In one of the busiest weeks ever in MLS, we go from every team playing on the 1st to half the teams playing again on Wednesday the 5th, and 7 more matches on the 8th. That is 19 matches in 7 days, a good fill for every soccer fan.
So as has become my tradition this year, I will offer up my preview on the 4 midweek matches complete with my predictions. I am going to start with the match I am sure ESPN wishes they could change to the LA vs. Col match but looks like they are stuck with the joy of:
KC Wizards at DC United - 5pm MT - ESPN2 -
There is good news and bad news in this one, the good news for KC is they are facing winless DC United who has only found the back of the net twice while giving up 13 goals, the bad news is they aren't playing in their postage stamp sized baseball field home stadium and the road has not been nice to them as they have dropped both of their road matches this year. For DC United, one has to wonder what will happen first, a win, a home goal, a fired coach? Each of their 3 home losses has come 0-2, as the only goals that DC has been able to score this year were against expansion Philly, a match they lost 3-2. You have to believe the guys in black will be looking for revenge against KC which beat them 4-0 on opening day.
Last year when KC came to visit RFK, DC got a 1-0 win with the following players: Wicks, Namoff, Simms, James, Quaranta, Gomez, McTavish, Wallace, Pontius, Emilio, and Moreno. John, Fred, and Ben Olsen came off the bench for them. The names in bold are those projected to be in the lineup on Wednesday, those in italics aren't even with the team anymore. Then add in the injuries that have Burch, Jakovic, Namoff, Pontius, and Quinn all listed as out, James as questionable, and Pena, Rice, and Simms listed as probable and you begin to understand what has gone wrong in our nation's capital. A new coach, new players, a lot of injuries and all of a sudden a guy like Emilio who was cast off during the off season is brought back in to try to find someone who can score. I said it before the season started that with their lineup that DC would likely go the way Jamie Moreno goes, and as the team has held onto the last MLS original, well they have. In 348 minutes of action Moreno has just 5 shots, and a single goal, which are far below what is expected, and the 0-5-0 DC United start is far below what is expected.
For a KC side that started with back to back wins this season, things have started to go downhill a bit, a tough stoppage time loss in Seattle, unable to get a goal against LA on their home pitch, and then a 3-0 loss against Houston on Saturday and now you have 3 matches without a goal for the team that got 4 in their first match. To be honest Houston is tough at home, even tougher when you don't have your captain and defensive all star Jimmy Conrad, then toss in a 30 minute red card to Davy Arnaud and well things can get ugly. For KC this might just be a chance to get healthy again, as Conrad is listed as probable and while Arnaud will be out as a result of his red card, the rest of the team should be ready to feast on the still troubled men in black. It is hard to pick against a home team, but I am going to this one ends 2-1 as DC finds a way to score at home but not a way to get a win.
More previews and picks after the jump:
Chivas USA at New England Revolution - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick -
This could be a big match for two teams that seem like so many early in this MLS season stuck in a rut of inconsistent performance, both teams are 2-3-1 and both have lacked solid on the field leadership. For Chivas the cause is fairly simple, lots of new players and a new coach, for the Rev's same coach but a lot of injuries and that has forced a number of new players into the spotlight. The challenge for Chivas is how to score on the road, just one goal in their 3 road matches so far, while giving up 6 and they have never won at Gillette Stadium. For New England, how to turn a 1-1-1 home start into a 2-1-1 home start.
Chivas have scored 6 goals this year, each by a different player, in fact no player has more than one assist either and over a long season having multiple players involved in your offense can be a good thing, but you also need a leader to step forward on the pitch. New head coach Martin Vasquez has put Bornstein (25) and Kljestan (24) as his co-captains of this squad and both are solid players but may lack the age and wisdom to lead a team. With Maykel Galindo still listed as out with an ankle injury, it has been Justin Braun who has most often been tossed up top of the formation with Kljestan playing behind him. Last year Chivas played solid defense all year giving up just 31 goals in 30 games, so far they have given up 9 in 6, they will need to shut down New England's sporadic offense if they want a result.
