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Midweek MLS action, previews and picks

Well it is nice when you can two midweek MLS matches and both are matches that feature the top teams in each conference.

Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls - 6MT - ESPN2
After a red hot start the Red Bulls have cooled off with back to back losses, including last weekends 1-0 loss to the Sounders.  They will face the one of the two unbeaten teams in MLS, the Crew are 4-0-2, who have may see their streak of fortunate results come to an end at the shiny new Red Bull Arena.  The history between these two teams is interesting as they have faced each other 48 times and the Metrostars/Red Bulls hold a 22 to 21 advantage in wins, with 5 draws.  When New York is at home they holder a 13 to 8 edge in wins with 3 ties.  Whoever comes out on top of this one will be atop of the Eastern Conference standings.

Columbus has got some issues coming into this match, first is the injury to their normal starting keeper Will Hesmer who is listed as doubtful, then add in USMNT call ups for Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall, and finally toss in the suspension of Gullermo and you think that you might just see the Crew play a very defensive style in this match. GBS accounts for 1/2 of the Crew offense with 4 goals and 1 assists, including two game winners, while Rogers has one goal but it was a game winner.  Hesmer has played every minute in goal but backup Andy Gruenebaum has seen plenty of MLS action in the past.  All of that will make it tough for the Crew who haven't gotten a road win in their 2 previous road matches, they are 0-0-2 with 3 goals for and 3 against.  I look for Jason Garey to perhaps be difference maker for the Crew in this one, but with some many holes will it be enough?

The Red Bulls have an impressive 5-3-0 record, what makes it impressive is two-fold, first is the fact that they were simply the worst team in 2009 and now sit at the top of the Eastern Conference.  Second is the fact that they have only scored 8 goals this year, while giving up 9 goals.  Of course there is more to those numbers, 25% of their goals have come from the PK spot, while almost half of their goals allowed came in their 4-0 loss at San Jose a couple weeks ago.  The Red Bulls will need to overcome a long list of injuries, Chirgadze, Goldthwaite, Kandji, da Luz, Robinson, and Ibrahim are all listed as out, while Lindpere and Nielsen are listed as questionable but are listed in the projected lineup. They will also be without Andrew Boyens who is up with the New Zealand National team, and Juan Agudelo is with the US U20 team.  So how will two teams missing a number of their key players be able to do in a big match on national TV?  I have a feeling this one will end up being a 1-1 draw, but don't be surprised if the match is decided on a late call that results in a PK.  After all Baldomero Toledo will be the head official.

The other match preview and pick is after the jump:

LA Galaxy at FC Dallas - 6:30MT - Direct Kick

This is a battle of the two teams with the fewest losses in the Western Conference, first up is the LA Galaxy with an impressive 7-0-2 record, and then it is the less impressive 2-1-5 record of FC Dallas.  In 2009 the Galaxy were the best team in the West, and made it all way to the MLS Cup, but they couldn't beat FC Dallas.  A 1-1 draw in May and a 6-3 loss in September, yet the Galaxy hold a overall 23 to 18 advantage with 9 draws, but in Dallas it is 13 wins for Dallas with just 6 wins for LA, and 6 draws.  This match will feature another of the controversial MLS officials as Abbey Okulaja, one needs to remember that 3 of the 10 Dallas goals this year have come from the PK spot.

While FC Dallas have only gotten two wins so far this year, it has been 6 matches since anyone has beat them and both of their wins have come in May.  It is interesting that since they made the change to Kevin Hartman in net, they are 2-0-2 and Kevin has an impressive 0.75 GAA with two clean sheets.  80% of the Dallas offense are players that at one time were part of RSL's roster as Jeff Cunningham has 4 goals and 1 assist, and Atiba Harris has 2 goals and 1 assist.  FC Dallas are healthy, no injuries are reported and the only player they are missing is Heath Pearce who is with the USMNT.  I have been really impressed early on this year with the development of Brek Shea and Zach Lloyd, and when Jair Benitez plays in control he looks really dangerous both on defense and when he moves forward in support of the offense.  Can they find a way to take advantage of the many hurdles that the Galaxy are facing?

I was surprised when the Galaxy dropped points at home last weekend against Toronto, but you still have to be impressed that they have 23 points and it isn't even June yet.  At 7-0-2, the Galaxy will look to go undefeated in their first 10 matches, but the task won't be simple.  LA is missing most of their offense, Landon's 1 goal and 9 assists are gone, as are the 9 goals and 2 assists of Edson Buddle are both in Princeton with the USMNT.  There issues don't stop there, their injury report lists the following as questionable; DeLaGarza, Franklin, Gordon, Jordan, Kovalenko, Leornardo, Lewis, and Ricketts.  You have to wonder if they will be able to keep up their torrid offense, they are tied for the league lead with 15 goals, and their incredible defense which has allowed only 2 goals.  I have to believe that this match might be one of the best matches of the week, I am going to go out on a limb and pick FC Dallas to win this match 2-1.  LA is going to need some time to adjust to all their missing pieces.

My Picks
Columbus 1 - New York 1
FC Dallas 2 - LA Galaxy 1