This is the 1/3 way of the MLS season, and we are just two weeks away from the start of the 2010 World Cup and a two week break from MLS action. This means most teams have two more matches before the break, and this weekend offers some incredible matches that could be an early turning point for some teams that have been struggling.
We already have seen that neither Chicago or FC Dallas could claim all 3 points, as they ended in a 1-1 draw. Once again for Dallas they should have gotten a win, two bad calls cost them a goal and gave a goal to Chicago. I did pick a draw in this match so my picks for the week are starting off better than the last few weeks.
First up is the match of the week for me:
Los Angles Galaxy at Columbus Crew - 5:30 MT - Direct Kick
LA comes in with an incredible 8-0-2 record and the lead in the Western Conference, Columbus comes in with a
6-0-2 record and the lead in the Eastern Conference. For me the story is how impressive LA has looked and up to last week how lucky Columbus has looked. LA is an impressive 4-0-1 on the road with 8 goals scored and zero goals allowed, while the Crew are 4-0-0 at home with 7 goals scored and just two allowed. Something has to give when they face off.
I expected LA to perhaps struggle a bit when they lost both Landon Donovan (1 goal and 9 assists) and Edson Buddle (9 goals and 2 assists) to the USMNT for the World Cup, but they went down to Dallas and despite not playing well, they got a 1-0 win. They have been battling some injury issues with Gordon, Kovalenko, and Leonardo all listed as questionable; so while their offense may have taken a bit of a hit, their defense is rock solid and has allowed just 2 goals this year. The anchor is the other Donovan, Mr. Ricketts, to you and I, who has 7 clean sheets already and a 0.22 GAA, to go along with him are: DeLaGarza, Gonzalez, Berhalter, and Dunivant. You can also count the impressive defensive minded midfielder of Chris Birchall. I expect that LA will depend on their defense and look for the chance to counter and see if Mike Magee can be as dangerous as he was in last years MLS Cup final.
The Columbus Crew are undefeated at home but they have been far from impressive in doing so, but they are plus 5 on goal differential and they will have both Chad Marshall and Robbie Rogers back available. They do have a couple injury issues, Hejduk, Carrol, and O'Rourke are all listed as doubtful, and Will Hesmer is hurting but has been playing through the pain. The Crew offense has 7 different players who have scored goals for them but as is always the case when GBS (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) plays he is the man for the Crew and he leads them with 4 goals and 2 assists this year. The defense of the Crew has improved from giving up 5 goals in three matches earlier this year, to allowing just one goal allowed in their last three matches.
This one is likely to end in a 0-0 draw as the Crew allow few goals at home and LA has allowed none on the road, but I am going to pick the luck of the Crew to win it 1-0 and don't be surprised if it comes from the PK spot or off a set piece.
more matches after the jump:
Well if anyone had predicted coming into the season that in week 10 that both Chivas and DC United would be at the bottom of their conferences, they would have been laughed at, but that is where we find ourselves. DC United are 1-8-0 with a -14 goal differential, and Chivas is better but their 3-6-1 has them at the bottom of the Western Conference as well. Both teams feature new coaches and both have had a number of new players brought in, for United Injury issues have complicated matters and contributed to their worst start ever as a team. Both sides will be looking to get a result and trying to find some positives to use over the pending two week World Cup break.
The problems at DC are two fold, and I know this is a very simple way to describe them but I believe the issues are this simple, they are failing to score goals, just 4 in 9 matches, and they are failing to prevent teams from scoring against them, they have given up 18 goals (average of 2 per match). The root of those two problems is a bit more complex, a lack of possession has forced their injury plagued defense (Out- Mark Burch, Bryan Namoff, Andrew Quinn, and Questionable is the status for Dejan Jakovic), which forced Curt Onalfo to bring in MLS journeyman Carey Talley, the 33 yr old has had a great career but isn't at a level he was just a couple years ago. They also brought in 37 year old Juan Manuel Pena on defense, and those two guys are your starting center backs. Age usually means a player who is wiser but a bit slower and with the pace of the play this year in MLS a lack of speed means you can't push forward as much and still get back into defensive position. The situation up top isn't much better as both Pontius and Quaranta have missed a lot of weeks, but both are listed as probable for this weeks match. That has left the offense in the hands of Danny Allsopp, the Aussie import, and finally getting back into the starting lineup, MLS original Jamie Moreno who only has 4 starts so far this season. There are a lot of issues that the Black and Red need to address in a hurry if they are going to be able to try to salvage this season.
Chivas have been a mixed bag this year, looking good some matches while looking bad in others. I thought when they got their big 4-0 win over New England on the road, but then they dropped a 2-0 match at home to Houston, they followed that up with a 1-0 loss at Columbus in a match were they were the better team until a last minute PK, and then last weekend they played ugly against RSL in a 2-1 loss at home. You just never know with this Chivas squad, they have some very talented pieces but seem to still be lacking on field leadership. They will be getting back Sacha from US duty, and have just a couple injuries to Jazic, Kennedy and Lahoud. I am a bit confused by their projected lineup as their most effective offensive weapon has been Justin Braun, 3 goals and 2 assists. In their last 3 matches they have just a single Braun goal. I expect they will find a way to get back on the right track as they are facing a team in total chaos, the Goats pull out a 2-1 win.
