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MLS Week 19 match previews (Saturday Matches)

Well every Major League Soccer team except the LA Galaxy will be in league action this weekend, the Galaxy will have a friendly with Real Madrid on Saturday night, but in the mode of #trophiesnotfriendlies we will only be focusing on the matches that matter.

The action will kick off early as they like to get the matches going before the fans at BMO get too tanked, so we will start with:

Chivas USA at Toronto FC - 2pm MT - TeleFutura & Direct Kick (i think)

Well both teams have played 17 matches, TFC come in with a 6-6-5 record and 23 points which is good enough for 3rd place in the East but not good enough for a playoff spot, if they started today.  Chivas USA have a 5-9-3 record and 18 points which is good enough for the cellar in the West, what a difference 5 points can make.  Toronto has turned BMO into the fortress it should be and are one of the two remaining undefeated teams at home, where they are 5-0-4 with 12 goals for and just 4 against.  Chivas are just 2-5-2 on the road with 10 goals for and 2 against, but Chivas have found some form recently and are undefeated in their last 4 including a win and draw on the road. This match has some personal history as after leading Chivas to the playoffs for 3 straight years Preki was let go from the team and has landed at, you guessed TFC.

Chivas have made massive changes this year, the guys who were given the captain's armbands at the start of the year are gone or on their way out.  The names on the projected lineup aren't names that most MLS fans would recognize, but Martin Vasquez is trying to change that fact.  It is an interesting style that they are playing and you can see it evolving each match, but the key to their efforts on offense is Justin Braun who leads the team with 7 goals and 3 assists.  Also coming into form is Blair Gavin who has 3 goals and 1 assist, 2 of his goals have come in the last 4 matches.  The offense of Chivas should get a bit of a boost as they picked up Alan Gordon from the Galaxy earlier today, not sure if he will be with the team in Toronto or not.  Their defense is anchored in the middle by a pair of Costa Ricans, in Delgado and Umana with support from Ante Jazic and Carlos Borja.

Toronto was looking good with just a single loss in May and June, but they have just a single win in their last 7 matches (1-2-4).  TFC have added a 2nd DP to go with Julian de Guzman, as Mista joined their team and is working his way into the lineup, of course they also have Dwayne De Rosario, who is paid like a DP but via the wonders of MLS rules, isn't considered one.  Their offense is run thru DeRo, he leads the team with 8 goals and 3 assists, and for a team with just 19 goals that means he accounts for over 1/2 of their offense.  He is helped out by Chad Barrett who has 5 goals and 1 assist this year and the only other TFC player to score more than one goal for them is O'Brian White who has 2 goals and 1 assist.  Offensive depth is a concern as they only have 7 players who have found the back of the net in league action this year.  Their defense has allowed 19 goals this year, which again is impressive in the East, only Columbus has allowed fewer, but over half of the West has allowed fewer than 19 this year.  At home they get a real boost on defense with just 4 allowed, but Chivas just put up 3 goals against the best team in the East last weekend as they beat the Crew 3-1, can they do the same on the road?

I am going to go with a 1-1 draw in this one, but if Chivas score first they may just pull out the win.

more after the jump:

DC United at New England Revolution - 5:30 MT - Direct Kick

A matchup that in the past would likely be for the top spot in the East, but this year it is a battle to escape the cellar. DC United come in with a 3-12-3 record (1-6-2 on the road) and the worst defense in Major League soccer, the good news for DC is they are facing the New England Revolution who are 2-9-2, and have a very average 3-3-2 home record with 11 goals allowed and 11 goals scored.  The Rev's have shown a bit of pep in their step lately as they have made the finals of SuperLiga, and are coming off a hard fought road draw against Philly last weekend.

DC United made a change this week as they fired Curt Onalfo, their head coach and fall guy for much larger issues in the organization.  In his place is Ben Olsen, who retired from the team last year.  It is hard to find much that is going right for DC United, they have scored just 12 goals this year the least of any team in MLS.  Their defense has allowed 31 goals to be scored against them, the most of any team in MLS, their 12 losses is 3 more than any other team in MLS.  Honestly one of the few bright spots for the team is the performance of 17 year old, Andy Najar who leads the team with 3 goals.  DC has only 3 other players with multiple goals (each with 2), Adam Cristman, Chris Pontius, and Danny Allsopp, and 3 others have a single goal.  I believe the issues with this club are many, starting with the inability to control the midfield and maintain possession of the ball, this puts great pressure on the defense and they have left gaps that expose whoever is in goal for United.  Newcomers Branko Boskovic and Pablo Hernandez will need to be superman if they are to help get DC United back on the right path.

