MLS update: Seattle Takes On Chelsea, Vancouver Fails To Capitalize, Portland And Columbus Sink Further, And Hope Blossoms In Toronto
Seattle Sounders (W8-L5-D7) 31 pts.
Squad report: It was a pretty busy week, but if there was one must-see game this week, it was the Sounders’ friendly against Chelsea FC. (Note: Last week I would have said San Jose-RSL, but that game turned into a bloodbath.) It was wide-open, end-to-end and incredibly entertaining soccer, and although what was a healthy mix of Chelsea’s “A” and “B” teams eventually won the game 4-2, Seattle showed everyone watching that the MLS is capable of playing an up-tempo game that could eventually rival what we see in Europe. There’s still a long way to go though. Wednesday’s friendly was also a swan song for Seattle favorite Roger Levesque, who has played on-and-off with the Sounders since 2003. The Sounder’s probably wish they got a better result against New York on Sunday (that game finished in a 2-2 draw,) but it seems like most of the player attention was on the upcoming friendly, despite the fact that the MLS game had more significance in the league.
Up next: Seattle has the next week off, which is good, because the pace in Wednesday’s friendly was incredible, especially in the first half. The Sounders’ next game is against Colorado on Saturday, July 28.
Vancouver Whitecaps (W8-L6-D7) 31 pts.
Squad report: With two games over the past week, Vancouver had a shot at leapfrogging Seattle in the Western Conference standings. Instead, after a loss against Chicago on Saturday and a draw against L.A. on Wednesday, the teams are still tied on points, and Seattle has a game in hand. In some ways Vancouver can’t take the loss against the Galaxy too hard, especially with the resurgence of David Beckham (who scored to cut Vancouver’s lead to 2-1,) but Saturday’s game against the Fire was winnable, especially once Chicago went down to 10 men.
Up next: Vancouver’s almost finished with one of its toughest stretches of the season, but first the Whitecaps have to face San Jose on Sunday. With the form that the Earthquakes are in, this might be the toughest game all year. Vancouver will be happy with a draw here.
Columbus Crew (W6-L7-D4) 22 pts.
Squad report: Still no news on the transfer front, but it’s definitely taking back seat to the team’s on-field problems right now. Columbus took on Sporting Kansas City on Saturday with a retooled lineup, and promptly lost 2-0 in a game that really wasn’t very close. To make matters worse, left back Bernado Arnor tore his ACL in his first start for the Crew, and will be out for the rest of the season, and forward Emilio Renteria has been suspended for a game after headbutting Sporting K.C.’s Paulo Nagamura. It wasn’t much of a headbutt, but the intent was there. And to top it all off, fans have been calling for Robert Warzycha’s dismissal. So far, it seems like Warzycha isn’t going anywhere, but as fans of the European game know, sometimes a vote of confidence is more like a death knell.
Up next: The season is now past its halfway point, and Columbus us starting to look like it’s in trouble. I’ve backed them up to this point, but another injury and a suspension because of a dumb outburst and this team is starting to show cracks. The Crew takes on D.C. United on Saturday, followed by a friendly against Peter Crouch and Stoke City on Wednesday. The focus should be on Saturday’s game.
Portland Timbers (W5-L10-D4) 19 pts.
Squad update: Well, the new coach boost hasn’t kicked in yet, and things in Portland are looking as desperate as they’ve ever been. A pair of losses to L.A. and Chivas USA mean the Timbers are still without a road win this season, and morale both in the dressing room and in the stands is low, to say the least. Forward Kris Boyd said before Wednesday’s 1-0 loss to Chivas that, “the monkey keeps getting bigger,” which prompted OregonLive.com to post a short piece with the fan’s perspective on the whole thing. The Timbers are now tied for the worst record in the league with Toronto and FC Dallas. Enough said.
Up next: It’s tough to say where the team should go from here, because they really need to improve across the board. Portland has a chance at a W on Saturday when they take on FC Dallas, but the team will likely get embarrassed against Aston Villa on Wednesday.
Toronto FC (W5-L11-D4) 19 pts.
Squad report: First and foremost, Toronto lost Danny Koevermans, easily the Reds’ best player this season, to a knee injury during Saturday’s game against New England. It’s the last thing coach Paul Mariner was looking for at this point in the season, and it deprives the team of both it’s top scorer (by a lot) and a fan favorite. On the other hand, Toronto is on a three-game winning streak and is but a weekend away from not being the worst team in the league anymore. It’s an interesting shift; all three wins have been hard-fought, one-goal games. To put it simply, the team finally has its collective head in the right place. And while eyebrows were raised when the Reds traded designated player Julian de Guzman for forward Andrew Wiedeman, Wiedeman scored the game-winner against Colorado on Wednesday and provided the chance that Koeverman’s loss might not mean the end of the season. Hope springs eternal in Toronto.
Up next: The real Reds come to town on Saturday when Liverpool (with or without Clint Dempsey) pay a visit to Toronto. I can’t imagine Toronto FC taking this game very seriously, but on the other hand, there’s no Wednesday game on the schedule and Seattle came out with all guns blazing against Chelsea.