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What MLS teams can bounce back in the second half of the season?



With July making way for August, the pressure really begins to turn up for clubs in search of a playoff berth. The international transfer window has seen a number of moves, as front offices bolster rosters in an effort to fortify squads and gear up for a playoff run.

Teams out in the East are struggling in particular — Philadelphia, New England and D.C. all have 15 points or less, with United looking unable to find any consistency on the field. The once proud club has been shutout 12 of 18 games, and will need a miracle run to be able to sniff the playoffs. Up north, a young Union side seems to be one or two players away from breaking through, though with a friendly second-half schedule could be one side that surprises.

New England's struggles stem from injuries and a lack of a prolific goal scorer. Marko Perovic has carried the team's offense of late, and if at least one of the two new signings Ilija Stolica and Brazilian Roberto Linck works out, the Revolution are capable of putting a run together with Steve Nicol at the helm.

Eastern Conference counterpart Kansas City, after a dreadful run of eight games without a win. Things have improved of late, posting a 2-0-1 mark in league play recently, not to mention a win over Manchester United in a friendly. Rookie Teal Bunbury's play is going to be crucial — if Bunbury can continue to develop well and team up with forward Kei Kamara to drive the offense, the Wizards might manage to sneak into the playoffs. Jimmy Nielsen has to be one of the best acquisitions of the offseason, saving points out in Kansas City time and time again.

The Chicago Fire have made two big moves over the past two weeks — adding Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo to what was a slumping attack. And while those two should mix well with Brian McBride and Collins John, the defense needs to improve. Along with that, the move to bring in Andrew Dykstra instead of Jon Busch looks questionable at best. Sean Johnson's debut and performance Sunday night in Los Angeles certainly means he'll get a second look in net.

Out in the West, the struggles of the Houston Dynamo isn't a huge surprise. Dominic Kinnear has consistently proven that he is one of the best coaches in MLS, but has struggled to adjust to the losses of Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark. Add to that key players like Brian Ching and Geoff Cameron missing time with injuries, and it's no wonder that they are mired in seventh place. Houston is still within striking range, and with Cameron's return on the horizon, the Dyanmo can't be counted out.

The other team in Los Angeles, Chivas USA will hope that Saturday's win over Columbus can instigate a second half turnaround. Martin Vasquez faces an uphill battle to guide the Rojiblancos to the playoffs. Justin Braun has been one of the few bright spots, and the young striker could be in line for a U.S. cap this year. Outside of that, it's been hit or miss. Chivas chances hinge on two young midfielders — Blair Gavin and Ben Zemanski, the return of Paulo Nagamura, and new addition Giancarlo Maldonado.

Of the MLS stragglers, the remaining schedule for Chicago, New England and Philadelphia hands those sides an opportunity to make up some ground. If Philadelphia can develop a winning formula in the cozy new confines of PPL Park in particular, Peter Nowak has the experience to guide his team to the postseason.

What team do you think bounces back and makes the playoffs? Can Philadelphia, New England or Chivas turn things around?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. well said. it must be hard for a team their first season together, making that chemistry happen, especially when you have to do it on the road for the first half of the season. if they can click soon they can make a late run. if not this year, next year will be great for them!

  2. It is funny that people posting think that Ljungberg signing with Chicago is a huge benefit for the Fire.

    Seattle stunk with him, and now have won 5 out of 6, with a tie.

    A big part of that is Alonso coming back with his hussle.

    But the lack of D from the midfield ( FL was unwilling and/or unable to play D) had been the reason they stunk.

    Alonso better than Ljungberg, probably not, but Alonso does what it takes to win games, Ljungberg definitely not.

  3. You are now the second person I know to suggest Ashe at LB. I like it for speed and to create more flow on the left. From an attacking standpoint, it makes sense.

    However, from a defensive standpoint, I think Ashe might just be a big step down from Chabala. Can Ashe go into a tackle? How will he fare when isolating an attacker one on one. With his (lack of) height, how many balls in the air will he win? Can he initiate contact like a defender, meaning, go into a tackle and win it consistently? I just don’t see him as a defender in anything other than a spot role.

    And the other thing is, where does Cameron play? Dynamo right now is fourth in the league in goals scored, but fourth from the bottom in goals against. It’s defense that is the problem. So for that reason alone, I’d like to see him right back in central defense, paired with Boswell. Or in central defensive mid with Lovell Palmer in the CAM role.

  4. Chicago is my pick. The U make a push, but miss. Philly needs 2 things for the playoffsL

    1. We are a true (powerful) striker away (which we won’t get). Le Toux has been good at finding the net and is a worker, but can’t play the post up. Mwanga has been great for year 1, but isn’t strong enough AND fast enough at the same time, YET. Moreno holds the ball so well and works so hard but has no goals and watching him sprint is like pulling teeth…I really like him, but it’s time for the bench…

    2. OUR only shot at winning the number of games we need, I believe we have to score first and BUNKER DOWN; I hate to say it, I really do. Nowak has put a great product on the field but it’s not yet translating to wins…Although, I think the fans will continue to show up to see our product even if we’re not winning 75% the rest of the way. Is it wrong for a diehard fan to say, “keep playing the beautiful game and we’ll get there next year?”

