Week 5 saw the opening of JELD-WEN field, two Timbers wins, and two Timbers near not wins. In the two games they played they saw a 3-0 lead dwindle to 3-2 in the final 20-30 minutes of the game. One they managed to reassert a hold on the game by going back up 4-2 over Chicago, but the other was a nailbiter down to the last minute for Portland fans as Dallas was in it til the end. Toronto's posts and crossbar showed up and held LA to a nil nil result at home, and Thierry Henry finally put one in the the back of the net even though by all reports he wouldn't play when I had written my picks last week. The biggest thing I have to acknowledge though is the fact that Columbus still managed to hold a shut out, and even picked up all three points. I am really surprised at the speed at which their defense has come together and created a challenge for other teams to get past. If they can keep it up it may give their offense time enough to come together the same way.
At the end of the week I was really bad at this. No dead on guesses, a few correct with different scores, and a whole lot of wrong. The biggest surprise coming from Vancouver who forgot how to score at home after doing it fairly consistently so far this season. The picks follow below.
Wednesday April 20th
Monterrey vs Real Salt Lake - The CCL finals are here. The away leg is another huge challenge for RSL as American teams have a poor (at best) record in that country. 0-21-3 according to the Deseret News since the league started for MLS teams. Game time temperatures will be in the 90s, and that can be a wear down for any team. The fans create the final environmental factor, and this is where RSL may get a bit of help. Late last week only 6000 tickets of a 36000 seat stadium had been sold. Since then the number has shot up to 18000. Still with the stadium's design of having the track around it the fans wont' be right on top of the players as they were at Saprissa. This distance may help RSL take the fans out of the game to an extent. When it comes to the teams themselves Monterrey has been a force in their league just as RSL has in their recent run. Their counter ability will be the biggest thing RSL will need to keep in mind and getting back to defend is going to need to be a big priority. This is where the heat may come into play in wearing down players and late game breaks could create some big chances for Monterrey and challenges for RSL. RSL on the other hand does have some great weapons at their disposal should they use them properly. Possession and set pieces. If they can hold possession through the game, keep it from Monterrey, some frustration for the home team may build, creating fouls and set pieces. RSL's scoring ability off of these is a dangerous prospect for any team to deal with and may be the difference that RSL needs. At the end of the night past records and conditions will be the biggest factors working against the claret and cobalt and they will leave with a 2-1 loss to Monterrey, and I don't think they will be too upset with it.
Thursday April 21
D.C. United vs New York Red Bulls - D.C. put a beat down on Toronto that L.A. wishes they could have managed a few days before, New York avenged their playoff loss to San Jose in a similar fashion. Henry played very well, but Rodgers was very much the star of that game for New York at the end of the day. The problem in this game for D.C. is quality of the team they are going up against. While New York has had issues putting the ball in for a score overall on the season, D.C. has allowed too many in to feel like they can stand up against this team should they play like they did against San Jose. New York's defense has been stingy to say the least allowing only two goals so far this year. At the end of the day in any sport your defense needs to hold in order to win, and New York's has so far so they get the nod in a 2-1 win. It will be a great game to watch, and outside of my very biased opinion regarding the CCL final, it will be the game of the week.
Friday April 22
Colorado vs Seattle - Colorado comes into this with a chip on it's shoulder. They played poorly in Dallas two weeks prior, and got beat by an offside goal at Rio Tinto last week after playing for what seemed to be the tie. They couldn't produce on offense, but for the way they held RSL back for 92 minutes they can't feel bad about that. Seattle managed a late goal to hold one of the best teams in the east to a draw while away from home. Outside of their game against Chicago (bottom of the East) they have had by far the toughest schedule so far this year, and it doesn't lessen up this week at all. It's not that they have been bad looking back over things, they just haven't been as good as they can be. With his play so far this year O'Brian White will be a target for the Rapids defense and this may allow others to get involved further for Seattle, giving them an opportunity to put some points up. That being said, Colorado for the most part has played a stingy game this year and it will be tough for a team who hasn't really found their scoring rhythm so far to get past. Colorado 3-1.
