A look at the West teams that missed the MLS playoffs

By JOSE M. ROMERO

The MLS playoff field is set, with 10 teams playing at least one more game and the other nine going home following this weekend’s regular-season finales. It’s always a bittersweet time of the year, when the teams who failed to make the postseason dwell on what wrong while probably being somewhat relieved that it is over and they can look ahead to hopefully better days and more success in 2013.

In the Western Conference, there’s reason to be optimistic for 2013 for each of the four teams not in the playoffs. From new hires at the higher ends of organizations to good finishes to close out 2012 to promising talent from young players, FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids, the Portland Timbers and Chivas USA have been active in planning ahead, or certainly will be.

Interestingly enough, FC Dallas and the Rapids were MLS Cup finalists only two seasons ago and were playoff teams last season. The Timbers have yet to live up to very high expectations in the city known as Soccer City, U.S.A, and Chivas USA still seems far from becoming a contender.

But the only way is up for these teams, or so they and their fans can only hope.

FC DALLAS

What went wrong- FCD was in the playoff race right until last Sunday, and had only to get a win or draw in Seattle that night to stay alive for the fifth spot. It wasn’t to be, as the Sounders rolled to a 3-1 victory and handed Vancouver the fifth playoff seed while ensuring that Dallas could not catch the Whitecaps. A 15-match winless streak that lasted three months from April to July also hurt — one of those was a deflating 2-0 U.S. Open Cup loss at home to the lower-division Charlotte Eagles.

Silver lining- Nine goals and four assists for first-year striker Blas Perez, in only 19 league games. Perez is 31, but is an effective scorer and still a huge part of the Panama team that will be in the CONCACAF World Cup hexagonal. Plus, the core of this team is still intact with goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, midfielders Daniel Hernandez and David Ferreira, defenders George John and Ugo Ihemelu and midfielder Brek Shea, among others.

Outlook- If Dallas can keep its core players injury-free, continue to develop young talent and ease them into matches for meaningful playing time and Julian de Guzman comes back with a better understanding of his role and how to play with his teammates, FCD can get back into the postseason again.

COLORADO RAPIDS

What went wrong- The Rapids lost eight of nine league matches in June and July — all losses, no draws — and went 2-11-1 in June, July and August. Forward Conor Casey’s goal production dropped to its lowest since 2007, when he came to the Rapids in April of that year from Toronto FC and scored two goals for Colorado. He has just two this season in 18 matches/13 starts.

Silver lining- Colorado has something in scoring midfielder Jaime Castrillon, who leads the club in goals with eight, and 22-year-old Argentine midfielder Martin Rivero, who leads in assists with eight. It might have something in rookie Tony Cascio, who started the season well and played significant minutes this season.

Outlook- It might be time to at long last move on from the Casey-Omar Cummings forward duo, as Casey just can’t stay healthy — he was limited early in the season by an Achilles injury he suffered in 2011 — and the Rapids need to develop younger players to eventually replace both scorers. Also, 19 losses led the West, so Colorado must look to shore up its back line as well.

PORTLAND TIMBERS 

What went wrong- Almost everything. The troubles really got worse on the fateful night of May 30, when the Timbers lost to USASA club Cal FC in a U.S. Open Cup match at Jeld-Wen Field. The fans turned on the Timbers that night, and although the sellouts and devotion continued, the Timbers could not better reward the loyalty this season. Designated player Kris Boyd never panned out and will end the season injured, and coach John Spencer was fired at midseason.

Silver lining- The Timbers are very formidable at home and that will only continue in the madhouse known as “The House of Pane.” Portland captured the Cascadia Cup last week with a 1-0 win at Vancouver, giving the club a trophy and something tangible to take with it as a memory of one positive from 2012. Portland is undoubtedly the kind of place players are attracted to, and highly successful Akron coach Caleb Porter gets to come in and make his mark on a club and city starved for soccer success.

Outlook- This could be an interesting offseason for the Timbers with Porter coming on board. He’s young (37) and he’ll likely bring a faster and more attacking style to the Rose City. Portland has a ton of young talent at the attacking positions with Darlington Nagbe, Franck Songo’o, Danny Mwanga, Bright Dike, Mike Fucito, Sebastian Rincon and Jose Adolfo Valencia, among others, but needs a finisher. They’re good at holding midfielder with Diego Chara. The defense will need upgrading.

CHIVAS USA

What went wrong- The Goats would rather forget 2012, with a league-leading minus-34 goal differential that is minus-21 at home. They have been outscored 22-56 this season and at least don’t have to end this miserable 2012 at the Home Depot Center, finishing up at FC Dallas this weekend. Chivas hasn’t won a single league match since July 28 at Portland and has been shut out eight times in that span.