If ever in MLS there was a "moral" victory, you would have to say the 1-1 draw that New England was able to hold onto would be one. I have never seen 12 cards in a single match, including a straight red to Dube in the 56th minute, and a second yellow to Niouky in the 72nd minute that left New England playing 9 vs. 11. You have to wonder how much of that had to do with the fact that Jeff Gontarek was in charge of just his 7th game and had an average of 4 yellow cards per match (well that is now much higher). For New England their two wins have really come off individual efforts against Philly and DC United, and this team may just really be in a transition mode after a lot of off-season moves and injuries. It is hard to see either side getting a win in this one so I am going with a 2-2 draw.
FC Dallas at Houston Dynamo - 7pm MT - Direct Kick -
On the opening weekend of the 2010 MLS season these two teams battled to a 1-1 draw in front on a couple thousand people, since then Houston has played 4 of 5 at home and put up a 3-1-0 record. FC Dallas have played 4 matches without a win but with 3 more draws. FC Dallas has never won in Houston, and only won twice since Houston opened business in the lone start state.
FC Dallas have to be wondering what it will take to get a win this year, they had a two man advantage against New England and still could only manage a share of the points. Now they face off against Houston, and they have never won at Robertson Stadium. For FC Dallas they have 7 goals on the season but 3 of them have come from the PK spot, and they have to hope that Jorge Gonzalez will point to the spot for the 14th time in his MLS career, as Houston have only given up 3 goals at home in 4 matches. Can Jeff Cunningham find a way to get behind Boswell and Robinson? Or will he continue to only score from the spot?
It must be nice to have 5 of your first 7 matches at home, and it has lead to Houston getting their best ever start in MLS. They have dealt with every bit of adversity they have been dealt, losing players in the off season, injuries, and through it all they have built a 3-1-0 record at home (there only loss was to LA) and a 3-2-1 start to the season. I have been impressed that in the absence of Ching that Landin has stepped up as has Orduro, 2 goals and 4 assists between the two. Corey Ashe and Lovell Palmer both have been pleasant surprises in the midfield for Houston and it is easy to pick the home side in this match up 3-1.
LA Galaxy at Colorado Rapids - 7:30pm MT - Direct Kick -
You have to believe that ESPN wish they could have this match on instead of DC United and KC, LA is unbeaten with 16 of 18 possible points and Colorado is a surprising 3-2-1 early in the season. It seems that without the Beckham show and all that comes with it, that Bruce Arena has found a way to improve on last years MLS Cup team. Colorado has scored more than a third of their goals from the PK spot, but impressively they have already equaled their 2009 number of road wins with 2. So in a season where the home team is usually a sure bet this one has some interesting twists.
Colorado has played to small crowds with actual attendance not breaking 10,000 and you have to believe the midweek matchup will also draw a smaller than average crowd. I actually think that Colorado has made some very smart moves, they brought in Thompson, Larentowicz, and Wynne all of whom have seen a lot of minutes since joining the team. I do think that Conor Casey has struggled, while he has 3 goals, all have come from the PK spot. This will be a good test of the Rapids defense as they look to slow down Edson Buddle who has 9 goals and an a assist so far this year. In their last 4 matches the Rapids have given up just a single goal, if they can do that against LA, them might just have a chance.
Edson Buddle, Edson Buddle, Edson Buddle, that is really the story this year for LA, only twice have teams kept him from a multiple goal match. If you listen to most experts that is all they are talking about and while I am impressed and believe that Buddle might be a weapon that could be a World Cup difference maker for the USMNT, I think the real story in LA has been their defense, two years ago they gave up more goals than any team in MLS, they cut that total in half in 2009 and now after 6 matches they have allowed just 2 goals, and they have done so with Sean Franklin and Brazilian import Leonardo out with injuries the last couple weeks. Toss in Donovan, not Landon, but Donovan Ricketts, who has a 0.33 GAA and already has 4 clean sheets and you get the feeling that it will take something special to stop LA this year. Of course you can't dismiss Landon who has 5 assists and is clearly the leader and offensive playmaker for LA. I hate to pick against the home team this year but I can't believe that LA can stop the LA juggernaut, this one ends 3-2 and yes someone other than Buddle will score for LA.
So my midweek picks are:
KC Wizards 2 - DC United 1
Chivas 2 - New England 2
Houston 3 - FC Dallas 1
LA Galaxy 3 - Colorado 2
OFF MY SOAPBOX