Major League Soccer - Week 4 previews and picks

OK, folks we are heading into week 4 of MLS action and there are only 5 teams who haven't tasted defeat yet (Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, Real Salt Lake, and the Colorado Rapids).  All of them are in action this weekend, including one of them kicking off the weekend on Friday Night (yes there was a Wednesday match that ended 1-1 between New England and Vancouver):

Colorado Rapids at FC Dallas - Friday 7pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel

Well it is just week 4 and we have a nationally broadcast rematch of the 2010 MLS Cup, and I am only going to hope that this match is more exciting than that match was.  Now I have to say that aside from RSL (yes I am a homer) no team has looked better than the Colorado Rapids so far this year, not LA, not NYRB.  Normally if you take Conor Casey out of the Rapids lineup you end up with a less dangerous team, butnow you have to deal with Caleb Folan.  Who is Caleb Folan?  Well if you check out the MLS website for info, you get nothing.  He came to the Rapids from Hull City and the reality is he may end up being the best of their forwards when all is done, but his size and strength are a perfect compliment to Omar Cummings.

The other side of the pitch will feature FC Dallas, a team that lost just 4 matches all of 2010, but a team that has lost 2 matches in their first 3 and have no wins and just a single goal.  Funny that Atiba Harris who they left unprotected has more goals than their entire team does, and they clearly are missing Dax, Jeff, and Heath as well.  I think nobody feels those absences more than does MVP David Ferreira, who has simply looked a bit off so far this season and facing Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni on Friday night could be a horrible way to start a weekend. This one ends up a 2-1 win for the Rapids.

the rest of the action after the jump:

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders - 2pm MT - Direct Kick

Well who would think that just 4 weeks into the season that the Sounders would almost be in a must win situation? Starting 0-2-2 couldn't be what Sigi was hoping for in his 3rd year team, but there is an upside for the boys in rave green, they were able to find the back of the net twice in their 2-2 draw at San Jose last weekend.  The Fire enter week 4 coming off a bye week, yeah kinda crazy but it may have been just what the Fire needed as they continue to adjust to a number of new players on their roster.  None has gotten my attention more than Diego Chaves, who seems like he may be the real deal, but this team is still going to only do as well as their on field leader Marco Pappa does.  I expect big things from this year, and he will have to perform if the Fire are to make the playoffs this year.

The Sounders have just a couple of new faces on their roster but the expectations on three of them are huge, Erik Friberg, O'Brian White, and perhaps the biggest splash could be Mauro Rosales. Rosales looked very good last week in San Jose. Fredy Montero is listed as Questionable and if he isn't able to go he will be missed, but with the Sounders finding their scoring option, one will expect them to work on their defense which has given up 5 ogals and has no clean sheets in their first 4 matches.  I think the home field advantage and the pressure of high expectations will actually be huge for Seattle and they pick up a 2-0 win.

New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union - 5pm MT - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes

Well for those who think that a new team in New York is needed to give the Red Bulls a rival, need to pay attention to this match as the 2nd year Union seem to be a very applicable rival for the Red Bulls.  One only has to look at the results last year, where both teams won at home 2-1.  I expect that both teams look at this matchup as a rivalry, and that could mean a wild and crazy match for fans.

Both of these teams are fairly healthy, both should have very full strength rosters for this match, so no excuses.  It is likely the first match that Dwayne De Rosario will start for the Red Bulls and he will most likely matchup against Brian Carrol, that should be interesting.  Perhaps the keys to this match will be the performance of the young guns and the big names, for Philly it is Danny Mwanga and Carlos Ruiz and for the Red Bulls it will be Juan Agudelo and Thierry Henry.  But if you look past those names the real workmen of each team have to be Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards for New York and Sebastien Le Toux for the Union.  Lots of quality on both sides of the pitch, I can see this one going a number of ways but I am going to go safe and bet on a 1-1 draw.

Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

You know that I will be posting a full match preview of this one, stay tuned.

Los Angeles Galaxy at D.C. United - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Two of the 3 most prestigious names in MLS will face off and they couldn't be more different.  The LA Galaxy have a team built with some older stars who are making their last run for MLS Cup and glory, while Ben Olsen's DC United are rebuilding around some talented young players who can excite and will hopefully be the foundation to get DC United back to the playoffs soon.

