Every MLS Team's Biggest Flaw
The 2013 Major League Soccer campaign has been full of great play, exciting goals and, most importantly, incredibly disappointing performances.
The following is a team-by-team slideshow of each MLS side's biggest flaw. Some teams' flaws will be difficult to identify because they've been so outstanding (Montreal). Others will be difficult because they've been so poor.
It's only fitting that we start such a negative slideshow with...
Chicago Fire (Defense)
Chicago have been absolutely dreadful so far this season. Their opponents have outscored them nine to one in their first four matches.
The Fire's -8 goal differential is the worst in the league. The Colorado Rapids are the next closest team with a differential of -3.
The Fire's back four has been abysmal all season. Both Los Angeles teams have put four past Frank Klopas's side.
If the Fire hope to make a push for the playoffs (and from what I've seen so far this season that appears to be impossible), they're going to have to sure up their defense.
An attacking threat wouldn't hurt either.
Chivas USA (Defensive Positioning)
Chiva USA have been one of the great surprises of the 2013 MLS season thus far. New coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola has his side playing the best they have in years.
The collective heart that the team displayed in the 1-1 draw against Los Angeles rivals Galaxy was inspirational.
The one thing that will end up hurting this team early on is their poor defensive positioning.
In Chivas's season opening 3-0 loss to the Colombus Crew, the position of the back four was abysmal.
The back four played an incredibly high line, that resulted in them being caught out on a number of occasions.
While I do think that Chivas have been fantastic to watch this season, their defensive positioning leaves a lot to be desired.
Colorado Rapids (Lack of Goalscorer)
The Colorado Rapids are in desperate need of a match-winning goalscorer. The Rapids play a fantastic possession game.
In their most recent match, a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy, the looked dangerous going forward.
Despite playing one man down for most of the second half, Oscar Pareja's men were absorbing the Galaxy pressure well and counter attacking with a good amount of quality.
Unfortunately for Rapids fans, the team has no goalscorer to turn to. There is no one to set up chances for because the team lacks a poacher in the worst way.
If the Rapids were to secure a top striker, they would most likely be much higher than their current spot of seventh place in the Western Conference.
Columbus Crew (Defensive Focus)
It has to be said that defensive focus has been the biggest flaw for the Columbus Crew so far this season.
The Crew defense has the tendency to completely switch off sporadically throughout the match.
This was never more evident than when D.C. United's designated player Rafael equalized for his side in Columbus's most recent match.
Games against Vancouver have shown this to be true as well.
The Crew's attack, on the other hand, has done well enough to score goals throughout the season. But for Columbus to be serious contenders, the defense has a lot of work to do.
FC Dallas (Lack of Communication)
Communication appears to be the biggest flaw in an exquisite FC Dallas team. Schellas Hyndman's side has been quite good thus far in the 2013 campaign.
Dallas currently tops the Western Conference (although if the LA Galaxy win their game in hand they would surpass the hoops).
When dissecting the game footage, the players do not appear to be on the same page. There are a handful of examples that show ill-advised passes and breakdowns between teammates.
Luckily, for FC Dallas fans, this is something that will inevitably improve as the season continues.
D.C. United (Inconsistency of Keeper)
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid has been inconsistent for D.C. United thus far in 2013.
There are some points where the keeper looks to be a fantastic option, but other options when he looks to be in shambles.
The decision making of Hamid has been troublesome, as he has committed to balls that he has no hope of attaining.
If the Eastern Conference power are going to pose a serious threat this season, Hamid will have to improve his play.
Houston Dynamo (Lack of an Ability to Tackle)
It would be assumed that most players at a level as high as the MLS possess the ability to step in and make a tackle.
Fans of the Houston Dynamo will know that this is not necessarily true. The Dynamo defenders have trouble winning the ball.
The attacking talent of Houston is unquestionable. Dominic Kinnear's have scored the second most goals (six) in the Eastern Conference, having played one less game than the side that has scored the most (Columbus).
Unfortunately, when back defending, notably when chasing back to defend, the Orange players suffer from an inability to put a decent challenge in to attacking players.
To repeat the Dynamo's success of last season, they'll have to rely on their quality going forward, while limiting the mistakes that they make at the back.
LA Galaxy (Inability to Play Against 10 Men)
It has been exposed twice this season. The LA Galaxy cannot play against 10 men.
In their matches against both Chivas USA and the Colorado Rapids, the LA Galaxy failed to utilize their one man advantage.
This can be put down to tactics, or it can mean that the Galaxy fail to excel against sides that defend with their entire team, but the bottom line is, that the Galaxy miss the midfield playmaker role that David Beckham occupied.
Rafael Garcia is the closest Galaxy player to have shown the vision that the departed Englishman showed.
If the Galaxy want to improve, their tactics will have to do so, especially against teams that are playing with less men.
Montreal Impact (Over Reliance on Marco Di Vaio)
It is very difficult to criticize a team that has been as marvelous as the Montreal Impact have this season.
Having won their first four matches, they currently are the best team in Major League Soccer. The Impact have impressed against tough opponents in early weeks.
