Well for the second time this year every team will play on Saturday and the full roster kicks off with:
New York Red Bulls @ DC United - 2pm MT (TeleFutura)
Well before the start of the season if you had said these teams would matchup and one would have 12 points and one would have zero, most people could have believed it. If you had told them it would be the Red Bulls with 12 and DC United would be pointless after 4 matches, having scored only 2 goals and allowed 11, well a lot of people would have laughed at you. Yet here we are the top in the East and the bottom facing off, and I don't think Emilio can save them.
DC United is clearly suffering from some injury issues, most notable are the injuries to Burch, Jakovic, and Namoff all defenders listed as out, Pena, Rice, and Simms listed as probable. Toss in an injury that has Pontius listed as out and you have to feel for the guys in black. I think it could get worse for them before it gets better, but as most teams in MLS know, if you aren't careful Jamie Moreno can ruin your weekend. A miracle performance for the last MLS original may be the only saving grace for United.
New York has a couple injuries that will impact their roster as Kandji is out with his broken foot, and Goldthwaite is recovering from surgery, but other than those two the Red Bulls are firing on all pistons. A midweek win over Philly in the LHUSOC, and their overall great start to the season should be enough but now you have to consider the impact that Brian Nielsen could make and one wonders what will it take to slow down the Red Bulls. I bet DC wishes they still had Alecko, he could score and spit out more Red Bull from a planted can, which is still my favorite MLS goal celebration of all time. If anything will slow them down it could be their inexperienced back line and a keeper who can go from great to goat in a flash. But not this weekend, Red Bulls 3-0.
FC Dallas @ New England Revolution - 5:30pm MT (Direct Kick)
FC Dallas are one of two teams still not to win a match (along with DC United) but they have a lot of interesting pieces that have played well. They gave the Red Bulls a run for their money last weekend and now they head up the coast to face New England, who have to be in a state of shock right now, I know I am. I think I have always been a fan of Shalrie Joseph, but listing him as injured with a gastroc strain won't cover the solid rumors that he has actually checked into a rehab facility.
For the Revolution losing Twellman, Joseph, and Reis is devastating, they have been forced to make trades to fill gaps, and they have managed to win two of their 5 matches. They have done so on the backs of Kenny Mansally, who scored two goals in 4 minutes to give them a win over DC United, and Zack Schilawski racked up the hat trick in 12 minutes against Toronto in week 3. Since then they have dropped two straight matches, and the revolving door lineup could really cause them issues over the coming weeks.
FC Dallas is an interesting story, they have some great young talent, they have to golden boot from 2009, and yet they have had to rely on the PK spot for 1/2 of their goals (3 of 6). It is interesting that last year New York let go of Dave van den Bergh and became the worst team in MLS, this year Dallas lets go of Dave van den Bergh and they are 0-1-3 and seem to be rutterless as far as team leadership. I have a feeling this one will be interesting, maybe not for quality of play but to see if either side can get a win. Don't be surprised if this one is impacted by head official Jeff Gontarek, who is in charge of just his 6th match. This one ends 1-1.
The rest of my previews and picks after the Jump:
Kansas City Wizards @ Houston Dynamo - 6:30pm MT (Fox Soccer Channel)
Well the teams that play on the two worst surfaces in MLS face off on the lesser of two evils Robertson Stadium, for Houston coming home couldn't be enough to lift their spirits as they lost Geoff Cameron for the season, and now they have to face a surprising KC team. KC has put together an impressive 2-1-1 record so far, while giving up just a single goal, the downside is that while KC has only played once on the road this year, in that match they failed to score and lost 1-0.
I am still amazed how quickly the new names and faces of the KC Wizards have come together as a team, from the very back of their lineup with Jimmy Nielsen (who has lived up to the hype), to Ryan Smith and the repositioned Kai Kamara, only the forwards remain in tact from the past as Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud pose a lethal tandem up top.
