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MLSPR: Casey making Rapids a threat

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Keith Costigan

 
   
 

Casey hitting top form at the right time

Conor Casey has his fair share of critics but nobody can argue that on his day he is one of the best strikers in MLS.

Casey began the season rather slowly but has started to hit top form over recent weeks and that has coincided with the Rapids march towards a playoff spot.

It is safe to say that if Conor Casey had lived up to his potential throughout his career then he would not be in MLS.

Casey has struggled with injuries and consistency throughout his career, but nobody can question his undoubted talent and, when he plays up to the level we all know he can, he is almost impossible to defend.

Casey is a powerful player who can hold the ball up and link with midfield -- a commodity in MLS -- and he is also a better finisher than he is given credit for.

Like all great strikers, Casey relies on his service and he struggled earlier in the campaign when Omar Cumming was out of sorts and Colin Clark was injured.

Now that Cummings is back to his best and Brian Mullan has replaced Clark, Casey will not be short of ammunition and that makes the Rapids a real threat to anyone in the playoffs.

The Red Bulls easily take care of the Galaxy

The Los Angeles Galaxy went into last Friday’s clash with the New York Red Bulls top of the standings, but it was Hans Backe’s side that had the look of champions as they picked up an impressive road win over Bruce Arena’s men.

The Galaxy has not been at its best over recent weeks, but nobody expected L.A. to perform so poorly in a matchup involving some of the biggest names in MLS.

David Beckham’s return to the starting line up did not have the desired effect and the Red Bulls didn’t even need Thierry Henry to pick up all three points. The Red Bulls 12-month turnaround has been nothing short of miraculous, and the fact that this squad can compete with the best in MLS with a player of Henry's caliber unavailable is a testament to the work this organization has done both on and off the field.

The Galaxy has been looked upon as the team to beat for most of the season but it is New York that is peaking at exactly the right time. With the firepower at their disposal, they have to be one of the favorites to be the last team standing when the playoffs are done.

Chicago on the same path as D.C.

This time last year Chicago was riding high in the Eastern Conference standings and getting ready for a playoff run that would see it fall a penalty shootout short of an MLS Cup final appearance.

MLS: June 23-25

 
Thursday, June 23
Home Road
Seattle 4-2 New York Recap
Saturday, June 25
Home Road
DC United 2-2 Houston Recap
San Jose 0-0 LA Galaxy Recap
Philadelphia 3-2 Chivas USA Recap
FC Dallas 4-0 Portland Recap
Sporting KC 2-1 Vancouver Recap
Real Salt Lake 3-1 Toronto Recap
Sunday, June 26
Home Road
Chicago 1-1 New York  
Seattle 2-1 New England Recap
Columbus 4-1 Colorado  
MLS Scores | Table | Fixtures
 

Despite this success, the front office decided to replace Denis Hamlett with Mexican born Carlos De Los Cobos with the hope that the new coach would lead the club on to bigger and better things.

It is not unusual for an MLS club to hand over the reins to a foreign coach over plenty of other savvy and capable candidates within the country, and not for the first time that foreign coach has struggled to adapt to life in MLS.

It may seem harsh to lay all of the blame at the feet of Carlos De Los Cobos, but it is hard to understand how such a talented squad that has added 2 DP’s during the season has regressed so badly in the last 12 months.

If De Los Cobos is such an improvement on the coaches in this country, then why hasn’t he improved the level of product seen on the field at Toyota Park?

Hopefully other owners in the league will take note and start to realize that foreign coaches are not always the best option for their club.

Wondolowski having a breakout year

Since arriving in MLS in 2005, Chris Wondolowski has been seen as nothing more than a squad player that can make the odd contribution from the bench, but that has all changed with his performances this season.

A combination of injuries and poor form from other players has meant that Wondolowski has received more playing time this year and he has taken full advantage by turning in some superb match-winning displays.

The former Chico State man has never been seen as a natural goal-scorer but his tremendous work rate has seen him find the back of the net on a more regular basis this season.

His improvement in play has made him a valuable member of the Earthquakes' starting 11 and he is one of the main reasons that the club is right in the playoff mix.

Playing alongside a player of Geovanni's caliber of will help Wondolowski continue to grow as an MLS player and he will be one to watch when postseason play begins.

On to this week's MLS Power Rankings ...

1. Real Salt Lake: Alvaro Soborio is playing a huge part in RSL’s superb season and the news that he wants to stay permanently is a huge boost for Jason Kreis.

2. FC Dallas: Another two matches without defeat is further proof that Dallas is the most difficult team to beat in MLS.

3. New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls dispatched the Galaxy to show the rest of MLS that they are ready to mount a serious challenge for silverware this season.

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4. Colorado Rapids: The fact that the Rapids feel aggrieved with only picking up a point at RSL shows you just how far this team has come over the last few months.

5. Seattle Sounders: It wasn’t pretty but Seattle’s win over the Fire has pushed them ever closer to another postseason berth.

6. San Jose Earthquakes: The Earthquakes are hitting top form at just the right time and nobody will want to face Frank Yallop’s men come playoff time.

7. Los Angeles Galaxy: The Galaxy do not look like the team that started the season so well and Bruce Arena has a job on his hands turning things around before the playoffs.

8. Kansas City Wizards: The Wizards produced a superb performance in their victory over Houston but the loss to Dallas really hurts their chances of making the playoffs.

9. Columbus Crew: Robert Warzycha will be hoping his side can build on their comeback against the Revs and finally return to the form that made them the top team in MLS.

10. Philadelphia Union: PPL Park is fast becoming one of the most difficult places to play for visiting teams.

11. Toronto FC: If Toronto does miss out on the playoffs -- and it looks like they will -- they will look back on their home loss to San Jose as one of the main reasons why.

12. New England Revolution: The Revs lost leads in both their matches last week and their inability to hold onto one means they are officially out of the playoff race.

13. Chivas USA: Chivas has a decent squad of players so it is a mystery why they have struggled so miserably this season.

14. Chicago Fire: Carlos De Los Cobos is further proof that a foreign coach is not always the best option for MLS teams.

15. Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo’s season has been a disaster but at least they picked up a win at D.C. to show they are not the worst team in the league.

16. D.C. United: D.C. United has some tough decisions to make this summer after an absolutely abysmal campaign.

Keith Costigan is a writer for FoxSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer.

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