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4 Midweek MLS matches, before the World Cup break

There will be two match ups on Wendnesday (LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids at Chicago Fire) and two more on Thursday (Philly Union at KC Wizards and DC United at Seattle Sounders).  Everyone of these teams is looking to prove something in their match ups.

Colorado Rapids at Chicago Fire - 7:00 pm MT - Direct Kick

The Fire got their first win since April 24th with their 2-1 victory over the Union on Saturday, Colorado extended their winning streak to 3, with their 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew.  Now the two teams will finish off their season series with a match at Toyota Park, the teams drew 2-2 in the April 3rd leg in Colorado.  That match saw Colorado take the lead twice but the Fire kept coming back and got the road draw.  For Colorado they have already bested their away win total from last year, with 3-2-0 road record, they are plus 1 with 4 scored and 3 allowed.  The Fire have a winning record at home thanks to last weekends win and now have a 2-1-2 home record, with a plus 2 goal differential.

To me Chicago is a very average team this year, from their 3-3-4 record, their 14 goals for (7 teams have the same or more) and their 14 goals against (8 teams have the same or fewer).  The Fire will be without Calen Carr, John Thorrington and Tim Ward, all who are listed as out with injuries.  Their offense is 3 main guys with Brian McBride leading them with 4 goals and 1 assists, Marco Pappa with 3 goals and 4 assists, and Baggio Husidic with 3 goals.  I am a big fan of Pappa and how he plays, I thought this might be a year for him to step up and so far in 10 matches he has done just that, if he continues his pace he will end the season with 9 goals and 12 assists.  Letting go of Jon Busch was a big risk in the off season, so far his replacement Andrew Dykstra has a 1.40 GAA and just two clean sheets, I think as Krzysztof Krol has adjusted to the style of play in MLS, that he has helped them get better.  Only twice in their last 7 have they allowed two or more goals, the same number they allowed in their first 3 matches.

I am still trying to figure out how good Colorado really is, their 6-3-1 record is fairly impressive, but still over 25% of their goals have come from the PK spot, so I question their offensive abilities (only 3 times have they scored multiple goals).  The one thing you can believe in with Colorado is their defense, 3 straight clean sheets and their 7 goals allowed is second best in all of MLS.  The Rapids defense will be without their holding midfielder Pablo Mastroeni who is out on a red card suspension, Colorado will also be without Kimura, O'Brien, and Schunk, who are listed as out with injury, while Baudet and Smith are listed as probable.  I believe a good portion of the improvement to the defensive efforts of Colorado comes down to a few new players who have made a big impact, Jeff Larentowicz provides more bite and possession in the midfield, and Marvell Wynne has added pace and skill to their backline.

I am going with a 1-1 draw in this match.  More after the jump:

DC United at Seattle Sounders - Thu 8:00pm MT - ESPN2

Both teams are coming off matches that may well be turning points for their seasons, for Seattle they had just one win in their previous 7 matches so the 3-0 win over New England was huge. DC United didn't get a win but they outplayed defending MLS Cup Champs to earn a 0-0 draw, but it was their 4th match (all matches) in a row with a result. Neither side has performed up to expectations, Seattle is just 4-5-3 with a -2 goal differential and they have already lost more matches at home (3-3-1) than they did in all of 2009.  DC United won the CCC in the pre-season, and that raised a lot of peoples expectations, but in MLS play they have a 2-8-1 record with a -13 goal differential and a 0-4-0 road record.  On paper this one should be easy to pick, but is it?

For DC United, they have been looking for things to grasp on to, they have been a team looking for something to lift their hopes, that something has come for many of them in the form of 17 yr. old Andy Najar (read this article and you will see koolaid drinking in action), listen I like the way the kid plays but the numbers don't back up the hype yet.  The reality is that DC United (and KC) are the only teams still in single digits for goals scored, and DC (and New England) are the only teams to have already allowed 20 goals.  This team still has some real issues to deal with, like their once again growing list of injuries: Barklage, Burch, Namoff, Pena, Quinn, Talley, and Rodney Wallace are all listed as out for this match.  That is 7 of 24, meaning that Castillo who is listed as doubtful will probably dress just so they can fill their bench.  They still need a goal scorer, nobody on their roster has more than 2 and their all time leading scorer (heck the league's all time leading scorer) was in the stands with the fans last weekend instead of on the pitch.  Issues indeed.

