The 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs are here! Now more than ever, Mexico fans are tuning into watch their Mexicans abroad play in Major League Soccer, and there is a really good chance we see at least one them lift the trophy at the end of the season. Here is a small preview on how things currently stand for each one of them as we enter First Round of the Playoffs.
Marco Fabian - Philadelphia Union
By all means, it was a positive season from the Philadelphia Union. Not only did they make their return to the MLS Cup Playoffs, but they earned First Round home-field advantage in the process by finishing third in the Eastern Conference with 55 points.
It’s hard to quantify exactly how much of that had to do with Marco Fabian, and in some ways you can say it was a bit disappointing he only managed to score seven goals and notch one assist through the course of the regular season. But assuming they make it far in the Playoffs and he stays healthy, Fabian is primed to be a key piece for the Union. Their rival on hand is none other than the New York Red Bulls, a team on paper they are favored against and one they beat at home earlier in the season.
Their biggest challenge, however, might be how they deal with the pressures of being favorites and doing well in the Playoffs. Because while nobody is denying the Union have surpassed regular season expectations, they are not as seasoned at this stage of the tournament as other teams. For now, the Union are a lot of people’s surprise pick to make the MLS Cup Final, and for good reason.
Uriel Antuna and Jonathan dos Santos - LA Galaxy
The best way to describe the Los Angeles Galaxy is they can destroy just about every team team in Major League Soccer but they can also lose to every team in Major League Soccer. The Galaxy certainly have the firepower and the history to do damage in the MLS Cup Playoffs, but they just haven’t found any real consistency through the course of the season.
Individually speaking, both Uriel Antuna and Jonathan dos Santos have been massive for the the five-time champs. Guillermo Barros Schelotto has really taken Antuna under his wing, and the evolution of the Mexican youngster from one-dimensional wide player to a complete one has been really fun to watch. Meanwhile, Jonathan dos Santos has been the most influential player for the Galaxy this season after Zlatan. The 29-year-old is unquestionably one of the top midfielders in Major League Soccer and at the heart of every Galaxy build up.
The bad news is the Galaxy come into these playoffs on a two-game losing streak and will have to make the long trip to Saint Paul to take on Minnesota United. If there is a silver lining here is the Loons have never been able to beat the Galaxy since joining Major League Soccer, and in case of a win over Minnesota, their next away trip would actually be in their hometown of Los Angeles against LAFC. Of course, this is without mentioning that LAFC have also never been able to beat the Galaxy since joining Major League Soccer. As such, the idea that the Galaxy could make a potential run to the Western Conference Final isn’t completely out of the question.
Carlos Vela and Pablo Sisniega - LAFC
Many would say that LAFC had arguably the best regular season in the history of Major League Soccer. But finishing first in the regular season isn’t what counts in MLS. Winning the MLS Cup Playoffs is the primary objective for all teams.
LAFC are conscious of that, and they’ve put themselves in a really good position to succeed. For starters, if LAFC had one of the best regular seasons in Major League Soccer history, you can also say Carlos Vela's had the best individual regular season of any player in league history. The Mexican is a sure MVP winner after breaking the MLS single-season scoring record with 34 goals and has looked practically unstoppable for MLS defenses.
Moreover, the team also quietly finished the regular season with the best defense in all of Major League Soccer, conceding just 37 goals in 34 matches. It’s a stat that has mostly gone overlooked given just how ridiculously good LAFC were on offense this season.
If there is any issue with LAFC is that the scheduling for this year’s MLS Cup Playoffs is completely out of wack. As a reward for finishing first in the Western Conference, LAFC were awarded a first round bye, which just happens to coincide with the international break. This means LAFC will go into a possible Western Conference Semifinal matchup versus Minnesota United/Galaxy without having played a single match in more than two weeks. Throughout the season, Bob Bradley has been an outspoken critic of the league’s lousy scheduling decisions, and can you blame him?
Finally and perhaps most importantly, if LAFC plan on lifting the MLS Cup, they are going to need to get over that psychological hump. In the past, LAFC have struggled to match the intensity of opponents in big-game matches (hello, LA Galaxy), and that’s something they are going to need to be able to do in these Playoffs. The MLS Cup Playoffs are unforgiving, and one little mistake can cost you the whole season. LAFC know that very well from last season after crashing out to Real Salt Lake early in the first round.