FOX Soccer Exclusive
Changes hurting Vancouver's season
|Friday, August 31|
|Saturday, September 1|
|Sporting KC||2-1||Toronto FC||Recap|
|R. Salt Lake||1-0||DC United||Recap|
|Sunday, September 2|
|San Jose||4-0||Chivas USA||Recap|
|Friday, September 7|
|Houston||1-0||R. Salt Lake||Recap|
|Saturday, September 8|
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If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.
That old saying is one Martin Rennie might be wishing he had adhered to before he set about shaking up the Vancouver Whitecaps roster in the middle of what had been a very promising season for the second-year club.
In mid-July, the Whitecaps were looking like a team capable of challenging for a playoff spot in the West, but a series of roster moves changed the make-up of the team and the tinkering has produced a slide that could wind up costing Vancouver.
Since selling playmaker Davide Chiumiento to FC Zurich on July 11, a move that triggered trades of Sebastien Le Toux to New York and Eric Hassli to Toronto, the Whitecaps have posted an abysmal 2-7-1 record. The additions of Scottish newcomers Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, as well as the arrival of Dane Richards, were supposed to solidify the Whitecaps and propel them into a potential role as title contender.
The Whitecaps have been anything but, and Sunday’s loss to the LA Galaxy marked Vancouver’s fourth straight loss. That skid has set up a dangerous match for Vancouver against FC Dallas after the international break, a match that could help FC Dallas pull to within a point of the Whitecaps for the fifth and final playoff spot in the West.
Vancouver isn’t the only team that has struggled to find consistency amid lineup changes. DC United has fallen out of playoff position in recent weeks, and at least some of the blame for that has to fall on Ben Olsen’s lineup juggling. DC is 2-5-2 in their past nine matches, a slide that has led to them falling into sixth place in the East.
While Vancouver and DC slide down the standings, red-hot Columbus and the LA Galaxy keep moving up. The Crew pushed their unbeaten streak to six matches thanks to late heroics in a pair of wins last week. Federico Higuain was at it again, setting up game-winning goals against Philadelphia and Montreal. The Galaxy rode the hot hand of Juninho to overcome the injury absence of Landon Donovan and post the team’s third win in four matches.
Here are this week’s FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings:
Ramiro Corrales flashed his brilliant left foot for two free-kick goals in Sunday’s win against Chivas USA. The Earthquakes come out of the break with winnable games against Chivas and Portland before a Sept. 21 showdown against Seattle.
2- SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Kansas City extended their unbeaten streak to five matches thanks to Saturday’s 2-1 win against Toronto FC. The international break will be important for Sporting KC to get some rest before a brutal six-game stretch against the top teams in the East.
3- SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Seattle took a point on the road against a tough FC Dallas side, but the big news was Steve Zakuani’s return to the starting lineup for the Sounders. It was his first start in 500 days, since suffering a broken leg early in the 2011 season. Seattle will need him to help the team’s push for second place in the West.
4- NEW YORK RED BULLS
New York earned a solid road point at RFK Stadium last Wednesday against DC United thanks to Wilman Conde’s late equalizer, which now sets up the Red Bulls with five home games in their next six matches. It will be interesting to see what role Rafa Marquez when the team returns from the break when he returns from injury.
5- LA GALAXY
Juninho continued his outstanding form as he helped the Galaxy post their second straight win in Saturday’s 2-0 win vs. Vancouver. The Galaxy are 8-1-2 in their past 11 matches and have closed gap on RSL and Seattle. Their next three matches are against last-place teams before a pivotal Oct. 6th home date against Real Salt Lake.
6- REAL SALT LAKE
Don’t look now but RSL is starting to put things together. They have figured out how to defend well without Jamison Olave, something that was an issue for much of the season. Three straight shutouts in all competitions are encouraging, though the attack is still showing signs of inconsistency.
