I've got to get to class so I'll keep this short.
MVP: Shalrie Joesph, New England Revolution. As much as it pains me to award a dirty Rev bastard anything, the fact of the matter is that no player has been more valuable to his team this season than the Grenadan international has been for the Revs. New England squeaked into the playoffs on the last day after fighting a rash of injuries and departures.
Most Outstanding Player: Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy. Donovan's 12 goals were enough to tie him for third among the scoring leaders in MLS. While Jeff Cunningham of FC Dallas and Conor Casey of Colorado Rapids technically scored more goals (17 and 16, respectively), Donovan's to me rank more impressive because of several reasons. First, Cunningham was nearly invisible in the first half of the season, scoring most of his goals in Dallas' stretch run from irrelevance to the brink of the playoffs, and I can't even remember the last time Casey scored for the Rapids in the run of play. A number of his goals at the end of the season came on penalty kicks. Moreso, Donovan scored his 12 goals in only 25 games, missing a decent chunk of the summer with Confederations Cup and World Cup Qualifying duty with Team USA.
Newcomer of the year: Fredy Montero. The Columbian striker turned Seattle Sounders into an instant contender. With two goals in his first game, Montero set the pace and put the league on notice. While his goal tally tailed off, he still finished with 12 strikes in 27 games, and became a weapon other teams needed to focus on, opening up space for Nate Jaqua (7 goals) and rookie Steve Zakuani (4 goals) in leading the Sounders to the playoffs; the first MLS expansion side to reach the postseason since the 1998 Chicago Fire.
Supporters Section of the Year: Emerald City Supporters, Seattle Sounders. The new boys in Green showed the old guard a thing or two. While points should be docked because the ECS does get a healthy dose of assistance from the Sounders front office, this should show a model for other MLS teams to follow, treating supporters groups like what they are. Passionate supporters that can only grow your business and will be your best customers, instead of a troublesome nuisance that is nothing more than a problem that needs to be dealt with.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Zach Thornton, Chivas USA. As a former keeper, I gotta give an award for the netminders, and on that note, Zach Thornton may inspire me to dust the gloves off. Also making a move for MLS's comeback player of the year, Thornton after being released by the Chicago Fire after the 2006 season, has found his way from from New York to Colorado to LA. Looking like the Zach Thornton of old, he backstopped Chivas USA to 12 shutouts, and posted a 0.87 GAA en route to Chivas USA's third playoff berth in a row. Only three other MLS sides have made the playoffs the last three years (Chicago, New England, Houston) so this is quite a feat in itself.
West #1 Los Angeles vs. West #4 Chivas USA
The Clasico Angelino makes its first playoff appearance. Los Angeles should be able to take down the Goats after winning the season series, and winning their first Division title in 7 years.
West #2 Houston vs. West #3 Seattle
Experience favors Houston. Even when their offense has trouble scoring goals, the backline is solid and they may have just enough to progress. This is going to be a marquee series. At least 70k people will likely attend the two games if past attendance is any guide.
East #1 Columbus vs. West #5 Salt Lake
Columbus is the best team in the league for a reason. They are solid at just about every position from the Keeper all the way to the strikers. They have been dominant at home, and became only the second team to repeat as Supporters Shield Winners (2006 and 2007 DC United). As the only MLS team left in the CONCACAF Champions League, they have shown a deep roster capable of adapting whatever injury challenges are thrown at them. They have to be considered the favorites to come out of the East, but it is worth noting that at least one #1 seed has gone down in the first round the last four years (2008 Houston, 2007 DC United, 2006 Chivas USA, 2005 San Jose). RSL has traditionally been strong at home. A poor outing in the Wasatch range altitude could set the stage for a win or go home game in Columbus a week later. I would welcome an RSL victory....
East #2 Chicago vs. East #3 New England
...Because it would enable Chicago to host the Eastern Conference Final at home for the first time since 2003. The Fire have only won one postseason series where they did not have home-field advantage (1998 vs. LA). On the flip side, the Fire have only lost one series where they did have home field advantage (2001 vs. LA). The Fire won the season series 1-0-2 from New England, including a win and a draw in Foxboro. However, the Fire's home form has been nothing short of dreadful. Both teams are saddled with injury problems, but the archrivals are set to lock horns once again in November. One team has ended the other team's season every year since 2000 save one.
First Round Winners
Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Columbus
MLS Cup 2009
Seattle over Columbus.