Friday MLS Forecast: Week 24 - Planning for the future as the present unfolds

The Forecast contemplates moves designed to look toward next season in Chicago and Philadelphia and scans the crowded weekend slate.
1. John Hackworth loses the interim tag in Philadelphia: Hackworth will remain with the Union for the foreseeable future after the club named him permanent manager on Thursday night. The former U.S. U-17 boss earned the job by providing a breath of fresh air after the unseemly end to the Peter Nowak regime, but the Union's decision to make this appointment now with 10 matches remaining in the campaign and skip the option to widen the search at the end of season appears a bit peculiar at first glance. A record of 5-6-2 (including a 2-1 defeat to 10-man Columbus on Wednesday night) and usually isn't enough to earn a full-time gig without further introspection.

Hackworth's ability to dig this young group out of an early-season rut and provide them with a sense of self-belief apparently persuaded Union executives. It may have even warranted the move in the wider scheme of things. The odd timing of the decision, however, raises questions about other potential influences (including the potential financial ramifications of Nowak's recent lawsuit) on the decision to make this move now and the strength of the available candidate pool (clearly, the Union brass weren't impressed with the other possible options) for potential coaching vacancies this offseason.

2. Credit Frank Klopas for a wise piece of business in the transfer market: Marco Pappa signed a pre-contract agreement with Dutch side SC Heerenveen earlier this month. In these sorts of cases, the new club tends to feel out the old club about a potential transfer move before the free transfer occurs. Klopas could have kept Pappa at Toyota Park until the end of the season, but he looked at his squad (a playoff side, but probably not a MLS Cup contender), spotted the options he already enjoyed in midfield and wondered whether a six-figure sum might mean more to his team in the long term.

By selling Pappa to Heerenveen on Thursday, Klopas secured a decent chunk of money to improve his squad next year without crippling his efforts for this season. To cap it all off, he returned Pappa's loyalty to the Fire by allowing him to join his new teammates at the beginning of the Dutch season. This deft little move could all turn pear shaped with one Chris Rolfe injury, but it makes an awful lot of sense right now.

(Note: The same logic doesn't apply in Roger Espinoza's case. Sporting Kansas City wants to win MLS Cup. Peter Vermes would cripple his side's chances of securing the double by flogging his all-action midfielder to one of his ample number of suitors. In Espinoza's case, the modest (or even significant) sum offered likely wouldn't prove persuasive enough to conclude the deal. One other example to buttress this side of the argument: Real Salt Lake's decision to keep Yura Movsisyan from completing his move to Randers FC en route to MLS Cup glory in 2009.)

3. Chaos reigns as Jorge Vergara takes charge at Chivas USA: Vergara bought out partner Antonio Cué on Wednesday night to assume full control of the club. He reportedly fired general manager Jose Domene on Thursday and made overtures to former C.D. Guadalajara manager José Luis Real about a possible position in southern California, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. Domene subsequently batted down those rumors on Twitter late Thursday night: “By the way. I did NOT get fired today #FearTheGoat.” Expect the uncertainty and the upheaval to continue as Vergara asserts his authority and sorts out how he wants the club to move forward.

4. How will the Timbers react to Caleb Porter's appointment?: It's always tricky to play out the string for one manager and wait for the new boss to take the helm after the campaign concludes. Interim boss (and general manager) Gavin Wilkinson has his Timbers playing better as of late, but form can often be fickle in these sorts of environments. The desire to impress Porter from afar and the 2-1 home victory over Vancouver last weekend should urge the Timbers onwards, but it is by no means certain that the recent momentum will continue in the wake of Porter's appointment earlier this week. Just ask the folks in Vancouver about their experience with an interim boss minding the shop for a permanent manager waiting in the wings. Speaking of those Whitecaps...

5. Martin Rennie hands his regulars a rest ahead of crucial trip to Los Angeles:Rennie felt he needed to change the formula after three straight defeats and four losses in the previous five outings. He used several projected absences – including groin injuries to Gershon Koffie and Andy O'Brien and yet another ban for Darren Mattocks – to enact further changes to the starting XI. Young-Pyo Lee will miss his first match of the season to rest his legs. Joe Cannon may sit as well after conceding the second goal in a 2-1 defeat at Portland in rather uncharacteristic fashion. The insertion of fresh faces – potentially including John Thorrington at right back – hasn't worked well in the past for the Whitecaps, but Rennie will hope the insertion of some energetic reserves may just open up the door to secure an unexpected result at the Home Depot Center.

