Wednesday night’s Major League Soccer All-Star Game in Denver pitting the league’s best players vs. Tottenham marks the unofficial halfway point of the regular season.
The Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps all currently hold playoff spots, but will they remain there by the end of the campaign?
Sportsnet takes a look at the prospects for the three Canadian teams as the regular season heads down the home stretch.
• Record: 7-8-3 (sixth in the Eastern Conference)
• Key stat: 18—number of league matches Montreal has played to this point (they have a game in hand on every other team in the East, and five on fifth-place New England)
• Reason for optimism: Two words—Didier Drogba. Montreal never replaced Marco Di Vaio after the Italian retired at the end of last season. Since then they’ve relied on scoring by committee, but the addition of Drogba gives Montreal a genuine goal-scoring threat up front who can lead the line. Yes, he’s 37, but the Ivorian still has plenty of game in his legs, and should make as much of an impact in MLS as Di Vaio did.
• Cause for concern: The Impact have claimed a meagre five points out of a possible 29 on the road this season, with just one win (and that was way back on June 6) and two draws away from home. The Impact face tough road tests during the second half of the campaign, including visits to the defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy, Eastern Conference-leading D.C. United and Toronto, where they’ve never won in MLS.
• Burning question: Can they start picking up points on the road on a consistent basis?
• Record: 8-7-4 (fourth in the Eastern Conference)
• Key stat: 74—percentage of the Reds’ 31 goals Sebastian Giovinco has been involved in (13 goals, 10 assists)
• Reason for optimism: The Reds boast the best player in the league in Giovinco, and as a result one of the best attacks in MLS. Toronto has scored 31 goals this season for a league-high average of 1.63 goals per game. TFC impressively earned come-from-behind results recently against New York City and Columbus on the road, a sign that they’re never out of games, thanks in large part due to Giovinco, but also because of a newfound sense of self-belief that is coursing through the team’s veins.
• Cause for concern: With 31 goals against, TFC sports one of the worst defensive records in MLS. They’ve kept just four clean sheets—four!—and conceded 12 times in their last four matches. The retirement of Steven Caldwell and Mark Bloom being ruled out for the season were cruel blows to a team already lacking defensive depth. Toronto signed Moroccan international Ahmed Kantari last week, but it’s doubtful his presence alone will be enough to strengthen a defence that is leaking goals.
• Burning question: Can they bring in a quality new recruit (or two) to bolster the back line?
• Record: 11-8-3 (second in Western Conference)
• Key stat: 1,980—number of minutes goalkeeper David Ousted has played (every minute of the Whitecaps’ 22 league games)
• Reason for optimism: Chilean playmaker Pedro Morales and Uruguayan forward Octavio Rivero are key players, but Vancouver has shown they have talent beyond just their star DPs. Morales recently missed fives games due to injury, and the Whitecaps went a respectable 2-2-1 in his absence. Rivero only has two goals in his last 11 games but Vancouver found ways to pick up points and wins, while maintaining their strong challenge for the Supporters’ Shield.
• Cause for concern: Rivero and fellow forwards Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks and Robert Earnshaw have accounted for 16 of the Whitecaps’ 27 goals, or 59 percent of the offence. Kendal Waston is the only defender to have found the back of the net, while Morales leads all midfielders in scoring with a modest three goals. Vancouver needs far more production from its midfielders and wingers, especially from Morales—they can’t rely on the streaky Rivero to carry the majority of the goal-scoring burden.
• Burning question: Can they successfully manage a grueling August schedule that will see them play eight games between MLS, the Amway Canadian Championship and the CONCACAF Champions League?
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