7- CHICAGO FIRE
Marco Pappa’s move to Heerenveen threatened to derail Chicago’s playoff hopes, but you wouldn’t know it considering how the Fire attack looked without Pappa in Sunday’s 3-1 victory against the Houston Dynamo. Patrick Nyarko, Sherjill MacDonald and Alvaro Fernandez are key to picking up the slack for a team that has climbed up to third place in the East.
8- COLUMBUS CREW
The hottest team in MLS right now, the Crew knocked off Montreal to jump into playoff position on the strength of a four-match winning streak. Argentine playmaker Federico Higuain has been the catalyst for the turnaround, and he contributed four assists in the Crew’s two-win week. Columbus has not lost since the death of midfielder Kirk Urso (4-0-2).
9- HOUSTON DYNAMO
Remember when Houston looked like a team that might run away with first place in the East? Their hot streak is a thing of the past, having been replaced by a three-match winless skid that is threatening to cost the Dynamo their playoff place. Things only get tougher, with matches against Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC up next.
10- MONTREAL IMPACT
Halted by the Crew in Columbus, Montreal faces a serious challenge if they want to qualify for the playoffs. With just five matches remaining, Montreal will need to try and win at least four of those matches, which won’t be easy with Chicago, Sporting KC and Houston up next on the schedule.
11- FC DALLAS
Tied a tough Seattle team on Sunday at home, which isn’t a bad result except for the fact Dallas is running out of time to try and catch the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps for the final playoff spot in the West. Their next match after the break happens to be against the Whitecaps, in what can be called a playoff elimination match for Dallas.
12- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
A four-match losing streak, capped by a lackluster showing in a 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy, has the Whitecaps teetering on the verge of losing a playoff place. Their recent skid has set up a match against FC Dallas that will either instill confidence in the struggling Whitecaps, or leave the race for the final playoff spot in the West wide open.
13- D.C. UNITED
If you are starting to get a familiar feeling about this DC United season, you aren’t alone. Last year’s late-season collapse should have provided plenty of incentive for not repeating that disaster. Just one win in six matches is worrisome. DC United fans can take heart in the knowledge that the team’s next five matches are against teams out of playoff contention and basically playing out the string.
14- PORTLAND TIMBERS
When newly-appointed Timbers head coach Caleb Porter watches video of the current Timbers team he will be encouraged by the play of winger Sal Zizzo as well as forward Bright Dike, who appears to have benefited from the multiple loan spells that have helped him earn playing time across the country.
The Union continues to struggle finishing chances, and their desperate need for a top finisher was evident yet again in Saturday’s scoreless draw against New England. On the bright side, Freddy Adu turned in a promising performance in his return to the starting lineup, but poor finishing by his teammates cost him multiple assists.
16- CHIVAS USA
What has happened to the Goats defense? The team allowed just 18 goals in its first 21 matches of the season, but has now given up 21 goals in their past seven matches. The Goats are still nine points out of a playoff spot with three games in hand. That won’t matter if the team can’t figure out why they cannot stop anybody these days.
Oscar Pareja’s first season as Colorado’s head coach Rapids has reached full nightmare mode, with the club hitting the West basement after their ninth loss in 11 matches. It is a stretch of futility that makes it tougher to believe that it is simply an underachieving team. The harsh reality is that this Rapids team just isn’t very good, even with some promising off-season additions.
18- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Can things get any worse? The Revs lost top scorer Saer Sene to a torn ACL and then go out and play a dreadful match against the Philadelphia Union in a scoreless draw. That came just three days after watching former Rev Shalrie Joseph score two goals to help Chivas USA comeback from two goals down and tie New England last Wednesday.
19- TORONTO FC
Toronto endured a pair of gut-wrenching late losses last week, first in CONCACAF Champions League to Santos Laguna, then on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. Paul Mariner’s honeymoon period as head coach has ended and now faces a real challenge of overhauling a TFC squad with plenty of things to fix.
Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for FOXSoccer.com covering Major League Soccer and the US National Team.