Union, Toronto benefiting from change

BY foxsports • July 11, 2012

When teams make coaching changes, they generally do so hoping that the switch can rejuvenate a floundering season and produce results with the same players who had been struggling prior to the change.

The Philadelphia Union have been the beneficiaries of a coaching change and the results have been immediate. Since replacing Peter Nowak with assistant John Hackworth, the Union have won three of four matches (four of five if you count the US Open Cup) and head into Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal against Sporting Kansas City riding a wave of confidence.

Toronto FC isn’t doing quite as well under new head coach Paul Mariner, but the improvements have been clear to see. Prior to Sunday’s 3-0 loss to the Union, Toronto FC had put together a four-match unbeaten streak.

Portland will be hoping for a similar boost from the departure of John Spencer, who was replaced as head coach by general manager Gavin Hamilton on Monday. The Timbers have underachieved considerably, but with a good collection of offensive talent, Portland just might be able to turn things around now that the message has been sent that mediocrity will not be accepted in the Rose City.

Here are this week’s FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings:

1- SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

The Earthquakes settled for one point from two matches last week, but are still the top team in the league for now. That top spot will be tested against Real Salt Lake on Saturday in the league’s game of the week.

2- D.C. UNITED

First of several weeks off mixed in during the coming weeks. Rest is always welcomed with opened arms at this time of year, but quirky schedule isn’t helping a team that was riding a good run of momentum.

3- SPORTING KANSAS CITY

Inconsistent results at home have become an issue for a team that used to be unstoppable at Livestrong Sporting Park. Sporting KC has been shutout in three of their past five home matches and they now hit the road to take on two teams with solid defenses in Columbus and Houston.

4- REAL SALT LAKE

Just how important is Jamison Olave to RSL’s defense? After the team went winless in five matches without him, RSL produced a shutout victory upon Olave’s return and didn’t give up a single shot on goal against the Portland Timbers. With Olave back, RSL could jump back up to the spot with a win against San Jose on Saturday.

5- NEW YORK RED BULLS

Injuries continue to be a problem for the Red Bulls, but the backups are not playing at the same level they were back in May when New York rattled off a five-match winning streak while missing several key players. With just one win in their past six league matches, the Red Bulls will be tested by tough matches against Seattle and Chicago.

6- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

Joe Cannon and the Whitecaps back four continue to dominate opposing attacks, posting another shutout and keeping Vancouver in range of challenge the Western Conference elite. Rookie Darren Mattocks continues to show good signs, even though the Whitecaps attack has still be inconsistent in recent weeks. That is something Martin Rennie will be hoping new arrival Barry Robson can help out with.

7- LA GALAXY

Robbie Keane’s brace helped the Galaxy earn a valuable road victory, but it was the play of LA’s defense that had to make Bruce Arena smile. Omar Gonzalez made his 2012 debut in the team’s loss to Philadelphia, but is still working his way back into the mix. With Gonzalez nearly all the way back, the Galaxy look like a good bet for a strong second half.

8- CHICAGO FIRE

The Fire’s recent hot streak was grounded to a halt after settling for just one point from two matches. Sean Johnson had his ups and downs, but it was the Fire’s offense that left plenty to be desired last week. A home match against a strong Vancouver defense will not make things any easier for Frank Klopas’ faltering attack.

9- HOUSTON DYNAMO

The Dynamo recorded back-to-back shutouts despite missing standout defender Geoff Cameron, who could very well be departing for Stoke City. Now, the Dynamo must get their offense going, considering they had to settle for a pair of scoreless draws.

10- SEATTLE SOUNDERS

The Sounders opened the week with a hard-earned a draw against Real Salt Lake before ending a nine-game winless drought in league play with a 2-1 victory over Colorado. Eddie Johnson is in solid form and the Sounders’ attack is starting to look like the unit we expected to see when the season started.

11- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

The Revolution continue to stay in range of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and a home game against TFC this weekend could give the Revs a great chance to draw even closer. Newly-acquired forward, Jerry Bengtson, looked impressive in his debut, scoring a goal as New England continued its long unbeaten run at home against the Red Bulls.

12- COLUMBUS CREW

The Crew looked capable of scoring a rare three points on the road, but surrendered a late goal in a loss to Montreal. The defense let Columbus down, though the return of Chad Marshall gives the Crew reason for optimism.

13- PHILADELPHIA UNION

A two-win week was capped by a masterful 3-0 victory against the Toronto FC. Freddy Adu played his best game of the season, while Michael Farfan delivered two quality performances for the Union, who head into Wednesday’s US Open Cup semifinal looking like a good candidate to reach the final.

14- COLORADO RAPIDS

The Rapids were thoroughly outplayed in the first half against Seattle, but showed some real signs of life in the second half of their eventual 2-1 loss to Seattle. Two losses last week dropped the Rapids in the rankings. But with Conor Casey and Omar Cummings in the lineup, it shouldn’t be long before the results start coming.

15- MONTREAL IMPACT

Marco Di Vaio still hasn’t scored his first goal for his new club, but Patrice Bernier continues to be outstanding for the Impact. Yet, the Impact’s struggles continue on the road and hope will turn around with the arrival of Italian defender Alessandro Nesta,

16- CHIVAS USA

The Goats defense is in good form these days, having allowed just one goal in three matches, but the offense continues to struggle with generate goals. With two games apiece coming against Portland and the LA Galaxy, Chivas USA needs Juan Pablo Angel and Juan Agudelo to start producing if the Goats are going to stay in range of the West playoff race.

17- PORTLAND TIMBERS

John Spencer paid the price for his team’s continued underachievement. While you can certainly question whether a year and a half is enough for a coach to build a winner, the fact that Vancouver is doing so well and Seattle has set a high standard surely forced Timbers owner Merritt Paulson to make the change.

18- TORONTO FC

The Union brought TFC down to earth with a convincing 3-0 victory, but the bigger concern for Toronto is Danny Koevermans knee injury. If the red-hot striker is forced to miss any time, Toronto could start to slide again.

19- FC DALLAS

The Hoops are starting to see improved results, evidenced by their three consecutive draws. A 13-match winless streak keeps them at the bottom of the rankings. Having David Ferreira back is a plus, but the absence of Blas Perez is the new issue in Frisco.


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