before kickoff, word leaks out that plans and terms are finalized for a stadium at Buzzard Point, and site prep will begin before Christmas. Will Chang wins two titles in one autumn.