The reasons why 2014 was the most entertaining MLS season for nine years

Fans of the game don’t need to be told how entertaining the most recent Major League Soccer campaign was in terms of the tension, adrenaline, jubilation and despair that it created.

Having been through the emotional roller coaster of supporting your club through a season, most will now be at peace with how their team performed in 2014 – whether they are pleased or disappointed is another question entirely.

In terms of entertainment value, MLS has come up trumps once again as the 2014 season saw 924 goals hitting the back of the net – the most ever scored in a regular season.

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Since 2012, MLS has seen more matches being played over the course of the season due to more teams being in the league and format adjustments, so it would be easy to say that the only reason we’ve seen the most goals is because there are more games.

While that is true, it’s important to bear in mind that 2014 managed to produce the highest average goals-per-game ratio since 2005 and that the standard of play in the league is now far higher than nine years ago.

MLS, year by year:

mls season stats

A closer look at the numbers will also tell you that the 2014 season saw the highest average attendance in the history of Major League Soccer.

The average attendance is up by 554 on last season and is 341 higher than the previous record of 18,807 that we saw in 2012.

With New York City and Orlando City joining in 2015, it’s clear for all to see the growth of MLS and if ever there was proof needed that the league was on the rise, then the attendance figures for this year just about confirm that fact.

Is Major League Soccer becoming one of the biggest leagues in the world?

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Can Jermaine Jones help New England Revolution dominate MLS in 2015?

New England Revolution will still be licking their wounds after an agonising defeat at the hands of LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final, but all isn’t lost and they have plenty to look forward to in next year’s campaign.

One of their key assets in the end of season run-in was USA international Jermaine Jones who joined the Revs from Turkish side Besiktas in August 2014 and went on to make 15 appearances combining the end of the regular season and New England’s MLS Cup run.

As well as his dominant midfield performances which further allowed playmaker Lee Nguyen to express himself, he also chipped in with three goals and four assists.

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With Jones in the side, New England won 11, tied two and lost two of the 15 games in which he featured – one of those being that painful 2-1 defeat after extra-time against LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final.

If they can continue that kind of form when the 2015 season gets underway then they will be a serious force and you would expect them to be the team to beat.

New England Revolution’s stats and projected points total with Jones on the pitch compared to without him makes for frightening reading for other MLS teams going in to the next campaign.

JJ Stats

[*Includes points that New England Revolution would have gained from MLS playoff fixtures]

The highest points tally in an MLS season came when LA Galaxy accrued a total of 68 in the 1998 season, which they did so at a rate of 2.13 points per game.

The stats show that if New England can continue to play the way they have been, then they could potentially blow that record out of the water.

Will New England Revolution break the record for the highest points tally next year?

2014 MLS Season Review: LA Galaxy

Western Conference Final Position: 2nd

Western Conference Playoffs: Winners

MLS Cup Winners 2014

Review

Putting it simply, 2014 has been an excellent season for LA Galaxy. They have won the MLS Cup, but not just that, they have made history by winning a record fifth title and now become the most successful club in the history of the competition. It has made for a fairytale ending for club legend Landon Donovan who has now retired.

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Best Moment

Many will look to Robbie Keane‘s 111th minute winner in the MLS Cup Final as the clear front-runner for the greatest moment of 2014 for LA Galaxy, and rightly so. However, without Juninho‘s strike in the second-leg of the Western Conference championship tie away at Seattle Sounders, they would never have had the opportunity to lift the title.

Worst Moment

The one low point of the season will be the 2-0 defeat at Seattle Sounders in the last game of the regular season which saw their Western Conference rivals win the Supporters’ Shield.

Player of the Year

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Robbie Keane was the Major League Soccer MVP and although the LA Galaxy team was filled with great performers in 2014 such as Landon Donovan, Gyasi Zardes and Marcelo Sarvas – to name just a few – he gets the nod for player of the year. His winning goal in the MLS Cup Final against New England Revolution was a priceless moment that only emphasised his importance to this Galaxy side.

Biggest Win

LA Galaxy 6-0 Colorado Rapids (September 6 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Columbus Crew 4-1 LA Galaxy (August 16 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

First and foremost, the Galaxy will need to try and find a suitable replacement for Landon Donovan. Finding a player to replace the aura that Donovan leaves behind is near impossible, but they will need to look for someone who possesses a similar level of ability – not an easy task.

Another pointer would be to try and hit the ground running in 2015. They came out of the traps slowly at the beginning of the 2014 campaign, picking up just two wins from their first eight games, which handed the initiative to their rivals immediately. They need to set the benchmark early on next time around.

