One thing evident in the unpredictable minefield is the MLS Cup qualifiers: of the remaining four teams, there may be two different favorites, but no team is left underdeveloped – no matter how many times some coaches want to play This card.
The most prominent “underdog” of the group, Minnesota United, made this clear to complete the Thursday night Conference Finals picture, as they beat top seed Sporting Kansas City from home with a 3-0 win. A third score of the kind dating back to Decision Day was made possible by a pair of early goal line clappings and then a first-half striker practice by Emmanuel “Pepilo” Renoso (three assists) and Kevin Molino (two goals).
That leaves a pair of matches to decide who will compete for the MLS Cup 2020: Columbus Crew host the New England Revolution on Sunday, and current champ Seattle Sounders welcomes Minnesota at the newly named Lumen Field on Monday.
The hosts have a clear advantage on paper, and a Sounders-Crew Final in Columbus that should make the late Sigi Schmid smile be an unexpected outcome – but at this point, no final pairing should come as a surprise.
The four have something in common between dynamic game makers and complementary attacking pieces that benefit from them. The Seattle trio Nicholas Ludero, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruydiaz are no strangers to the final stage of the Major League Soccer Cup and are competing to engage in a conversation between the history greats in the history of the league. The Columbus trio Lucas Zillarian, Pedro Santos and Gacy Zards all had the same effect on the crew’s success. Minnesota’s mid-season addition to Renoso was the hit the Loons needed, as the Argentinian assist machine brought the best of Molino and Robin Lod. Certainly, Carles Gill’s return in time has brought the lost dimension of the revolution, as his play complements the play of fellow players appointed Gustavo Poe and Adam Buxa.
There are plenty of personal storylines to find, with Ozzie Alonso returning to Seattle as the enemy was one in the Western Hemisphere, and the managerial showdown between Caleb Porter and Bruce Arena after a previous frosty side showdown (as the Porter Portland Timbers beat LA’s Arena. The Galaxy) Coloring the eastern half. But the main theme of this post-season race was to be the self-styled greatest underdog.
Minnesota’s Adrian Heath and Sporting KC’s Peter Vermes were checking in on it before Thursday night (Vermes, who was running the number one at the convention, was more bluff, so he showed up), while Arena was also playing the underdog. Card on how coordinating individual exclusion favors a vulnerable side like it. The truth is, his team is among the top eight, but with full capacity and with a generation caliber player who achieves the highest levels of fitness and form, it’s much more than that. Nobody is calling Seattle, which has competed for its fourth final appearance in five years and who has made the qualifiers 12 years in a row, underdog, but the motivational way is being played out a little bit at this point.
If an underdog is shining in these qualifiers, that means they are not derailed. Despite rational concerns that the pandemic will hinder post-season plans being implemented in domestic markets rather than a bubble, MLS has made it nearly on schedule to the last four. The one exception was pushing the one-day Sporting KC-Minnesota semi-finals to slip into the vacant slot on FOX after the NFL was forced to transfer Thursday’s Football Night (after which the one-day Western Conference Final paid to account for the move). Aside from uneven amounts of rest time and concerns about competitive balance, it’s hard to blame the league for jumping in on the chance to be featured in a better midweek TV show window.
It’s not like there are no fears of COVID-19 along the way. Columbus was hit hard in eight cases, advancing to the conference final despite being less than seven players against the Nashville SC in the last round. However, things were considered contained enough, and there were no indications that Sunday’s crew versus Revs match was in danger.
With regular season points used for each match (not total points, due to schedule imbalances caused by pandemic-induced cancellations) to determine the NFL Cup host, the ranking of potential domestic teams for the December 12th Final is: Columbus, Seattle, Minnesota (New England, New England) As the lowest remaining seed, it cannot host). Regardless of who hosts and who is competing for the cup, there is very little to separate deserving remaining teams.
Tv fanatic. Freelance thinker. Social media enthusiast. Total bacon lover. Communicator.