Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By KEVIN KOCZWARA
The Montreal Impact have put themselves in a tough spot heading into the final two weeks of the season.
The Impact appeared to be on their way to their first ever MLS Cup playoffs this season just a few short weeks ago — they were even in the Supporter’s Shield discussion for much of the season — but a second straight 1-0 defeat in less than a week and a seven game winless streak has Montreal clutching to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with two games to go.
One good nugget of news for the Impact, who lost to a depleted Los Angeles Galaxy squad last night, is that they can expect forward Marco Di Vaio to return next year. The 37-year-old forward has been contemplating retiring, but yesterday the Impact announced they would exercise their option to keep the Designated Player for the 2014 season.
For the Impact, having Di Viao next season is a huge boost for the franchise, but right now,they need their leading goalscorer to get back on track and save the Impact’s season before it slides out of reach. A win in Philadelphia this weekend would go a long way to doing just that.
Here are some more notes from across the Eastern Conference:
Chicago Fire head coach Frank Klopas has a decision to make in his midfield pairing: stick with Jeff Larentowicz and Alex or bring Arevalo Rios back into the fold with his return from international duty. Larentowicz and Alex helped lead the Fire to a 3-2 defeat of FC Dallas last weekend and the Fire are 6-2-3 with that central pairing.
But Rios brings plenty of his own pedigree and skill to the Fire midfield and was impressive in Uruguay’s 3-2 defeat of Argentina this week in World Cup Qualifying. It’s a nice dilemma to have, but one that Klopas needs to answer with a must-win game against Toronto this weekend with playoff implications.
The Fire haven’t clinched their playoff spot yet, and, with Toronto playing better as of late, Klopas needs to get his midfield pairing right because a loss to Toronto could be a deathblow in such a tight race.
To prepare for their season’s defining game against the New England Revolution this Saturday, the Columbus Crew are getting ready for the turf fields at Gillette Stadium by practicing on turf themselves. According to a team source, the Crew are practicing at Ohio Dominican University’s Panther Field, which is a turf field, in preparation for this weekend’s game.
Columbus needs a lot to happen if they want to make the playoffs as they’re five points behind Chicago with two games to go in the season. But more than anything, the Crew need to win their two-game mini-series with the Revolution to close out the season if they want any chance of making the playoffs.
Injuries have been a staple of D.C. United’s troublesome 2013 campaign. It seems that whenever coach Ben Olsen looks to have the team heading in the right direction things fall apart and player’s end up missing games for one reason or another.
The latest development for Olsen has been to find healthy defenders for the final games of the season. One way to relieve the pressure for Olsen has been to move midfielder Perry Kitchen to center back to fill the defensive void left by the injuries to Ethan White and Dejan Jakovic despite being short in the midfield because of the injury to John Thorrington.
“Perry has all the qualities you want in a center back,” Olsen said after D.C.’s draw with Philadelphia on Saturday to MLSSoccer.com. “Focus, concentration, physicality and calmness on the ball. He certainly could be an option there, but I also really like him in that holding midfield spot. It’s a luxury to have a guy who can play both.”
If the playoffs started today the Dynamo would be in the hunt for this year’s MLS Cup.
But in two weeks they could be looking from the outside and finish in seventh place if they can’t take care of business on the field. One thing is for sure, though, if the Dynamo beat New York on Sunday at BBVA Compass Stadium then they will secure at least a playoff spot. If everything goes their way, Houston could finish as high as third place in the East. It’s the tightest playoff race that coach Dominic Kinnear can recall.
“Usually by this time most of the time things are either sorted out or maybe two or three teams are jockeying for position,” Kinnear said. “You look at the West, two teams are not involved in the playoffs. It’s an excellent year for all the teams involved, the coaches have done a good job and it’s exciting for the fans.”
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Life for Jerry Bengtson in New England hasn’t been easy since the club signed him last year as a designated player. He hasn’t scored the plethora of goals the team hoped he would when they signed him and if reports from Honduras are to be believed, it looks like he is looking for a way out of New England.
Bengtson told Honduran newspaper Diez that he has spoken to the Revs about moving on at the end of the season and that he doesn’t want to continue playing in Major League Soccer. When asked about the situation, a Revolution source said the team is focused on trying to make the playoffs and that personnel decision will be made at the end of the season.
A league source confirmed that Bengtson’s contract with the Revolution extends past this season.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Roy Miller continues to edge his way be back in the fold for the New York Red Bulls.
The Costa Rican left back has missed the team’s last six games due to an Achilles ligament injury, but according to head coach Mike Petke, Miller is making some progress from what looked initially to be a serious injury.
“I was very encouraged to see (Miller) doing light work today outside for the first time,” Petke told reporters on his weekly conference call. “Roy is still definitely a little bit away.”
If the Red Bulls can have Miller at their disposal come the playoffs, it would be a huge boost to a position that’s been battered by injuries this season.
Sebastien Le Toux told reporters on Tuesday that if the Philadelphia Union’s next game was on Wednesday, he wouldn’t be playing because of a right foot injury that has been bothering him since the Union’s 1-0 loss to San Jose on Sept. 8.
The pain from the injury, which turned out to be a partial tear of his right plantar fascia, forced Le Toux to pull himself out of last weekend’s game against D.C. United, where he was filling in at right back.
“I’m definitely questionable for this weekend. It’s kind of day-to-day.,” Le Toux said. “I could feel better tomorrow but there’s stuff I can’t do like cutting, which still hurts a lot. This has never happened to me before so I don’t know what to expect.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Matt Besler returned to Kansas City ahead of the U.S.’s Hex game against Panama on Tuesday and had enough time to recover and get himself back in the mix for this weekend’s game against D.C. United.
Besler’s availability is a huge lift for Sporting KC because starting defender Aurélien Collin will miss Friday’s game because of yellow card accumulation. Graham Zusi’s availabilty, on the other hand, is still up in the air for the D.C. United encounter.
“If he plays in that game down in Panama, he’ll get back Tuesday night and be back with us in plenty of time for our game,” Vermes told reporters on Monday. “It just depends on how much time he plays in that game.”
Zusi went the full 90 for the U.S. Men’s National Team against Panama, leaving him a serious doubt for Friday.
Stefan Frei was once one of the bright spots in Toronto.
The goalkeeper was a mainstay between the posts for them, and put in plenty of Man of the Match performances for the struggling franchise, but Joe Bendik’s performances forced Frei out after the team’s longest serving player was injured during preseason. This weekend Frei has a chance to try and reclaim his position as a No.1 goalkeeper, even if he’s not letting on that he’s looking at his future.
“Right now I am focused on what is at hand,” Frei told reporters. “We’ll deal with the future once we get to that bridge.”
This is an important point in Frei’s career. He needs to reclaim his position as a top-goalkeeper in MLS, and there is no better time than now with Toronto looking to reshape and rebuild again to lay claim to his position as a club stalwart.
What do you think of these notes? Surprised that Di Vaio is returning to MLS? Do you believe that the Revolution will let Bengtson leave in the offseason even if they’re losing Juan Agudelo as well? Do you see Graham Zusi playing against New England on Friday?
Share your thoughts below.