Major League Soccer - Week 11 Weekend previews and picks

Well this weekend will the 11th week of MLS action, and while the schedule is full of matches many team are missing some of their best players as with their national teams getting ready for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.  On Wednesday night we saw the action kick off with Vancouver getting a 1-1 draw at Chivas USA, Friday night will feature DC United at the Los Angeles Galaxy on Fox Soccer Channel, you can check out my preview here.

Then Saturday will bring us 8 evening matches:

Sporting KC at Toronto FC - 5pm MT - Direct Kick

Well for Sporting KC, they probably never thought this match would come, it is the final match of their long road trip to start the season, 10 matches while they waited for their new stadium Livestrong Sporting Park to be finished.  It has been brutal as they have just a single win and a 1-6-2 overall record with 12 goals scored and 19 goals allowed.  I have to admit that last weekend's 6-2 thrashing of Toronto FC by Philly was a huge surprise, but with just a 2-5-6 overall record with 13 goals scored and 23 goals allowed by the Red's has been a huge disappointment this year.

Perhaps no teams in MLS need a win worse than these two team,  Sporting would love to head home on an up note, and while many think TFC's Aron Winter is safe from the chopping block, I think unless the team can perform better at home the exodus of fans will lead to the removal of coach and others in the front office.  Noth teams are going to be missing few players due to injuries and call ups, some notable names that will be missing are: Kei Kamara, Roger Espinoza, Stephane Auvray, Joao Plata, and Julian De Guzman.  I am thinking that after last weekends disaster at home the least we can expect from TFC is some better defense, this one ends up a 1-1 draw.

the rest of the action after the jump:

Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Well these two teams battled to a 0-0 draw earlier in the year, but the Crew have yet to get a win on the road (0-3-2), but have a 3-3-5 overall record with 11 goals scored and 13 goals allowed.  New York is 4-2-6 overall with 18 goals scored and 11 goals allowed, they are 3-1-2 at home, but the Red Bulls will have to deal with 6 players called up for international duty (Rafa Marquez, Dane Richards, Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream, Dwayne De Rosario, and Bouna Coundoul), and with Thierry Henry being hit or miss due to injuries, it could be a rough match for New York.

The Red Bulls have no wins in their last 5 matches, 0-1-4, in fact their last win was a 1-0 victory over Sporting KC back at the end of April.  Their defense has been questionable over the last few weeks and with their two centerbacks both being gone for the Gold Cup, the Crew might be able to take advantage of it. Last weekend it was Andres Mendoza who got two goals in the Crew's 3-3 draw with Chivas USA.  New York will likely look to Luke Rodgers, depending on the fitness level of TH14, but both of these teams can score goals so I see this one being an interesting match and have to believe that New York will get out of their funk with a 3-1 win.

New England Revolution at FC Dallas - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

This may be the only match not impacted by Gold Cup call ups as Shalrie Jospeh has chosen to remain with the Rev's instead of playing for Grenada in the tournament, the injury to Benny Feilhaber will keep him out of both MLS and Gold Cup action for probably a month.  FC Dallas played a blistering 7 matches in May and didn't lose a single one going 4-0-3 for the month, they hadn't given up a goal all month until last weekends 2-2 draw at Houston.  It is worth saying again that I am not a huge fan of the "defend, defend, quick counter" style that FC Dallas has been using most of the time since the injury to David Ferreira, but the results are hard to argue with as the team has a 6-3-4 record with 16 goals for and 12 goals allowed and find themselves with the second most points in MLS.  For the Hoops it has been offense by committee as they are lead by Brek Shea with 4 goals and 1 assist, the injured Ferreira has 3 goals and 1 assist, Fabian Castillo and Ugo Ihemelu both have two goals, and 5 others have contributed a goal each.  Marvin Chavez has yet to find the back of the net but leads the team with 4 assists.  On defense it has been very solid play by George John and Ugo Ihemelu in front of Kevin Hartman who has an impressive 0.92 GAA and 6 clean sheets.

New England has a 3-5-4 overall record with 10 goals for and 15 goals allowed, their record on the road is 0-3-2, and two of their 3 wins came against the two 1 win teams in MLS (Sporting KC and Vancouver).  I have been waiting and waiting for the Rev's to figure it out after adding Benny and Rajko Lekic to their roster, but they seem to be taking their time in doing so as they were 1-2-1 in May.  I have been further confused on why this team simply seems to be unable to get consistency up top, or heck consistency anywhere other than where Shalrie is playing.  Joseph leads the team with 4 goals, no other player has more than 1, and no player has more than 1 assist.  New England has just two clean sheets on the year and have allowed mutliple goals to be scored against them 4 times this year.  If the Rev's are going to have a chance they will need to score early, 5 of their 10 goals have come in the first 30 minutes of matches.  I don't think they will be able to score early and I look for this to be a 2-0 win for FC Dallas.

Seattle Sounders at Chicago Fire - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Well the Sounders got a huge road win over RSL last weekend but remain a fairly average team with a 5-4-5 record and 16 goals scored with 13 goals allowed, on the road they have a 2-2-3 record with 8 goals both scored and allowed.  The upside for Seattle is they are playing the Fire, Chicago is just 1-4-6 overall with 15 goals scored, 19 goals allowed, and one head coach fired so far this year.  The Fire have few names that anyone around MLS would recognize on their roster, and the one name most people would know is Marco Pappa, who is away on national team duty.  Frank Klopas has taken over as the head coach and you have to believe that we are likely going to see a lot of changes over the summer.