The Impact won tough away fixtures against Seattle and Portland before disposing of Toronto and New York at home.
If one were to criticize the Impact, a job which I've been given, it would have to be that they have been heavily reliant on Marco Di Vaio this season.
Di Vaio is the club's first Designated Player, and his form shows why. He leads the team in goals scored, shots, shots on target and game-winning goals.
If he should get an injury, it would be unwise to think that the Impact would be able to continue their fantastic run.
New England Revolution (Tactics)
The New England Revolution cannot score, and even worse, they play a defensive game that inhibits their ability to score.
In all honestly, their biggest flaw lies in their tactics. Some teams are happy to draw 0-0 every game.
I believe that this New England team is capable of attaining more, and for that reason, I believe that their tactics need a reinventing.
It really is as simple as that.
New York Red Bulls (Quality of the Back Four)
The New York Red Bulls' back four has put in some comedy defending this season. If it weren't for the Chicago Fire, New York's defense would be the worst in the Eastern Conference.
Although the front attack has been doing its best to help drag the back four through the bumpy start of the season, the defense appears to be determined to throw away points.
There really is not much more to write on the subject. If the Red Bulls have any desire to succeed this season, they're going to have to learn how to defend at a level much higher than that of their first four matches.
Philadelphia Union (Home-Field Advantage)
The Philadelphia Union need to learn how to assert themselves when they play at home. The Union were one of the worst home teams in the MLS last season.
In 2013, the Union are tied for the second worst home-goal-differential in all of Major League Soccer.
Home matches are the most important ones of any major soccer club.
Terrible home form is one of the reasons that Arsenal, one of Europe's biggest clubs, has struggled this season.
If the Union hope to improve, they will need to start improving their home-field advantage.
Portland Timbers (No Attacking Threat)
If the Timbers had a decent attacking threat, it is likely that they would have won the early Cascadia Cup match against their rivals, the Seattle Sounders.
The Portland Timbers are in desparate need of a tiliesman.
If they do not obtain one they could be in for a long season of disappointnig draws. Ideally, someone in the camp would step up and start putting the goals in. But so far this has not happened.
The Timbers would also benefit from a sturdier back four defensively. But their biggest flaw, is the lack of a out-and-out goalscorer.
Real Salt Lake (Cannot Compete with Top Sides)
Real Salt Lake's main problem is that they cannot compete with top sides.
The Utah natives are find when competing against teams with equal, or less, quality, but once they are matched up with a quality side, Salt Lake fails to perform.
RSL's only win of the season was a home match against the New England Revolution.
If Real Salt Lake hope to improve throughout the season, they will have to find a way to accumulate points against sides with talent.
San Jose Earthquakes (Play to the Level of Their Competition)
The Earthquakes have started out the 2013 campaign in fantastic style, having picked up seven of a possible 12 points in their opening four matches.
When watching tape of the Northern Californian side, it becomes clear that their problem is their inability to outperform their opponents.
The Quakes have a goal differential of zero on the season. They play to the level of their competition.
If the Earthquakes really want to improve on their opening four matches, they're going to have to step up and play to their fullest level possible.
Seattle Sounders FC (Confidence)
The biggest flaw of the Seattle Sounders FC is their confidence.
Having taken just one point from their opening three matches, the Sounders will be disappointed that they have not hit the ground running.
The team appears to be playing with little-to-no confidence. Sigi Schmid's side is playing like they know that they are going to concede points before the game even starts.
This was evident in the match against the Portland Timbers, in which the visitors enjoyed most of the possession and a great spell of attacking play.
If the Sounders are going to reassert themselves atop the MLS Western Conference, they're going to have to regain their confidence.
Sporting Kansas City (Home Form)
Sporting Kansas City is another team that needs to learn how to assert themselves when they play at home. Sporting were one of the best home teams in the MLS last season.
In 2013, the Union are tied for the third worst home-goal-differential in all of Major League Soccer.
On the road, Sporting has scored four goals, unlike their home form, which as seen Kansas City score zero goals.
If Sporting Kansas City is to contend for a title this season, they are going to have to find a way to open their account at home.
No team can succeed without a decent home record. Currently, Sporting Kansas City does not have that home record.
Toronto FC (Defending)
So far, in 2013, Toronto FC's defending has not been good enough.
Their biggest flaw is the tendency to let in goals that end up costing the Canadians points.
If Toronto were to find a way to limit the amount of goals let in, they would see a large increase in the number of points that they have.
Currently, Toronto is eighth in the Eastern Conference. Every one of Toronto's matches has been decided by one goal.
If Toronto can figure out how to defend properly, they will start picking up points, and they will see a dramatic improvement in their position in the Eastern Conference.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC (Set-Piece Defending)
The Whitecaps have started out the 2013 campaign in good style, having picked up six of a possible nine points in their opening three matches.
When watching tape of the Western Canadian side, it becomes clear that their fundamental flaw is their inability to defend set-pieces.
In the Whitecaps' most recent match, the Houston Dynamo tortured Martin Rennie's side when forcing them to defend against a set-piece.
Regardless of location, the Whitecaps never look certain when defending a dead ball being whipped into the box.