Saturday April 23
San Jose Earthquakes vs Chivas USA - San Jose heads home to welcome Chivas USA to Buck Shaw, and it couldn't come at a better time. After the beat down they suffered at New York's hands last week they will be looking to put themselves back into shape. Sadly for Chivas they may become known as the league's confidence booster. The good thing going their way though is their defense has managed to hold fairly well allowing only 5 goals. If they can figure out how to score they might start a mid table run by the end of the season, but unless you're an Earthquakes fan this is going to prove to be a fairly boring game, SJ coming out with a 1-0 win.
Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew - As I said earlier Columbus should be very proud of their recent shut out streak. Any time you can get results by solid defense it bodes well for the team in general. Toronto had a 3 game run in an 8 day period, two of which they pulled out a draw, the other they were beat down hard at home by D.C. and after that many games in such a short period of time I have to think that it comes down to wear and tear on the team. Having a week to begin to recover will help, but if Columbus comes out and can put the first point up on the board I don't know if Toronto will be able to recover in this one. If you want to see a defensive stand I think this may be the game for you this week. 1-0 Columbus.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs FC Dallas - Two expansion away games in a row for Dallas and if they want to be a contender in the West again they have to get a result at one of them. I can't say much about the Whitecaps at this point. A lackluster performance against a team who has yet to manage a win is not the right direction to be moving in to create success this year. They have posted 2 out of 2 losses away from home, and 1-0-3 at Empire field. This game is going to be the start of Vancouver's fall down the table I think as after this is a 3 out of 4 away run they will need to face. In the end Dallas will manage to get out with a draw 1-1, and Vancouver will be faced with a bleak month ahead.
New England vs Sporting Kansas City - SKC has been less than as impressive as I thought they'd be. I think the road stint is wearing on them more and more and over the course of the next month and a half or so you're going to see a team continue a long slide downward. New England is dealing with a tough slide of it's own after dropping 6 points. Houston really had the better game on Sunday and deserved the three points. What lays before New England though is an opportunity to get back into this race. Until RSL came into town they had been playing well and if they can find that form again they can begin to push themselves back up in the standings. Sadly I think they will manage only a part of that though in this game. SKC will manage to hold for a draw in a snoozer. Watch Vancouver/Dallas then switch to Chicago/Houston and just skip this one. 0-0.
Chicago Fire vs Houston Dynamo - Houston is a team who is playing in a way that I think shows they deserve their place in the East. Sitting tied with New York on points, and only two behind Philly this game is their chance to move up with Philly ending up with a bye because of RSL's CONCACAF run. Chicago made a worthy attempt at coming back last week against Portland, but losing to a Donovan and Beckham-less Galaxy team at home is something they have to be feeling the sting of. While they have let more goals through than any other team, they also have managed to put 8 in. This may be their one advantage in this game against a Houston team that has put only 6 in across 5 fixtures. While the point will help, I think Houston will go home disappointed they could only eek out a draw against Chicago who will be happy just to not lose this one. 1-1.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs Portland Timbers - I am very interested in this game. Last week showed that the Timbers can put up points on the board while at home. Sadly they seem to lose focus and let some through in the last 15-20 minutes. So the interesting part? Truth be told it's one guy, Kalif Alhassan. With two assists on Sunday against Dallas he may be the road through which the Timbers are able to score. He and Wallace are proving to be a formidable duo, at least at JELD-WEN. The thing that makes this particular game isn't so much if they can get a result here, it's how much they make L.A. work for the result they will get. They had only managed 1 point before their two games last week while they made their road trip. L.A. on the other hand has proved some of it's depth with being able to pull out the win in Chicago without Beckham (cards) and Donovan (injury) both out. At the end of the day though there is not going to be much to see here if you like close games. 3-1 L.A.
There they are. Draws a plenty, a few great matches this week, and a few weak ones as well. The highlights definitely are the weekday fixtures for the week. Wish to add something? Call me out? Leave it below... I swear I'll pay attention this time.