With around ten games to go in the 2017 MLS regular season, the wheat has started to separate from the chaff. In the Eastern Conference, Toronto FC and NYCFC have opened a bit of a gap on the field, and the third-place Chicago Fire boast an impressive +12 goal difference. Things are more tightly packed out west, with four teams within three points of top spot (Seattle, Sporting KC, Houston, and Portland). While the race for the postseason is still pretty open, it’s clear that some squads are underperforming versus their preseason hopes and expectations, and even if they find their way into the top-six, they face a tough road and are longshots for any 2017 hardware.
As the saying goes, though, there’s always next year! Having already examined the title hopefuls after the transfer window, let’s take a look at some of the likely (and less likely) moves and outcomes for 2017’s assembly of (soon-to-be) also-rans.
MLS UNDERPERFORMERS: WESTERN CONFERENCE
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
After taking on Jesse Fioranelli as General Manager at the start of the year, the San Jose Earthquakes have made some defining changes over the off-season. Most notably, Fioranelli has used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to add some depth to the San Jose roster and snapped up midfielder Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili as his first Designated Player (DP) signing.
The improved Earthquakes squad hasn’t been able to make an impact in the Western Conference, though. Their lack of firepower in attack, which is currently spearheaded by Chris Wondolowski and Marco Ureña, has been their downfall over the last two seasons.
A DP striker would go a long way for the Earthquakes, but the price of poaching a top-tier striker from abroad remains just out of reach. Perhaps an aging forward in his sunset years could give the Quakes a nice short-term boost.
Giuseppe Rossi, an American-born forward who has bounced around Europe over his career, is currently without a contract and could be eager to return stateside to finish up his career. Emmanuel Adebayor, the spectacular but wildly inconsistent Togolese striker, is another great option for the club. After a volatile career that took him from Arsenal to Real Madrid to Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir, Adebayor may be ready for a new chapter in San Jose.
Then there are the pipe dream prospects, like Carlos Tevez, Robin van Persie, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It could happen, but I wouldn’t count on it.
ODDS TO SIGN WITH SAN JOSE FOR 2018
- Giuseppe Rossi: 9/1
- Emmanuel Adebayor: 15/1
- Carlos Tevez: 25/1
- Robin van Persie: 30/1
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 40/1
ODDS THE EARTHQUAKES HIRE NEW MANAGER FOR 2018: 19/1
ODDS THE EARTHQUAKES MAKE THE POSTSEASON IN 2018: 1/1
ODDS THE EARTHQUAKES IMPROVE IN THE STANDINGS FROM 2017 TO 2018: 1/2
The Canadian clubs are finally making a splash in the MLS, but it looks like the Whitecaps are missing out on all the fun. They acquired striker Fredy Montero (a former Sounders star) from the Chinese Super League at the start of the year, and the pacy Colombian leads the scoring with ten goals. Yet the Whitecaps remain a middling team, capable of making the playoffs but far from being a legitimate MLS Cup contender.
In 2012, they became the first Canadian team to make the MLS playoffs. Now Toronto and Montreal are leading the charge for the teams up north. After signing two DPs at the start of the year, the Whitecaps were hoping for a drastic improvement. Clearly, further improvements still need to be made.
ODDS THE WHITECAPS HIRE A NEW MANAGER FOR 2018: 4/1
ODDS THE WHITECAPS MAKE THE POSTSEASON IN 2018: 2/3
ODDS THE WHITECAPS IMPROVE IN THE STANDINGS FROM 2017 TO 2018: 2/1
OVER/UNDER YEAR OF WHITECAPS’ FIRST MLS CUP WIN: 2025
The Galaxy had a rough start to the season and it’s only gotten worse. As it stands, they’ve lost seven of their last eight games (the other was a draw). With players like Giovani dos Santos, Gyasi Zardes, and Romain Alessandrini, they should be among the top MLS Cup contenders.
After bringing on Villarreal’s Jonathan dos Santos during the transfer window, they’re expected to close the season stronger than they started, but it may be a little too late for them to salvage a playoff spot, currently sitting 11 points back of sixth-place Vancouver.
With Los Angeles FC entering the MLS next season, the Galaxy need to make some serious improvements or they could risk hemorrhaging fans to the newcomers. The fate of the most successful MLS club in history hangs in the balance.
ODDS THE GALAXY HIRE A HIRE MANAGER FOR 2018: 2/1
ODDS THE GALAXY MAKE THE POSTSEASON IN 2018: 1/1
ODDS THE GALAXY IMPROVE IN THE STANDINGS FROM 2017 TO 2018: 1/3
OVER/UNDER YEAR OF THE GALAXY’S NEXT MLS CUP WIN: 2021
MLS UNDERPERFORMERS: EASTERN CONFERENCE
Before their recent signing of Pedro Santos from Portuguese side S.C. Braga, the Columbus Crew lacked a star player. Their Designated Players, defender Jonathan Mensah and attacking midfielder Federico Higuaín, have been underwhelming and they’ll be lucky to make the playoffs this season. While they’re currently in fifth, the teams just behind (Montreal and Atlanta) both have games in hand.
Still, it’s a drastic improvement from their ninth-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season. If they keep improving at this rate, there’s a lot to be hopeful for in 2018.
ODDS THE CREW HIRE A NEW MANAGER FOR 2018: 4/1
ODDS THE CREW MAKE THE POSTSEASON IN 2018: 3/1
ODDS THE CREW IMPROVE IN THE STANDINGS FROM 2017 TO 2018: 2/1
OVER/UNDER YEAR OF THE CREW’S NEXT MLS CUP WIN: 2030
ORLANDO CITY SC
Orlando has only managed one win in their last eleven games. Contrast that to the start of the season, when they opened with six wins in their first seven. With players like Canadian star Cyle Larin and Brazilian superstar Kaká, Orlando should be doing a lot better than eighth place.
In an attempt to reverse course, Orlando has brought on Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers, and Malmö defender Yoshimar Yotún over the summer transfer window. If that doesn’t help, I don’t know what will. They still have a shot at making the playoffs, but their chances are slim as they’re four back of the final spot and have played more games than most of the teams in front of them.