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Major League Soccer Week 7 previews and picks

Well week 7 got started midweek with; DC United 2-1 over KC, Chivas 4-0 over New England, FC Dallas 1-0 over Houston, and LA 1-0 over Colorado. For 6 of those teams they will have the quick turnaround and be back in action on Saturday.

LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders FC - 2pm MT - Telefutura

Many Sounders fans are starting to panic, their team is just 2-2-3 and things don't seem as easy as they did last year, the reality is welcome to MLS.  It can be easy when teams don't know what to expect but we all know the speed of Zakuani, the grit of Alonso, and the talent of Fred2.  The Galaxy went from being the overwhelming favorite in MLS Cup that lost, to simply being the class of the league so far in 2010.  So what will happen when LA revisits Qwest field site of 2009 heartbreak, and as Sounders look to reclaim their home field advantage?

Seattle faces some nagging injury problems with Noonan, Evans, Graham, and Marshall, with Jaqua still on the disabled list, but their lineup is still one of the most impressive ones in MLS with speed and skill in almost every position and the leadership of Kasey Keller and Ljungberg.  It is a bit troublesome that they are dead even with 8 goals scored and 8 allowed, but it only is a matter of time until Ljungberg opens his goal account of 2010.  Can their defense do a better job of stopping the likes of Edson Buddle, that is the question every team facing LA is trying to answer right now.  Without a healthy Marshall that task will likely fall to Patrick Ianni, will he be up to it?

So MLS did LA no favors this week as this will be their 3rd match in 7 days, and 2nd on the road.  They were able to get a 1-0 win in Colorado in a tough fought match, they got their first goal of the year that didn't involve Edson Buddle.  We all know the engine of LA is Landon Donovan, but the fuel this year has been the incredible start of Edson Buddle, who has when healthy always been a solid striker but few expected this 9 goals and 1 assist start to the 2010 season.  The fact that the LA defense has been so solid, allowing just 2 goals in 7 matches, is no surprise as it was the area of greatest improvement for the Galaxy last year.  Back from his injury in MLS cup, the other Donovan has been perhaps more impressive with a 0.29 GAA, and 5 shutouts, but his defense has limited teams to just 21 shots on goal so far this year.  So which defense and keeper will blink first in this matchup?  You have to believe this will be an end to end match with lots of energy but I have a feeling it will end up in a 2-1 win for the Galaxy who simply are firing on all cylinders early in the MLS season.

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC - 2pm MT - Direct Kick

Like a lot of week 7 matchups, this one will go a long way in letting people know who is for real and who might just be pretending.  TFC is unbeaten in their two home matches over Philly and Seattle, but winless on the road, resulting in a 4-2-0 record, with all but one of their goals being scored by Dwayne De Rosario. Chicago is 2-2-2 and as good on the road 1-1-1 as they at home, the Fire have gotten goals from 5 different players, while Dykstra has been solid in goal with a 1.00 GAA.

It is clear that so far this season Toronto has lived off set pieces as 3 of their 7 goals have come from the PK spot and one more came from a direct free kick (all by De Ro).  So can the team that has only scored two goals from the run of play in 6 matches find a way to win without the PK spot?  With the "RSL experiment" over and head coach Preki admitting trying to play with 10 men behind the ball was a mistake, so it is no surprise that De Ro, de Guzman, and Cronin are all back in the starting lineup.  For me the key might just be the play of Nick LaBrocca on offense, and Nana Attakora on defense, both were the stars for TFC last weekend.

Chicago has found a way to score without Blanco, and their defense has remained solid, the creativity now comes from Pappa and Husidic and so far they have been very good with 4 goals and two assists between them.  They also have McBride and Collins John up top with 3 more goals and two more assists.  Carlos de los Cobos ran into a tough test last weekend with Chivas USA and the Red's could be just as tough this weekend as BMO field is a tough place for opposing teams to get results.  Only 5 teams have gotten a win in Toronto in the last two seasons, and I just am not sure that Chicago will be able to this weekend, I pick this one to end 1-1.

Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake - 2pm MT - Direct Kick

Yeah right that one will be coming on Friday afternoon

New England Revolution at Columbus Crew - 5pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel

The Revolution have played almost twice as many matches (7) as Columbus (4), both teams have two wins, but New England has 4 losses.  In fact New England's two wins are over DC United and Toronto FC, teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and they haven't won a match since April 10th, 0-3-1 since then.  The Crew are a solid team that has to be honest gotten lucky in their last two matches, a draw against Seattle in a match that they were outplayed in, and a win over RSL again in a match they were out played in and could only score from the PK spot, while RSL had a goal pulled off the scoreboard.  You have to wonder how good is Columbus, and how bad is New England.

While New England will get two suspended players back as Dube and Niouky are back from their red card suspension, but Perovic will be out on red card suspension.  New England will also be without Matt Reis, Taylor Twellman, Emmanuel Osei, Mike Videira, and Shalrie Joseph, the good news is that the early leader for Rookie of the Year,  Zack Schilawski, who leads the team with 4 goals (or half of New England's 8) appears to be fitting in well to the MLS style.  Even with former USMNT player Cory Gibbs on their backline the Rev defense has allowed 11 goals, tied for 3 worst in MLS.  You have to wonder what Steve Nicol can pull out next to try to get the Revolution back to their traditional winning ways?

