Vancouver continues to show heart
While the nightmare that is the Toronto FC season rolls on amid disaster and controversy, two other Major League Soccer teams are doing their part to keep Canadian soccer from being a complete laughingstock.
While TFC had three players arrested on Sunday in Houston, both Montreal and Vancouver were busy enjoying the glow of their latest victories; the Impact having just opened the brand new Stade Saputo, while Vancouver marked a gutsy victory that moved the Whitecaps into third place in the Western Conference.
Things should only get better for Vancouver and Montreal. The Whitecaps will be welcoming midfielder Barry Robson to the fold when the summer transfer window opens at the end of the month, while the Impact will introduce Italian striker Marco Di Vaio around the same time.
Spirits aren’t nearly as high in Toronto, where Aron Winter’s departure as head coach was supposed to help usher in a new era. Newly appointed manager, Paul Mariner, will have his hands full as players Luis Silva, Miguel Aceval and Nick Soolsma were arrested for public intoxication. Just how Mariner deals with this with embarrassing incident will show if he’s truly capable of steering the Toronto FC ship to the right direction.
Here is how the FOX Soccer MLS Power Rankings shake out after the league returned to action last weekend:
1- REAL SALT LAKE
Kyle Beckerman picked up where he left off, enjoying an outstanding night on his return from US national team duty to help RSL trounce Chivas USA. RSL came through the recent international window relatively unscathed, and should put together a strong run this summer that will likely see them hold onto first place in the West for a while.
2- D.C. UNITED
It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but United played some tough defense and found a goal to post a valuable road win at PPL Park against Philadelphia. Bill Hamid enjoyed a strong night in goal while the defensive tandem of Dejan Jakovic and Brandon McDonald looked very strong.
3- SPORTING KANSAS CITY
A second consecutive win has Sporting KC once again looking like a challenger for first place. The defense looked sharp despite missing Matt Besler. If the backline and Jimmy Nielsen can keep up that high level, the upcoming matches against struggling Seattle and Philadelphia should be a cakewalk.
4- SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The Earthquakes return from an extended MLS break on Wednesday with a match against Colorado. The time off came at a perfect time for a San Jose squad feeling the grind of a loaded early schedule. Having Chris Wondolowski back in the fold from national team duty should also help San Jose pick up where they left off.
5- VANCOUVER WHITECAPS
Vancouver showed great heart in overcoming Darren Mattocks’ red card to grab three points on Saturday against Colorado. Martin Rennie has done an outstanding job of juggling his deep attack and keeping players fresh. With Barry Robson’s arrival looming, Rennie will have to do even more lineup juggling. He will have that luxury as long as the defense continues to be strong.
6- NEW YORK RED BULLS
New York’s five-game winning seems like so long ago, and even longer ago after being trounced by the Chicago Fire. There are very real questions about the defense. Each member of the starting back four was beaten on a goal (Wilman Conde was spared by a blown call of a clear Fire goal). Hans Backe has been working some real magic without key starters, but the clock may be running out on that, meaning they need Thierry Henry back in a hurry.
7- COLUMBUS CREW
Andy Gruenebaum is enjoying a dream run in goal for the Crew and is one of the key reasons for the team’s six-match unbeaten streak. The Columbus offense will look to keep that up against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
8- SEATTLE SOUNDERS
Say what you want about whether Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s red card was deserved (it wasn’t), the fact remains Montreal were the better side before the red card and Seattle struggles in MLS play continue. A home match against Sporting KC will be a stiff test, but then a tricky visit to Jeld-Wenn Field to take on struggling Portland awaits.
9- CHICAGO FIRE
Beware of Chicago. Chris Rolfe’s goal may have just been an insurance goal, but if he gets rolling, Chicago could really start climbing up the East standings. Dom Oduro is still struggling (though the linesman denied him a clear goal) but Patrick Nyarko is really enjoying a standout season. The real question is how long will the young centerback tandem of Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry hold up?
10- HOUSTON DYNAMO
The Dynamo’s search for a forward to replace the diminishing production of Brian Ching might be over, with Will Bruin really developing into a quality forward option. He scored his sixth goal of the season on Saturday and gives the Dynamo a big and mobile option up top.
11- COLORADO RAPIDS
The battle to find consistency continues for the Rapids, who squandered a golden chance for some road points by losing at Vancouver despite holding a man advantage for a third of the match. They have a four-point cushion on the final playoff spot in the West, but with teams like the LA Galaxy and Portland capable of coming on strong in the second half, the Rapids may wind up paying for dropping some valuable points at this point in the season.
12- MONTREAL IMPACT
It was a banner day for the Impact, as the team christened new Stade Saputo with a resounding 4-1 victory. Patrice Bernier’s three-assist day was outstanding, but Andrew Wenger’s well-taken goal might have provided a glimpse of more to come. There was some bad news in the form of injuries to Matteo Ferrari and a potential serious injury to Bernardo Corradi, but with a new stadium and Marco Di Vaio’s arrival looming, Montreal has plenty to be excited about heading into the summer.
13- NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The Revs dropped points at home, which has become a bit of a rarity this season, but New England has some games coming up, at Toronto FC and vs. struggling Seattle, that could help them close the gap on the top five in the East. If the Revs are going to do that, they need the offense to find some more consistency, which means Benny Feilhaber and rookie Kelyn Rowe stepping up the creative production.
14- CHIVAS USA
Saw their four-match unbeaten streak snapped in emphatic fashion by RSL. Was this hust a bad night against a great team, or a sign of bad things to come? The Goats are better now than they were a month ago thanks to the trades for Juan Agudelo and Dan Califf, but they may still be a player away from a serious playoff charge. Will Chivas USA open the bank book to make that run?
15- LA GALAXY
Getting Josh Saunders back in goal, and having the defense produce the team’s first shutout of the season, has to leave the Galaxy feeling good on their return from the break, even though the offense still isn’t scaring anybody. Landon Donovan did his part to help Todd Dunivant score the game winner by shielding Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins, but LA will need him to do much more if the Galaxy are going to seriously climb back into the playoff race.
16- PHILADELPHIA UNION
The departure of Peter Nowak led to a relaxed atmosphere around Philadelphia this weekend, but the Union still couldn’t finish chances and squandered a relatively solid performance in their 1-0 loss to D.C. United on Saturday. John Hackworth looks intent on finding young players playing time, and Amobi Okugo’s showing at defense suggests we might see some youngsters flourish under their new coach.
17- PORTLAND TIMBERS
When the season began, Portland’s problem, if they were going to have a major one, figured to be defending. Instead of an inability to stop goals, the Timbers are struggling badly to generate goals. The trade for Danny Mwanga is expected to help, but it may take some time for him and new strike partner Kris Boyd to find an understanding. They better develop one quickly, before the playoffs get out of reach.
18- FC DALLAS
Things can’t get any worse for Dallas, can they? Dead last in the West, with the playoffs all but an afterthought, does Schellas Hyndman start playing for next year and start playing his young players? Yes, FCD is only six points out of the final playoff spot in the West, but they have played two or more games than the five teams ahead of them for that
19- TORONTO FC
New coach, same results. Yes, it is still too early to judge the Paul Mariner era, but a loss and three arrests isn’t a great start. Road game at Houston will be tough in mid-week, but a home game against New England on the weekend will either provide some life, or sink TFC even deeper in the abyss that their season has become.