MLS Features: Midseason grades

Week 17 in Major League Soccer has come and gone, signifying the midway point of the 2013 season.

With that in mind, it's time for The Sports Network's midseason evaluations.


CHICAGO FIRE: The Fire have been somewhat inconsistent. They started out incredibly poor, collecting just one point in their first four league matches. But a trade for Mike Magee from Los Angeles has sparked the Fire and they have been rolling lately, currently riding a six-match unbeaten streak across all competitions. B.

COLUMBUS CREW: Entering the season, the Crew had expectations of reaching the postseason after barely missing out last season. But injuries have hit the Crew hard as star midfielder Eddie Gaven and Brazilian defender Glauber are both out for the season. Dominic Oduro has been the Crew's fiercest offensive weapon, but they need more than the speedy winger to achieve their goal. C+.

D.C. UNITED: What a difference a year can make. United finished second in the East last season but has been abysmal this term with largely the same roster. Talisman Dwayne De Rosario has been reduced to a substitute over the last few games and United has won just twice in 16 matches. Last week's home win over San Jose is the only thing saving them from a flunking mark. D-.

HOUSTON DYNAMO: Houston got off to a quick start and were unbeatable on home soil early on as its unbeaten run at BBVA Compass Stadium reached 36 consecutive matches, but lately the Dynamo have been struggling - winless in their last six league games - and they simply aren't creating many scoring chances, as evidenced in last weekend's scoreless draw at home to Toronto FC. B-.

MONTREAL IMPACT: The Impact have been the single biggest surprise of the season. New head coach Marco Schallibaum has his veteran group clicking on all cylinders and Marco Di Vaio is at the top of the Golden Boot standings with 10 tallies. Midfielders Patrice Bernier and Andreas Romero have been solid all season and the club is an impressive 6-0-1 at home this season. A.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION: Another club that struggled early on but has really picked it up over the last month or so. The Revs scored just one goal over their first five matches, but the season changed directions after a surprising 2-0 defeat of Houston on the road on May 18. That result sparked a four-game unbeaten run which sees the club within striking distance of playoff positioning at 5-5-5. More work is needed, however, if they want to end a lengthy playoff drought come October. C+.

NEW YORK RED BULLS: In stretches, New York has looked every bit like the star- studded, top-tier side pundits and fans alike expected them to be. A seven- game unbeaten streak shot them up to second place in the East, but Sunday's lackluster 3-0 loss to Philadelphia exposed a soft backline that fell to pieces without Jamison Olave, who missed the match due to red card suspension. Still, first-year head coach Mike Petke has his club in position to make the postseason. B.

PHILADELPHIA UNION: Philadelphia has been maddeningly inconsistent this year, but sits in second place in the East. The Union have the league's top goal scorer in Jack McInerney and the league's top assist provider in Sebastien Le Toux. Questions remain about the reliability of central defenders Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke as well as goalkeeper Zac MacMath. But Sunday's thrashing of New York showed the Union have one of the league's most dynamic offenses with McInerney, Le Toux and Conor Casey on the field together. This team could be dangerous down the stretch if it can plug a few holes in the summer transfer window and step up its midfield play. B+.

SPORTING KANSAS CITY: Touted as the East's best club heading into this campaign, Sporting has under performed a bit as it sits in fourth place on 23 points. Claudio Bieler has been everything a designated player should be, but the two-time Eastern Conference regular-season champs have come up with some puzzling results this season, including a last-minute loss at home to Seattle and a 1-1 draw with D.C. United. Peter Vermes' team is in playoff position, but has the quality to do much better than squeeze into the postseason by the skin of its collective teeth. C+.

TORONTO FC: Toronto FC head coach Ryan Nelsen had his hands full when he accepted the job back in January. Toronto has looked as if it was about to turn a corner at certain points this season, but it simply can't close games, having conceded a ton of goals in the last five minutes of matches. TFC's management brought in veteran defender Danny Califf to anchor what was supposed to be an improved backline, but Califf hasn't seen the field in over a month in favor of youngster Gale Agbossoumonde. Forward Robert Earnshaw has done his part, but there isn't enough quality on this club right now to make a run for the playoffs. D.


