The Low-Down on the MLS Playoffs
The MLS Playoffs is fasting approaching with only a few weeks left for teams to qualify; in a slightly different format this year, the top seven teams from the Eastern Conference and the top seven teams from the Western Conference will qualify for their place in the playoffs based on their regular season performances, and will go on to play single-elimination matches. The season has been full of entertaining games, strong players, and a few surprises; so who are the ones to look out for?
Carlos Vela – Currently the captain for Los Angeles FC, Vela has been the highest goal scorer in MLS this season; at 30 years old, Vela has had a remarkable career so far, starting off with playing for Mexican team Guadalajara, and going on to be signed by English Premier League team Arsenal at just 16 years old after making a huge impact during the U-17 FIFA World Championship. After many years of playing between Arsenal, and being on loan to various high profile Spanish clubs, Vela officially joined Los Angeles FC at the start of 2018, and immediately made an impression, becoming the fastest player to score 20 goals in the whole of MLS history, and he was included in the list of MLS Best XI of 2018, Vela is a firecracker on the pitch, and a complete joy to watch.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – LA Galaxy have continued to have a lot of success in recent years, with a big thanks to this highly skilled Swede who was appointed team captain in 2019; during his 20-year career Ibrahimovic has won a mountain of awards and is one of the most decorated players in the world. Playing for some of the top clubs in the world including Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Manchester United, and Barcelona, Ibrahimovic quickly built a powerful reputation due to his strength, high accuracy, even in the air, and mighty striking ability; wherever he plays, goals follow, and his 2 seasons at LA Galaxy so far has been no exception, keep an eye out for his fast and creative playing.
Josef Martinez – At just 26, Martinez has made huge waves during his time so far in MLS; having first spent five years playing for various teams in Venezuela and Switzerland, before being signed to Atlanta United FC in 2017. In just two years, Martinez has managed to gain and keep the record for the number of hat-tricks, the number of single-season goals scored and scoring a goal in the most successive amount of matches. As if this was not enough, Martinez made history in MLS as he was the most honoured player in 2018 during a single season, when he won the Golden Boot, League MVP, MLS Cup Final MVP, and All-Star Game MVP – he lead his club to victory last year, and there are high hopes he will do the same this time around, he is not to be messed with.
There is a lot of anticipation and excitement surrounding the MLS playoffs this year, and justifiably so, there looks to be some of the best players in recent years participating which will cause a huge stir on the pitch, and maybe even off. However, one thing is for sure, every qualifying team will be giving it their all in order to try and beat defending champions Atlanta United FC.