Over at Partially Obstructed View, James Grossi very eloquently posted recently about the benefits of watching the playoffs as a way of getting more involved and knowledgeable about the league, taking the next step beyond mere partisan support of your local team.
I couldn't agree more, but maybe during those first few games where you're learning about the league, you need a rooting interest to get you started. With Toronto FC continuing their grand tradition of never making the playoffs, you'll need to pick a different team to cheer for. If you need help with that decision, and it's uninformed opinions, partisan sentimentality, bitterness and petty prejudices you want to base your decision on, then you've come to the right place. Here's my reasons to boo or cheer for the 10 teams still playing.
Reasons to Cheer: Marvell Wynne and Tyrone Marshall, given how terrible TFC's defence has always been, an all ex TFC Centre Back partnership winning it all would be fantastic. The fact that Jeff Larentowicz is a redhead continues to amuse me for some reason. Still no shirt sponsor, meaning their shirt remains the classiest in the league, something I choose to believe is a noble decision rather than a lack of corporate interest.
Reasons to boo: Conor Casey still bugs me, Caleb Folan is just the poor man's Conor Casey. Matt Pickens no longer has his awesome beard. They won it last year, and then didn't really take the CCL seriously.
Reasons to cheer: Well despite losing a lot of their old strong team they once again managed to put together a decent season, something I've got to grudgingly admire, I suppose, if I must. Tony Tchani, I wouldn't begrudge him some success.
Reasons to Boo: It's Columbus, massively annoying fans, taser happy cops, even after getting rid of Schelotto and Lenhart, they managed to uphold their quota of guys who are irritating merely to look at with Tom Heinemann.
Verdict: We've beaten them now, and Montreal are here to be a proper rival, but still, fuck those guys. Booooo!
Reasons to cheer: Familiarity breeds contempt, and after 4 1/2 games this season, there's really not a lot I can think of here.
Reasons to boo: Kevin Hartman, Brek Shea's ridiculous hair, I really wouldn't like to see Mike Sanders winning. Given their strong league and CCL positions in August, crapping out of the playoffs early would cap a late season collapse for the ages.
Verdict: I don't feel too strongly, but boooo.
Reasons to cheer: Putting up a pro Houston banner in Frisco is delightfully cheeky. They're finally moving out of the pointyball stadium. The Dancing Bear, that's just fun. Brad Davis has had a Beckham-esque season, but without all the Beckham-esque obnoxiousness. Andre Hainault.
Reasons to boo: None that I can think of, they're a thoroughly inoffensive club. Let's face it, a team from the West is going to win, it might as well be one who's been pretending to be in the East all year. (edit: forgot all about that whole unpleasant relocation business from a few years ago, that bumps them down a few places. thanks to Blueanwhitearmy for keeping me honest.)
Verdict: Dance Bear dance. I hope they win it all. (Now, down to meh level).
Reasons to cheer. Chad fucking Barrett! Love that guy. He's had a good year in LA and I would love to see him score an MLS Cup winning goal.
Reasons to Boo: Beckham and Landycakes. I don't think I could handle it if the 'Beckham Experiment' ended with success.
Verdict: Sorry Chad, I really am, but Fuck those guys. Boooooo
New York Red Bulls
Reasons to cheer: Carl Robinson . That's pretty much it, though I do like Luke Rodgers.
Reasons to boo: Thierry Henry and his obnoxious celebrations, Rafa Marquez and his whiny over inflated ego, changing the team name to be a branding exercise is still unforgiveable. Even with a fancy new stadium, they can't attract any decent crowds.
Verdict: Fuck those guys. Boooooooo.
Reasons to cheer: The Sons of Ben, getting together and persuading the league to give you a team is pretty impressive stuff. Reaching the playoff in their 2nd year of existence after a pretty terrible first year is a good acheievement, and the fact it was built on defensive solidness rather than attacking Fancy Danniness warms my heart. Faryd Mondragon is the best name in MLS.
Reasons to boo: That 6-2 still hurts.
Verdict: taste the Doop, I hope they do well
Real Salt Lake
Reasons to cheer: Will Johnson. They keep losing to us at home, which makes me hate them less. If they keep having success with their heavily South and Central American influenced team, TFC might finally clue in and focus more on that area.
Reasons to boo: The name still doesn't get any less silly with age. The dirty hippy.
Reasons to cheer: I like Seattle, I really do. Their ambition from day 1 is very creditable, the way they take the US Open Cup and the CCL seriously while continuing to do well in the league is admirable. The amount of fans they continue to draw is very impressive.
Reasons to boo. It's not the team I hate it's their fans. All that stuff I mentioned above? They really don't let you forget about it do they.
Verdict: I'd like them to win, but I'd have to stop following a few people on twitter, good god they'd be insufferable.
Sporting Kansas City:
Reasons to cheer: Coming back from that killer 11 game road trip to start the season to claim first in the East is a very good achievement. They've got a nice new stadium, some positive momentum would be a good thing to help fill it regularly.
Reasons to boo. Kei kamara and Teal Bunbury. World's most douchebaggy forward line.
Verdict: Fuck those guys. Booooo.
So here it is, my list of who to cheer for, or more like who I'll be booing least.
5. Salt Lake
7. Kansas City
10. New York