2014 MLS Season Review: Vancouver Whitecaps

Western Conference Final Position: 5th

Western Conference Playoffs: Knockout Round

Review

Despite their agonising exit from the playoffs via a 2-1 defeat at the hands of FC Dallas, the 2014 season will go down as the best so far for the Vancouver Whitecaps since they began competing in Major League Soccer in 2011. It saw them record their highest points tally (50) – their previous best was the 48 points they accumulated last season (2013).

Best Moment

Their five-game unbeaten run at the end of the season is the biggest highlight as they charged towards the playoff positions and nipped in ahead of Portland Timbers by just one point.

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Worst Moment

The 84th minute penalty conceded by Kendall Watson after he was controversially adjudged to have handled the ball intentionally against FC Dallas in the playoff knockout game. Some will argue that it was the right call to award the spot kick, while many will say very much the opposite. Whatever way you dress it up, it’s a gut wrenching way to lose any game of soccer, let alone bow out of the playoffs. You have to sympathise for the Whitecaps who had worked ever so hard to be in such a great position this season.

Player of the Year

Pedro Morales is a name that has rightly popped up frequently when discussing the Vancouver team. The Chilean has been an inspiration in midfield and to finish the 2014 season as the top goalscorer and assist-maker at the club shows how crucial he is and will continue to be. Keeping hold of him is essential to their future.

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Biggest Win

Vancouver Whitecaps 4-1 New York Red Bulls (March 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers (August 31 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (September 20 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

There are numerous positives to take from their performance this year. They have shown a gradual improvement for every season that they have been in MLS and this should fill them with confidence that they can continue to grow.

Vancouver Whitecaps points tally since participation in Major League Soccer:

Whitecaps points tallies

One area they could look to improve is up-front. They have lacked a prolific goalscorer and have relied heavily on Pedro Morales to do the business from midfield. The man with the most goals for the Whitecaps other than Morales is Darren Mattocks with six.

The news of Erick Torres becoming a free agent in the close season is interesting and he could be someone that’s on their radar as they look to fill that void.

Vancouver Whitecaps have the potential to be one of the strongest teams for the 2015 season.

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2014 MLS Season Review: Chicago Fire

Eastern Conference Final Position: 9th

Review

Chicago Fire had a difficult start to the season, having to wait until their ninth game for a win. Their tough opening was unfortunate and indicated what was to come for the rest of the regular season. The Fire only managed back-to-back wins on one occasion and narrowly escaped finishing at the foot of the table.

Best Moment

Doing the double over New York Red Bulls – one of which was a nine-goal thriller, ending 5-4. After leading the game early on, they then fell 2-1 behind. They showed resilience and power to score four without reply to lead 5-2. There was late drama from the record leveller, Bradley Wright Phillips, making the score 5-4. The Fire managed a last ten minute shut out in one of the most exhilarating games of the season.

Worst Moment

Their eight-game winless run at the beginning almost determined their fate and made it extremely difficult to push on for the rest of the season.

Player of the Year

Jeff Larentowicz. The midfielder is someone Fire need to build around as he was one of a few solid players and the joint top appearance maker. Larentowicz was also joint second top goalscorer.

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Biggest Win

New York Red Bulls 4-5 Chicago Fire (May 11 2014).

All six of Fire’s wins were only by the single goal. With that in mind, it’s worth assessing the biggest win in terms of the performance.

Biggest Defeat

San Jose Earthquakes 5-1 Chicago Fire (July 24 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

Turning draws into wins is a must for Chicago. Their inability to win games evidently cost them any chance of pushing for the playoffs. Their staggering 18 draws was the highest out of both conferences, but Fire must take a positive that they managed to avoid defeat in 24 of their 34 games. In comparison, Seattle Sounders were another side who lost ten games, proving the difference and importance of winning. They have to build on some solid performances in the season and beating a handful of the top five.

2014 MLS Season Review: Portland Timbers

Western Conference Final Position: 6th

Review

The 2014 season started slowly and it took Portland nine games to record their first win but they eventually burst in to life. Unfortunately for the Timbers, it all came to an agonising conclusion as they narrowly missed out on the playoffs, finishing in sixth place, just one point behind Vancouver Whitecaps. They are certainly the best MLS team that won’t feature in the playoffs this year and it will be a bitter pill to swallow considering how well they have played at times this season.

Best Moment

Coming from a goal behind to win 3-1 away at Real Salt Lake in June is one of their greatest achievements for 2014. It’s the only home defeat that Real Salt Lake suffered all season and a result they can be proud of.

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Worst Moment

The defeat in Toronto at the end of September is the one that will have hurt them the most and is essentially the result that cost them their place in the playoffs. Having led the game 2-0 at half-time, they will be devastated that they somehow squandered a two-goal lead and lost the game 3-2, thanks to an 89th minute winner from Michael Bradley.

Player of the Year

Diego Valeri has been inspirational for the Timbers. He’s scored 11 goals from midfield and assisted 14. Contributing 25 goals from midfield is very impressive. Maximiliano Urruti is another player who has been in fine form this season, but Valeri has been the main man and has even been discussed as an outsider for the MVP award.

