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MLSPR: Smith shakes up Rapids squad

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Keith Costigan

 
   
 

Colorado rolls the dice to get better

The Rapids are in a position to make the playoffs but Gary Smith this week made some interesting roster moves to ensure his side’s visit to the postseason isn’t a short one.

The addition of Macoumba Kandji gives them another attacking option and, although they had to give up a very good player in Mehdi Ballouchy to get him, I believe Kandji will prove to be a big success in Colorado.

Trading a 26-year-old midfielder for a 32-year-old veteran may look like a bad decision on paper but Smith is obviously concentrating on winning now and not the future. The addition of Brian Mullan for the injury prone Colin Clark also gives him the best opportunity to do that.

Smith is under pressure to turn this team into a contender and help them shake of the inconsistent tag that has dogged them since the Fernando Clavijo era. Gary Smith has gambled with these trades and if they work out for the Rapids he will be hailed as a genius, but if they don’t he may very well find himself out of a job.

Preki sealed his own fate

Preki was hired as Toronto head coach to lead the team into the playoffs and finally give arguably the best fans in the league something to cheer about.

Instead, the team has struggled for consistency throughout the year and Preki’s inability to produce an attractive product on the field led to his dismissal. Mo Johnston has to shoulder a portion of the blame as he has not done a good job building a squad capable of challenging for an MLS Cup, but Preki had enough talent at his disposal to win more than a paltry 7 of 24 games so far.

The BMO faithful had obviously lost faith in their new coach and when that happens there really is no way back. Preki has made some improvements to this team with Toronto defensively stronger than they have ever been, but their struggles in front of goal have never been rectified.

Toronto has scored just 22 goals in their 24 games despite having the likes of Chad Barrett, Mista and Dwayne DeRosario in their squad. Preki has come up with a long list of excuses for Toronto’s struggles, but a coach who fails to win over the dressing room and the team’s fans really only has himself to blame for losing his job.

Beckham return inspires L.A.

David Beckham didn’t even need to start against Columbus to inspire his team to a massive win.

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
 

Bruce Arena decided to start Beckham on the bench in the top of the table clash with the Crew, but admitted afterwards that merely having Beckham on the bench gave his side the boost they needed to pick up the win and return to form.

The Galaxy has been superb without Becks for the majority of the season and had many people suggesting that L.A. didn’t need the England international, but their recent struggles have highlighted the need for added quality to lead them down the stretch.

Beckham looked sharp and lively in his 20 minute cameo and afterwards spoke of his delight at returning to the field. Beckham knows that he is in the final stages of his career and after a lengthy layoff he is determined to make the most of every game he plays.

That can only be good news for the Galaxy and their fans and after a stop/start beginning to his MLS career, David Beckham may finally be ready to lead this team to an MLS Cup.

Expanded MLS season next year

With the addition of two more teams to MLS next year the front office has decided to expand the season to 34 games.

While the move does make sense on paper, it will further stretch the limitations of MLS squads that are simply not deep enough to cope with anymore added fixtures.

We have already seen some of the top sides in our league struggle to deal with matches from the CONCACAF Champions League to the U.S. Open Cup and SuperLiga, and these extra fixtures will just add to the fixture congestion.

MLS clubs need bigger squads to be competitive on all fronts and that has to be addressed before the coming season. The biggest losers from the addition of these game are the top teams in the league and just like in Europe, they will now have to juggle their lineup to keep the squad fresh -- and that can lead to some shock defeats.

We all want to see MLS continue to expand but we can’t let it affect the quality of play on the field.

MLS will continue to add teams over the next few years so it is important that the league helps clubs  expand their player pool to cope with the new fixture demands.

On to the MLS Power Rankings ...

1. Real Salt Lake: RSL’s improved away form continued last week as they picked up a point from their trip to Seattle.

2. FC Dallas: Dallas has been superb defensively this season and picked up another clean sheet at San Jose last weekend.

3. New York Red Bulls: Thierry Henry is nearing top form and that is an ominous sign for the rest of MLS.

U.S. foreign-born prospects

FOREIGN AID

Danny Mwanga is just one of a handful of foreign-born youngsters in MLS who may have a future with the U.S. national team.

4. Los Angeles Galaxy: David Beckham inspired his team from the bench as the Galaxy returned to form with a massive win over the Crew.

5. Columbus Crew: The Crew produced one of their worst performances of the season at L.A. and lost their grip on the supporter’s shield in the process.

6. Colorado Rapids: The addition of Mac Kandji gives the Rapids another potential match-winner and should ease the pressure on striking duo Omar Cummings and Conor Casey.

7. San Jose Earthquakes: The Earthquakes were held at home by Dallas, but are still in the playoff picture and that is an achievement given the injury problems they have had this season.

8. Seattle Sounders: 33 points from 24 games is not a good return for a squad as talented as Sigi Schmid has assembled.

9. Kansas City Wizards: The Wizard’s are not the most talented team in the league but they work hard as a team and that give’s them a chance to win in every game they play.

10. Chivas USA: Chivas picked up a massive win over the Revs and finally moved off the bottom of the Western Conference in the process.

11. Philadelphia Union: The Union may not make the playoffs but they have given their fans plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future with some superb performances this season.

12. Chicago Fire: The Fire’s big name additions in mid-season were supposed to ensure post season play but that doesn’t look likely after a shock defeat to Philadelphia.

13. New England Revolution: Defeat at Chivas means that the Revs playoff hopes are all but over and it will be interesting to see the direction this side decides to take in what should be a very busy offseason.

14. Toronto FC: Toronto fans want to be entertained by their side but that has simply not happened with Preki as head coach.

15. D.C. United: Nobody can accuse the D.C. players of not giving there all for interim coach Ben Olsen.

16. Houston Dynamo: Houston will need much more than a big name DP to become a contender again next season.

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

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