Once the hottest team in MLS, now the Red Bulls are looking for a chance to get back on the winning track, winning friendlies and US Open cup matches are nice but only wins in MLS action will get you to the playoffs. New England was a much improved team last week, and it shows how critical of a piece that Shalrie Joseph has become for them. The Rev's are still missing some huge pieces of their roster due to injuries: Out-Barnes, Reis, and Twellman, Doubtful-Osei, and Videira, Questionable-Jankauskas. The Red Bulls have their own injury issues: Out-Chirgadze, Goldthwaite, Kanji, da Luz, Roinbson, and Nielsen, Questionable- Lindpere and Ibrahim. New York is also without Andrew Boyens who is with the New Zealand National team. That means both teams that are going to be looking to regain form (New York 3 straight losses, and New England winless in 7), without all their weapons available.
So if you were to subtract 15 minutes of the New England season (minutes 80-83 of the DC United match, and minutes 47-59 of the Toronto match) and the Rev's would be winless, those 15 minutes count for 5 of their 10 goals. They have given up 15 goals and only DC United as allowed more goals, once a solid possession and defensive team, they traded away players to get a keeper to fill in while Reis recovers from surgery. That move has haunted them all season long, but now with Joseph back their possession rate should improve and for once I see a projected set of forwards that could pose a threat for the Red Bulls defense, rookie Zack Schilawski will be joined up top by Kheli Dube and I believe that may be the best choice they could make up top as they face a New York defense that has had real issues in recent weeks.
The Red Bull defense went from allowing just 4 goals in their first 6 matches (5-1-0) to allowing 8 in their last 3 matches (0-3-0). This is the risk you take when you have two MLS rookies on your back line, supported by the declining play of Mike Petke and converted midfielder Jeremy Hall. Then you put them in front of one of the most physically gifted keepers in MLS, but one who is also very prone to making mental mistakes, and you get a defense that is either stellar or stinky. The other side of the coin is the Red Bull offense that has Juan Pablo Angel, the best pure striker in MLS, but as we saw last year when Dave van den Bergh left, without quality service he can't do it all on his own. Early in the year Kandji was there to help, but he got hurt and Lindpere looked like he could fill in as the provider, then he got hurt and the potential star Brian Nielsen (watch out for him when he gets back) is out injured as well. Last week in their 3-1 loss to Columbus I was very impressed with the play of Dane Richards, who simply looked like the only offensive threat the team had, if he can take advantage of the New England defense, the Red Bulls might just get back on the winning page. This is going to be a slugfest of a match, both teams have issues scoring goals right now, and both are looking to get their defenses back on track. This one ends up a draw, either 0-0 (my official pick) or 2-2.
In what might be the most one-sided match of the weekend, the Union (0-5-0 on the road, with 3 goals scored and 12 allowed) will face off against Houston (4-2-0 at home with 10 goals for and just 4 against), and Houston gets a very upset Brian Ching back, wanna bet he would love to score a couple goals to let Bob Bradley know that he should have picked him for the 23 man USMNT roster? One only has to look at the keepers in this match to know why this match could get ugly in a hurry, Houston will put Pat Onstad in net, his lifetime 1.05 GAA is one of the best the league has ever seen and at 42 he looks like he has a couple years left in him. Philly will put in the 24 year old Chris Seitz, all the potential in the world to be a force in net for the team, but in his first starting role and with a struggling defense he has posted a 2.14 GAA so far this year. Youth and potential vs. Experience and stability.
The Union get some great news on the injury front as they have just Toni Stahl on their list and he is out for the match, and I would be very surprised if Peter Nowak doesn't start Sebastian Le Toux in the match as he has been the best offensive weapon for the expansion side. The youth of guys like Orozco, McInerney, Mwanga, and Salinas will need to play at the top of their potential against the very solid Dynamo vets of Mullan, Davis, Boswell, and Robinson. I do like that the Union despite playing 6 of their first 8 on the road, fight hard every time they are out on the pitch, they attack and play to win at all times, and that is an impressive thing for an new team to do.
The Dynamo have been the most consistent team in MLS at being inconsistent, look at their record so far this year (T, W, L, W, L, W, L, W, L, W). You have to believe that a team couldn't do that in a hundred years if they were trying to, yet Houston should be all measures be looking for a loss this weekend. Yet you have to believe that none of that is impacting their team at all, a solid club that should be doing better than their current 5-4-1 record and their two losses at home this year are more than they lost in each of the last two years at home. One huge thing in their advantage is that fact that everyone on this team is dangerous, 10 different players have scored for them so far this year. The leader is Brad Davis with 3 goals and 4 assists, then add in Dominic Oduro with 2 goals and 3 assists and you have a team that almost anyone on the pitch is a threat to score at any time, but most of their goals come in the first 15 minutes of halves (8 of 14). So I hate to be one to break tradition, so this one on paper has to go for the Dynamo, but my upset of the week is going to be a 2-1 win by the Philadelphia Union.