For Houston they have had a roller coaster of it so far. First, in the offseason they lost two All Star midfielders in Ricardo Clark and Stuart Holden. Then, they lose Brian Ching to an injury and now Cameraon, the upside is solid central defenders in front of the ageless Pat Onstad and Mullan and Davis in the midfield. Lovel Palmer has been an early surprise but Landin and Orduro haven't lived up to expectations, you never know what Dynamo team will show up the one who easily handled Chivas or the one that got manhandled by the Galaxy. When these two teams meet up in Houston the most common result is a draw, but I am going to go with the home team 2-1.
Chivas USA @ Chicago Fire - 6:30pm MT (Direct Kick)
A battle of two teams both with new coaches, two teams with a number of new players, two teams still trying to figure out their new identity and the guy who could have made the difference in the match is going to be sitting the match out suspended. So far this year one of the biggest surprises has been Krzystof Krol, who in the 2 Fire matches I have watched has looked like something special. Not in a goal scoring sense but in a toughness and grit, willing to fight for every ball, and help create chances.
I have watched Chivas play a couple of times now and I am simply confused by them, at moments they look like they could be a top team in MLS, and then they look like a team of 5 yr olds running around in circles. You simply don't know what they will do, but their defense has struggled giving up 8 goals so far this year (worst in the West) and their offense has only generated 4 goals (they did get one own goal as well). Each of their goals have been scored by a different person, and it is still unclear who will be the goal scorer for them, but with their young dual captains (Kljestan, and Bornstein) anything is possible.
I said it early and have said it often without Blanco the fire needed Macro Pappa to step up and when he has the Fire have done well. I do think they will need more players to step up in creating offensive chances for Collins John and Brian McBride, so far that has been Patrick Nyarko who leads the team with 3 assists. Chicago got the best of Chivas both times they faced off last year and I have a feeling they will do so again 3-1 this time.
Toronto FC @ Real Salt Lake - 7:00pm MT (Direct Kick)
You know the drill by now, this one will get a more detailed look than the rest and that should be up Friday afternoon/evening.
Colorado Rapids @ San Jose Earthquakes - 8:00pm MT (Direct Kick)
So last year we all know that RSL struggled with just two road wins, but so did the Colorado Rapids, so how surprising is it that after just 3 road matches they already have two wins. San Jose looked like a deer caught in the headlights on week one, now they have found a way to play better and have two wins and have scored 6 goals while allowing just 4 since week 1. So this week 6 matchup will be a real benchmark on which of these two might be establishing themselves towards the top of the Western Conference standings.
The Rapids find themselves in the top 5 of my power rankings, but I am unsure if they are worthy of it, half of their goals have come off PK's (3) and free kicks (1) and Conor Casey ("nobody likes Conor Casey") hasn't scored a goal this year except for those 3 from the PK spot. I do think bringing in Wynne, Thompson, and Larentowicz add some real bite to back up Pablo, but unless they can find a way to score from the run of play, it could all come crashing down real soon.
When a rookie defender is your leading scorer and they guy who got 12 last year hasn't got one yet, there might be some issues. Reality is with 3 of their most potent offensive weapons on the shelf (now all 3 are probable) it is tough, but when they get Alvarez, Eduardo, and Glenn back to full health, this cold be a very good team. Early Rookie of the year candidate Ike Opara and the speedy Jason Hernandez secure the backline in front of Joe Cannon. Corrales and Leitch provide great support up the wings, and they support the midfield well but it may take the guys in the middle some time to get used to each other. I think this one will end up with neither side getting a real edge and it will end in a 2-2 draw, but with Baldomero Toledo in charge will Colorado find their way to the PK spot yet again?
Columbus Crew @ Seattle Sounder - 8:30 MT (Direct Kick)
Sounders fans are starting to worry as their team is off to a 2-2-2 start, while many think that Columbus are a top team with their 2-0-1 record, I think both groups might have to rethink their positions very soon. Seattle has had a rough schedule and the only team in MLS to have played 6 matches, including 3 on the road. The Crew have only played 3 matches and two of them at home. So which team will establish themselves as real contenders?