2014 MLS Season Review: Seattle Sounders

Western Conference Final Position: 1st

Western Conference Playoffs: Final

Review

Seattle Sounders had a really strong regular season campaign, finishing with the highest points tally across both conferences. Although they couldn’t quite make it as far as they’d have liked in the playoffs, their overall performances cannot really to be questioned. Sealing the Supporters’ Shield gives them a great building block for the new season when even more will be expected of them.

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Best Moment

Beating their closest Western Conference competitors LA Galaxy in the battle for the Supporters’ Shield. The 2-0 result shows that even though the Sounders struggled to find their way to the playoff final, they still have what it takes to win trophies, having also lifted the U.S. Open Cup.

Worst Moment

Conceding the all-important goal of the playoff tie with LA. Seattle had done enough to qualify for the final after turning around the 1-0 first leg loss and will still be ruing their inability to see that second-leg through.

Player of the Year

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Clint Dempsey – the forward had the best strike rate for the Sounders this season and showed again what he can do in the big games. His impressive tally of 16, joined by Obafemi Martins‘ 17 shows what a great partnership they have together.

Biggest Win

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Real Salt Lake (May 31 2014)

Biggest Defeat

New England Revolution 5-0 Seattle Sounders (May 11 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There isn’t much that they need to improve for the next campaign, as they were so close to the near perfect season. They do however have to be able to shut teams out – a key example being the 4-4 draw with Portland Timbers. Having to chase games late on like this isn’t ideal for the best side across the conferences based on points total.

The only real disappointment of the season was the playoffs. With knockout football being the completely different style of game that it is, you can’t really have too many complaints with Seattle’s performance. On another day they may have been able to hold out for a place in the final, which they have to feel their season deserved.

2014 MLS Season Review: New York Red Bulls

Eastern Conference final Position: 4th

Eastern Conference Playoffs: Conference Final

Review

The New York Red Bulls had a successful campaign in many respects. Their regular season form was far from consistent but they reached the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season and went further than in any of the previous four by reaching the Eastern Conference Championship game in which they lost to the New England Revolution.

The fans witnessed French legend Thierry Henry play in Red Bull colours for the final season and a new era is on the horizon for New York in 2015. Bradley Wright-Phillips was in electrifying form in front of goal in 2014 and the Red Bulls have a new hero to call on in front of goal now.

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Best Moment

Overcoming top seeded DC United to reach the Eastern Conference Final in the MLS Playoffs. The Red Bulls progressed by winning 3-2 on aggregate.

Worst Moment

After the completion of their season, Thierry Henry announced he would not be returning to play for the Red Bulls for the 2015 season. A huge loss both on the field and off of it as well.

Player of the Year

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Bradley Wright-Phillips – BWP has been the catalyst to this formidable Red Bulls attack and has an incredible goal tally of 31 goals over the course of the entire season. A great year for the Englishman and he will hope to replicate that form in 2015. He tied the all-time single-season MLS goalscoring record with 27 in the regular season and has been simply sensational.

Biggest Win

New York Red Bulls 4-0 Houston Dynamo (April 23 2014)

Biggest Defeat

LA Galaxy 4-0 New York Red Bulls (September 29 2014)

What to improve on for 2015 season

The Red Bulls first and foremost need to replace Thierry Henry. The versatile forward has been sensational once again this season and has been the main provider for BWP.

Strengthening defensively will help to decrease the amount of goals they concede and possibly a strong defensive midfield addition will support their frail defence. It will be a crucial offseason for the club and they will need to make sure the squad is filled with quality before the start of the 2015 campaign.

Why didn’t it work for Charlie Davies in the MLS Cup Final?

The MLS Cup Final was a strange game for the New England Revolution, as we didn’t really see them get out of first gear too often. As a result, they lost in extra-time to the LA Galaxy for the third time in three finals between the clubs.

Charlie Davies was in fine form after good displays in the previous playoff rounds, scoring four, including that crucial brace against the New York Red Bulls.

His regular season form wasn’t much to go on (3 goals in 18 games), with Lee Nguyen the main outlet of goals for the Revs, which is why he was a surprise package in the playoffs.

As we predicted in our MLS Cup Final preview, he was a player who LA Galaxy would need to keep an eye on, but it wasn’t too difficult a task in the end. The Revs didn’t really have an outlet up top until Patrick Mullins replaced Davies, so Galaxy defenders Leonardo and Omar Gonzalez had little to worry about.

