Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
Through a couple twists of fate, Saturday's match between D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps will be an unlikely clash between a mentor and his onetime apprentice.
Vancouver interim coach Tom Soehn will be matching wits on the touchline with Chad Ashton, his top assistant when he coached United from 2007 to 2009. Soehn is in charge of the Whitecaps until season's end after the firing of Teitur Thordarson, while Ashton will step in for United boss Ben Olsen, who was dismissed from last weekend's 3-3 draw with Toronto and must sit out a match.
"It'll be a little awkward," Ashton said. "We're both competitive, so it doesn't matter if we're playing checkers or we're coaching against each other — we always want to win."
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
Currently sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 2-7-13 mark, Chicago has seen its playoff aspirations fade after failing to get the full three points and settling for draws over and over again. Last week's results — another tie against Philadelphia and a loss to lowly Vancouver — surely didn't help matters.
"It is probably a long shot," Fire captain Logan Pause said to MLSsoccer.com when asked about his team's playoff hopes, "especially when you see that we've only had two wins this year. I think the priority now is to take care of one game at a time. We understand that draws really are not helping us now. We need to get wins."
Columbus has been working to acquire an extra forward or creative midfielder from South America in recent weeks to bolster its inconsistent attack, but the club is yet to make a signing. At least one player became unaffordable after a strong Copa America tournament, technical director Brian Bliss told the Columbus Dispatch, while another player accepted a different offer and one more backed out of a potential deal for personal reasons.
"We’re still working," general manager Mark McCullers said. "But we made some formal offers to some prospects who we thought were within our financial reach."
At 6-7-10, Houston remains right in the thick of the battle for a playoff spot. As matters currently stand, the Dynamo is two points out of an automatic bid to the Eastern Conference semifinals and one point out of the last wild card berth.
"We spoke a little bit after [Saturday's match against] Philadelphia and I said, 'There's 11 games left, and I think we're playing well, probably the best we've played all year. Let's continue it because we're right on the outside of it, but it's all very close,'" coach Dominic Kinnear said to the Houston Chronicle. "We have five games at home now, six on the road, all tough games. But I think if we continue to play like that, results will fall in our favor."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
With 21 points in 23 games, the Revolution (4-10-9) knows it needs to start stringing together some results if it wants to make a push for the playoffs. New England is currently eight points out of the final playoff berth.
"Every game, we need three points at this point," defender Ryan Cochrane said to RevolutionSoccer.net. "We're more than halfway through the season. We're in kind of the final stretch right now, really. Those teams on the bubble or looking from the outside in really have to get points and scrap their way up the standings if possible. So regardless if you're home or away, you have to get the points."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Although branded as a "New York" franchise, the Red Bulls have always resided in New Jersey, whether it be Harrison or the Meadowlands.
But the Red Bulls actually trained on New York City turf this week, holding a practice open to fans Tuesday at Chelsea Waterside Park in Manhattan ahead of Saturday's match against the Chicago Fire at Red Bull Arena.
Forward Jack McInerney's sophomore campaign hasn't exactly gone according to plan for Philadelphia. After scoring three goals his rookie season, McInerney has struggled to find the back of the net in 2011. But he did notch his first goal of the year during Saturday's 1-1 draw with Houston, a development the 19-year-old thinks could help him turn a corner.
"It felt good to finally get it over with," McInerney told MLSsoccer.com. "Now I can hopefully score a couple of more goals this season."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Matt Besler may be best known for his defensive prowess, but the All-Star centerback is also starting to contribute on the offensive end with his long throw-ins. Recently, Besler set up a Teal Bunbury strike against Real Salt Lake and a Kei Kamara goal against Seattle with his long tosses into the box.
"It's a weapon for us," Besler said to MLSsoccer.com. "We have a lot of targets. We're finally getting the timing down. We worked on it a little bit in practice. It's starting to show. Hopefully, we can get a few more goals from them."
For 18-year-old Matt Stinson, a product of Toronto's youth system, learning the art of the holding midfield positionon a professional level is all the easier when you have the opportunity to train with the likes of Torsten Frings and Julian de Guzman on a daily basis.
"Not many kids my age get the opportunity to play with world-class players likes Torsten and Julian," Stinson told MLSsoccer.com. "Whenever I can, I sit back and I watch them play. I take little things to add to my game from theirs. It's an honor to play with them. I feel like I can learn a lot."