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Biggest Win

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-3 Portland Timbers (August 31 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps (September 20 2014)

Portland Timbers 3-0 San Jose Earthquakes (October 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Portland Timbers 2-4 Seattle Sounders (August 24 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

The margin of error in soccer can be so small at times. They will reflect on a good season that will be littered with ifs and buts. The main criticism of Portland would be how slowly they started the season. One win from their opening 11 games left them a monumental task to try and finish in a playoff position and they almost made it. If they hadn’t been so slow out of the blocks, they would have comfortably secured a playoff spot and their season wouldn’t already be over now. They will be a force in the 2015 season.

2014 MLS Season Review: Toronto FC

Eastern Conference Final Position: 7th

Review

Collapse. A season that looked so promising from the off ended with disappointment yet again as the Reds failed to make the playoffs for the eighth straight year. After building what looked like an incredibly strong side before the start of the new season, many expected big things from Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and co. but they never managed to find a good run of form.

The club is up in the air now the season is over, Ryan Nelsen was dismissed midway through the season, and head coach Greg Vanney hasn’t had enough time to work with the players. Players who could soon be offloaded as Defoe looks likely to leave, while Doneil Henry had already been sold months ago, it was revealed last week.

Things haven’t gone according to plan, and extreme caution must now be taken to ensure things don’t implode in Toronto.

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Best Moment

The 2-1 win in Seattle to open the season filled fans with hope, and from that point failure was not an option. That was one of the rare moments of the season when things were really looking up, but it never really kicked on.

Worst Moment

Hard to pinpoint one moment, but the 1-0 loss at home to Houston Dynamo at the start of October ended many fans hopes of making the playoffs. The Reds needed to win that game, and things may have been different. However, they lost and then failed to win in their last three games either.

Player of the Year

Jermain Defoe was the most influential despite going missing in the second half of the season. He scored 11 goals and picked up two assists in his first season in MLS, and was a key part of the side until he picked up a groin injury that limited his availability. Toronto never lost a game in which he scored, and if he is to leave they will have a huge hole to fill.

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Biggest Win

Toronto 3-0 Chivas USA (September 21 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Sporting Kansas City 4-1 Toronto FC (August 17 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

Endless things must be improved. Club stability, the defence, the attack, and general running of the club. Keeping Doneil Henry’s sale a secret was a big mistake and hopefully they will learn from that. The Reds must be transparent with supporters to build a successful soccer team.

Toronto conceded 54 goals this season. That’s not good enough and must be addressed. They did win the highest number of games in a single season, but never found a solid run of form and that is also something which needs to be looked at. Stability is needed for the Reds to rebuild and make a serious charge towards the playoffs next season.

2014 MLS Season Review: Houston Dynamo

Eastern Conference Final Position: 8th

Review

They started the season with a flyer, beating New England 4-0 at home but struggled without Brad Davis during the World Cup and never challenged for a playoff spot.

Best Moment

Signing DaMarcus Beasley – World Cup star Beasley joining Houston was a signal that the Dynamo can still attract marquee signings.

Worst Moment

Mark Sherrod’s injury – Just twelve minutes into the D.C United game, Sherrod went down and the forward’s season was over. We’re hoping to see him fully fit in 2015.

Player of the Year

Brad Davis was the main man and the leader of the pack. They missed his influence massively while he was at the World Cup in Brazil.

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Biggest Win

Houston Dynamo 4-0 New England Revolution (March 9 2014)

Biggest Defeat

New York Red Bulls 4-0 Houston Dynamo (April 23 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

Houston needs to strengthen defensively; possibly another midfielder in the draft, someone who can learn from Brad Davis so they can form a core to build around.

2014 MLS Season Review: Montreal Impact

Eastern Conference Final Position: 10th

Review

2014 is a year that won’t live long in the memory for Montreal Impact as they finished the campaign rooted to the foot of the Eastern Conference table and it goes down as their worst season since participation in Major League Soccer began in 2012.

Having qualified for the playoffs in 2013 they would have been hoping to back it up with another good season but it wasn’t to be and the quicker they put it out of their minds, the better.

Best Moment

A 2-0 win against all the odds when they overturned the high-flying New England Revolution in June must go down as the stand-out moment for their season. The Revs came in to the game in a scintillating run of form having won six of their last seven only to be completely taken by surprise by a fluent and clinical Montreal side.

Worst Moment

With an array of disappointments to choose from, it’s hard to pinpoint the specific worst moment of the season. It’s more a case of worst moments, and it has to be when they lost seven games on the bounce between 7th July and 10th August as this resigned them to the fact that they weren’t in for a good season.

Player of the Year

Marco Di Vaio retired from football following the conclusion of this season and he showed that you don’t ever lose your talent by contributing 13 goals (9 scored – 4 assisted) from just 17 starts. The Impact will have to go a long way to replace him so it’s only fair that his efforts are given the recognition they deserve.

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Biggest Win

Montreal Impact 3-0 Houston Dynamo (June 30 2014)

Biggest Defeat

Sporting Kansas City 4-0 Montreal Impact (April 20 2014)

What to improve for the 2015 season…

The first thing to do would be to remain realistic and not set goals and expectations too high.

It’s only the third season in which they have competed in Major League Soccer, so there is no shame in finishing bottom of the conference because it can be used as a major learning curve.

They don’t need to be told about the issues that clearly need addressing.

It’s very simple – they concede too many at one end and they don’t score enough at the other, but I’m sure that this is something that players and staff will be working hard on during the close season and they will come back fighting in 2015.