After a great run in 2009 as an expansion team, many thought the Sounders would be one of the elite teams of 2010, but so far that just hasn't panned out.  So a big win at home, just their second win since mid April, some are claiming to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but while I believe they are one of the more talented teams in the league a win over New England isn't exactly enough to convince me they have turned the corner just yet.  The upside for the Sounders is that they now get the worst team in MLS, DC United, and then after the World Cup break, they get the two win Philly Union (but it is the first home match for Philly at their new stadium), so they aren't exactly facing a murders row.  They still have some serious injury issues to deal with as Jaqua, Hurtado, and Fucito are all still on the DL and Osvaldo Alonso and Pete Vagenas are both listed as doubtful.  I had stated that I thought Sigi need to make an adjustment in order for this Sounders side to perform like they were last year, he must have listened as he went with a 4-1-3-2 formation last weekend and I would expect the same.  That provided the Sounders with more possession and allowed them to use the two forwards more as targets and that allowed others more room to play and create chances.

I have to go with a Sounders win 2-1 in this one.

Philadelphia Union at Kansas City Wizards - Thu 6:00pm MT - Direct Kick

OK, this one is a battle of two teams that each have just 2 wins, but when you consider that Philly is an expansion team that has played 7 of their 9 matches on the road (this will be 8 of 10) and the other Kansas City, hasn't gotten a win since week 2 and has scored just 4 goals in their last 8 matches.  The Union have scored that many in their last two matches.

For Philly this marks the end of a very, very long stretch of road games, they will have played 8 of their first 10 on the road waiting for the completion of PPL Park.  After the World Cup break they will have 6 of 8 at home matches, a welcomed change for them and their fans.  After watching a few of their matches you can begin to see what head coach Peter Nowak is doing with his team, he has build a quick lineup of players who know how to attack and they use that to play a very aggressive style and in recent weeks they have gotten much better.  Their greatest issue is that they have given up far too many goals, no clean sheets and multiple goals in all but one of their matches.  One thing that is finally perhaps turning in their favor, is that they have started scoring, they have 5 goals in their last 3 matches, they only had 6 in their first 6 matches.  For me this team will do well if they continue to leverage Sebastian Le Toux as their primary offensive target, while bringing their other younger players into the flow of their offense.

The Wizards will be without Roger Espinoza (World Cup), Craig Rocastle (red card suspension), and Stepahne Auvray (injury), but their real question is can anyone other than Kei Kamara contribute on offense?  Kamara has 5 of their 11 goals, but only 4 others have found the back of the net and each of them only once.  The upside of this match for them is that they are at home, and the very narrow pitch at Community America Ballpark grants them a huge advantage as they have only allowed 3 goals, and they have been able to score 7 of their 9 goals there.  I keep waiting for this team to live up to their potential, their 13 goals allowed is second best in the East.  If they can find a way to shut down the Philly offense and get someone to find the back of the net for them, they could come out with a win, but I have a feeling that this one will end up in a 1-1 draw.

LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake - Wed 7:00pm MT - Direct Kick

For RSL this might just be the biggest match of the season so far, for MLS it is clearly the biggest match of these midweek affairs as it pits #1 vs #2 in most power rankings (MLSSB Nationgoal.com), I will post my match preview this afternoon but here are a couple links for you to check out:

MLSsoccer.com match preview

miamihearld.com match preview

goal.com match preview

lasoccernews.com match preview

My in depth LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake match preview

My Picks

Colorado 1- Chicago 1

Seattle Sounders 2 - DC United 1

KC Wizards 1 - Philadelphia Union 1

OFF MY SOAPBOX