The Western Conference had a shake up at the top over the weekend that saw FC Dallas slip from first place, with Real Salt Lake and the Portland Timbers rising to the top. So let’s turn to this week’s MLS – Big 5.
1) Caleb Porter Can Coach
College coaches have done well in MLS over the years, from Bruce Arena to Bob Bradley to Sigi Schmidt. But the trend in recent years has been toward former MLS players. Ben Olsen in DC, Jay Heaps in New England and Mike Petke in New York, and before them Peter Vermes at Sporting KC and Jason Kreis in Salt Lake are some that have made the jump from the playing field to the sideline.
Porter did play briefly in MLS, but injuries cut his playing days short and Porter built his reputation as coach of Akron. Porter led the Zips to the 2009 national final, where they lost, before coming back the following year to beat Louisville 1-0, to claim the 2010 National Championship.
Now Porter has led the Portland Timbers to a 15 game unbeaten run and a share of first place in the Western Conference.
With the failure to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in the rearview it seems safe to say that Portland made the right hire in Porter.
2) Don’t Overlook Real Salt Lake
Because there is that tendency to look past the 2009 MLS Cup winners. Even post Beckham, L.A. tend to get most of the ink out west. Then there are Seattle and Portland, with all the excitement generated by their exuberant supporters.
But don’t sleep on RSL. Kyle Beckerman is a great MLS player, the ongoing Beckerman debate revolves around his suitability for the international game. In that same boat is Robbie Findley, although the boat seems to have sailed for the former U.S. international striker. Nick Rimando is a top keeper and Alvaro Saborio a top goal scorer. Now RSL are at the top of the Western Conference. The standings are tight and the season is just about halfway finished, but Real will have a say when the playoffs roll around.
3) NYRB Slipping while Philly Rise
With Montreal looking more and more like the real deal, the New York Red Bulls have slipped from the first to third in the East after falling 3-0 to the Union at the weekend.
The Bulls may point to the 28th minute sending off of Lloyd Sam and the absences of Jamison Olave and Juninho to suspension and the injured Tim Cahill, but the standings don’t care.
Two goal hero Conor Casey was the star for Philadelphia, who claim second place over NYRB by virtue of one fewer loss.
4) DC Wins!!
One win won’t undo this nightmare season for Ben Olsen and DC United, but Saturday’s 1-0 home win over San Jose still had to feel pretty good.
San Jose were without 2012 scoring champ Chris Wondolowski and his pugnacious strike partner Steven Lenhart, but DC won’t care about that. Chris Pontius scored on a penalty kick for the game’s lone goal and Bill Hamid earned his clean sheet. At 2-11-3, it’s still a long road back to respectability for this team, maybe this result can be a first step.
5) Gil and Yedlin Best for U.S. Against Spain
If there were positives to be taken from the Americans 4-1 drubbing to Spain at the U20 World Cup, it was in the performances of Gil and Yedlin. Two of the most promising young American’s in MLS, the duo were clearly the top Yanks on display.
Gil and Yedlin were not overwhelmed by the high level of play from the Spanish team, full of players on the books at Barca and Real Madrid. The professional displays by the Real Salt Lake(Gil) and Seattle Sounders (Yedlin) regulars reflected well on Major League Soccer.