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Major League Soccer - week 28 previews

The weather is turning chilly in most of the nation, as the MLS season starts to heat up as we head towards the postseason.  

The weekend actually got kicked off on Thursday night as LA picked up a huge 1-0 win over a Philly Union side that I thought played well enough for a draw but Donovan was there to stop them, not Landon Donovan but Donovan Ricketts who made a number of huge saves for LA.

Columbus Crew (13-7-7 46 points) at Chicago Fire (7-11-8 29 points) 7:00pm MT - Direct Kick

Now there will be some fun action tonight as well the Columbus Crew head to Chicago for a midwest showdown against the Fire.  Tonight is the 13th anniversary for the Fire joining MLS, and only a win is going to keep their very, very slim playoff hopes alive.  The Crew are in the playoffs, but with just a single win in their last 6 matches they appear to be limping in and need some momentum.

The Crew have just 4 goals in their last 6 matches, while giving up 9 and considering they had a couple of 0-0 draws in there and you can see that something has to change if the Crew are going to make a better run in the playoffs than last year.  Even worse is that they had to come home from Seattle after losing the US Open Cup final on Tuesday night 2-1.  There was a stretch earlier this summer when it looked like Steven Lenhart was going to step up and become the player that many believe he can be but over the last 8 matches he had only found the back of the net twice.  On defense the question marks have to be the back line, Will Hesmer has 11 shutouts but in 1/3 of their matches this year the Crew have allowed 2 or more goals.  You have a hard time convincing me that Chad Marshall is the best defender in MLS with a year like this, the legs of Frankie Hejduk are getting older and to be honest I have never been impressed with Gino Padula, Danny O'Rouke, or Eric Brunner.

The Chicago Fire (or as I called them a couple months ago "the smoke and mirrors"), they have everything you could want to make a solid team that should be in the playoffs. A great creative midfielder in Marco Pappa, a normally sound defense, and a rookie keeper who has been impressive, then you add in two designated players in Nery Castillo, and Freddie Ljungberg and you would think you would make a serious run at the playoffs.  Of course injuries have played their role and will impact the Fire in this match as Sean Johnson is out as is Mike Banner, while Segares, Thorrington, and Husidic are all listed as questionable.  I don't think with their best lineup that the Fire are as good as the Crew, but with a midweek match and some travel the Crew could have heavy legs.  This one ends up a 1-1 draw.

more after the jump:

Real Salt Lake (14-4-9 51 points) at New York Red Bulls (14-8-5 47 points) 2:00pm MT - Telefutura

This match will get a full match preview later 

Colorado Rapids (11-8-8 41 points) at FC Dallas (12-2-13 51 points) 4:00pm MT - Direct Kick

There is a ton on the line for both of these teams, for Colorado a shot at trying to secure their playoff spot and for FC Dallas a spot in the the history books as they have a current 18 match undefeated streak, the record is 19.

It was May 20th when LA got a 1-0 win over FC Dallas, that was the last time they lost a match and only twice this year has anyone gotten the full 3 points against FC Dallas.  They have done so with a lineup that many people will not know many of the names but with the guy who will be the all time leading scorer in MLS history by the end of this year, Jeff Cunningham who leads FC Dallas with 11 goals and 1 assists, and David Ferreira who has 7 goals and 13 assists on their roster FC Dallas is dangerous.  Then you add in the young gun of Brek Shea, newcomers Milton Rodriguez and Eric Alexander, well if teams aren't taking FC Dallas seriously they often find themselves on the losing end of matches.

The Colorado Rapids have the toughest final 3 matches in Major League Soccer, FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, and Real Salt Lake will all take their shot at the Rapids who are simply trying to hold on to a playoff spot after having their playoff dreams dashed on the final weekend of the season the last 3 years.  You can't talk about the Rapids without talking about the top duo of forwards in MLS, Omar Cummings (12 goals,1 assist) and Conor Casey (11 goals, 5 assists).  The problem is that beyond them the offensive power drops off quickly, as the entire team have only 12 goals to support their forwards (plus 2 own goals), and while their defense is improved it has allowed 27 goals and only 8 clean sheets this year as a team.  I think Colorado is going to battle hard in Dallas, but it will be tough to get a win for either side as this one ends in a 2-2 draw.

