05 October 2007

Final Introductions

On the way to Kansas C.
Tell me who I'm supposed to be...

- Luna, Speedbumps

Ultimately, tonight's game against Kansas City is the last game to establish anything about this team's character before the post-season begins. The final match against Columbus could well see most of the starters on the bench. If United loses against Kansas City tonight, neither a win nor a loss nor a draw against Chicago will mean very much in terms of figuring out where this team is. Certainly, you'd think games at home should be expectations for wins, but I look at the Chicago game as a place where United is likely to drop points.

No, the Kansas City game is an important one for United for a few reasons. First, Kansas City is the current Round One playoff opponent for United, making this game a nice preview for that. Second, United is coming off of an international loss. They're saying all the right things about it not being part of their mindset, but they said all the right things after the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Third, Kansas City is missing Conrad and Arnaud, which should severely limit Kansas City's options to shut the game down. This game is now firmly in the "United should take three points" column, and therefore becomes an interesting test of how United handles expectations on short rest from International play. Still, the difference between "should" and "did" is a large one. If United drew, or even lost, would I be stunned? Perhaps a little, but on the surprise scale of 0 to 10 (where 10 was the 4-nil drubbing Chicago gave us in 2005, and 0 was watching Mathis get a yellow in his first match with RSL) it would be around a 2.

The traditional media has three different questions about this match. The Express asks "Can United rebound from international disappointment?" (Answer: Yes, they can.) The Times is wondering "Can Emilio break the United scoring record?" (Answer: 3 goals in 3 games? I'd say the odds are 3-1). The Post finishes by wondering if United will win out. (Answer from the article courtesy of Mr. Namoff: "'"There's three games left, and we want nine points,' Namoff said. 'That's all there is to it.'")

Now, there are some interesting historical things that I'd like to talk about. Here's a quick question: how have the teams with the most impressive regular season performances in MLS History faired in the playoffs? Not just talking about Supporter's Shield teams, I mean the teams that racked up point after point. You can probably determine the fate of two of them pretty quickly, but what about the rest? I hope to check back in on that later.

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