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MLS Week 17 Match Previews

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Well, I predicted a 2-1 score in the LA vs San Jose match but I warned that if LA made any mistakes it would cost them and the match would end up in a tie.  I sure didn't think it would be San Jose with the lead twice and LA having to chase the score, despite playing better than San Jose.  

So the weekend fare of actual MLS league action is light, with just 3 matches on Saturday and one on Sunday, but each of these matches comes with a bunch on the line for each team.  So let's start with the matchup going on north of the border.

FC Dallas at Toronto FC - 2pm MT - Direct Kick

This might be the most balanced matchup of the weekend as both sides have played 15 matches, and each have 6 wins, but FC Dallas has been great at getting draws this year and lead MLS with 7 of them for their 6-2-7 record.  By not losing Dallas has moved themselves up to 3rd place in the Western Conference but to move up they will need to get more wins.  Toronto FC also find themselves in 3rd place but for them it is the Eastern Conference, their 6-5-4 record and their 18 goals for and 17 against tend to lend itself to the Red's being a little bit better than average this year, but like Dallas they will need to get more wins if they want to move up.

While the 5-0-3 home record of Toronto might look like it spells "doom" for FC Dallas, the Hoops have done well at BMO field and have a 1-1-1 record there.  FC Dallas has just a single loss on the road this year, but only two wins, as their most common result is a draw, they have 4 of those, but their confidence should be high coming off last weekends 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake.  Dallas will be looking to see if newcomer Milton Rodriguez can help add some more punch to their offense, which is lead by David Ferreira with 4 goals(2 PK's) and 4 assists, Brek Shea with 4 goals and 2 assists, Jeff Cunningham who has been relegated to coming off the bench but has 4 goals (3 PK's) and 1 assist, and of course former RSL'er Atiba Harris who has 3 goals and 1 assist.  The spark for FC Dallas is the improved play of their defense, which has allowed just 3 goals in their last 6 matches, during which they are 4-0-2).  The change to Kevin Hartman in goal seems to have given the entire team a boost, and while he only has 11 starts, his 0.64 GAA and 5 shutouts are impressive.

Did you know that Toronto FC has added a second DP (really could be their third since De Ro makes above the DP limit- but that mystery allocation money comes into play).  Do you know Mista? How about Miguel Ángel Ferrer Martínez?  Well if you want to know more about him you can check out this article on MLSsoccer.com or his wikipedia page. For TFC to have a successful season they will need to continue their impressive work at BMO field, site of the match, where they are undefeated in 2010 with 11 goals for and just 3 goals against.  The Reds will be looking to rebound from their 2-1 loss at Philly last weekend. Leading the way for them will be Dwayne De Rosario, whose 8 goals and 3 assists are tops on the team, he is followed by Chad Barret who has 5 goals and 1 assist, O'Brian White is the only other TFC player with more than one goal, he has two and 1 assist, and their are 4 players with a single goal.  This means if your defense can keep the ball away from De Ro and Barret, then you have a great chance against TFC.

This should be a good matchup, but I can see it ending in a 1-1 draw.

more after the jump:

The next match will feature teams that have won 3 of the last 4 MLS Cups, as Houston travels to Columbus to face the Crew.

Houston Dynamo at Columbus Crew - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick.

The season hasn't been easy on Houston, they lost Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark to teams in Europe, then they lost Geoff Cameron to injury (he is working his way back after going out after week 5), Ching was out for weeks and now Houston find themselves after 16 weeks in 7th place in the west with just 19 points and a 5-7-4 record.  The Crew find themselves in familiar territory, the top of the Eastern Conference, 5 points ahead of second place New York.  The Crew boast a 9-3-4 record and have the 3rd best goal differential +9 in MLS, yet for some reason I and others just don't know if they are this good or if they keep getting lucky.

