- Posted by Drew Epperley
- On November 10, 2008
- 4 Comments
- MLS Cup Playoffs, Season Recaps, Season Reviews
Time now to take a step back on the season that was for a group of clubs. We’ve already recapped the six clubs that failed to reach the playoffs, but now it is time to look back on those that only last the first round of the 2008 playoffs.
It’s an interesting bunch too recap too as most thought one or more would be in this year’s MLS Cup at the start of the year. Houston, New England, Chivas and Kansas City all saw their season come to an end this past weekend. Three were a bit of a shock, the other was just on a hot streak that the Crew put out.
So let’s get down to it here.
Kansas City Wizards (42 pts., 4th seed in east, lost to Columbus in opening round)
What went wrong in 2008:This club had their moments really. Some really good and some very average. During the middle part of the season you could say this club had no idea how to play and win as a team. They looked disorganized in the midfield and had to wait for midseason additions to improve on offense. I didn’t see them as a playoff team midway through the season but they did turn it on when it counted at the end to reach the post season. But getting there wasn’t easy with one of the worst offenses in the league and a defense that was highly overrated.
Where it all went wrong: Offensively speaking it never really clicked. Only 37 goals on the year, just a shade over the worst two offenses in the league (San Jose and Toronto). When going up against Columbus in the first round they really had no fire power to keep up with them, especially once the series shifted to Columbus. Their defense let up a late goal in the first leg of the series and it was pretty much all down hill from that.
When things went right: There was brief moments out of this young club towards the end of the year that we got to see some nice things out of Curt Onalfo and how he coached this club. Their DP Claudio Lopez finally decided to act like a DP and their young players really made a solid push. Plus it didn’t hurt that they traded for some offense that actually produced a little bit to get them in the playoffs.
Best moves made: Signing Josh Wolff was nice but I really liked the trade for Herculez Gomez and Abe Thompson. Both players needed a spark before they got to KC and both did provide enough of a spark to help this club get into the playoffs. Other than that you can’t say this club made a whole lot of moves this year.
Worst moves made: In all honesty, one of their worst moves was trading up in the draft for Chance Myers with the number one pick. I really thought Myers was a dud of a number one pick. They had two other rookies that were much better than Myers this year. Also trading away Sasha Victorine was a bit of a surprise too. As was Scott Sealy (though I get that move now that I see Sealy talking about going abroad this winter). Ivan Trujillo was a bust when you boil it down. And then there is the Claudio Lopez signing. That one is a mixed bag really because he had NO help for the majority of the year and when it counted most he was a total non-factor.
Areas to improve for 09: Offense, offense, and a sprinkle of defense. This club could really use a good defensive midfielder and one or two good strikers. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to line up that goalkeeper backup in case Hartman goes down or suddenly retires. But the big thing is to get that midfield shaped up real nice. Get someone who can control the midfield on the offensive side and on the defensive side. The Wizards lacked that one quality midfielder that is a game-changer this year.
Outlook for 09: The outlook is decent though for this club, they got to the playoffs so Onalfo should have another year with this club in the process. I thought had they missed the playoffs he would be gone but I think the opposite now. How they improve through the draft is the key because I don’t see them making too many big signings this off season.
Chivas USA (43 pts., second place in West, lost to Real Salt Lake in opening round)
What went wrong in 2008: Injuries. This club was rattled with injury, after injury, after injury. It’s remarkable really that they even made the playoffs with the amount of injuries that they had to deal with this season. Plus there was the international call-ups of key players here and there.
Where it all went wrong: Couldn’t get the draw on the road. The late goal by Yura Movsisyan will haunt this club because it meant they would not move on from the first round yet again this season. Not to mention they couldn’t hold on to a lead at home in the return leg. Injuries hurt their first part of the year but poor defense hurt when it really mattered.
When things went right: Some how when things went right it was due to the Goats being healthy. Preki was pulling the right strings and the club was winning. The club headed into the playoffs with a full head of steam to only lose out once again.
Best moves made: Trading for Sasha Victorine. I really felt that the club went into a positive direction with this trade. They started playing better in the midfield and showed a little more hustle as well. Plus trading for Zach Thornton ended up actually being good, which was a bit of a shock to some.
Worst moves made: The move for Raphael Wicky ended up not being a great one. Then again you can’t blame him for getting hit by the injury bug as well. Sometimes that is tough to overcome. But I think the worst move was not making an impact up top to their strikers. Sure they had Ante Razov and Maykel Galindo but it never hurts to get more (and Alecko Eskandarian and Atiba Harris aren’t good enough to carry the load when othes are hurt).