Silver lining- Club ownership has apparently had enough, at least to some extent, and brought in Jose David as president and Jose Luis Real as supervisor of soccer operations this week. Will that translate into better players and wins? Who knows? One thing is certain. Chivas USA would have fared much worse if not for the play of goalkeeper Dan Kennedy.

Outlook- Will David and Real clean house? Will Robin Fraser lose his job as coach? Will the Mexican parent club in Guadalajara take a stronger interest in its American subsidiary? So many questions for Chivas USA. With talent like Juan Agudelo, Miller Bolanos and Shalrie Joseph, this should be a better team than it is. But there is bound to be roster moves from right in front of Kennedy up to the forwards.

What did you think of the 2012 seasons for these teams? Which of the five East teams to miss the playoffs do you give the best chance of making the post-season in 2013?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Featured, Major League Soccer, MLS- Chivas USA, MLS- Colorado Rapids, MLS- FC Dallas, MLS- Portland Timbers. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to A look at the West teams that missed the MLS playoffs

  1. fischy says:

    Upgrading? Portland’s defense is a 4-alarm fire.

  2. Big Chil says:

    Rapids will be back next year. Despite the 19 losses, they outplayed, out possessed, and outshot most of their opponents this year, Gotta improve the D, and, yes, find a scorer up top.

    • meowmix says:

      agreed. felt like every game I saw of them they outplayed there opponents, just weren’t burying their chances

  3. Tony in Quakeland says:

    From a nuetral, MLS-fan point of view, the league needs Portland to start rewarding its fans with more attractive soccer and a playoff run.

    • scottishkyle says:

      Amen

    • vik says:

      been feeling that way about Toronto for some time now…

    • Good Jeremy says:

      Yup.

      And Chivas needs to fire all coaches, release all players, replace all management, and start over again as an expansion team. Or their parent team could send all their youngsters there on loan, upping the quality at several positions and giving their target market something to cheer about. Simply putting “Chivas” in the title won’t matter if the team is atrocious and they don’t pander to the Mexican-American/Mexican audience they were built to pander too.

  4. PD in Philly says:

    say it with me now RE-LE-GA-TION.

  5. Eugene says:

    Columbus will make it next year in the East. Higauin is a major pick up and a full preseason + season will see him make the difference.

  6. uDaMan says:

    Chivas USA. You would think with the parent team. CD Guadalajara’s vast network of youth teams. They could send a few youngsters to Chivas USA.

    Strangely, there was a time when Razov and Co. made them a strong team. Its hard to be a strong team in MLS when your top goal scorers are in their upper 30s. But that is the old MLS. Signs of teams developing stronger & younger role players will help make a strong team. Not a temporary season but more long term.

    As it is, Chivas USA, does need to do a better job getting better role players.

    Sure anyone can have “Juan Agudelo, Miller Bolanos and Shalrie Joseph.” But with out key role players playing at 100% potential. Your MLS season will be very forgettable.

    • White Kix says:

      “Chivas USA. You would think with the parent team. CD Guadalajara’s vast network of youth teams. They could send a few youngsters to Chivas USA.”

      Are you familiar with their first few years of existence??
      Bringing in young players from Guadalajara will not help the team (Unless they are currently playing for the first team, but they will not move those players). just look at their roster and results from their first two years.

  7. The Squad says:

    Portland…

    Hopefully, Caleb Porter and ownership have decided on both style of play and what type of personnel fit that style of play. Despite a bevy of decent talent, Portland doe not seem to have a “way they play” thing going on. Bring in a few solid vets (i.e.- Buddle, Bobby Convey) add a defensive piece or two and scout the heck out of the world.

    Dallas..

    Good team. The previous archetype on how to build a solid MLS team. Bad run of games, good form by the likes of Vancouver and the injury bug took its toll. If they can keep their talent level, may challenge for the Cup. Hopefully Brek Shea returns to form.

    Colorado

    Good attacking pieces on the team. No reason Cummings and Casey can’t rekindle the magic for one more go at it. They need to bring in young talented defensive help and develop some competition at the GK position. Don’t fire the coach yet!! Keep the game open and flowing and meticulously focus on finishing in the goal mouth. KC wins because KC defends and finishes well. Point blank.

    Chivas..

    San Diego… Maybe Phoenix, maybe even St Louis.

    If not. focus on discipline on the pitch. the team has talent but seems to lack something in the discipline overall makeup deal. Bring in more vets SCOUT THE WORLD!! You offer southern California as a backdrop!