How long will it take Bruce Arena to make New York Red Bull into a semblance of a competitive MLS team?
In the short term, he'll have to rely on his tactical knowledge and motivational methods, since the team is tight up against the salary cap, it has no allocations, and the rumors of a "secret meeting" by which the MLS Board of Governors "approved" a mega-player acquisition for Red Bull New York appear to be nothing more than rumors.
The return of Youri Djorkaeff can help, assuming Arena can sort out the wants and needs of Djorkaeff and Amado Guevara.
By beating the Crew 2-0 Wednesday in Columbus, the Red Bulls have moved into a three-way tie for third place in the Eastern Conference and need only finish ahead of the Crew and one other team to make the playoffs.
A fourth-place finish would match the Red Bulls against D.C. United in the first round of the playoffs. Wouldn't that be interesting?
Yet the East, aside from D.C., is so tight any of the five teams could finish second, although the Crew seems to be a shade weaker than the rest and on paper, the Revolution should be better than a .500 (6-6-6) team.
No longer does Arena hold the same huge edge over his rival coaches in terms of player knowledge and experience. When he left the league eight years ago, he'd never coached - at the pro level -- against Sigi Schmid, Bob Bradley, Dave Sarachan, Frank Yallop, Steve Nicol, Peter Nowak or Colin Clarke.
SPINNING WHEELS. The firing of Bob Gansler by the Wizards Tuesday isn't a case of ineptitude or incompetence, it's simply one of inertia.
After seven years under Bob Gansler, the team wasn't going anywhere.
Slapped into the tougher Eastern Conference last year, the Wizards finished three games over .500 (12-9-11) but finished fifth and missed the playoffs. A good start to the 2006 season followed by a bad run - six straight losses including last Saturday's 3-2 loss to Houston - left the Wizards at 6-10-2 and a rather deceptive placing of third in the East.
The Kansas City roster is solid enough, but several veterans had tuned Gansler out, while continuing to play competent if uninspired soccer. The trading of a gung-ho, run-through-walls player like Chris Klein stripped away some intensity, and rather than upgrading the team, questionable foreign-player signings, like that of recently released Jamaican midfielder Jermaine Hue, maintained a mediocre status quo.
Assistant coach Brian Bliss has been handed the reins for the rest of the season, which seems to confirm speculation that the team will be sold in the near future, since hiring a replacement for Gansler would burden new owners with additional salary expenses and commitments.
Bliss will have the services of Dutch midfielder Dave van den Bergh next month, when the MLS transfer window re-opens, yet the team's playoff hopes rest with veterans like Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Sasha Victorine, and most of all, Eddie Johnson and Josh Wolff, who each have just two goals in nine games.
When the team's leading scorer is a left back - Jose Burciaga Jr. with five - something is amiss.