Areas to improve for 09: All over really. They are set to probably lose a few big players to Europe or elsewhere. I don’t see Sasha Kljestan back with this club so they have to sign someone to fill his spot. They need some capable striker to depend on for 30+ games (Razov use to be that guy, but he no longer can). Figure out the goalkeeper situation and add a defender or three.
Outlook for 09: The outlook could have been great in 08 had it not been for the injuries. If this club could stay healthy you could see them do very well in the West. We can never predict injuries but if they make a few impact type moves instead of moves for depth purposes then you could see a positive change in this club next year.
New England Revolution (43 pts., third place in East, lost to Chicago in opening round)
What went wrong in 2008: Kind of like Chivas, the Revs were hit bad by the injury bug at the wrong time of the year. They were able to battle through it early on in the season but towards the end of the year after they went through and won SuperLiga and then flamed out of the USOC and CCL. From then on the club had already built up a big enough lead that they were pretty much already in the playoffs without real confirmation until late September. Not the best way to get into the post season.
Where it all went wrong: Things just fizzled in the dying months of the summer. It seems like right when they hit 43 points or so they just stopped playing for real. They had a good lead, a real good lead and just seemingly got hit with some injuries and then hit rock bottom. After their SuperLiga win over Houston they won a total of two games the rest of the way out.
When things went right: From May to July things were absolutely great. The Revs looked unstoppable and were pretty much that. They built up a huge lead in the East, which pretty much put them into the playoffs months before they actually cliched a spot. The offense was clicking and the defense in front of Matt Reis was amazing.
Best moves made: You could say the two young Gambians but they were actually signed last year. I liked the trade for Pat Phelan because I think Steve Nicol will mold him into the future of that midfield/defense. An underrated move was signing Mauricio Castro in the offseason, he was a very solid addition to the midfield.
Worst moves made: Not letting Taylor Twellman go. Yes I know Twellman has been their best striker over the past few years and he had some injuries but the winter was the best chance to sell him as high as they could. Now they probably won’t get nearly the right value for Twellman (unless they get lucky). They could have used some allocation/transfer money to add more parts in the midfield and more depth overall for when players like Steve Ralston went down.
Areas to improve for 09: Another all-over kind of thing. Improve the defense because Michael Parkhurst is more than likely gone. Improve the offense because they probably will deal Twellman overseas if they can. Make some additions to the midfield, particularly on the wings. Oh and get a good backup for Matt Reis, please?
Outlook for 09: With Steve Nicol running the show they have to still have a great outlook. They’ll get one or two good draft picks, one or two good young additions from overseas. Have some decent cash on hand in case during the summer to buy someone. I still wonder if they will have Paul Mariner as an assistant though, he is a bigger key than most may realize. Though Nicol running the show is still hard to beat.
Houston Dynamo (51 pts., first place in West, lost to New York in opening round)
What went wrong in 2008: Honestly, not a whole lot went wrong in 2008 for Houston. They had some early season stumbles and yes they tied a lot of games but they really didn’t lose a lot of games until the end of the year when it mattered.
Where it all went wrong: Somehow they couldn’t stop Dane Richards and Juan Pablo Angel this year. In the most shocking way, the two-time champs went down like a sack of rocks to the “8th seed”.
When things went right: Just another typical year for Domminic Kinnear’s bunch. Start slow, get warm in the middle of the year and then stay hot enough at the end of the year to be in good position to host in the playoffs.
Best moves made: Getting Nate Jaqua to return and trading for Kei Kamera from San Jose. Simply made the offense good enough to win and took pressure off one of the best defenses in the league.
Worst moves made: Putting too much on Franco Caraccio early in the year. He obviously wasn’t the right fit for this club. Aside from that they really made very few bad moves this year. Maybe one was not signing a DP?
Areas to improve for 09: This will be big. They are set to probably lose some key players like Jaqua or even Brian Ching to Seattle. Both apparently want to play there. They could very well lose Dwayne De Rosario to Toronto (yes, they actually could deal for DeRo this year). IF those moves happen, plus whoever Seattle takes from them in the Expansion Draft (possibly Jaqua) then you will see this club have to use their DP slot next year. They need offense more so than DeRo and Ching anyways. Take one or both of them away and they are left with too much pressure on Stuart Holden and Cory Ashe. Also, they need a better backup to Pat Onstad than Tony Caig.
Outlook for 09: They have to make the right moves. They could lose some key guys and even their top assistant coach John Spencer. But they do still have a great amount of talent to lean on for next year. They will have to reload as always and make sure they spend their money wisely. If they don’t lose DeRo and Ching they will be fine as long as they add the right people around them. They’ve done well at that in the past but will need to do a better job in the coming years as they are getting older.