So I have a bit of an axe to grind against Columbus, who seem that their flaky win over RSL last weekend had given them the right to question the reality that RSL was the best team in the playoffs and beat them both at home and on the road on their way to the MLS Cup. Oh yes the Crew won the supporters shield, an impressive feat but when it came down to proving it in the playoffs they couldn't get it done. No matter what their coach or keeper want to think, they got beat fair and square twice in a row last fall and that made RSL the better team. The reality is that the Crew have a very solid squad, they have some flash with GBS, and their midfield may be the most solid in MLS, but I don't think Lenhart is serious enough to be their target forward. Their defense is OK, but they rely on size and without Marshall and Padula they can be exploited.
I have a feeling that the early season schedule has taken a toll on Seattle already, but I do believe they can rebound quickly and nothing will do that better than a match at home, since 3 of their last 4 have been on the road. I was surprised that their game guide shows Evans and Ljungberg up top and Montero on the bench, it could be the rigors of last weeks Seattle to Dallas to Toronto to Seattle road trip was a bit much for him. I wouldn't be surprised if early on they move Freddie back to the midfield and bring in Fredy up top, as if there is a weakness on the Sounder roster it may be depth in the midfield. They are being forced to push guys up as they are battling injuries Jaqua is unavailable and both Noonan and Fucito are listed as out. So it will be interesting to see who will step up in front of the always loud, always involved Qwest field crowd, I am not sure who it will be but I am willing to believe the Sounders pick up the win 2-1.
Philadelphia Union @ LA Galaxy - 8:30pm MT (Direct Kick)
Well if the talking heads around MLS thought that RSL vs. LA in the MLS Cup was the league version of David vs. Goliath, well this might just be the battle of Little Bighorn, with the Union playing the role of Custer. You take the team that clearly has been the class of the league so far, despite injuries to Franklin, Kovalenko, Lenonardo, Lewis, and Mathis (all listed as questionable) and you put them up against a team that has struggled, it could get ugly. Philly would be 0-4-0 if they had played any team other than DC United on week 2, or if they hadn't found their silver lining in the expansion draft (Sebastian Le Toux). The question in this match is can anyone other than Buddle (7 of 7 LA goals) or Le Toux (4 of 5 Philly goals) score?
So after the success of the Sounders last year, a lot of people thought that Philly would be more of the same, I was not and am not one of those people. I believe they have some talent, but they are an expansion team, with players trying to figure out what to do and where to go during matches. I do think they have some good players, Salinas, Torres, and Le Toux (you have to wonder why he isn't listed as a probable starter), but it takes time for a team to gel. This team will need to get some discipline, in just 4 matches they already have two players who have been redcarded. A lot will depend on how quickly Chris Seitz adjusts to being a starting keeper and if he can get the backline to work together to stop the attack of LA.
Listen it may be the Buddle show on Saturday, but while Edson has been the offensive force for LA so far this year, I have a feeling it will be Landon that is on display against the Union. Donovan has 4 assists so far, but it is his pace and ability to attack both the midfield and defense that I think will cause havoc against Philly, they simply haven't seen anything like him before. Heck there isn't anything like him in MLS, and as he and Juninho learn to play together it could become very interesting to see how teams try to slow them down. I hate to toss any team under the bus, but I honestly think this one could get really ugly 6-1, 5-0, or something like that, but I am going to play conservative and go with 3-0 in this one. (I forgot that Le Toux got hurt in the Open Cup match, and could by why he isn't listed- that makes me think this one might end up 5-1, but I will stick with my 3-0 prediction)
New York 3 - DC United 0
FC Dallas 1 - New England 1
Houston 2 - KC Wizards 1
Chicago 3 - Chivas 0
Colorado 2 - San Jose 2
Sounders 2 - Columbus 1
LA Galaxy 3 - Philadelphia 0
OFF MY SOAPBOX