MLS Features: Portland stays hot, D.C. United not

This past weekend's Major League Soccer action saw the continuation of some impressive -- and some not-so-impressive -- streaks as the Portland Timbers are on cruise control, while D.C. United keeps struggling as we look back on Week 12 in MLS.



The Portland Timbers got off to a bit of a slow start, going winless in their first four matches, but Caleb Porter has his club playing excellent football right now.

Saturday's wild 2-2 draw with Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC extended the club's unbeaten streak in league play to nine consecutive matches, vaulting the Timbers up to third place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

The Vancouver match at BC Place certainly tested the Timbers' resolve. They fell behind in the 24th minute after Camilo found the back of the net for the 'Caps.

Portland equalized in the 52nd minute when Will Johnson converted a spot kick, but Gershon Koffie scored for Vancouver just two minutes later to put the home side ahead, 2-1.

It appeared the Timbers' unbeaten run would almost certainly come to an end after defender Mamadou "Futty" Danso was sent off with nine minutes remaining in regulation, but Portland kept coming and Jose Valencia picked up an unlikely equalizer six minutes from time.

Porter praised his team's bounce-back ability following a hard-fought result.

"This team just seems to have that 'never quit, refuse to lose' (attitude) and you hope you can kind of harness it in a team and some teams just never have it, but this team has it," Porter said. "We've seen that and it���s not just the first game we've shown that, but in several games our backs are against the wall and we somehow find a way to get a result.

This is a good result. It's a point on the road, especially considering how the game played out. For us to get a point, I think is positive, but we also leave the game a little bit grounded, and remain hungry because we didn't get three points."


What on earth has happened to D.C. United?

Through 11 matches this season, United has managed just one victory and is firmly entrenched in the basement of the Eastern Conference with just five points.

So it's safe to ask what has happened to the team that made it to the Eastern Conference finals last term with largely the same roster as this season's club.

Sure, there are a few notable names missing this season, including Andy Najar, Hamdi Salihi and Maicon Santos, but talisman Dwayne De Rosario still sports a United kit, and there's talented young goalkeeper Bill Hamid and midfield general Perry Kitchen.

Sunday's 1-1 draw at home to Sporting Kansas City lengthened the club's winless run to nine consecutive matches, and while getting a point could be considered a success, this team should be far better than they are.

United hasn't taken a full three points since a March 9 victory over Real Salt Lake.

"It beats losing," D.C. head coach said. "You've got to dig in and find a way to get results. That starts to steamroll into confidence, and that is how you get out of this stuff. Unfortunately, I've been through these before when I first started my coaching career and I watched it from an assistant coach's standpoint. You have to have everyone committed. You need a bounce here and there."

United will have an opportunity to put their winless run to bed when they face Portland at home this weekend.


The Houston Dynamo put together one of the most incredible streaks in professional sports over the past year-plus by going an impressive 36 consecutive matches without a loss at home.

But could that cloak of invincibility in the Texas heat be coming apart?

After 36 straight matches at home without a loss, Sporting Kansas City finally put an end to that streak on May 12 courtesy of an Aurelien Collin goal and a 1-0 victory over the Dynamo.

Houston had an opportunity on Saturday to get back to their winning ways at home against New England, but suffered a surprising 2-0 loss to the Revs. It was the first time the Dynamo have lost two straight at home since a three- game slide back in 2010.

And while dropping a pair of games at home does not quite qualify them as "struggling" with their home form, the Dynamo will need to get back to their winning ways quickly if they want to stay near the top of the East.


NEW YORK RED BULLS - New York keeps rolling along after Sunday's last-minute strike by Tim Cahill lifted the club to a 1-0 win over the road-weary Los Angeles Galaxy at Red Bull Arena. New York got off to a shaky start, but they have found their form as of late, winning five of their last six games to claim first place in the Eastern Conference. Cahill also has gotten on a roll by scoring in three of the team's last five matches.

PHILADELPHIA UNION - It's been a tough eight days for the Philadelphia Union as the club was away to Chicago Fire last Saturday before hosting the Galaxy on Wednesday and the Fire again on Saturday. Jack McInerney scored the only goal of the match in both contests against Chicago as the Union took both games by a 1-0 score. Philadelphia fell to the Galaxy, 4-1, during the week, but beating a team twice in just over a week is a difficult task. McInerney has rapidly become MLS's hottest goal scorer and has the Union in a playoff position.


CHICAGO FIRE - Chicago Fire reached the postseason last year, and the prevailing wisdom entering this season was that they should be able to make it back this season. But it's been a massive struggle for the Fire this season. Chicago has won just twice and has scored just six goals while conceding 16 through 10 matches. Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald has underperformed and the club is missing its best defender in Arne Friedrich due to injury. It's still relatively early in the season, but Chicago is only averaging 0.7 points per match and need to find a way to turn it around quickly.

TORONTO FC - There was an air of optimism surrounding Toronto FC at the start of the season, and it picked up a bit after the club stunned Sporting Kansas City, 2-1, in its home opener. But the squad hasn't won a match since then and is in ninth place in the East with seven points. Manager Ryan Nelsen and president Kevin Payne have brought in several players to strengthen the team, but the unit never really seems to get better. Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew was the team's ninth straight without a win. Toronto is definitely a better club than last season as each of its loses has only been by one goal, but the squad needs to start getting three points if it has any hope of making the postseason.


Since its inception into MLS in 2005, Chivas USA has been a puzzling team.

The club has made the playoffs several times, but the past few years have certainly not been kind to the Goats.

They are at a considerable disadvantage in Southern California having to share the Home Depot Center with the Los Angeles Galaxy. The team is poor and the attendance figures show the local population is not interested in watching it.

The club made waves before the season. As a subsidiary of Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara, the squad had an approach of exclusively signing players of Latin American heritage.

After their latest loss, a 4-1 setback at home against Real Salt Lake, manager Jose Luis Sanchez Sola or "El Chelis" as he is known, lamented that he believed his side wasn't good enough to compete in the league.

"We don't have the weapons to win. This is just what we have right now," Chelis said. "The lineup is limited, very limited."

There also has been speculation that the club is set to be put under league control and relocated, but MLS issued a statement on Friday regarding that report:

"Major League Soccer is aware of recent media speculation concerning Chivas USA," the statement said. "Such speculation is completely unfounded and untrue. MLS is fully supportive of the current owners of Chivas USA and has never considered taking over the club or moving it."

All right, so the league doesn't want to move the club, but the question is, why not?

MLS has grown rapidly over the past several years and there are untapped markets around the country that are anxious for a franchise.

St. Louis, Detroit, Orlando, Miami as well as the Carolinas would all be acceptable places to put the team.

Chivas USA has the lowest attendance in the league by a wide margin and it could be in the best interest of the league to move the team.