CHIVAS USA: The Goats got off to a nice start with wins over FC Dallas at home and Chicago on the road, but since a 2-1 win over Vancouver on March 30, the bottom has fallen out and the club has not won a single game, leaving them on the bottom of the West with 11 points and with an interim coach as former manager Jose Luis "Chelis" Sanchez Sola was fired on May 30. They have trouble creating any kind of scoring chances and have conceded the most goals in the league. F.

COLORADO RAPIDS: Colorado began its season with an 0-2-2 slump and has been hit hard by the injury bug. Diego Calderon has been out for an extended period of time due to knee surgery, while starting goalkeeper Matt Pickens broke his arm in early April. Backup 'keeper Clint Irwin has been a revelation in helping the Rapids pick themselves up from a poor start and get back to within shouting distance of the playoffs in seventh place in the West on 20 points. But a four- match unbeaten stretch has the club struggling a bit heading into a difficult test against Montreal at Saputo Stadium on Saturday. C.

FC DALLAS: FCD has had an exceptional season as they sit in third place in the West on 29 points. They fell a bit short in a 1-0 loss to Portland on June 15, but showed some resolve to rebound from a 2-0 deficit last weekend with a pair of goals in the final two minutes to steal a point against Sporting Kansas City. Offensively, Blas Perez Jackson and Kenny Cooper have been sharing the load, while goalkeeper Raul Fernandez has excelled between the sticks. Schellas Hyndman's team is firmly in playoff position with a difficult week ahead. FCD will face Portland on Wednesday in U.S. Open Cup play before traveling to Philadelphia to battle the Union on Saturday. A-.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY: Los Angeles entered this season as the two-time defending champions but without David Beckham, who left MLS after last season, and Landon Donovan, who went on a break from playing. With Donovan and Beckham out of the picture early on, Mike Magee took the scoring load upon himself, leading the Galaxy to a 4-2-2 start. Magee was then traded to Chicago for Robbie Rogers, but the Galaxy's young players such as Gyasi Zardes, Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal have stepped up to the challenge, and Bruce Arena's team is comfortably in fourth place in the West. B.

PORTLAND TIMBERS: The Timbers turned a new leaf prior to this season by hiring former University of Akron head coach Caleb Porter. Questions lingered about how well Porter would be able to carve out a niche for himself on the professional level, but the hiring has been a smashing success as the Timbers are currently riding a 15-match unbeaten streak and have lost just once this season. Porter has his club in first place in the West on 30 points and leading the race for the Supporters' Shield. A.

REAL SALT LAKE: After trading away franchise cornerstones Fabian Espindola and Jamison Olave in the offseason, many pundits believed it to be a rebuilding year for Real Salt Lake, but that has hardly been the case. With the established forward in Espindola gone to New York, youngsters Devon Sandoval, Olmes Garcia and Joao Plata have stepped up to lead RSL, which sits even with Portland on 30 points. A.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES: San Jose won the Supporter's Shield last season with 66 points, but things have gone horribly wrong this time around. Injuries to key players Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski, as well as an extended run of poor form have really derailed the Earthquakes' season. San Jose has just one win in its last six matches and head coach Frank Yallop was fired following a 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on June 1. The 'Quakes are in eighth place in the West on 18 points and have a ton of work to do if they want to reach the playoffs. D+

SEATTLE SOUNDERS: When Fredy Montero left Seattle to return to Colombia in the offseason, many wondered where the offense would come from, and early in the season those questions were validated as the Sounders got off to a terrible start, scoring three goals in their first six matches. But Sigi Schmid's team has come around lately, receiving contributions from Nigerian Designated Player Obafemi Martins, Eddie Johnson, Lamar Neagle and Servando Carrasco. The Sounders have won five of their last seven games to climb within one point of the final playoff spot in the West. B.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS: Expectations were high in Vancouver heading into the season following the club's first-ever playoff appearance. But it's been an up-and-down season for the 'Caps. They got off to a solid 2-0-0 start, but after a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew on March 9, Vancouver began to tumble with a seven-match winless run in league play. They began to right the ship with a 3-1 win over Los Angeles on May 14. More recently, the 'Caps have won two straight to climb back into playoff position in fifth place in the West with 22 points, but their star forward, Darren Mattocks, has been surprisingly quiet this season, scoring just two goals in 10 appearances. Mattocks will need to find his form over the second half of the season is Vancouver is to hold onto the final postseason spot. B-.