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MLS Week 7 and CCL Final leg 2 preview and picks

Week 6 saw me actually cringe at on TV injury for the first time probably ever.  The Zakuani injury has been a huge thing in the news of MLS these last few days and more specifically the punishment that Mullan should suffer for it.  These have ranged from a few game suspension (5 or so), longer suspensions (10+ games), or even "until Zakuani returns".  Personally I fall into the middle option.  I don't think he should be given the shorter option because of the fact that he did get up with the intent of going in hard, but I don't think he was out to hurt him specifically and most definitely not to do what he did.

Other highlights are Chivas managing their first win of the season, New York continuing it's success from the week before, and the return of Landon Donovan to the scoring ranks.  It also saw some poor guessing on my part.  One dead on result (Toronto/Columbus), 6 wrong, and 2 correct though off on score.  The teams have begun to define themselves more though, and there was a lot of revealing play made this week.  LA does need to worry though.  They may sit at the top of the table, but RSL still has 4 games in hand and are only 3 points behind them.  

So here's to teams having consistency from last week...

Wednesday April 27th

Real Salt Lake vs Monterrey - CCL Final 2nd Leg - The first leg saw RSL come away from Mexico with a 2-2 draw and bring home a great advantage.  Kyle Beckerman being out is something none wanted to see, but the team historically does fine without him.  Coming home to Rio Tinto with that result has to instill confidence.  The claret and cobalt do not lose at home, the fan base is rabidly awaiting this game, and with all of their fans watching with a trophy on the line RSL will be playing for a lot of pride and a rare opportunity.  Monterrey is coming off of a league game which it managed only a draw result on Saturday, their playoff hopes reseting on their next game against Chivas Guadalajara, and an elevation it is not used to having to deal with.  Add in the weather change and I think you have a recipe for RSL hoisting a trophy tomorrow night.  2-1 RSL. 

<<Edit Friday April 29th - Obviously this didn't happen, what a heart breaker.  Still a great game was played it just ended up being problems of finishing.  I worry about Saborio right now, his overall quality is great, but lately this slump is starting to cause issues over the entire team.  He's doing good work though on defense and anytime a forward does that you should be happy, however his job is to score/help his partner up top score and in that he's not doing so well lately.  One other note, the fan base was amazing and as hard as the game was to lose, seeing that was an experience in and of itself.  Let's do that every week.>>

Friday April 29th

Houston Dynamo vs DC United - I don't think D.C. should be punished too hard for it's loss to NYRB last week.  New York is just on a different level from 90% of the league, and that 90% still includes DCU.  The one thing that should be looked at though is how D.C. played through the first part of the game.  They did not seem like they were in it and didn't start trying until the game was well out of their reach.  This game gives them an opportunity to redeem themselves by coming out and trying for the win that they need, but should they take that loss to NY as a crushing blow it could also be a game that will cause an even further slide down the table.  Houston is playing fairly solid defense (5 GA in 6 games) and have been able to score enough to get results.  If they can find their finishing touch I think they will contend for first in the East pretty well, they have looked solid across the board for the most part except the final third where the potential hasn't yielded results.  Improvement can be seen in each game and I don't think that will stop here.  DC's offense will end up keeping their leaky back line in the game with a 2-2 tie.

Saturday April 30th

Philadelphia Union  vs San Jose Earthquakes - San Jose has not looked like the team that beat New York last year in the playoffs, and in order to succeed against a stingy and well rested Philadelphia they are going to need to find that groove.  Someone had to lose to Chivas eventually, but making that your second in a row, and at home no less, was a blow to this team.  Now travelling cross country to a place where the Union have allowed only one goal this season so far?  Tough to say the least.  Philly has to find it's offensive power though still, and they will float around 3rd-4th place in the East all year if they don't.  Defenses do win championships, but only as much as beyond just not allowing the other team to score they provide the chances for their own offense to do so.  If Philly figures out how to counter effectively the entire league should watch out.  1-0 Philly in the end though, with some close calls as San Jose pushes to get back in it late for the result.

Columbus Crew vs Vancouver Whitecaps FC-  Good for Columbus:  Getting a result on the road in Toronto.  Bad for Columbus:  Not properly capitalizing on the man advantage they had in that game.  I think Columbus could have won that, they should have, but after they knotted it up at 1 just after the half they seemed to sit back content with a draw.  Luckily this week they get to return home and face off against a team who while starting out with a high scoring presence at home can't do anything right away, nor even at home the last couple of weeks.  Columbus will hold on for another win with a 2-0 result.

