Well I thought that last weekend would add some clarity to the still cloudy MLS picture and it ended up being just the opposite. The only things that were proven were that LA appears to have what it takes to get back to MLS Cup again this year, and that DC United sure looks like they need a whole lot of help if they want to try to make the playoffs for the first time in several years.
Thursday night saw Toronto FC beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1, in a ugly match that proved that both teams still have a lot of work to do. So we have 6 matches on Saturday and one on Sunday, so lets get started:
Kansas City Wizards at Seattle Sounders FC - 1pm MT (Direct Kick)
This should be one of the big matchups of the weekend as the 2-0 Wizards head away from their stamp-sized home pitch and head to Qwest Field, where more than 3 times as many fans will show up as at either of the Wizards home matches. You can get a quick look at the match by checking out the SB Nation Exclusive Match Day Quick Reference Card from Sounder at Heart
The Sounders are coming of that heartbreaking last minute draw at Real Salt Lake last week and will look to a win at home, they are currently 1-1-1 with 4 goals for and 2 goals against. Their only win was over the expansion Union on the opening day of the MLS season and some Sounders fans are starting to worry. I think it is far too early to panic (unless you are DC United, TFC, or Philly) and I would expect the Sounders to rebound well in this matchup. They are healthy and should match up well with KC, who are using the solid defense to propel themselves to wins.
KC still hasn't given up a goal this year in MLS play, but after their huge 4-0 win over DC United, they were only able to manage a single goal in their 1-0 win over Colorado last weekend. The names up top for KC are familiar as Wolff and Arnaud are projected to start, but everywhere else in the Wizard lineup are new names. Craig Rocastle, Stephane Auvray, Ryan Smith, Matt Besler, and keeper Jimmy Nielsen are all new faces for KC's new head coach Peter Vermes, who took over at the end of last year and has a 5-6-3 record as their head coach. The Wizards were only one of two teams to get a win over Seattle at Qwest field last year and they will look to shock the Sounders once again.
I think the solid SSFC roster should prove to be able to get the win at home over a KC team that has more quality than most people realize. This one is close, but Seattle pulls out the 2-1 win at home.
The rest of my previews and picks after the jump:
Chivas USA at Houston Dynamo - 2pm MT (Telefutura)
Chivas did well last weekend picking up a 2-0 win over New York, while the Dynamo got spanked 2-0 by the Galaxy, but history doesn't bode well for the Goats. Chivas has scored just one goal in 7 matches at Houston, and only one win in total over Houston (1-6-5 20 goals against, 8 goals for, and 13 goals against and 1 goal for in Houston).
For Houston they will need to overcome the injury to Brian Ching a couple weeks ago, the injury to Cam Weaver, the injury to Mulrooney, and the red card suspension of Luis Angel Landin. It is so bad for Houston that to keep a 4-4-2, they have to move Brian Mullan to forward alongside Dominic Oduro. This will also have Corey Ashe and Lovel Palmer getting their first starts of the season. I have to imagine that Houston will be looking for Brad Davis to really take charge on the field and hopefully lead the makeshift lineup to a victory.
Chivas will look to a bunch of names that most MLS fans will have never heard before, Michael Umana, Mariona Trujillo, Dario Delgado, Jesus Padilla, and Maicon Santos are all projected to be in the starting 11 and none have more than 10 starts in MLS. New head coach Martin Vasquez has quickly disassembled the team Preki had taken to the playoffs the last two years, this will be their first match of the year away from the HDC and it could get ugly early.
I think this one is going to be a mess, two teams with rosters made up with duct tape and bubble gum, then toss in Hiario Grajeda as the head official. He as just 27 matches under his belt, and has issued 6 red cards and 7 PK in that limited amount of action. Like the match against RSL this one could be decided at the penalty spot. Houston finds a way to get a 1-0 win.
Chicago Fire at DC United - 5:30 MT (Direct Kick)
So DC United will be at home again as they try to find a way to get their first win of the season, but with 7 players listed as out with injuries, and two on the probable list, they will be facing steep odds. The Red and Black defense has given up 9 goals in 3 matches and their offense have only found the back of the net twice (both against expansion side Philly). The Fire have struggled as well and will also be looking for their first win of the year, they are 0-2-1, with 5 goals allowed and 3 goals for.
Barklage, Burch, Namoff, Pena, Rice, Simms, and Wicks are all out and the job for new United coach Curt Onalfo is going to be tough, as he projected to go with Chris Pontius and Danny Allsopp up top. Leaving the all time MLS leading scorer Jamie Moreno on the bench. The bigger question for me is how do they stop giving up goals? 4 against KC, then 3 last week against Philly, not to mention the two goals in 5 minutes they gave up against New England's Kenny Mansally. United brought back Troy Perkins in hopes of him recreating the glory of DC's past, they added Carey Talley to add some veteran leadership and experience to the backline but so far nothing has worked.