Colorado had last week off from MLS action, and are coming off a less than impressive 1-0 win over DC United, their 4 results in their first 5 matches surprised many, their 1 win in their last 3 have many wondering which team is the real Rapids team? Seattle is in a state of shock, from refunds for bad matches, to fans wondering what happened, to Sigi sending the message that his guys should play more and complain less. So what will happen when the 3-4-3 Sounders show up in Colorado to face the 4-3-1 Rapids? Hopefully my guess will be better than yours but with these two, who really knows.
Last year the Sounders impressed many with their defensive efforts, they allowed only 29 goals (tied for best with Houston) and Keller had the second best GAA in MLS with a 0.92. With a third of their season under their belt, they have allowed 13 goals already and Keller has a 1.26 GAA. Injuries have played a huge role in the struggle this year for the Sounders, and this weekend they will be without Jaqua, Fucito, Hurtado, and likely no Alonso either. Pete Vagenas is listed as Doubtful, and Brad Evans is Questionable. I think there is more to it than just injuries, and I know this will probably upset some people in Seattle but I think some of their players (like some of their fans) believe they are entitled to win matches, to get calls, and to make the playoffs. When Sigi made comments about Freddie Ljungberg's arguing about calls, it may have sent a message to the rest of the squad to just focus on playing. In MLS there are going to be a lot of missed and bad calls, there is nothing a player or coach can really do about it, and for Seattle they need to get back to letting their talent be the focus of their efforts.
Colorado is simply a team that has gotten some breaks early on in the season (3 of their 9 goals have come from the PK spot), but over their last 3 matches they have scored just a single goal (Ballochy in their 1-0 win over DCU). Perhaps more telling is the fact that they are 1-2-0 against teams from the Western Conference and have only gotten a single goal on opening weekend against teams from their own conference. In fact if you remove the 3 PK's Conor Casey has scored this year, he is goalless, and just 4 other Rapids have found the back of the net. In fact it has been their defense that has saved the day for them, while they only have two clean sheets, they have only allowed one team to get multiple goals on them (Chicago in a 2-2 draw). They really play with 6 defensive minded players and just 4 involved in most of the attack and it will be interesting to see how they matchup against a Sounders defense that has struggled. When these two teams faced off at Dick's last year it ended up in a 2-2 draw, but this time around I am going to pick it as a 1-1 draw.
This one will be coming up later tonight.
As we enter the 10th week of the MLS season, is there a bigger surprise than the 5-2-1 San Jose Earthquakes? After dropping their home opener 3-1 on the first week of the season they are 4-1-1, at home they are 3-0-0 with 7 goals for and none against, RSL has to consider themselves fortunate they got that 3-1 win on opening day. Toronto is tough at home, and were a mess on the road until they held LA to a 0-0 draw a couple weeks ago, to be honest they are still a mess on the road 0-4-1 with 3 for and 11 against. These two teams have faced off 4 times since San Jose rejoined MLS, each side has won one match and twice they have drawn, each has scored 4 goals against the other. That gets even stranger as you find out that in their two matches in San Jose, each has a win, and each has scored 3 goals.
So in comes Toronto, perhaps with a little swagger as they showed just two weeks ago that they can play with the best team in MLS the LA Galaxy on the road and get a result. TFC have scored 12 goals (3 from the PK spot), but have allowed 13 (almost twice as many as San Jose's 7). Those 12 goals have come from just 4 players: DeRo with 6, Barrett with 3, White with 2 and LaBrocca with 1, meaning that San Jose will have a good idea on who they need to keep close tabs on when TFC attacks. Preki is still playing with lineup changes and injuries (Out- Gomez, and Harden, Questionable-Attakora, de Guzman, and Gargan) will limit his options but when you have DeRo in the lineup, you always have a chance.
San Jose has simply built themselves a very solid team, their backline is solid with Leitch, Hernandez, Corrales, and either Burling or rookie Ike Opara, Cannon has worked his GAA below 1, to just 0.88 and he has 5 clean sheets so far this year (4 wins and a draw). Their midfield has been solid, and Bobby Convey has again established himself as one of the best in MLS. Their offense has 7 players who have contributed towards their total of 12 scored, lead by Chris Wondolowski who has 5 goals in 6 matches (he had 4 goals total in the previous 5 seasons). Last year it was the Ryan Johnson show in San Jose so far this year he has only found the back of the net once, but he has added 4 assists, and you can rest assured that he is still a very dangerous players. I love the way that San Jose attacks up the sides and has so many players who can provide quality service into dangerous places both during the run of play and on set pieces(3 of their goals have come from corners). I think San Jose is a team that people better pay attention to, because I have a feeling they are going to be one tough nut to crack this year, San Jose wins 2-1.
FC Dallas 2 - DC United 2 (got the result right)
Columbus Crew 1 - LA Galaxy 0
Chivas USA 2 - DC United 1
New England 0 - New York 0
Philadelphia Union 2 - Houston Dynamo 1
Seattle Sounders 1 - Colorado Rapids 1
San Jose 2 - Toronto FC 1