Toronto kicked off the MLS weekend with some off the field news and the New York Red Bulls closed it out with some news on the pitch, and in the standings. So lets get started with TFC.
1) Toronto Shake up the Boardroom, Again.
With Toronto set to maintain their perfect record of missing out on the playoffs every year since entering the league in 2007, CEO Tim Leiweke hired former MLS lawyer and “capologist” Tim Bezbatchenko to replace recently dismissed GM Kevin Payne.
Leiweke, the man behind David Beckham’s signing with Los Angeles, came to TFC after Payne, and likely wanted his own man in place. Now it will be up to Bezbatchenko to work with Leiweke to turn around a franchise that started with such promise.
Leiweke has said that coach Ryan Nelsen, brought in by Payne, will be the TFC coach next season. 31 year old Bezbatchenko is even younger than his 35 year old coach Nelsen, who ended his playing career with Queens Park Rangers to take the Toronto job.
Although he comes to this job through his legal background, Bezbatchenko played two years in the USL Pro League for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
2) Galaxy and Seattle Tie in L.A.
The marquee matchup of the week was Saturday in Los Angeles, well Carson, and it ended in a 1-1 tie. USMNT stars Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey both missed out through injury, but there were still plenty of stars on hand.
Star power aside, the game was rife with playoff implications, and a bit of controversy as well. Eddie Johnson beat his U.S. teammate Omar Gonzalez to power home a header off of a corner kick. Johnson was wide open and Gonzalez and the Galaxy felt that Seattle had set an illegal pick. Juninho got the Galaxy goal from a fine free kick.
One intriguing matchup pitted young U.S. prospects DeAndre Yedlin against Gyasi Zardes. Seattle fullback Yedlin has been touted as a potential wildcard for the full national team and Zardes has won a regular role with impressive play for the Galaxy. Each had their moments, but when Zardes switched flanks after the break, the decision went to Yedlin.
3) No One Is In – Just 3 Are Out
The term “meaningless regular season” was a criticism leveled at MLS last year, but that charge won’t wash as the 2013 season winds down. When 16 of the league’s 19 teams are still fighting to reach the postseason that makes for some compelling soccer.
All but DC United and Toronto FC are alive in the East, and only dysfunctional Chivas USA are out of contention in the West. Meanwhile eighth place Columbus are making a late charge and trail New England by just two points for the final playoff spot in the East with Philadelphia and Chicago in between.
Things are a bit clearer out West where Vancouver, San Jose and Dallas are just about hanging on. At 41 points, the Whitecaps and the Earthquakes are chasing Colorado and L.A. who each have 45 points. FCD have little room for error with 40 points.
4) C.J. Sapong On the Rebound for SKC
Sapong won the 2011 MLS Rookie of the Year Award and followed that with a nice sophomore season, improving from five to nine goals, he even picked up two caps for the U.S. in 2012.
Expectations of a breakout year were unavoidable in 2013, but instead Sapong went the other way. Out of favor at Sporting Kansas City, the young forward even spent time on loan with lower league Orlando City, but now he’s back.
Sapong has scored three times in SKC’s last two league matches, including a brace in Saturday’s 2-1 win in Toronto. Now with four goals on the year, Sapong is back and ready to claim a big role in K.C.’s playoff push.
5) Red Bulls Are Number 1
It wasn’t pretty, it took an own goal to make it happen, but NYRB beat FC Dallas 1-0 on Sunday, and now lead the league with 51 points. Combined with Montreal’s continuing late season collapse and Seattle’s 1-1 tie with the Galaxy, and the Red Bulls are in pole position for the Supporter’s Shield, although Seattle have two games in hand.
For all the money spent on the Red Bulls/MetroStars, the league’s New York franchise has gotten precious little bang for their buck. One losing appearance in the finals is not much from a team with the likes of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill in their side.
The success of fellow big spenders, the Los Angeles Galaxy and the looming presence of Manchester City/New York Yankee collaboration New York City FC, has upped the ante. Henry is not getting any younger and the Red Bulls need to win something.
If not now, when?