Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Week 17 in Major League Soccer has come
and gone, signifying the midway point of the 2013 season.
With that in mind, it's time for The Sports Network's midseason evaluations.
CHICAGO FIRE: The Fire have been somewhat inconsistent. They started out
incredibly poor, collecting just one point in their first four league matches.
But a trade for Mike Magee from Los Angeles has sparked the Fire and they have
been rolling lately, currently riding a six-match unbeaten streak across all
COLUMBUS CREW: Entering the season, the Crew had expectations of reaching the
postseason after barely missing out last season. But injuries have hit the
Crew hard as star midfielder Eddie Gaven and Brazilian defender Glauber are
both out for the season. Dominic Oduro has been the Crew's fiercest offensive
weapon, but they need more than the speedy winger to achieve their goal. C+.
D.C. UNITED: What a difference a year can make. United finished second in the
East last season but has been abysmal this term with largely the same roster.
Talisman Dwayne De Rosario has been reduced to a substitute over the last few
games and United has won just twice in 16 matches. Last week's home win over
San Jose is the only thing saving them from a flunking mark. D-.
HOUSTON DYNAMO: Houston got off to a quick start and were unbeatable on home
soil early on as its unbeaten run at BBVA Compass Stadium reached 36
consecutive matches, but lately the Dynamo have been struggling - winless in
their last six league games - and they simply aren't creating many scoring
chances, as evidenced in last weekend's scoreless draw at home to Toronto FC.
MONTREAL IMPACT: The Impact have been the single biggest surprise of the
season. New head coach Marco Schallibaum has his veteran group clicking on all
cylinders and Marco Di Vaio is at the top of the Golden Boot standings with 10
tallies. Midfielders Patrice Bernier and Andreas Romero have been solid all
season and the club is an impressive 6-0-1 at home this season. A.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: Another club that struggled early on but has really
picked it up over the last month or so. The Revs scored just one goal over
their first five matches, but the season changed directions after a surprising
2-0 defeat of Houston on the road on May 18. That result sparked a four-game
unbeaten run which sees the club within striking distance of playoff
positioning at 5-5-5. More work is needed, however, if they want to end a
lengthy playoff drought come October. C+.
NEW YORK RED BULLS: In stretches, New York has looked every bit like the star-
studded, top-tier side pundits and fans alike expected them to be. A seven-
game unbeaten streak shot them up to second place in the East, but Sunday's
lackluster 3-0 loss to Philadelphia exposed a soft backline that fell to
pieces without Jamison Olave, who missed the match due to red card suspension.
Still, first-year head coach Mike Petke has his club in position to make the
PHILADELPHIA UNION: Philadelphia has been maddeningly inconsistent this year,
but sits in second place in the East. The Union have the league's top
goal scorer in Jack McInerney and the league's top assist provider in
Sebastien Le Toux. Questions remain about the reliability of central defenders
Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke as well as goalkeeper Zac MacMath. But Sunday's
thrashing of New York showed the Union have one of the league's most dynamic
offenses with McInerney, Le Toux and Conor Casey on the field together. This
team could be dangerous down the stretch if it can plug a few holes in the
summer transfer window and step up its midfield play. B+.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY: Touted as the East's best club heading into this
campaign, Sporting has under performed a bit as it sits in fourth place on 23
points. Claudio Bieler has been everything a designated player should be, but
the two-time Eastern Conference regular-season champs have come up with some
puzzling results this season, including a last-minute loss at home to Seattle
and a 1-1 draw with D.C. United. Peter Vermes' team is in playoff position, but
has the quality to do much better than squeeze into the postseason by the skin
of its collective teeth. C+.
TORONTO FC: Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen had his hands full when he
accepted the job back in January. Toronto has looked as if it was about to
turn a corner at certain points this season, but it simply can't close
games, having conceded a ton of goals in the last five minutes of matches.
TFC's management brought in veteran defender Danny Califf to anchor what was
supposed to be an improved backline, but Califf hasn't seen the field in over
a month in favor of youngster Gale Agbossoumonde. Forward Robert Earnshaw has
done his part, but there isn't enough quality on this club right now to make a
run for the playoffs. D.
