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MLS Week 5 previews and predictions

Well last week I was 4 of 7 in my picks including a dead on 3-1 prediction on the Sunday match, so there is on match going on (Seattle 1 @ FC Dallas 1- at the half) and 7 more matches this weekend, so lets take a look at the action we all will be watching this weekend:

Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls - 2pm MST - Telefutura

So after the 2009 expansion season of the Seattle Sounders, many fans in Philly thought why not us too.  Well that is easy, you don't have a core of players (9 on the opening day Sounder roster who had played together the year before in the USL), you didn't go out and get the best keeper in US history, and you didn't get an international playmaker with experience at the very top level (EPL) of soccer.  For New York, they were the worst team in MLS last year, but at the end of the season they pulled it together and were 3-3-2 in their last 8, they have made some moves but perhaps none larger than last years mid-season pickup of Bouna Coundoul, who has been impressive so far this year with a 0.75 GAA and 2 shutouts.

For the Union, they have scored 4 goals in their 3 matches, which would seem good but consider that 3 of them came from Le Toux against what appears to be a very bad DC United team in their first ever home match.  So other than that they have a single goal, the problem is they have more red cards than that (2) and with Chris Seitz still trying to get used to the starter role, they have allowed 6 goals.  Their defense will take a hit as Danny Califf is suspended for his red card last week, which will push Shavar Thomas into the starting lineup for the first time this year.  The key for Philly is simple, they must find a way for their backline and inexperienced keepers to communicate better and they will have to find a way to get all their players involved in their defense.

New York is 3-1-0 and yet I have a feeling those numbers don't reveal the truth about New York, oh they are a better team than last year but they were lucky to get the win in Seattle, as they were outplayed but found a way (Bouna) to protect their early 1-0 lead.  They were really outplayed by FC Dallas but there were a pair of PK's given to New York, and the one they connected on and the incredible saves of Coundoul were enough to get them a 2-1 lead.   I think the combo up top of Juan Pablo Angel and Kandji are going to cause a lot of teams problems.  I think Sinisa Ubiparipovic has finally began to show why New York drafted him in 2007, Joel Lindpere has the makings of a star in MLS and may finally be the replacement for Dave van den Bergh to supply dangerous creative opportunities.

Make it 4 wins for New York as they put this one away 2-0.

The rest of my previews and predictions after the jump:

Colorado Rapids at New England Revolution - 5:30 MST (Direct Kick)

Perhaps the most evenly matched teams of the weekend, Colorado is 2-1-1, New England is 2-2-0.  Both teams have scored 6 goals and allowed 4, but the similarities really end there.  Colorado has a fairly solid lineup that includes some new faces but is still build around their core of Cummings, Casey, Clark, and Mastroeni, the PK spot have figured in half their goals scored 3 of 6, and half their goals allowed 2 of 4.  New England has an injury list that  has 1/4 of their roster on it, names like Reis, Castro, Twellman, and Shalrie Joseph, but they have found a way to win two matches based on a couple of amazing individual efforts.  Against DC United it was two goals in 3 minutes from Mansally, against TFC it was a hat trick in 12 minutes from rookie Zack Schilawski.

So can Colorado find a way past their former keeper Preston Burpo and former central defender Cory Gibbs?  How will former Revolution players Wells Thompson and Jeff Larentowicz do?  With Jair Marrufo in charge how many PK attempts will Colorado get this week, and how many will they give up?  Their projected lineup has Jamie Smith replacing Ballouchy for the second straight match, can the Scott be a creative force for the C's?  It is clear that this match could really being to let us know what kind of team Colorado is.

I am simply amazed how Steve Nicol does it every year and every match finds a way to put a competitive side out there, despite injuries.  I wonder how many Rev's fans knew much about Niouky, Sinovic, Perovic, or Schilawski before the start of the season?  I do think New England's backline will really need to step up, Osei has size and talent but lacks experience, Alston has decent speed but again only 30 MLS starts, it will be interesting to see how they will matchup against the physical Casey and the speedy Cummings.  If they can shut them down and find someone to get hot and score a couple goals, then they have a chance.

These two sides tied both times they played last year, and I think they will end up 2-2 this time.

Real Salt Lake at Columbus Crew - 5:30 MST (Direct Kick)

Yeah right, you know you will need to wait until tomorrow for this one.

LA Galaxy at Kansas City Wizards - 6:30 MST (Direct Kick)

Well this one is simple, KC has allowed just one goal this year and they will face LA's Edson Buddle who has scored at least on in every match this year (7 goals in 4 matches).  Which one will step up this weekend?  You have to believe at some point that someone other than Edson Buddle will score a goal for LA, will it be Landon Donovan, will it be Mike Magee, or one of their Brazillians?  

So the question on most MLS fans minds about KC, is are they for real?  They lost to Seattle last weekend on a last minute goal after holding the Sounders scoreless for 90 minutes, then gave up their first goal of 2009.  An opening day win over their former coach Curt Onalfo now in charge of DC United, and then a win over Colorado gave KC two home wins to start their season.  Now they are back at home and facing the only team without a blemish on their record and the highest scoring offense in MLS (tied with RSL at 7 goals for).  The key for me is the health of Jimmy Conrad who went out in the 32nd minute last weekend, if Jimmy has recovered, then KC is lot tougher to score against.

Tied for the best offense in MLS (7 goals scored), tied for the best defense in MLS (1 goal allowed) and a perfect 4-0-0 record.  It would seem the only thing that might be able to slow down LA is LA, unless someone other than Edson Buddle steps up to score for LA, they will find it hard to maintain their winning ways.  Their defense has skill, size, speed, and in front of Ricketts (0.25 GAA) the only way past them was a rocket shot by Kyle Beckerman last week, but they did get some help as two RSL shots bounced off the side post and cross bar of the goal.  With Landon running their offense and using his time with Everton to have him start the year in peak form, well it is going to take an impressive effort to slow them down.

