The MLS transfer deadline is upon us and several teams have big holes to fill if they want to make the playoffs. Other teams just need to find that missing piece to give them an edge down the stretch. Let’s take a look at what a few of the clubs around the league need to make a run at the playoffs.
Portland Timbers: A Clue for Caleb Porter
The Cascadia club has bounced around the “in the playoffs but never looking convincing zone” for most of the season. While the Timbers have scored a lot of goals, 42 good for best in the Western Conference, the team just has a plus three goal differential. Portland has added a couple of defenders but will continue to flounder as long as Caleb Porter manages his team thinking they will win every game 3-2, fails to make timely substitutions, and drops points at home to his rival even when they are playing with 10 men.
San Jose Earthquakes: An Identity
This is a team that has given up its past identity as a team that didn’t score a lot of goals, didn’t allow a lot of goals, and relied on long balls ending up somewhere near enough Chris Wondolowski for him to breakdown whoever stood in his path in order to win games. He hasn’t gotten a lot of help over the years but to their credit the Quakes added Vako Qazaishvili as an attacking midfielder to do just that.
Even before he joined the team, San Jose started playing the exciting, attacking style of play that Dom Kinnear spent his career smothering at every opportunity. San Jose is hovering around the 6th spot in the playoff race but needs a cohesive identity to make a run in the playoffs, either going back to their roots as a defensive team, or by selling out in the attack and trying to out score opponents while hoping the defense holds onto leads.
Sporting Kansas City: The Desire to Score a Second Goal
As SKC showed last week they can play some of the ugliest soccer in the league. Sporting effectively bottled up the Atlanta attack and gave United few chances to create scoring tries and little time on the ball. Unfortunately they also didn’t do much in the way of trying to play soccer. After getting the first goal, SKC looked content to try to see the game out and barely tried for a second.
The match was the team’s fourth draw in five games and while it is unbeaten in that stretch, Sporting isn’t going to stay in first in the Western Conference as long as they continue to fail at playing the kind of anti-soccer that they are attempting. The point of soccer is to score goals and no team is going to win home field throughout the playoffs by actively avoiding that strategy.
New England Revolution: Some Kind of Defense
The Revs are one of the most exciting teams to watch in MLS. They have five superb attackers in Kelyn Rowe, Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, Kei Kamara, and Lee Nguyen. Unfortunately, the cost of having five players with such attacking mindsets on the field at the same time is that the team leaks goals and for all their scoring, they can’t keep a lead.
Whether this is because the attackers are not putting in enough effort to press and win the ball back, the defenders aren’t a good fit in such an attacking team, or both, New England needs a lot of help in their backline and have done nothing to remedy the situation.
Philadelphia Union: A Clear Answer To A Basic Question
What is this team? Here’s a tweet from early July that basically sums up their season:
Since the end of April the Union have the 4th-best record in @MLS. Are they good?— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 2, 2017
Doyle responded saying that he thought they were good. This was before the Gold Cup break and when the Union got back to it they lost three and won two in their next five matches. In the games they won, Philly scored six goals and allowed just one while allowing six and scoring just one in their three losses. Philly has a +4 goal differential, is three points out of the playoffs, and just beat FC Dallas 3-0.
The results for the team make little sense, one week the Union look like a bad team getting good results, the next they seem like a good team getting bad results. Which is it?