October 22, 2007

MLS Post-Mortem: Examining the Dead

While the focus is on the 8 teams who will still be playing, let's take a quick look at the 5 who have to wait until next year...

Toronto FC
In their first year, nobody expected Toronto to compete for a playoff spot. They missed out by 15 points at the end. I don't know if Mo Johnston ever really got the roster set the way he wanted. He has some nice pieces to build around though. Maurice Edu starred as a rookie. Marvell Wynne started coming into his own late in the year. The fans found a favorite in Danny Dichio. Speaking of which, the hardcore fan support is what will be the lasting memory of Toronto FC's 2007 season. While those fans are coming back in greater numbers in 2008, some improvement will be needed for them to keep coming back.

Real Salt Lake
RSL just hasn't gotten their stuff together, have they? They showed a little promise late in the year, and will be hoping to build on the Rocky Mountain Cup victory over their hated Rapids in the last game of the year. I like the young Argentines that were signed. The Findley/Sturgis deal was masterful, and will pay off down the road. Kyle Beckerman was another nice acquisition that makes RSL better. Nick Rimando regained his pre-2005 form. Jason Kreis showed some promise as a young coach, let's see what he can do in a full season now. Losing Eddie Pope makes me think this young team might be in need of some veteran leadership for 2008.

LA Galaxy
Where do you begin with the "jewel" of the league? They caught a horrible break with Beckham arriving injured. However, the team was broken before that, and the moves Lalas made didn't help much. I still hate the trade that brought Chris Klein to LA, although it's no offense to Klein. He was a great soldier for the team, and his bicycle kick against Pachuca in the SuperLiga final will be the moment I remember best from this LA season.

It's obvious though that a talent upgrade is desperately needed. Carlos Pavon was a bad signing, but I won't blame Lalas on this one. Pavon played well in the Gold Cup prior to the signing and it was a decent gamble. It just didn't work out.

There's also the issue of Landon Donovan's contract. As of now, the Gals need a DP slot to keep him for 2008. That won't be easy to acquire, unless the league bails them out and allows teams a second slot. He also needs to be used more effectively, I hated how he was thrown out on the wing in the last 2 games. Yallop should've remembered how dangerous he was playing up top, in front of Beckham, before the knee injury took Becks out of commission. Becks has better chances for success delivering through balls to Donovan than Glinton, Buddle, or Pavon.

This will be the most interesting club to follow in the offseason, that's for sure. Will Yallop return? How much money will the club make in their exhibition games? Will Lalas return? Will Donovan return?

Colorado Rapids
I'll be shocked if Fernando Clavijo returns for a fourth season with the Rapids. There might be riots in the fanbase if he does. It seemed like Clavijo went out of his way to piss off the hardcore supporters.

The Rapids were definitely the league's biggest disappointment this year, I expected much more out of them. They had appeared to upgrade their roster from a team that somehow found itself in the Western Conference Final 2 years running. However, dealing for Facundo Erpen midway through the year was a big mistake (as seen by his play in the pivotal RSL game Saturday) and getting rid of Beckerman didn't make much sense.

What happened to Nico Hernandez this year? The team had pretty much no offense this year, which makes Alain Nkong's resurgence for Atlante in Mexico that much more upsetting. Daniel Osorno of Mexico was signed, and then played exactly 55 minutes. Conor Casey stunk for the majority of his time in Colorado, at least he showed a little something late in the year.

I hate to say it, but it looks like things are going to get worse in Colorado before they get better. At least their uniforms were cool this year, huh?

Columbus Crew
I never could understand this team in 2007. Sigi comes to town, rebuilds the roster around promising young players, then proceeds to give up on them. The Danny Szetela situation was baffling, the guy looked good in the U20 qualifiers at the beginning of the year, barely gets on the field for the Crew, then goes to the U20 World Cup and earns himself a deal with a La Liga club. Que? There's been talk of Eddie Gaven trying to find a way out of town as well, just as he's finally starting to turn into a complete player.

At least Robbie Rogers and Tim Ward started finding the field late in the year, and looked good in doing so. Rogers could be a revelation next year. Schelotto was what they desperately needed, but couldn't carry the team into the playoffs on his own. One true goalscorer could be the cure for all of the Crew's ills, I think the other pieces are in place.

Sigi will be back for another year, and I think he has to produce this time around.

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