San Jose Earthquakes (11-8-7 40 points) at DC United (6-18-3 21 points) 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Well for the Quakes they are looking to secure their playoff spot and with a match in hand over most of the league they would benefit from a win over a DC United side that is honestly a bad team.  DC is looking for respect, mostly self respect and trying to figure out who will be on their roster in 2011.

DC United don't have a lot of depth on their roster, so when they are missing 3 players for national team duty (Branko Boskovic, Julius James, Dejan Jakovic), missing their brightest hope Andy Najar on yellow card suspension, and top it off with 7 players listed as out, it will be hard to fill out a 18 man roster.  No team has scored fewer goals than DC United's 19 goals for, and not team has a worse goal differential than DC United -23.  It is going to be tough for them to muster much against a team that is trying to get themselves to the post season.

San Jose will be playing with a shallow roster as well, as they have most of the season.  International duty has Ryan Johnson, Cornell Glen, and Arturo Alvarez gone for this match.  San Jose is still adjusting to the playing style of their DP Geovanni who in just 515 minutes has already found the back of the net once and added two assists.  It really comes down to how well Chris Wondolowski does, his 12 goals leads the team and nobody else has more than 3 goals for the Quakes.  Their defense has helped them get points this year as they have 11 clean sheets, 6 for the guy who started the year in net Joe Cannon and 5 for the guy who has filled in well during his injury, in Jon Busch.  DC shouldn't get a point out of this match as San Jose should win this one 2-0.

Seattle Sounders (12-9-6 42 points) at Kansas City Wizards (9-11-6 33 points) 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

No match will have a bigger impact on the playoffs as Seattle is one of the final 3 teams who are in a playoff spot that haven't clinched their spot, and KC is the only real team with a chance to take a spot away from a team.  The simple reality is that if KC loses again (they have back to back losses), then the playoff picture clears up a lot.

Seattle is coming off a midweek match as they played on Tuesday night in the US Open Cup final, to win that tournament and become the first MLS team to win it back to back.  That provided one of the hottest teams in MLS with an additional boost of confidence, but it may also have them a little unfocused in this match as the emotions of a huge win like could impact them on Saturday.  This team has turned around and there are a couple reasons why, the improved play of MVP candidate Fredy Montero (10 goals, 9 assists), the arrival of Blaise Nkufo (5 goals in 8 matches), and the return of Osvaldo Alonso to the lineup.  We also have seen that guys like Steve Zakuani, Sanna Nyassi, and even Nate Jaqua can all be game changers for the Sounders.

The KC Wizards looked like a dead man walking in early July, with just 3 wins before the middle of the month, but they got hot and before back to back losses had a 5 match unbeaten streak with 4 wins to get them back into the hunt for a playoff spot.  They let a real chance slip away as they failed to get a result at home against FC Dallas a couple weekends ago, and then they lost a hard fought match against the New York Red Bulls 1-0 last weekend.  With 4 matches left, KC still has a shot, but they will need results (more importantly wins) in their final 4 matches. The KC offense comes down in large part to Kei Kamra, Davy Arnaud, Teal Bunbury, and Ryan Smith, who account for 21 of the teams 29 goals.  That won't be enough against a very good Sounders team, and if Seattle plays focused on this match, they should be able to dash the hopes of KC, but I think this one will end up a 1-1 draw and while it will help Seattle secure their spot, it will allow KC to keep the dream alive as well.

Toronto FC (8-12-7 31 points) at Chivas USA (7-15-4 25 points) 8:30pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel

I will be honest, I don't care about this match.  Nope not even one little bit, both teams are eliminated from the playoffs and that fact that it will be on national TV while other matches aren't is a joke.  This one ends up 1-0 win for the home team in a match of teams with talented players who play like 11 guys playing for themselves and very little for each other.

New England Revolution (7-15-5 26 points) at Houston Dynamo (7-14-6 27 points) Sunday 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Sorry another match that the only thing at stake is guys trying to secure a job for 2011, and trying to stay in front of DC United for the worst team in MLS.  I give the home team a 1-0 win