MLS update: Portland Sacks Coach, Vancouver Shocked By Toronto, Seattle Back On Track, And Shuffling In Columbus
Seattle Sounders (W8-L5-D6) 30 pts.
Squad report: It’s been a fantastic week for Seattle. On Saturday, Seattle cruised to a 2-1 win behind a fantastic performance by midfielder Mauro Rosales, who assisted on both goals and wreaked havoc all game. The make the win even sweeter, near the end of the game Rosales come off for midfielder Steve Zakuani, who hasn’t made an appearance since he broke his leg in April 2011. Zakuani was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2009 and scored 10 goals for the Sounders in 2011, and could provide a spark for the team once he’s fully fit. And on Wednesday, Seattle blew Chivas USA out of the water in the semifinal of the US Open Cup, riding a 4-1 scoreline to the Sounders’ fourth straight final appearance. And, according to MLSsoccer.com, the Sounders are due to heat up in the second half of the season.
Up next: The US Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City is still a few weeks away (Aug. 8,) so for now Seattle’s focus is on the immediate future. On Sunday, the Sounders have a nationally televised showdown away at New York, followed by a friendly against Chelsea on Wednesday. A win against New York would be huge, and Chelsea will in all likelihood play its reserves. Sunday’s game is the big focus this week.
Vancouver Whitecaps (W8-L5-D6) 30 pts.
Squad report: Vancouver had the opposite kind of week. Thanks to a draw and a loss, the Whitecaps dropped to fourth in the Western Conference behind Seattle on goal differential. The ties against Chivas USA on Saturday wasn’t a bad result; goalkeeper Joe Cannon made four solid saves to preserve the clean sheet, but the ‘Caps had a hard time converting chances. The loss to Toronto FC, the worst team in the league, will sting a bit more. Vancouver lost to the Reds back on May 24 in the final of the Canadian Championship, a result that took them out of Champions League play for the moment. Wednesday was seen by fans as a way to even things up a little bit. Instead, Toronto stole the game with a goal deep into stoppage time. And so, Vancouver’s up and down season continues.
Up next: Last week I hinted at the beginnings of a winning streak for the Whitecaps. I will do no such thing today. An away game against Chicago is followed by a home matchup against the Galaxy.
Columbus Crew (W6-L6-D4) 22 pts.
Squad report: Remember all that mystery player stuff from the last two weeks? Well, everything has gone kind of quiet. The crew still have an offer out in Europe, and the organization is still exploring options in Argentina. But for now, the shift in Columbus has been toward making the current pieces fit together. One of the focuses has been on the Olman Vargas and the problems he’s had trying to come back from injury. Captain Chad Marshall is finally back from injury, and the back line isn’t settled yet from the shakeup. And the lineup may be seeing additional changes after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday.
Up next: Despite all the lineup changes, Columbus isn’t really in trouble, just trying to find the right combination. Hopefully they find it by Saturday, when the take on Sporting Kansas City.
Portland Timbers (W5-L8-D4) 19 pts.
Squad update: On Monday, the Timber’s announced that head coach John Spencer would be relieved of his duties, and that general manager Gavin Wilkinson would take over on an interim basis. Portland sits in second-to-last in the Western Conference, but owner Merritt Paulson said the move was motivated primarily by philosophical differences. Whatever the reason is, Portland 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday couldn’t have helped.
Up next: The Timbers begin life under Wilkinson, who has coached Portland before, when the team was in the USL. The Timbers face L.A. on Saturday and Chivas on Wednesday. The question is, how different will the team look?
Toronto FC (W3-L11-D4) 13 pts.
Squad report: Toronto’s medium run under new coach Paul Mariner continues. After getting thumped by the equally terrible Union 3-0 on Saturday, the Reds turned around and stunned Vancouver deep into stoppage time on Wednesday. Things have calmed down in Toronto since Aron Winter’s departure, but there’s not a whole lot left to play for this season, since Toronto is almost certain to miss the playoffs. Instead, Mariner will try to use the second half of the season to build strong connections within the team and forge a solid foundation for next season.
Up next: Every game is tough when you’re the worst team in the league, but Toronto has a few winnable games on the horizon with New England on Saturday and Colorado on Wednesday.