MLS Season Review
The New England Revolution lifted the Supporters’ Shield for the first time on Sunday after finishing the regular season with a record-breaking haul of 73 points.
Bruce Arena’s men suffered a surprise 1-0 defeat to Inter Miami in their final game of the season, but that did not rain on their parade. Glitter showered down upon Carles Gil as he wielded the Supporters’ Shield aloft in front of a season-high 31,365 fans inside the Gillette Stadium.
It concluded a phenomenal year for the Revs, while there was also a great deal of drama in both conferences as the regular season drew to a close. Read on for a review of the season, an examination of the playoff picture, and a futures betting update.
Revs Make History
New England eclipsed the record points tally set by the 2019 Los Angeles FC team after picking up 22 wins and seven draws from 34 games. The Revs had the best home record and the best away record in the league this season.
They also scored more goals than any of their rivals and ended the campaign with the best goal difference. However, they rarely blew the opposition away. Eighteen of their 22 wins came by a single goal, which suggests they have the mental strength to hold onto narrow leads in tense situations.
The Revs finished 19 points clear of their closest rivals, Philadelphia Union, at the top of the Eastern Conference table. That represents yet another MLS record.
Gil was the undoubted MVP of this team during the regular season, but it is stacked with match winners. Gustavo Bou has been an offensive whirlwind, Adam Buksa has looked dangerous and Tajon Buchanan continues to go from strength to strength. At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Matt Turner has been very reliable, and the Revolution fully deserve the accolades that are coming their way.
Heartbreak for D.C. United as Red Bulls Maintain 12-Year Streak
Six hopeful teams were battling for three remaining playoff places ahead of Decision Day. Atlanta United beat struggling Cincinnati Orlando City to clinch fifth place, while Orlando City earned a 2-0 away win against Montréal. That saw Óscar Pareja’s team finish sixth, and caused Montréal to fall out of contention.
It was therefore a straight fight between the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United for the final playoff place. D.C. United beat Toronto 3-1, but its season ended in heartbreak, as the Red Bulls scraped a 1-1 draw with Nashville.
That left the Red Bulls one point ahead of D.C. United and maintained their 12-year run of reaching the playoffs. That is the second-longest streak in MLS history, behind Seattle’s 13.
It completed a remarkable turnaround for the team, which was given just an 8% chance of finishing above the playoff line after losing to Columbus Crew on September 14. The Red Bulls secured seven wins and four draws from their subsequent 12 games to sneak into the playoffs.
Colorado Rapids Clinch Western Conference in Dramatic Fashion
The Colorado Rapids leapfrogged the Seattle Sounders on the final day of the season to claim top spot in the Western Conference. The Rapids breezed to a 5-2 home victory over LAFC, which saw them finishing one point clear of the Sounders, who could only draw with Vancouver.
Colorado rarely dominates possession, but it is quick and incisive on the counterattack, and that has allowed it to exceed expectations this season. It ended the campaign with 17 wins, 10 draws and seven defeats from 34 games, despite lacking a prolific goalscorer and star power.
Seattle scored more goals than the Rapids in the regular season, and conceded fewer, so it is arguably still the team to beat in the west. The Sounders endured a poor run of results in the final weeks of the season, but that should all change when Nicolás Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz and João Paulo return from injury.
Last-Gasp Strike Sends RSL Into the Playoffs
A 96th-minute strike from Damir Kreilach sent Real Salt Lake into the playoffs in a dramatic Decision Day clash. RSL’s chances of finishing above the line looked dead and buried as its game against Sporting KC remained 0-0 deep into injury time.
Rival LA Galaxy had fought its way to a 3-3 draw with Minnesota, leaving it on 48 points. RSL was destined to finish with 46, until a wild end to the match.
Right-back Aaron Herrera whipped in a hopeful cross in the dying seconds, and Tim Melia punched it clear. Everton Luiz scuffed the rebound, but it bounced into the area, and Justin Meram attempted an overhead kick. The ball fell into the path of Kreilach, who volleyed it in, sparking pandemonium in the stands.
It was terrible luck for LA Galaxy, as Sporting KC should have had a penalty earlier in the game, but that did not stop the RSL fans enjoying wild celebrations. Their team had a slightly better goal difference than LA Galaxy, so RSL can now look forward to the playoffs.
Vancouver and New York City End the Season in Fine Form
Vancouver’s 1-1 draw with Seattle on the final day of the season cemented its status as a dark horse for the playoffs. The Whitecaps lost just one of their final 11 games and ended up fifth, level on points with Minnesota and one ahead of RSL.
In the Eastern Conference, New York City ended the season with a great deal of momentum. They earned three wins and two draws from their final five games, including a 6-0 victory over D.C. United, and they secured fourth place, finishing just three points behind Philadelphia and Nashville in a very congested table.
Castellanos Beats Kamara to Golden Boot
D.C. United striker Ola Kamara scored twice to lead his team to a 3-1 win against Toronto FC on Sunday. That took his tally to 19 goals for the season, which left him level with New York City FC’s Taty Castellanos as the top scorer in the MLS.
It went to a tiebreaker, and Castellanos was awarded the Golden Boot, as he provided eight assists to Kamara’s five throughout the season. However, it is worth noting that Kamara made four fewer appearances than Castellanos, and had 10 fewer starts, so he enjoyed a very prolific season.
Yet neither man came close to matching the strike rate of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, as the former Manchester United forward banged in 17 goals in just 21 games.
Gil is the Assist King
New England captain Gil finished the season with a remarkable haul of 18 assists in 28 games, cementing his status as the league’s top playmaker.
Montréal’s Djordie Mihailović was not far behind, with 16 assists from 34 games, so the 22-year-old USMNT international should have a bright future ahead of him.
Colorado Rapids earned a bye into the conference semi-finals after overtaking Seattle Sounders at the end of the regular season. They will play the winner of a Round One clash between fourth seed Portland and fifth seed Minnesota in the semis.
Seattle will take on RSL in its Round One clash, and fans will hope to see Lodeiro, Ruidíaz and Paulo back in business for that clash. The winner of that game will take on the winner of the game between Sporting KC and Vancouver.
The Revs are also through to the semi-finals, where they will face either New York City FC or Atlanta United. Second seed Philadelphia Union will take on the in-form New York Red Bulls, while Nashville will face Orlando City.
The MLS Cup playoffs begin next month, and we can expect a flurry of bets on the action.
MLS Cup Winner Odds
FanDuel makes New England the +220 favorite to win the MLS Cup for the first time in franchise history. Colorado is the +300 second favorite after enjoying a strong end to the regular season.
Perennial MLS Cup contender Seattle Sounders is next in the betting at +850. It beat Toronto FC to win its second MLS Cup in 2019, and then lost to Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup final last year. It should be dangerous when it gets its star players back from injury, so its chances of clinching the Western Conference look strong, and it has the quality to beat New England or any other team from the east in the final, so +850 looks tempting.
Philadelphia Union is priced at +1000 with FanDuel, while Sporting KC could make an interesting option at +1100. They were the top scorers in the Western Conference during the regular season, Johnny Russell is on fire, and Alan Pulido could soon return from injury.
The longer shots are Portland (+1100), Nashville (+1600), New York City FC (+1600), Minnesota (+3600), Orlando City (+3600), Atlanta United (+3600), New York Red Bulls (+3600), Vancouver (+4400), and RSL (+5000). The odds could shift considerably in the weeks ahead, so we will provide a full MLS Cup playoffs preview and a futures betting update before it all kicks off.