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A major factor of his poor performance has to be the low-key display in general from the Revs, but more importantly Lee Nguyen. Without Nguyen pulling the strings and having the Galaxy defence committing to him, Davies was unable to find any free space in behind.

Davies showed in the previous ties he was reacting well to half chances and thrived on the counter-attack – something else we didn’t see too much of from New England in the final.

Davies had one good chance on the break in the first-half but his lack of pace cost him as AJ DeLaGarza raced back in time to make a key tackle, and they may have unsettled the Revs forward.

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It has to be said that the Galaxy defence put in a really strong performance. Leonardo and Gonzalez led by example and did not give Davies an inch.

Anytime he was successful in a duel, the result of the hold up play ended up with the Galaxy quickly regaining possession.

The substitution of Patrick Mullins came at the perfect time for the Revs as the game was beginning to be stretched as they pushed for the equaliser. This in turn created more space in the final third, something Davies couldn’t utilise due to the game being tight before he was brought off.

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Mullins wasn’t afraid to run the channels, and that is what earned the goal for New England as the rookie then found Chris Tierney, who fired in the precious equaliser.

Despite a difficult performance, the Revs will be happy with Davies’s progression and they have protected him ahead of the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft.

We can expect to see New England challenging on all fronts next campaign and more from Davies will be expected throughout the 2015 season.

Why did Charlie Davies struggle against the LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup Final?

Playoff Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

Seattle Sounders welcome the LA Galaxy to CenturyLink Field in what will be the last game of the 2014 season for one of these sides and a place in the MLS Cup Final is at stake.

The Galaxy take a narrow 1-0 lead to Seattle with them thanks to a deflected second-half strike from Marcelo Sarvas in the first leg at the StubHub Center last weekend.

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The Sounders will be thankful that they limited the damage to just a one goal deficit in a game where they will be the first to admit that they weren’t at their full-flowing best, but they’ve still managed to keep themselves very much alive in the tie.

It has been an amazing season for Seattle no matter what happens but they appear to be stuttering slightly in recent weeks and they will hope that they don’t fall at the final hurdle, so to speak.

They’ll be looking to their usually solid home form and hoping that it will be their saviour in this clash and also hoping that Osvaldo Alonso will return from injury in time to give his side the edge they need in midfield.

Seattle Sounders 2014 home record: Played 18 – Won 12 – Drawn 2 – Lost 4

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Boosted from their 5-0 thrashing of Real Salt Lake in the semi-final, LA Galaxy look like a revitalised team from the one that succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against the Sounders on the last day of the regular season and will be happy with their lead, as well as being quietly confident they can get themselves over the line.

Hitting a good vein of form at the right time is crucial in competitions like this because one moment in a game can change the face of everything, so LA can be pleased that they’ve scored six in their last three games and conceded none.

They know that they are now the slight favourites as keeping a clean sheet at home means that the Sounders don’t have an away goal to their name, so if the Galaxy can knick one in Seattle, they will be firmly in the driving seat and will leave their opponents needing three.

LA Galaxy 2014 away record: Played 18 – Won 5 – Drawn 7 – Lost 6

It’s a clash of the Western Conference titans and the incentive to get to the final couldn’t be higher as both are seeking to make history – MLS Cup success for Seattle would see them become the first team in MLS to win the treble (Supporters’ Shield, U. S. Open Cup and MLS Cup) while LA Galaxy are looking to record their fifth MLS Cup glory and become the most successful club in the history of the competition.

Both sides know what to expect from each other and they both also know how tough a game it will be, which can only make for a tight and intense encounter which looks set to go down to the wire.

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Key Player: Clint Dempsey – he’s missed a few good chances of late and he knows he can do better. He’s a player of real high quality and the Sounders will be looking to him to inspire the team.

Key Stat: LA Galaxy are without a win on the road in their last five attempts – their last win away from home came at Chivas USA on September 1.

Seattle Sounders last five: D/W/D/D/L

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/L/D/W/W

Score Prediction: Seattle Sounders 1-2 LA Galaxy – We aren’t expecting a goal-fest but it should be a tight game. The Galaxy are high on confidence right now and look hungry for success, while Seattle look like they have run out of steam right at the end.

The 2014 MLS Cup guarantees to make history

The team that now goes on to win the 2014 MLS Cup will be making new history in some way or another which only adds to the excitement and intensity we’re all expecting.