CHIVAS USA: The Goats got off to a nice start with wins over FC Dallas at home
and Chicago on the road, but since a 2-1 win over Vancouver on March 30, the
bottom has fallen out and the club has not won a single game, leaving them on
the bottom of the West with 11 points and with an interim coach as former
manager Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola was fired on May 30. They have trouble
creating any kind of scoring chances and have conceded the most goals in the
COLORADO RAPIDS: Colorado began its season with an 0-2-2 slump and has been
hit hard by the injury bug. Diego Calderon has been out for an extended period
of time due to knee surgery, while starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens broke his
arm in early April. Backup 'keeper Clint Irwin has been a revelation in helping
the Rapids pick themselves up from a poor start and get back to within shouting
distance of the playoffs in seventh place in the West on 20 points. But a four-
match unbeaten stretch has the club struggling a bit heading into a difficult
test against Montreal at Saputo Stadium on Saturday. C.
FC DALLAS: FCD has had an exceptional season as they sit in third place in the
West on 29 points. They fell a bit short in a 1-0 loss to Portland on June 15,
but showed some resolve to rebound from a 2-0 deficit last weekend with a pair
of goals in the final two minutes to steal a point against Sporting Kansas
City. Offensively, Blas Perez Jackson and Kenny Cooper have been sharing the
load, while goalkeeper Raul Fernandez has excelled between the sticks. Schellas
Hyndman's team is firmly in playoff position with a difficult week ahead. FCD
will face Portland on Wednesday in U.S. Open Cup play before traveling to
Philadelphia to battle the Union on Saturday. A-.
LOS ANGELES GALAXY: Los Angeles entered this season as the two-time defending
champions but without David Beckham, who left MLS after last season, and
Landon Donovan, who went on a break from playing. With Donovan and Beckham out
of the picture early on, Mike Magee took the scoring load upon himself,
leading the Galaxy to a 4-2-2 start. Magee was then traded to Chicago for
Robbie Rogers, but the Galaxy's young players such as Gyasi Zardes, Jack
McBean and Jose Villarreal have stepped up to the challenge, and Bruce Arena's
team is comfortably in fourth place in the West. B.
PORTLAND TIMBERS: The Timbers turned a new leaf prior to this season by hiring
former University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter. Questions lingered about
how well Porter would be able to carve out a niche for himself on the
professional level, but the hiring has been a smashing success as the Timbers
are currently riding a 15-match unbeaten streak and have lost just once this
season. Porter has his club in first place in the West on 30 points and
leading the race for the Supporters' Shield. A.
REAL SALT LAKE: After trading away franchise cornerstones Fabian Espindola and
Jamison Olave in the offseason, many pundits believed it to be a rebuilding
year for Real Salt Lake, but that has hardly been the case. With the
established forward in Espindola gone to New York, youngsters Devon Sandoval,
Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata have stepped up to lead RSL, which sits even with
Portland on 30 points. A.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: San Jose won the Supporter's Shield last season with 66
points, but things have gone horribly wrong this time around. Injuries to key
players Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski, as well as an
extended run of poor form have really derailed the Earthquakes' season. San
Jose has just one win in its last six matches and head coach Frank Yallop was
fired following a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on June 1. The 'Quakes are in
eighth place in the West on 18 points and have a ton of work to do if they want
to reach the playoffs. D+
SEATTLE SOUNDERS: When Fredy Montero left Seattle to return to Colombia in the
offseason, many wondered where the offense would come from, and early in the
season those questions were validated as the Sounders got off to a terrible
start, scoring three goals in their first six matches. But Sigi Schmid's team
has come around lately, receiving contributions from Nigerian Designated
Player Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle and Servando Carrasco. The
Sounders have won five of their last seven games to climb within one point of
the final playoff spot in the West. B.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: Expectations were high in Vancouver heading into the
season following the club's first-ever playoff appearance. But it's been an
up-and-down season for the 'Caps. They got off to a solid 2-0-0 start, but
after a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew on March 9, Vancouver began to
tumble with a seven-match winless run in league play. They began to right the
ship with a 3-1 win over Los Angeles on May 14. More recently, the 'Caps have
won two straight to climb back into playoff position in fifth place in the West
with 22 points, but their star forward, Darren Mattocks, has been surprisingly
quiet this season, scoring just two goals in 10 appearances. Mattocks will need
to find his form over the second half of the season is Vancouver is to hold
onto the final postseason spot. B-.
The Sports Network