KC is good, LA is better 2-1 win for the Galaxy

Houston Dynamo at Chicago Fire - 6:30pm MST (Direct Kick)

As hard as it is to believe the Chicago Fire probably wish this match were being played in Houston, because the Fire have never beat the Dynamo at Toyota Park, and they are 0-1-0 at home already this season.  For Houston it will give them a chance to prove that their 2-0 loss to LA a couple weeks ago was a fluke, and that their two PK goal win over RSL and their 3-0 win over Chivas weren't.  Houston has a lot to prove to people, despite their best start since moving from San Jose.

The Fire look more like an expansion team than the team who was a single PK away from last years MLS Cup, but a new coach, no Blanco, and 12 players with fewer than 15 MLS matches played, the Fire are hoping to find something resembling that team that played in last years Eastern Conference Championship.  Their only win was last week against DC United 2-0 with both goals coming in the last 10 minutes of the match.  They key for Chicago is Marco Pappa, he is the creative player who is taking over their play making, he has two good targets in Brian McBride and Collins John, if Pappa can control the midfield against Houston he should be able to help his team do something they couldn't do last year, and have never done at home, get a win against the Houston Dynamo.

Well many of us thought Houston would crumble without Holden and Clark, and with Ching on the injured list that left a huge hole in the heart of the Dynamo's lineup.  Up steps Geoff Cameron, last year a defender and this year an attacking midfielder.  Toss in Lovel Palmer, the Jamaican came in late but last week provided some real fireworks. The decision is still out on Luis Angel Landin, and Dominic Oduro, but the combination of Mike Chabala and Brad Davis has resulted in half of the Dynamo offense (3 of 6 goals, and 4 of 7 assists).  I think Houston will still need to find a better answer at right back, as Andrew Hainault seems out of place and in over his head every week.

Still Houston has enough to beat Chicago 2-1

San Jose Earthquakes at Chivas USA - 8:30pm MST (Fox Soccer Channel)

I think both the 2-1-0 start of San Jose and the 1-3-0 start of Chivas have to come to most people as surprises, but like many teams in the Eastern Conference, Chivas USA has a new coach and many new faces (17 of their players have fewer than 25 appearances in MLS action).  This should be an exciting match as these teams score in open play (4 of 6 goals combined) and give up goals in open play (8 of 10 combined).

I haven't seen Chivas play much this year, a couple minutes against Houston is it, and it didn't look pretty.  You know a team is in real trouble when they are -4 in goal differential after just 4 matches, they have only scored two goals so far this year.  Well to be honest they have scored one goal a 90th minute goal by Jesus Padilla against New York, their other was an own goal in that same match.  Unless they can find a way to score goals, this could be a very long season for the fans of the Goats.  You simply don't know which team will show up the one that got shelled by Houston, or the team that beat New York?

After their opening day loss to RSL, San Jose has found a way to win a late goal by rookie Ike Opara in Chicago got them a 2-1 win over the Fire.  Last week they played host to New England, and again Opara found the back of the net for his teams second goal, as they won 2-0.  One has to wonder how good San Jose will be if/when Ryan Johnson finds his scoring touch this year, or when their trio of injured forwards (Eduardo, Cornell Glen, and Arturo Alvarez) get healthy.  Their defense seems to have recovered from that opening day loss, but with two rookies in the back 4 it puts a lot of pressure on Joe Cannon to perform (added pressure when they signed Jon Busch).  

I don't feel good about this pick but have to go with a 1-1 draw.

Seattle Sounders FC at Toronto FC - Sunday Noon MST (Direct Kick)

When I started this post Seattle was tied with FC Dallas 1-1 at the half, they lost Keller to injury and for the 3rd straight match the final seconds would impact the final score.  Seattle's Montero scored a great goal to give them a lead but a "strange" call in the final seconds gave FC Dallas a second PK on the night, and Cunningham scored them both and it ended 2-2.  Toronto got their first win last week, at home against Philly on Thursday night, then they went to Colorado and lost 3-1, in an ugly match.

Toronto's last 3 goals have all come from DeRo, all from set pieces (1 free kick and 2 PK's). and as many of the teams in the east they have a new coach and a number of new players (15 players with less than 30 MLS matches). I simply am confused by TFC, they have some good players but who knows what team shows up each week, the reality is they are 1-3-0 and have given up 10 goals so far this year (only DC has given up more).  All 4 of their goals have come from Dwayne De Rosario (who has to wish he was still in Houston), but unlike LA I don't know if anyone else on this team can step up if he doesn't score.  The only question is how long with Preki still be in charge?

Seattle fans have to be going nuts right now, no matter what happens for 90 minutes they can't rest. Twice they have gone into stoppage time with a lead only to end up with a draw, once they got a game winner after 90 minutes of a 0-0 draw.  Now they head to BMO field, home of some of the loudest and craziest fans in MLS (that is a fight for another day), two long flights in a couple days will take a toll on anyone.  Add in some injuries, not sure of the status of Ljungberg or Keller, but for the first time this year Seattle looked ugly on the pitch.  I am not sure if it was caused by the play of FC Dallas, or the long trip but they looked very rough but still got a result.

Seattle scores a late goal to get a 1-0 win.

My Picks:

New York 2 - Philly Union 0

New England 2 - Colorado 2

LA Galaxy 2- KC Wizards 1

Houston 2 - Chicago 1

Chivas 1 - San Jose 1

Seattle 1 - Toronto 0