Tuesday’s soccer news starts with the lonely game on tonight’s MLS schedule. Vancouver hosts Houston at Rio Tinto Stadium in a situation that now only applies to them. With the other two Canadian MLS teams now back in Canada, Vancouver is left playing the waiting game. What we really know about the Whitecaps is dependent on their not even close to home schedule. There’s now a countdown clock on how long that lasts.
Vancouver has put up a 0-4-3 record playing in Utah. They’re not the only MLS team without a home win this season, but they’re the only one with the built-in excuse. At .500 on the road, relocation has skewed results in a way that suggests this is a club with more to offer. It’s certainly worth pointing out that they’ve lost away and home to Real Salt Lake. That came near the end of a four-game “road” swing that ran from May 5 through June 18. The Whitecaps lost all of those games and added a fifth loss at home against the LA Galaxy. They recovered with a 2-2 draw at Seattle, again suggesting Vancouver’s record may not be telling us everything.
That record has them tied on points with 11th-place San Jose but trailing on the tiebreaker in 12th near the bottom of the Western Conference table with 12 from 13 games played. 9th-place is three points up the table, though Houston is there with a sizeable advantage on goal difference. It’s the second tiebreaker in play with 9th through 12th in the West tied on three wins for the first tiebreaker. In other words, there’s not enough space in the bottom half of the Western Conference to start writing teams off.
For Houston, three points up the table is 6th-place and a first round playoff spot currently held by Minnesota. In between are Portland and Real Salt Lake tied on 16 points, one better than the Dynamo. Again, it’s worth asking what type of team Houston really is so far this season. They lost at Sporting Kansas City on May 29 and at Seattle in their last game on July 7. In between, they drew at LAFC, at home to Portland, at Real Salt Lake, and at home to Cincinnati. It’s not the old four game losing streak that’s a hallmark of MLS seasons, but it has them in a situation that may not reflect their quality. While it wouldn’t impress in the East, six draws is the most in the Western Conference.
What that means in competitive terms cuts both ways. As easy as it might be to turn draws into wins, Houston is a team that tends to be on the other side of that scenario. There’s been more than enough postgame comments about giving up goals and not pressing hard enough over 90 minutes to take three points.
For both of these teams, it’s easy enough to explain results good and bad right now. That will change quickly. What both are really playing for is a scenario where they have at least limited control. That they’re far from alone in the Western Conference right now only stresses how important these games are becoming.
Also in the soccer news, Concacaf updated the injury replacement policy for teams advancing to the quarterfinals. “Any proposed medical replacements will only be considered by the Concacaf Medical Committee in cases of serious injury or illness. Such replacements must be proposed to Concacaf for review at least 24 hours before the kick-off of the relevant team’s Quarterfinal match. Additionally, players proposed as medical replacements must come from the previously announced provisional rosters.”
Fox Sports’ Doug MnIntyre looks into what happened with Atlanta United under Gabriel Heinze. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle talks to USMNT player Mark McKenzie. MLSsoccer’s Matthew Doyle goes over the USMNT’s run in group B.
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