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MLS Playoff preview: Every Western Conference team has a fatal flaw

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Yes, that includes the Sounders, but the field is also ripe for an upstart.

Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake: Photos Mike Russell/Sounder at Heart

One of the longtime explanations for the Seattle Sounders’ repeated inability to advance to the MLS Cup final has been the strength of the competition. The West has been the power conference in MLS over the past decade-plus, producing 9 of 11 champions.

But this year seems a bit different. Every team — even treble-contending FC Dallas — has some potentially fatal flaws. In other words, the field is ripe for an upstart team. Anyone know one?

A quick look at the West:

6. Real Salt Lake

After a blazing start, they cooled off and eventually fell apart. RSL’s loss to the Sounders on the season’s final day left them winless over their final seven, having mustered just two goals in their last six.

Fatal flaw: Their best players are old and they can’t score.

5. Sporting Kansas City

It’s not always pretty — and rarely has it been uglier than it was this year — but KC found a way, again. They aren’t awful at anything, but they aren’t really good at anything either.

Fatal flaw: They won one of their final 15 on the road, a stretch that saw them go 0-4-5 against playoff teams.

4. Seattle Sounders

For a second straight year, a summer swoon left them looking like they might miss the playoffs. Once again, they rebounded with a hot finish. In fact, no one closed stronger than their 8-2-4 record down the stretch.

Fatal flaw: They’re running out of bodies after head coach Brian Schmetzer was forced to shorten his bench and are another injury to a key player away from falling apart —again.

3. LA Galaxy

Once again their roster is peppered with recognizable names and when they’re good, they’re really good. Of their 12 wins, seven were by multiple goals; which helped give them a league-best +15 goal-differential.

Fatal flaw: It turns out their two best offensive players — Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos — don’t play well together. The last time they beat a playoff team was on July 9 and they went 3-6-10 against playoff opponents this year.

2. Colorado Rapids

A popular pick to be the league’s worst team, they managed to nearly win the Supporters’ Shield on the back of a league-best defense with seven fewer goals than anyone else.

Fatal flaw: As good as their defense may be, their offense is pretty putrid. Only the Earthquakes scored fewer than their 39 goals and they don’t really have any playmakers.

1 FC Dallas

Winning the U.S. Open Cup-Supporters’ Shield double is something only two teams have ever done before, and they’ll try to become the league’s first-ever treble winner. Their 40 points at home were the best in the league.

Fatal flaw: Their two best offensive players are gone, after Fabian Castillo bolted for Turkey and Mauro Diaz went down with a season-ending achilles tendon injury. Those two combined for 10 goals and 18 assists (in just 49 combined appearances), but were also the two players defenses needed to key in on most. Small-sample size, but Dallas was shut out in the three games neither player started (including a 5-0 loss to the Sounders).

So there you have it, a field of flawed teams. The Sounders have their own share of problems, but it somehow seems fitting that in a season that saw them reach never-before seen depths that they might climb to new highs.