The Fire may have to rename themselves "the embers" if they can't find a win soon, many picked them to be near the top of the East this year but another head coach who is busy rebuilding a team. They let go a top 5 keeper in Jon Busch in favor of Andrew Dykstra who has a 1.67 GAA so far this year. Another team in the East with a new head coach Chicago hasn't found a way to get a win for Carlos de los Cobos, and while they have guys who can score in Pappa, Collins John, and Brian McBride so far they have only found the back of the net 3 times so far this year.
The battle for the cellar is probably going to be the ugliest match of the week and I have a feeling it will likely end up in a 1-1 draw and neither team will get their first win of 2010.
FC Dallas at New York Red Bulls - 5:30 MT (Direct Kick)
The worst team of 2009 New York is going to play host with a team that was the hottest team at the end of the 2009 regular season, but times have changed. New York won their first two matches but dropped one to Chivas USA last weekend, and FC Dallas has managed only draws in their first two matches.
This will be the first match on the road for Dallas, who seem to be looking for an on field leaders since the departure of Dave van den Bergh. They have some good talent and if they can find a way to get the ball to Jeff Cunningham it usually results in goals. They go with 5 in the midfield and I think David Ferreira is a potential superstar in the league but he has yet to live up to my expectations. For me the jury is still out on FC Dallas are they going to be the team that stunk at the start of 2009 or will they find the form that almost propelled them into the playoffs?
New York looks like they want to pull a LA and go from worst to first this year. The talent is there, Juan Pablo Angel, Kandji, Dane Richards, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Seth Stammler, and Mike Petke. Then again the questions marks are there as well, will Bouna Coundoul be the keeper who live up to his potential or will he make mental mistakes that leaves his team scratching their heads? Hall, Miller, and Ream are all fairly inexperienced players and while they have helped their keeper get two clean sheets already this year, one has to wonder. The biggest advantage that the Red Bulls have this year is Red Bull Arena.
New York pulls out a 1-0 win
New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:00 MT (Direct Kick)
Both teams looked really bad on opening day, but since then both have found a way to win, I think nothing this year has been more impressive than the efforts of Kenny Mansally against DC United, and Zack Schilawski against TFC. In just minutes these guys can change matches for New England. San Jose is coming off a great road win last weekend over Chicago, but then lost a midweek US Open Cup qualifying match in PK's to RSL after 120 minutes of play.
New England has found a way to win without their number one keeper, and their leader on the field and one of the best players in MLS Shalrie Joseph. For me other than the impressive efforts of Zack and Kenny, it has been the play of Emmanuel Osei, the second year defender from Ghana that has been one of the difference makers for New England. Combine that with Cory Gibbs, who has adjusted to his new team quickly and the defense has allowed only 2 goals in their 3 matches. Steve Nicol always finds a way to get the very most out of the players he has available, I expect the same this week.
San Jose went from looking so bad on opening day to getting a tough road win, but will have to find a way to get goals at home this weekend. Their lineup is again different than we have seen in the past but I like the move to put Arturo Alvarez up top with Ryan Johnson, I am puzzled why Chris Leitch isn't in the projected starting 11 as he has been one of the most creative players for the Quakes. I keep expecting more from Bobby Convey in their midfield, maybe playing with Brazilian Andre Luiz will help the Quakes create more offensive chances.
I have to give an edge to the home team, but that won't be enough to get a win, but it should allow them to get a 2-2 draw this weekend.
Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy - 8:30 MT (FSC)
This one will be coming later, look for it very early Saturday morning
Toronto FC at Colorado Rapids - Sunday 3:00 MT (Direct Kick)
Well TFC got a win over Philadelphia on Thursday, and now they have to come out to Denver to face off against the 1-1-1 Rapids. Toronto actually holds a 4-2-0 advantage over Colorado in the 3 years since joining the league, but the Rapids hold the edge at 2-1-0 when playing at elevation. It will be interesting to see if one of these teams can step up and send a message to the rest of the league this weekend.
I think there is a ton of talent in Toronto, DeRo, deGuzman, and 2nd year keeper Stefan Frei, but with Preki remaking the roster week by week it is hard to know what team will show up. It looks as if Nick Garcia will be on the bench as will Sam Cronin, Ty Harden, and Jacob Peterson. Another team will be putting some players on the pitch that MLS fans will be wondering who the heck is he, do you know who Maksim Usanov, Aradou Sanyan, Adrian Cann, Dan Gargan, or Raivis Hscanovics are? There is a good chance that neither do the Rapids players, but they will get a chance to know them up close and personal on Sunday.
Colorado has brought in some new faces as well Drew Moor, Marvell Wynne, Jeff Larentowicz, and Wells Thompson, but most MLS fans will know those players as they have been around the league for a couple years. When you combine those new faces with a bunch of guys who were just a win away from the playoffs last year, you end up with a team that head coach Gary Smith believes is good enough to get back to the postseason this year. The Rapids have scored just 3 goals this year, but I have a feeling they may score that many on Sunday.
I have to pick Colorado to win this one 3-1.
- Seattle 2 - KC Wizards 1
- Houston 1 - Chivas USA 0
- New York 1 - FC Dallas 0
- DC United 1 - Chicago 1
- San Jose 2 - New England 2
- Colorado 3 - Toronto FC 1