These two teams are simply the most evenly matched in MLS, they have faced off 9 times and each team has won twice, with 5 draws.  Columbus has scored 8 goals, Houston 9, and even in Columbus they are fairly even, with the Crew winning twice, Houston once and one draw.  The teams have already faced off once this year, and it was a draw.  The Dynamo find themselves at a critical point of their season, weary from SuperLiga they haven't won a MLS league match since May 22nd, but the find an upside in 3 straight draws and now will be looking for a win.  With all the injuries and rotating lineups, the upside is that Houston's 21 goals have come from 14 different players, so they have lots of options.  Their main offensive weapon is still Brian Ching who has 3 goals and 1 assists, of course should they get a PK, they can count on Brad Davis as two of his 3 goals have come from the spot.  I do think that if Houston is going to turn their season around they will need to figure out the defensive side of things, they have allowed 22 goals, only one team in the West has allowed more.

The Crew have done what a team needs to do in order to be successful in MLS, win at home 7-2-0, and beat the teams your are supposed to beat, they are 5-1-0 against teams from the East, including a 2-0-0 record on the road.  It is against the Western Conference teams that the Crew struggle.  They are 2-2-4 against the West, with a 2-1-0 record at home.  It was just two weeks ago that Columbus made a trip down to Houston and in the end it was a 0-0 draw, the Crew have just 2 goals in their last 3 matches (both against New York) but I don't think they will be shut out against Houston.  It may just be a matter of who scores for the Crew, you have to always watch for GBS (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) who leads the team with 5 goals and 5 assists.  That means that almost half of the Crew offense comes from him, but you can't look past Eddie Gaven or Emilio Renteria who both have 3 goals, while Gaven also adds 3 assists.  

No matter the records, when these two face off you have to expect a solid match and I expect just that and I am looking for a 1-1 draw.

Chivas USA at Real Salt Lake - 8pm MT - KUTV Ch 2 and KUTV HD Ch 654 (Comcast)

This full match preview is here

Colorado Rapids at Seattle Sounders FC - 8:30pm MT Sunday - Fox Soccer Channel

A huge match for these two teams, Colorado is trying to keep pace with the teams at the top of the West, while the Sounders are simply trying to keep hope alive.  Colorado is 6-4-5, and an impressive 3-3-2 on the road, while the Sounders are 5-8-4 and have been struggling at home with just a 3-4-2 record at Qwest.

For Seattle they have had to battle injuries all year, and they won't want to hear me say it but the turf, even the best turf in the world just seems to always cause issues.  Anyhow here is the list of Seattle injuries:OUT: MF Brad Evans (R knee meniscus); FW Michael Fucito (R knee contusion); DF Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (L ACL); MF David Estrada (R hamstring strain and R first toe sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Freddie Ljungberg (L ankle sprain); DF Tyrone Marshall (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Michael Seamon (R ankle sprain); FW Nate Jaqua (R groin strain), they will also be without defender Leo Gonzalez who is out on yellow card suspension. So can the remaining players find a way to keep the return to form and momentum of the last two matches going against a Western Conference rival?  In 2010 the Sounders have yet to find a way to beat a team from the West and are 0-4-3 against them, if they are to beat Colorado then expect good things from Montero who has 6 goals and 7 assists and Steve Zakuani with 5 goals and 3 assists.  They could get some help from youngster Miguel Montano, if he can keep his head in the match, he looked dangerous against FC Dallas but a silly red card left his team short handed and likely cost them points.

The Rapids have become a much more defensive minded club in 2010 with the additions of Wynne, Larentowicz, and the move to their 4-5-1 formation.  They have only given up 14 goals so far this season, 3rd best in the West, but their offense has only scored 17 goals, tied for worst in the West.  When you look at their stats it is clear that their offense weapons are Conor Casey with 7 goals (3PKs) and 3 assists, followed by Omar Cummings who has 4 goals.  After that however the clear lack of offensive power is clear, only Medhi Ballouchy has more than a single goal for them, he has two and 3 players have one each.  How bad is their lack of offensive creativity, well they only have 10 assists and 4 players account for all of them.  It is interesting that each of their 6 players to score have done so in opportune moments, proven by the fact that each of them has a game winning goal.  If the Rapids are going to improve on their already impressive 3-3-2 road record, it will come because they play solid defense and they find a way to get lucky on offense.

Don't expect a high scoring match, Colorado has scored 1 or fewer goals in 10 of their 15 matches, Seattle has 12 of 17 in which they have either been shut out or scored just a single goal.  I am going with the home team 1-0.

OFF MY SOAPBOX