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More MLS Week 14 match previews

Well the week 14 action started with Houston at TFC and a very ugly match ended in a 1-1 draw.  Real Salt Lake will host New England on Friday night (match preview) and then there will be a good mix of action on Saturday and Sunday as well.  Lets start with the Saturday action:

Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew - 6:00pm MT - FSC

Both sides restarted their MLS schedule with wins last weekend, and both will be looking to establish themselves as a top contender in the Eastern Conference, the Crew sit at the top with New York with 24 points, while the Fire are in 4th with 17 points. 

Before the season started many people wondered who would take over the creative duties for the Fire with Blanco gone, but I knew who it was, Marco Pappa.  His 6 goals are tops for the Fire, and account for almost 1/3 of their goals, then add in 4 assists which are top on the team and account for almost 1/4 of the teams assists.  RSL's Nick Rimando won the Player of the Month honors for June, but you could say that Pappa was a better choice, he had 4 goals, 2 of them game winners and the other allowed his team to get a draw as the Fire went 2-0-1 for their 3 matches in June.  The Fire actually do better against the Crew in Columbus than they do at home, of their 17 all time wins against the Crew, 8 have come in Columbus.  Last year these teams battled to two 2-2 draws when they faced each other.

Columbus is all about GBS (Guillermo Barros Schelotto), his 5 goals and 4 assists lead the Crew in both categories.  The Crew have scored 18 goals and GBS has been involved in half of them, so the key to beating the Crew is fairly simple, stop GBS and stop the Crew.  In the 5 matches in which he has a goal the Crew are 4-0-1, including last weekends 2-0 win over DC United.  That win was their first in 4 matches, I still am not impressed with the Crew but winning this one might just get me believing.  I think this one will end up like their matches last year a draw, but this one will end 1-1

more after the jump:

KC Wizards at FC Dallas - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Two teams that appear to be heading in very different directions, the Wizards have just win since week 2 and sit with just 12 points after 12 matches.  FC Dallas, have just one loss in their last 9 matches and only two losses on the season (only LA has fewer).  KC have just 3 goals scored in their last 5 matches, while they have allowed 8, and in 3 of those matches they have failed to find the back of the net.  Dallas have only failed to score in one match so far this year and in their last 5 matches they have scored 6 while allowing 4.

The Wizards have been a tale of two players this year, Kei Kamara who has 6 goals (more than half of the team's 11) and Ryan Smith, who has 5 assists (half of the team's 10).  Kei has scored the game winner in each of the 3 KC wins so far this year.  Their main struggle is offense, their 11 goals is second worst in the league, but their defense which was rock steady at the start of the season (1 GA in their first 4 matches) has become a real question mark.  In their last 4 matches they have two clean sheets ( a win and a draw) and two matches where they allowed 3 or more goals (both losses).  One has to wonder what a difference the change in goal has made for their defensive effort? Adding to their woes is that fact that Davy Arnaud is suspended for this match.

FC Dallas was one of the hottest teams at the end of 2009 and had they been able to get a win in their season finale at Seattle they would have made the playoffs.  They started the season 0-1-2, but since then they are 4-1-4 and only once have they failed to score in a match.  They have 4 players with multiple goals (Jeff Cunningham 4, Brek Shea 3, David Ferreira 2, Atiba Harris 2) and since taking over the goal keeping duties Kevin Hartman is 4-1-3 with a 0.75 GAA.  FC Dallas get another win 2-1 in this one.

DC United at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:00pm MT - Direct Kick

While some may believe that the 2-1-1 record in their last 4 matches mean that DC United have turned the corner and will become contenders in the East, I don't.  Getting a couple wins is just that a couple wins and DC United is still 3-9-1. The Quakes went from hot to not in their last 4 matches when they went 0-2-2 with 3 goals scored and 7 allowed, that after they had 4 straight clean sheets and were 3-0-1 in their previous 4. 

So which DC United is the real DCU?  The team that found a way to score goals against a bad Chivas side and a struggling Seattle side and get a couple wins?  Or the team that failed to score a goal 9 times so far this year?  No United player has more than two goals, and none has more than 2 assists, and that simply isn't going to be good enough to win many matches.  When your 3 wins come against teams that have just 10 wins combined, there isn't time to celebrate a couple wins, you have a lot more work to do.

San Jose have surprised many people this year with their 5-4-3 record, a good deal of their success has come as Chris Wondolowski has found the back of the net 6 times this year and 3 of those were match winners.  The Quakes are a balanced team, they have allowed 14 goals while scoring 15, they have put up 6 clean sheets in their 12 matches on their way to a collective 1.17 GAA.  I voted Bobby Convey (0 goals, 7 assists) onto my MLS All Star team, he simply has been one of the better creative players in the league so far this season.  It should be enough to help the Quakes get a win 2-0.

Philadelphia Union at Chivas USA - 8:30pm MT - FSC

OK, I am going to say it, I am becoming a bit of a fan of this Union team.  They are much more a traditional expansion side, than were the Sounders last year, or will be Portland and Vancouver next year.  I like the mix of youth and experience more and more each week, but most of all I like that they simply are scrappy and fight for everything.  They are learning how to play as a team, meanwhile the chaos of Chivas is the exact opposite as they seem to be melting down more and more each week, they have 6 straight losses, and don't appear to know what is needed to get things turned around.

If you want to know how important a coach is in MLS, you only need to look at Chivas USA.  Gone is Preki (who has TFC in 3rd place in the East), in is Martin Vasquez who has seemed to struggle with managing talent as well as adjusting to the tactics needed to succeed in MLS.  Gone is Sacha, but coming back is Pablo Nagamura, who can provide both offensive and defensive help in the midfield.  Also recently back is Ante Jazic who should be able to stabilize a backline that has allowed 20 goals to be scored against them (only one team has allowed more in the Western Conference).  One has to wonder what kind of changes might be coming soon for Chivas?

Any team that is forced to play 8 of their first 11 on the road has earned a lot of respect from me, any team that can do it while trying to play an attacking style even when they are outclassed on the pitch, earns even more respect from me.  Now the Union have started really playing as a team, and that could make them a dangerous team for the rest of the MLS season, now that doesn't mean I think they make the playoffs (they could) but I think any team that believes they can face the Union at less than 100% is going to find themselves wondering what happened.  Don't believe me, just ask Seattle.  I think this match might get really ugly as Chivas find themselves playing on their heels and the Union might be a bit over confident after their win over Seattle, I will say this one ends up 1-1.

I will do a post on the Sunday matches on Saturday afternoon.

See you at Rio Tinto,