  5. Philly dropping points to NE this weekend was a dagger. I think they’ll make a run, but come up short this year. I love watching them play though, a lot of intensity on the field.

  6. Even with all those games in hand Philly’s still only averaging 1 point per game(ppg). Right now the cut off for the playoffs is about 1.45ppg, so unless a couple teams tank Philly’s going to need to average 2 ppg to make the playoffs. That’s a tall order even given that they have the majority of their remaining games at home. I’m not saying that they’re not goign to make it, it’s just going to be tough.

  7. Mullan is an excellent all around, but I think we need the speed and attacking ability of Chabala and Ashe right now. Ashe is a natural L side player. Boswell and Hainault keeps ERob and Cochrane off the field. ERob is aging before our very eyes, and Cochrane is a mistake waiting to happen.

    Mullan is best employed as a forward or winger in the mid. He has a grit and can add a lot to a game coming on as a sub.

    Cruz has done well on the R with Brad on the L. Cameron can be back in the middle, leaving Palmer to return to his natural position of Holding Mid. He is no Ricardo Clark, but he has improved significantly and gelled with the team.

    Ching stays up top, with Ngwenya or Oduro to play off him. We tried Ching/Weaver combo against Clombus and it was a disaster.

  8. Keep ignoring the Sounders that’s fine with me. If SSFC doesn’t at least make the semi’s I’ll be shocked.. on the rise … grab some stock.

  9. Philly, Its only a matter of time before Jac Mac joins Mwanga in scoring. He does so well to get into the right positions. Best US player since Brian Mcbride to find good spots in order to score. Just needs to score.

  10. Yeah remembering the Union has half their season to go, w/ most of the matches being at PPL Park, I think they can get it turned around. Their record has dramatically improved since getting more home games.

  11. The front office for DC United has run the team into the ground. We need a DP more than any other MLS club, yet we only mustered a decent Montenegrin. The stadium situation looks extremely bleak. We are constantly hit with injuries (who hired our training staff?). This could be our worst season ever.

    Gloating aside, I think the Union will push for the playoffs before any other team. The west is loaded, the east is weaker.

  12. Sounders were dead in the water a couple of weeks ago. Their margin of error for getting into the playoffs still is pretty thin, given how many teams have games in hand on them. That being said, they’re pretty dialed in right now.

  13. Philly is one fullback away from making a great run… that and somebody needs to stop smacking Seitz upside the head with the badluck bag on matchday. I swear!

  14. Yeah, without scoring a goal, N’Kufo has made a world of difference. As much as his skill and size, we so desperately needed his calm composure on the ball and steady, intelligent distribution.

    And don’t forget Montero. In the last two months he has transformed himself into one of the few players in MLS that make me stop whatever I’m doing when he gets the ball in open space. He may be known for his goal scoring, but he has turned into an absolutely brilliant passer. Here’s hoping we DP him.

    Didn’t get to see much, but El Flaco looked very dangerous in his 20 or so minutes.

  15. Houston’s front office has done fine, especially considering the hand they’ve been dealt. De-Ro was playing like crap, openly asking to return to his homeland in Canada. Dynamo tried to sign Holden and Clark, but both players understandably wanted to develop their game in Europe.

    Landin admittedly was a bust, but Dynamo didn’t have too much invested — as I recall, he arrived via loan so he didn’t suck up DP money. I respect the club for at least trying to bring in a Mexican player — just unfortunate El Gordo couldn’t get himself into shape.

  16. Just read a horrible article on Big Soccer about what happened to the North Korean soccer team after the world cup. Hopefully Ives will start a new blog on it.

    DC United will play better in the second half.

  17. I think it will. In the limited minutes Fernandez played on Saturday it was easy to see that he is a very good player. His quick forward thinking decision making probably stood out the most to me.

  18. yeah, getting rid of FL has really move the sounders in a positive way. Hopefully the addition of Fernandez will make them even better.

  19. Exactly. The writer must have forgotten about how terrible they had been playing up until very recently. They have looked liked an entirely different team the last 6 matches.

  20. Yeah, the sounders are a strange omission. They were at the bottom of the west at the allstar break and now they’re 1 spot out of the playoffs (based on points per game) after going 5-0-1 in their last 6 matches and taking 10 points from their last 4 league games.

  21. I don’t think there is any question that Sounders are on the upswing. They just need a little time to gel with “El Flaco” (who has loads of flair BTW).

    I have to blame Houston’s front office. Goodbye De Rosario, Goodbye Holden, Goodbye Ricardo…Hello Landin? They should trade Ching to a SJ for some prospects.

    I think New England makes the biggest comeback. With Joeseph now back and fit, they only need to bring in a finisher up top. Go Revs!

  22. The Dynamo are getting Cameron back this month and Palmer and Obodai look to be at least solid additions.

    If they move Hainault to the CD with Boswell and bring Ashe in at a LB position, I think they can make a push.

    That is my opinion as a Dynamo fan. In reality, I think the Fire and the SOunders have the best chance of making the playoffs.


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