Seattle Sounders have had a fantastic season irrelevant of the eventual outcome of their MLS Cup campaign as they scooped the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double.

However, should they manage to seal MLS Cup glory, they will become the first ever team to complete the treble and thereby print their name in the record books, which would be a remarkable achievement and truly cement the fact that they have been the best team this season.

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[Seattle Sounders enjoyed success in this year’s U.S. Open Cup]

LA Galaxy narrowly missed out on the Supporters’ Shield title when they lost 2-0 to Seattle Sounders, but they can focus all their attention on trying to bring home the MLS Cup.

If they go on to win it, they will become the most successful team in the history of the competition with five titles – they are currently tied on four with DC United.

Meanwhile, both New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls are hunting down their first ever title in this competition.

The Revs are probably the unluckiest team in MLS Cup history having been to four finals and finished on the losing end on every occasion, twice losing 1-0 after extra-time and once losing on penalties.

Title winners since 1996:

MLS HistoryWhatever happens, it promises to be entertaining and will also set new history for one of the clubs.

Who do you think will win the 2014 MLS Cup?

2014 MLS Season Review: DC United

Eastern Conference final position: 1st

Eastern Conference playoffs: Semi-Final

Best Moment

3-0 win against the reigning MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park in August, in which they were 3-0 up at halftime.

Worst Moment

Easily the recent 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls in their Eastern Conference semi-final first-leg. DC failed to score and left themselves with just a little too much to do against their rivals.

Player of the Year

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Bill Hamid – it was tough to decide between him and Fabian Espindola. However, the DC keeper has more than earned this title. Superb all season and he looks set for a bright future with DC and the USMNT.

Biggest Win

DC United 4-1 FC Dallas (April 26 2014)

Biggest Defeat

LA Galaxy 4-1 DC United (August 28 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

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DC United‘s remarkable improvement from the 2013 season saw them cruise into the playoffs and that deserves great credit. They will expect to be challenging at the top of the Eastern Conference once again next season but need to play much the same style. They must follow up a solid season defensively and will look to add a few more goals to their tally. Eddie Johnson must start firing (if he remains in DC) if they are to challenge for the MLS Cup.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Real Salt Lake

LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake meet again in the reverse leg of their Western Conference playoff semi-final at the StubHub Center on Sunday.

This second leg is so delicately poised after a hard-fought goalless draw in the blustery wind at the Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend, much to the credit of the Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who kept them in it.

The onus will very much be on LA Galaxy to produce after they’ve now gone four games without a win if you include the three games at the end of the regular season and have hit a stale run of form at the worst possible time.

The Galaxy have drawn two and lost two of the last four and it equals their worst run of form since the turn of April in to May when they went on a four game winless streak, also recording two draws and two defeats.

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[Jaime Penedo kept his side in it last time out]

LA will be looking to their strong home form and desperately hoping that it’s going to come up trumps for them once again.

With just one home defeat in the entire regular season, they will take some confidence from that, but they need to win this game or they risk being eliminated on away goals.

LA Galaxy’s home form: Played 17 – Won 12 – Drawn 4 – Lost 1

Real Salt Lake will come away from the first-leg with mixed emotions after they spurned the opportunity to take a lead with them to LA.

They dominated the majority of their home game but couldn’t capitalise on it and it may come back to haunt them.

However, a 0-0 draw at home is never a bad result in the first-leg as they know that a score draw sees them through on the away goal rule.

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[Main man: Joao Plata has had a great season for RSL]

They haven’t won on the road for six games since a 1-0 win in Colorado at the beginning of August, so they’ll be thankful that a draw could be enough to see them home.

Real Salt Lake’s away form: Played 17 – Won 4 – Drawn 6 – Lost 7

With the game on such a knife edge, it promises excitement and drama, especially as the newly introduced away goals rule may well play a crucial role in the final outcome.

Many will be expecting another tightly contested game and it could take a moment of magic or a moment of madness from someone to turn the tide in favour of either side.

Extra-time and penalties are looming if we see a repeat result of last weekend’s game, so can either side take the initiative?

Key Player: Landon Donovan – he will be desperate to ensure that this isn’t his last ever game for LA Galaxy and there isn’t a better moment for him to shine.

Key Stat: These two sides have only produced four goals in their last four meetings so we expect another cagey affair.

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/D/L/D

Real Salt Lake’s last five: L/W/D/W/D

Prediction: LA Galaxy 1 – 1 Real Salt Lake – The Galaxy to suffer the pain of an away goals defeat for the first time in Major League Soccer.