New York Red Bulls vs Sporting Kansas City -  This match is a battle of two teams who are trending in completely different ways, both with the same velocity.  New York has come out gunning the last two games, specifically Thierry Henry.  He has found his game again from the way it looks.  SKC on the other hand keeps dropping results that it shouldn't.  It can't wait until June for it's home to open to get points.  They also need to be conscious of what they are doing on the field as cards have caused too many games of having 10 players on the field.  New York walks away with this one, 4-0 for a second week in a row.

Colorado Rapids vs Chicago Fire - Colorado's three game slide has shown that perhaps Connor Casey was a bit more important to them than they thought.  Last week's loss to Seattle came while they were a man down, and if not for Keller's amazing saves I am pretty sure they still could have won it.  They played well through the whole game and now have to be salivating at the prospect of hosting a weak Chicago team who has managed only 1 point in their last 4 matches.  Chicago is just plain lost as to what to do.  They are disjointed on the field and haven't been able to come together defensively.  You can tell this is starting to filter over to their offense as since their last and only win in March they have produced more than one goal only once, but allowed multiple goals in just the opposite fashion, all but one.  That was last weeks draw against Houston, a team that hasn't been able to finish to their potential for most of the season.  In the end Colorado will show they can still win.  3-1 Rapids.

Seattle Sounders FC vs Toronto FC - I understand losing a teammate to such a nasty situation can be quite a blow to a team mentally, but Seattle really played like they were the ones a man down.  The scoring play was a beautiful thing I thought, but the rest of the game was a sad thing.  No pressure on the ball, and Montero was playing defense like he was Ronaldo, which is to say not at all.  They have their home crowd to cheer them on this week though against a very weak Toronto team who are struggling to find their offensive identity in the last few weeks with only 2 goals in 4 games.  I don't think they will have much luck this week with Tchani out for a celebration he should have known better than to do while on a yellow.  Seattle has this, and it will be a good confidence booster for them going forward. 2-0.

Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake - Portland has managed so far to keep itself unbeaten at home in the last two games.  Away obviously has been a challenge for the team, but at home their 7 goals in those two games are nothing to be scoffed at.  The environment is one of the best in MLS as was expected.  Sadly Portland, you get RSL this week.  I want to point out that Kalif Alhassan has been a big boon to this team and I like the chance being taken with him.  Chicago was easy, Dallas has been on a slide overall but still pushed you to the end.  RSL doesn't come in with those problems.  I'd truthfully be surprised if a situation similar to the New England game doesn't happen.  The starters end up being mostly second team players who are well rested after the Wednesday CCL final, but perhaps not quite as many.  With the late game slides that Portland has gone on this will provide all the chances RSL needs to walk out with a 3 point result.  Your first home loss will sting, but just know it was at the hands of the best in the league.  2-0 RSL.

Chivas USA vs New England Revolution - Two quality goals gave Chivas it's first win of the season, and they did it away from home.  The confidence gained from that is going to factor into this game and this will be one of the more exciting games of the week.  New England is coming off a win against KC that they should feel good about, and they were productive offensively but their back line is still showing it's weakness.  Their recent additions definitely have helped.  Both teams won by the same differential last week, one side more offensively productive, the other stopping further scoring.  In the end a 2-2 draw caps the 90 minutes.

Sunday May 1st

FC Dallas vs Los Angeles Galaxy - Sunday's game provides a nice cap to the week, giving a rematch of last year's Western Conference final.  Dallas is a different team now though, between their woes in point production and the loss of David Ferreira they are hurting.  Add in a defense that, while not full of holes, is showing some cracks and you have the recipe for a team that will struggle in a game against a very potent Galaxy.  While they have won 3 of their last 5, drawing at the otehr two, LA's schedule in that time has been a mixed bag.  Good teams such as Philly (Won 1-0) and DCU (T 1-1) have been quality teams, while the other three (Toronto 0-0 draw, Chicago 2-1 win, and Portland 3-0 win) have been teams that no one really has much good to point to.  I think this will be another notch in LA's cap at 2-1, but look for Dallas to show it can still create chances often even without Ferreira.  

There they be, 10 games, 9 MLS, 1 CCL.  

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