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Last week: 5/9 (56%)
This season: 85/200 (43%)


Colorado @ Portland (10:30p.m., NBC Sports Network) match preview
Overview: Expect a goal or two or six in this meeting between two sides struggling to keep the opposition out at the moment.
Prediction: Portland win.


Montréal @ Columbus (7:30p.m., TVA Sports) match preview
Overview: Crew coach Robert Warzycha faces the latest in a long series of problems at left back ahead of his side's fifth game in the past two weeks. Josh Williams will sit out this match after seeing red for shoving the pesky Antoine Hoppenot in Wednesday's 2-1 victory at Philadelphia. Danny O'Rourke looks most likely to fill the vacancy after sliding into that spot after Williams' departure with Julius James featuring in central defense. It isn't an ideal situation – O'Rourke doesn't have the pace to deal with speedy wingers (perhaps a spot for Jesse Marsch to use Sanna Nyassi on the right instead of Davy Arnaud?) – for Warzycha, but everything the Crew seems to touch lately turns to gold. Don't bet against the Crew extending that win streak to four games somehow.
Prediction: Columbus win.

Philadelphia @ New England (7:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: What will Jay Heaps do with his defense? The first-year boss doesn't have a lot of options in his squad to mix things up at the back, but two blown leads in two matches may force him to switch things up anyways. If he does turn to his reserves, Darrius Barnes (in central defense) and Flo Lechner (at right back) appear first in line for a recall as the Revs search for the right group to end their nine-game winless run.
Prediction: Draw.

Toronto FC @ Sporting Kansas City (8:30p.m., GOL TV Canada) match preview
Overview: This particular affair isn't an ideal spot for Aurélien Collin miss out through yellow card accumulation as the Reds will bombard the home side with aerial service. Those direct forays, however, won't relieve enough of the pressure piled on by the home side because the Reds simply can't hold ball. Sporting will have to make that pressure tell early in the match to prevent TFC from replicating the defensive efforts employed by other sides to secure results at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park last month.
Prediction: Sporting Kansas City win.

D.C. United @ Real Salt Lake (9:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: United wraps up a spell of five matches in two weeks with this trip to Rio Tinto Stadium. Ben Olsen can afford to push his squad here with the FIFA date looming and a two-week break from league play on the horizon. The critical question here: will United possess the energy to chase and harry RSL if the home side finds its rhythm in possession?
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.

Vancouver @ Los Angeles (10:00p.m., TSN 2/ RDS 2) match preview
Overview: Will Martin Rennie rue the decision to rest a few of his regulars (and the unrelated suspension of Darren Mattocks) for this affair if he has to travel to the Home Depot Center for a four versus five matchup in the Western Conference playoffs?
Prediction: Los Angeles win.


Houston @ Chicago (7:00p.m., Galavision) match preview
Overview: Pappa's departure eases the selection decisions ahead of Frank Klopas in midfield. Álvaro Fernández and Patrick Nyarko will draw most of the work on either side of Chris Rolfe in Klopas' 4-2-3-1 setup. Those three players must combine with Sherjill MacDonald to form a dynamic front four to spur the Fire's playoff ambitions. It is a brief well within their capabilities and a tactic that could yield three points against a battered and fatigued Dynamo outfit if employed properly.
Prediction: Chicago win.

Seattle @ FC Dallas (7:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: Sigi Schmid probably used a couple of more regulars than he would have preferred to secure a 3-1 victory at Caledonia AIA (Trinidad and Tobago) in CONCACAF Champions League play on Thursday night. The lineup selections in the Caribbean may influence how aggressively Schmid pursues this particular affair. It may not seem ideal to drop points in Frisco, but it may just prove the cost of doing business to give Sounders FC firm control of Group 4.
Prediction: Draw.

Chivas USA @ San Jose (9:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) match preview
Overview: Chivas USA struggled to cope with New England's direct service from back to front on Wednesday night. One can only imagine the type of problems the robust Earthquakes will give a beleaguered Red-and-White rearguard (nine goals conceded in the past two matches) at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Prediction: San Jose Earthquakes win.

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