Seattle is finally getting a number of players healthy and back into action, perhaps none has been more important this year for the Sounders than Brad Evans who leads the team with 4 goals, Alvaro Fernandez has added 3 goals, while Fredy Montero, O'Brian White, and Steve Zakuani each have 3 goals.  Montero leads the Sounders with 4 assists as well.  You just never know what you are going to get with the Sounders, in the last 6 matches they are 2-2-2, but if they can play like they did last weekend against RSL they should have no problem getting a 2-0 win over the Fire on Saturday.

Philadelphia Union at Colorado Rapids - 7pm MT- Direct Kick

This might be the biggest match of the weekend, you have the defending MLS Cup Champions hosting the current #1 team in the Eastern Conference.  The Philadelphia Union have a 6-3-2 record with 14 goals scored and 9 goals allowed, the last 5 matches are a mixed bag for the Union as they are 2-2-1, but last weekend they got a huge 6-2 win at Toronto.  Defending the MLS Cup isn't an easy task as the Rapids are finding out, in fact the team hasn't gotten a win in their last 5 matches, but they haven't lost either as 5 straight draws have kept the Rapids alive in the Western Conference.  Overall the Rapids are 4-3-6 with 15 goals scored and 13 goals allowed, to be honest the Rapids have done better than I expected considering all the injuries they have suffered in the last couple months.

This match will be played without a lot of the best players, here are the injury lists from the teams: 
COL - OUT: Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain); Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); QUESTIONABLE: Jamie Smith (L calf strain); Caleb Folan (R groin strain); Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: Matt Pickens (R groin strain); Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain)
PHI - OUT: Thorne Holder (Concussion); Amobi Okugo (L ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: Michael Farfan (R groin strain); QUESTIONABLE:Gabriel Farfan (L hamstring strain); Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); Zach Pfeffer (appendectomy); Carlos Ruiz (R groin strain).   Then there are the call ups: COL: Omar Cummings, Tyrone Marshall (Jamaica); Sanna Nyassi (The Gambia) ... PHI: Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala).

Last weekend we saw that the Union are like a bunch of sharks with the blood of a couple early goals in the water and if they can get an early goal again they could pull out a huge road win, neither team has allowed a goal in the first 15 minutes of matches.  Unlike last week I think a couple of home teams will get wins on Saturday, but I don't think the Rapids will be one, going with Philly 2-0 in this one.

Vancouver Whitecaps at Real Salt Lake - 7pm MT - Direct Kick

This one will be gets a full match preview, you can check it out here.

Portland Timbers at Chivas USA - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Well Portland got punched in the nose last weekend when DC United handed them their first home loss of the season and their first loss since April 23rd.  Now they will head to LA to face Chivas USA who found a way to not get a win over 10 man Vancouver on Wednesday and had to settle for a 1-1 draw, you have to believe that Robin Fraser will be looking to get a better result against the expansion Timbers.  Chivas have been a real mixed bag this year, 5 times they have scored multiple goals, and 5 times they have been held without a goal.  The Timbers have only been kept off the score sheet twice this year, but most often (6 times) they have scored just a single goal and away from the comforts of their home pitch they haven't gotten a win yet (0-3-2) and have given up 10 goals, while scoring just 3.  Portland lose just one player, Steve Purdy, on national team call ups, but they have a number of players that are nursing injuries.  It will be interesting to see how their combination of size (Kenny Cooper & Mamadou Danso) who provide great targets on set pieces, and speed of Jorge Perlaza and Kalif Alhassan who provide some great width and long ball targets will do against a more deliberate possession based style that Chivas USA play?

Chivas will be without Alejandro Moreno and Andrew Boyens who both are on national team call ups and rumors are that Simon Elliot picked up an injury in his recent national team action.  This means that more pressure will be put on Nick LaBrocca to lead the midfield and for Justin Braun to show that he can do more than get a hat trick against the Red Bulls (he has no other goals this year).  I think that this one will be determined by how well Chivas can respond to the attack of Portland, and if they can find a way to counter attack when the Timbers over commit on attack.  The most likely outcome is a 1-1 draw.

Houston Dynamo at San Jose Earthquake - 8:30pm MT - Galavision

Well these teams each wear a pair of stars over the crest on their jerseys but the reality is that the team in Orange is the team that won all 4 of them, the Dynamo are the original Quakes that won two MLS Cups, but when they moved to Houston they left those behind and went out and won two more of their own.  This year the Dynamo moved to the Eastern Conference, and they have to be thankful for that move.  Their 3-4-6 overall record has earned them 15 points which is good enough for 3rd place in the East (and a playoff spot) but in the West they would find themselves in 7th place, funny thing is they would still be in front of the Earthquakes who have a 3-4-4 record so far this season with 14 goals scored and 14 goals allowed.  The averageness of the Quakes is clear at home where they are 2-2-2, but due to national team call ups I would say that the team the Quakes are likely to put out will be a bit less than average.  Gone is leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, who has scored 6 of the teams 14 goals and has 2 assists as well, also gone is Ryan Johnson who has two assists so far this season.  Simon Dawkins is still out with injury, to the question is who will step up for San Jose?

Houston has had injuries all year with Calen Carr and Brian Ching being non-factors for the team,  the Dynamo will lose 3 players to Gold Cup call ups (Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor, and Je-Vaughn Watson) and in one of the more bizarre moments of the 2011 MLS season, forward Koke left the team this week because he didn't want to play there and he missed his family.  This will simply open up more minutes for Cam Weaver and Will Bruin, who both have 4 goals and 1 assist so far this year.  The reality for Houston is that they do as well as Brad Davis does, he may only have one goal but with his 8 assists he accounts for part of half of the Dynamo offense.  There are still a lot of questions about this Houston team and not many have been answered, I do expect that this match will be one where neither team stays away from physical play.  I think it has 1-1 draw written all over it.

There you go all the weekend action previewed and picked, there should be some fun matches to watch this weekend.

OFF MY SOAPBOX

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