Five Teams Who Could Surprise And Make The MLS Playoffs

Five Teams Who Could Surprise And Make The MLS Playoffs

We will enter the business end of the MLS regular season when the teams return to action following a two-week international break. Each team still has between 11 and 14 games left to play, so the battle for playoff places will take many more twists and turns. Right now there are some intriguing teams that lie outside the playoff berths but have the ability to climb the table before the end of the campaign. These are the top teams to look out for:

Inter Miami

Phil Neville’s men were rock bottom of the Eastern Conference table after losing 5-0 to high-flying New England in July. It was Inter Miami’s sixth consecutive defeat, and the knives were out for Neville. However, his team has since enjoyed a spectacular upturn in results. It has four wins, three draws and just one defeat since losing to the Revolution, and that run has seen it climb up to 11th in the standings. Miami is now seven points behind D.C. United, which occupies the final playoff spot right now, but it has two games in hand. If it wins both matches, it will be a point behind Hernán Losada’s team, with 12 rounds of fixtures remaining. It is surging with momentum right now, and the goals of former Real Madrid, Napoli and Juventus star Gonzalo Higuain could fire it into the playoffs.

Atlanta United

Atlanta won four games in a row before suffering a surprise home defeat to Nashville at the weekend. It did well to battle to a 3-2 victory away at Columbus Crew, before beating LAFC 1-0, Toronto 1-0 and D.C. United 2-1. The loss to Nashville could slightly check the team’s momentum, but Atlanta actually performed well in that game. It dominated possession, and it was unlucky to concede twice in injury time at the end of either half. After a dismal first half of the season, Atlanta appears to be returning to its best. Star striker Josef Martinez is back in business, Ezequiel Barco is looking very sharp, and Atlanta could outscore any time in the league. It sits outside the playoff places right now, but it should break in before the end of the regular season.

New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls have the best defensive record of any team outside the playoff places in the Eastern Conference this season. They have conceded just 25 times in 20 games, and only four of the 14 teams in the east have a better defensive record. The Red Bulls’ main problem is scoring. Yet it has two dangerous forwards in Gyasi Zardes and Bradley Wright-Phillips, and if they receive better service in the remaining weeks of the season, the Red Bulls could reach the playoffs.

Vancouver Whitecaps

The Whitecaps are on an eight-game unbeaten streak. If they keep up this level of intensity after the international break, they should gatecrash the playoff places. They were overly reliant on the goals of forward Cristian Dájome, who scored eight of their first 19 goals this season, but his teammates have started to step up. Jake Nerwinski and Brian White fired the team to a 2-1 win against Austin last week, and then White and Ryan Gauld were on target in a 2-1 win against LAFC.

LAFC

Apart from Vancouver, the teams sitting outside the playoffs in the Western Conference are in horrible form, so it is hard to pick out any of them right now. Yet LAFC has more individual talent within its ranks than the rest of the chasing pack. It is winless in eight games, which is alarming, but if it can rediscover the form it displayed in the first half of the season, it should have no problem breaking into the playoffs – particularly if Chicharito returns to action soon.
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