I actually like the chances of DC United in this one, they have some guys who will attack early and often and if they get a lead, well we have seen that the team scoring first hasn't lost yet this year in MLS action.  Charlie Davies has recovered from his injury and is said to be ready for the match, I doubt he will be in the starting XI but Blake Brettschneider has looked like a player with some real abilities up top and I wonder why he fell to the supplemental draft?  For LA the question is who will play defense for them?  Yeah they have a great keeper in Donovan Ricketts, and some solid defenders but none of their midfielders focus on defense first, it is all attack and that has caused them issues.  How bad is it, well David Beckham (yeah he is a solid defender in the midfield) will likely try again to play in the central d-mid role.  I think this one will be won by LA, but I am going with a bit of an upset pick and saying 2-2 draw.

Columbus Crew at Chivas USA - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick

If you compared the rosters of these two teams to their 2010 versions you wouldn't see too many names that you would recognize, both are in the middle of major rebuilding projects.  The Crew are finally changing from the Sigi led team that won the MLS Cup in 2008 to Robert's team and there are flashes of great play but more often there are moments of great frustration.  Chivas USA started their rebuilding project with the hiring of former RSL assistant coach Robin Fraser, and they have been one of the busiest teams on the transactions list, with names coming and going faster than most people can keep up with.  I believe when teams are rebuilding they are very dangerous, expectations are low and players are looking to "earn" their spot, but consistency is very rare as too often lineup changes or players in new positions have off nights.

I like the midfield of the Crew better but you just never know which Eddie Gaven or Robbie Rogers will show up, when they are on, they are very good, when they aren't you don't even notice them.  I love how Ekpo can play but I think being the main creative playmaker is too much for him, if the projected lineup is right and it is Jeff Cunningham and Emilio Renteria up top, I really like that combination.  For Chivas, Justin Braun and Alejandro Moreno should be a dangerous combo up top but so far they haven't shown me much.  I think their midfield is really still trying to get used to each other and without the on field leadership of Jimmy Conrad or Simon Ellion (both questionable) it could be too much for them even at home.  I am going to pick this one as a 1-1 draw but it could easily be 0-0.

Toronto FC at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Listen this one should be a onesided rout for San Jose, given Toronto's issues on the road and the fact that they are clearly in a rebuilding process (on and off the pitch).  If I compare their rosters there isn't a single player on the Red's roster that I would trade for any of the players on the Quakes roster, OK maybe Frei for Busch.  That being said, this is Major League Soccer and like most professional sports, any team can find themselves beating any other team on any other day. I think Maicon Santos has the ability to be a game changer for Toronto, but to think that TFC can replace both Chad Barrett and Dwayne De Rosario with any one or two player is highly unlikely.

The Quakes made some big moves in the off season, both letting go and bringing in players, it may be early but their partnership with Tottenham has already paid off with the loan of Simon Dawkins who has really provided an additional offensive spark to the team that used to rely on Bobby Convey for assist and Chris Wondolowski for goals.  Now that attack is creating more room for more players and I think this will benefit everyone on the San Jose roster.  Their defense is good, not flashy, not fancy, not spectacular, but good and with Jon Busch in goal they are capable of shutouts on any given night.  This should be a fairly fun match to watch if Toronto can get some possession but I think San Jose's midfield will dominate and in the end San Jose will get a 2-1 win

Vancouver Whitecaps at Houston Dynamo - Sunday 5pm MT - Galavision

I would be really interested if this match were at Empire Field, where anything can and likely will happen. However it isn't and I have to believe a Dynamo team that looked very good against the offensive style of New York last weekend will be able to do the same against the offensive style of Vancouver, who do it with a bit less talent.  I have been impressed with how the Whitecaps play at home, but in MLS you have to get some points on the road and they looked more like an expansion team when they played at Philly.  At Houston they will be facing a good home side, and mid 80's thunderstorms, and 70% humidity, yeah the boys from Canada are going to suffer even in April.

For Houston my biggest question is where do they think their goals are going to come from?  Ching and Carr are both out with injuries, that means another start for rookie Will Bruin who hasn't impressed me much, but it also means a likely start for Cam Weaver, I am waiting for him to start shining.  While Vancouver has proven they can score(8 goals), but they have also proven they give up a lot of goals (7 goals), and get a lot of red cards (3). Perhaps the key to this match is Talley Hall, who has simply been amazing to watch in goal.  He has me wondering who used to be their keeper.  I think Houston gets a home win in a wild match 2-1, gotta expect a red card in this one.

OK that is your weekend MLS action in a nutshell.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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