Only two teams haven't tasted defeat yet in MLS, the LA Galaxy (6-0-1) and Columbus (2-0-2), and the reality is that Columbus is one of the best teams at home in MLS and while they will be without Danny O'Rourke who is suspended for the second time for a red card.  Injuries have Gino Padula listed as doubtful and Chad Marshall may be listed as probably but he has only played once so far this year.  For Columbus their gameplan starts with defense, they have only allowed 3 goals so far this year and none in their two home matches.  So far this year half of their offense has come from GBS who has 3 of their 6 goals, I would expect that the Crew will keep their perfect home record and pick up the win 2-1.

DC United at FC Dallas - 7pm MT - Direct Kick

This match had the potential last weekend to be one of the biggest stinkers in a long time for MLS, but both teams put together impressive efforts on Wednesday to get their first wins of 2010 and now the question is which team can maintain their momentum from their midweek matchup? FC Dallas gets the home field advantage if it is one with the smallest crowds in MLS so far this year, they are just 0-0-3 at home.  DC United of course hasn't won on the road and their only goals away from RFK came at Philly (2), while they have given up 7.

Injuries continue to plague the men in black, Burch, Jakovic, Namoff, Pontius, Quinn, and James are listed as out or questionable, while Pena, Rice, and Simms are listed as probable.  It was the work of Danny Allsopp on Wednesday that got both goals for United in their 2-1 win over the Wizards, their first goals at home and Danny's first goals of his MLS career.  The defense held up their end giving up just a single goal, but United is still -10 in goal differential on the season and they will have to improve if they are to get more wins.

As small as the crowds may be at Pizza Hut Park, the team is starting to look a lot better, they got a draw with New England last weekend, and beat Houston in Houston for the first time ever on Wednesday.  They will be without Jair Benitez who adds some bite to both their defense and offensive effort, he is on red card suspension, and the projected lineup has Pearce moving back the the backline after a midweek match in the midfield.  Kevin Hartman appears to have secured his place in goal for now, and now will need to get the defense in front of him organized and working together.  Dallas has been very fortunate this year already getting 3 PK's awarded to them and Jeff Cunningham has converted all 3.  This matchup should be interesting as both teams look to prove that the midweek win was just the start of their turnaround.  I am going with the home team to get their first home win of 2010 as this one ends up 1-0 FC Dallas.

New York Red Bulls at San Jose Earthquakes - 8pm MT - Direct Kick

If you had to pick two teams as early season surprises it would be San Jose who after a bad 3-0 loss ont heir opener have improved their record to 3-2-0, including 2 wins over Eastern Conference foes.  The Red Bulls, have to be the biggest surprise with just a single loss as they lead the East at 5-1-0.  Both sides have lost to Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, and this early season matchup of surprises is my match of the week.

I like a lot of people really wonder what is going on with New York, the only really impressive win of their 5 is the win at Seattle, beating DC United, FC Dallas, and Philly (a combined 3 wins) just isn't impressive.  I have been impressed with their style of play, they do a nice job of possessing the ball and scoring (8 goals in 6 matches), while their defense has done nicely allowing just 4 goals in 6 matches.  Rookie defender Tim Ream has impressed many, while i think it has been the play of Joel Lindpere has been a plus for a team that clearly was missing a creative playmaker last year.  One might look at the 4 goals of Juan Pablo Angel might look impressive, half of them have come from the PK spot.

San Jose is starting to get healthier, as they only have Omar Jasseh listed as out and in San Jose the Quakes hold a 10-2-2 record against the Red Bulls/Metrostars, while out scoring them 28 to 14.  I have been very impressed with the efforts of rookie Ike Opara who has been solid on defense and already has 2 goals and would be my choice for rookie of the year after 6 weeks.  One has to wonder how good San Jose will be if Ryan Johnson can start scoring the way he did last year?  They key for San Jose is how their defense does, in 3 wins they have given up just a single goal, in their two losses they have given up 6, so can San Jose shut down the Red Bulls?  I don't think they can shut them down but I think they can clip their wings and pull out a 2-1 win at home.

Houston Dynamo at Chivas USA - 8:30pm - MT

The battle for second place in the West and the battle of the two most evenly matched teams in MLS, consider that both have 3-3-1 records, Chivas has a +1 goal differential, while Houston is +2, the only real edge may come in the fact that Chivas is 2-1-0 at home and Houston is 0-1-1 on the road.  Houston is still battling injuries to Ching, and Cameron and establishing who will be the creative force in their midfield.  Chivas has many new faces but wow they seem to be finding a way to come together and in recent weeks you have to be impressed with Martin Vasquez's squad.

Chivas has struggled against Houston winning just a single game against them in 13 matches, they have scored just 8 goals while giving up 23.  This team however looked really good against New England, even before the man advantage and have 4 results (3-1-1) in their last 5 matches.  Some of the mystery names like Padilla are becoming more and more well known, you have to wonder who will be the next one to step up and get his name on the lips of Chivas fans?

It had to be a heart breaker for Houston as they dropped a 1-0 decision at home, now they head out on the road for the 3rd time this year and they will have to battle a hot team as they try to get their first win away from Robertson Stadium.  I really liked the energy of Oduro and Landin over the last few matches and they are both capable of breaking opponent's hearts in an instant.  I have been less impressed with the defense of the Dynamo who have given up 7 goals so far this year and 3 on the road, they will need a much better effort if they hope to slow down Chivas who have scored 8 in their last 3 matches.  I don't think they will be able to shut down the Goats at home and Chivas get a 3-2 win in a great match.


My Picks

LA Galaxy 2- Seattle Sounders 1
Chicago Fire 1 - Toronto FC 1
Columbus Crew 2 - New England Revolution 1
FC Dallas 1 - DC United 0
San Jose 2 - New York Red Bulls 1
Chivas USA 3 - Houston Dynamo 2