The half-dozen teams shut out of the MLS postseason party are sorting out where they went wrong, and as they observe the elite eight that are still playing, each of them should be taking notes.
Real Salt Lake and Columbus are case studies in getting it right. Houston proves that you can play a boatload of games in disparate countries and prosper. Chivas USA is a marvel of
perseverance. And so on.
Here's a rundown, starting from the bottom, on what needs to be done by whom. SAN JOSE.
That nine-game unbeaten
run got the playoff fever bubbling, but balanced with a lackluster finish left the Quakes four games under .500 at 8-13-9, so there's still a lot of work to do.
It could be losing
midfielder Francisco Lima
, though he'll be 38 next year and not too many teams in Europe or South America are shopping for players of that age, even a solid,
dependable Brazilian. Still, the injury absence of Ramiro Corrales
pointed out that San Jose must be better in midfield, and though Eric Denton
played capably at left back, he's not among the league's elite. LOS ANGELES.
Just when you think it can't any worse
for the moribund Galaxy, mega-icon David Beckham
initiates a loan deal with AC Milan, and Landon Donovan
eyes to Europe while leading the league, and setting a personal best, in scoring. Alas, alas. The team's strong point, offense, could be left with just Edson
and whatever Beckham can contribute when he's not too busy. And this is a team that won just two of 10 games under Bruce Arena
to finish with
same record as its Northern California expansion rival.
Unfortunately, an upgrade could mean the loss of a reliable, dedicated professional in Chris
, who's just not a right back. Sean Franklin
is, but moving him to the outside means finding at least two, and preferably three, reliable central
defenders, the count of which at the present time is zero. Maybe Klein can play in the middle; he's got to be better than Eduardo Dominguez
. Or in goal,
since there's not much there, either. TORONTO.
Somehow, TFC fielded a few very good players - Marvell
, Chad Barrett
, Jim Brennan
-- and still finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference (9-13-8), which
is just what it deserved for selling Maurice Edu
in midseason even though he'd been going through a bit of a sophomore slump.
Putting so much
faith in Carlos Ruiz
and Amado Guevara
, predictably, blew up, and if Barrett leaves for Europe and Danny Dichio
retires, TFC will need to rebuild and retool yet again. Three years into the reign of coach Sigi Schmid, Columbus posted the league's best record: TFC
will be 3 next year and isn't anywhere near playoff caliber, never mind a Supporters' Shield winner. FC DALLAS.
Dumping head coach Steve Morrow
early in the season and refusing to sell Kenny Cooper
to a foreign club addressed the short-term; now, what's
to be done about the long-term?
FCD went 4-5-8 under coach Schellas Hyndman
, who noted that any team that can only win five of 15 home games needs
to do better. Whether or not Cooper stays, Hyndman has to shore up the back line, find a more reliable option in goal, and refine his system to fully exploit the skills of wide players Bruno Guarda
and Victor Sikora
. Otherwise, the removal of Morrow will leave FCD still spinning its wheels, unable to escape
the rut of a capable team not good enough to reach the top level. A sharp drop in attendances doesn't bode well for general manager Michael Hitchcock
it really is the economy. D.C. UNITED.
Injuries never fully excuse a good team going bad, and United fans must hope and pray that it's just the
2008 season, and not their team, that reeks.
An extreme makeover of a good team didn't work, so what are the sturdy blocks on which to build? More to the point, was a wave of injuries a
function of misfortune or mismanagement of preseason training? Head coach Tom Soehn
has promised to re-evaluate his conditioning methods, but he's got a long
checklist to address, and has yet to be informed if he'll be handled the pen and clipboard for 2009. Marcelo Gallardo
played well in spurts but
didn't prove he's a worthy DP. If Fred
and Luciano Emilio
stay healthy, D.C. can lessen its dependence on ageless but
injury-prone Jaime Moreno
. Clyde Simms
can use some help and/or competition, and if defender Greg Janicki
isn't a two-month wonder, the back line has been improved. Boyzzz Khumalo
has great promise but too many
players like him have flashed and then flattened out in MLS.
's passion and spirit were sorely missed. This is a recording."
After Fernando Clavijo
got the boot, the Rapids posted a 4-4-2 record under interim head coach Gary Smith
, who benched Christian Gomez
and squeezed a lot out of Conor Casey
Settling the future of Pablo Mastroeni
, who is hinting about heading overseas, is just one of numerous player situations that need to be
resolved. True, had Colorado held on to its 1-0 lead in the season finale against RSL it would have snatched a playoff spot from its Rocky Mountain Cup rival. But being more or less equal with a
four-year old team making its playoff debut isn't an accomplishment for one of the MLS Original 10 that can't fill half of its two-year-old stadium most of the time. What the Rapids need are smart,
experienced, passionate people to take the competitive side of the organization out of its sinkhole. Gary Smith
can't do it alone. Calling, Robin Fraser