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Strugglers to verge of MLS playoffs: Portland, Colorado, Philadelphia

Aug 19, 2013, 9:40 AM EDT

Deshorn Brown, Dillon Powers AP

The 2012 MLS season was one to forget for the Portland Timbers, Colorado Rapids and the Philadelphia Union.

All three sides finished outside the playoffs and many were questioning what direction the teams were heading in.

Fast forward 12 months… and nobody is debating where all three franchises are heading. Appearances in the 2013 MLS playoffs loom, although all three still have a little way to go to cement their spot.

And after a huge rebuilding process at all three teams, it’s hard not to admire all the hard work put in place to turn their fortunes around.

So let’s take a look at where they stand right now and rate their chances of mounting a series challenge for MLS Cup.

1. PORTLAND TIMBERS

When Timbers GM Gavin Wilkinson took over the reigns following John Spencer’s departure, the Timbers were in ruins. Yet 12 months later they’re challenging for the Supporters’ Shield under Caleb Porter. Shrewd trades and transfer, plus Porter’s excellent tactical nous, has seen Portland become of the most exciting teams to watch in the league. Argentine DP Diego Valeri  and captain Will Johnson have been at the heart of everything, but Porter has got the most out of the likes of Rodney Wallace, Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe.  Yet despite their regular-season dominance, the Timbers Army will want to see a good showing in the playoffs as the Rose City club aims to make the MLS playoffs for the first time since they arrived in the league back in 2011. Safe to say, that monumental goal will be reached this season. The big test will be when the playoffs arrive in PDX.

2. COLORADO RAPIDS

Oscar Pareja’s rebuilding of the Rapids has gone incredibly well this season. But last year many questioned whether or not the long-time FC Dallas assistant coach was the right man for the job. A talented core of rookies and academy prospects has been the overriding success story at Dicks Sporting Goods Park. Teenage defender Shane O’Neill, rookies Dillon Powers, Deshorn Brown and Clint Irwin are the pick of the first year MLS players. Pareja’s side gave up plenty of soft goals in 2012 but now they look solid and composed and goals are flying in from plenty of different names. Brown has seven, Harris has five and Powers has four goals. Having the experience of Edson Buddle and Drew Moor around is vital to the young guns down the stretch. The Rapids are on a roll but the playoff success could be a step too far for Pareja’s youngsters.

3. PHILADELPHIA UNION

John Hackworth’s vision for the Philadelphia Union has come to fruition this season. When he took over from Peter Nowak last year, much like Portland putting Wilkinson in charge, many questioned the ambition of the club. But Hackworth’s previous work with the US national teams at youth level helped Philly to develop their strong core of local talent. Young US players like Jack McInerney, Amobi Okugo, Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams to name a few have all excelled for the Union, who currently sit fourth in the East, five points into the playoffs. Like the Rapids they have experience with Chris Albright, Jeff Parke, Conor Casey and Brian Carroll around. That mix will help them stay in the playoff hunt as the end of the season nears. What happens then is anybody’s guess. But the clubs future dream is to have a starting lineup made up of Philadelphia based players, and Hackworth is the right man to nurture and deliver that. The future, for all three of the mentioned franchises, is looking bright.

  1. nussdorferac - Aug 19, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    What is the headline supposed to say?

  2. charliej11 - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I wasn’t even thinking of Oscar Pareja when I think that Porter has the Coach of the Year wrapped up. He still does, but maybe not unanimous.

    The links to Rodney Wallace and Oscar Pareja go to Chelsea player’s sites. About sums up where this site has been going for a while now.

  3. talgrath - Aug 19, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I wouldn’t be so quick to say that the Rapids are that good, they have games in hand, as many as 4 on every team in the west. The Rapids need to keep winning and hope those near them don’t in order to ensure they stay in the playoff race. For reference, if we assume everyone ties the remainder of games in hand against the Rapids (unlikely) they would only be 4th and would be facing a playoff against Vancouver.

    The Timbers are the turn-around of the year, I would be shocked if anyone other than Caleb Porter gets coach of the year honors. Last year the Timbers couldn’t win on the road, they were inconsistent in front of one of the best home crowds in MLS and nobody was afraid to face them. Now they’re one of the top teams in the league and very scary to face at home. I’m extremely excited to see them play the Sounders at home next week.

    As for Philadelphia, they’ve always looked just a bit below average, this year at times they have looked like their old selves, but when they’re on they are very good. Connor Casey and Jack Mac have brought their scoring boots this year (though both suffered droughts this season) and LeToux has continued to rack up the assists because of it. One of my favorite teams in the east looks like a real contender this year.

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