Most of the issues that New England have had to face this year can be summed up by looking at their injury list:OUT: DF Kevin Alston (L hamstring strain); GK Preston Burpo (R leg surgery); FW Kheli Dube (R MCL sprain); FW Edgaras Jankauskas (L adductor strain); MF Marko Perovic (L gastroc strain); FW Taylor Twellman (concussion); QUESTIONABLE: FW Zak Boggs (concussion); MF Nico Colaluca (R ankle sprain); MF Jason Griffiths (L hamstring strain).  Then you add in the issues that Shalrie Joseph had earlier in the season and it has been almost impossible for Steve Nicol to put the same team on the pitch two matches in a row.  The Revolution have just a single win in their last 5 MLS matches, but it was an impressive one over the LA Galaxy on July 19th.  They took a few weeks off to participate in SuperLiga, and they have done well, well enough to advance to the final match. Last weekend they faced off against the Union and were able to scrape their way back into the match and get a draw.  Like DC United, the Rev's have struggled offensively scoring only 16 goals and defensively where they have allowed 27 goals.  Also like United they have few players who have found the back of the net, just 5 players have done so for the Rev's, lead by Zack Schilawski with 5, and Marko Perovic with 4.

This one could be an ugly match, DC was the better team when they faced off back on April 3rd, but New England's Kenny Mansally came on late in the match and found the back of the net twice in 3 minutes to give the Rev's a 2-0 win.  Unless a player steps up with that type of performance, I expect this one will end up a 1-1 draw.

Real Salt Lake at Kansas City Wizards - 6:30 MT - Direct Kick, and KUSG 2.2/111 Comcast/12 Dish

Well this is the chance for RSL to close in on the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference, it will also provide us a chance to keep pace with the Columbus Crew who won their match 2-1 on Thursday, and close to within 3 points of LA in the chase for the Supporter's Shield.  This match pits RSL against a team they handled 4-1 at home earlier this year, and it provides them a chance to break in their "Victory Gold" kits.  RSL will be looking to 3rd straight result after their previous 10 match unbeaten streak was ended on July 17th at Dallas.  KC are looking to turn their season around, and have a 3 match unbeaten streak going in league play and they picked up steam from a win over Manchester United in a recent friendly.  This is still a matchup between one of the elite teams in MLS, and one who is simply looking for a measure of self-respect.

For the complete version, click here

San Jose at Colorado Rapids - 7:00pm MT - Direct Kick

This may be the biggest match of Saturday, it really is a battle that could impact the playoff hunt in October.  A single point separates the two teams, the Colorado Rapids have a 6-5-6 record and 24 points from 17 matches, while San Jose is 6-5-5 with 24 points from 16 matches.  If the playoffs were to start today, Colorado would be the last team to make it in, so both sides will be fighting for a chance to get 3 points while denying 3 points to the other side. Colorado hasn't won a match since June 5th and are 0-2-5 since that win, including their draw at home last weekend against FC Dallas.  San Jose has just a single loss in their last 5 matches (1-1-3) and that loss came last weekend as they dropped a 1-0 and they will be struggling to get a 18 man squad ready for the match, due to a ton of injuries.

San Jose only had 21 players on their current roster, so when they get injuries it can greatly impact their ability to field competitive teams.  Omar Jasseh is away from the team on National Team duty with Gambia, and when you add in their injury list: OUT: MF Andre Luiz (L knee internal derangement); FW Eduardo (R hip strain); DF Chris Leitch (L hip strain); DF Ike Opara (L foot fracture); MF Steve Beitashour (R hand fracture); QUESTIONABLE: FW Scott Sealy (R quad strain).  All of this impacts the ability of a coach to put together lineups that can compete well, and Frank Yallop will be stretched to do so.  Hopefully they will be able to help Chris Wondolowski find his scoring touch, early in the season he was on a run of 5 goals in 5 matches, but since then he has struggled and now he sits on 6 goals and 1 assist.  Only two other Quakes have found the back of the net more than once, both Ike Opara and Arturo Alvarez, who both have 3 goals, but plenty of other players have contributed one goals each.  More troubling is the fact that the Quakes who earlier had 4 straight clean sheets, have just one in their last 8 matches, and in 5 of those have allowed multiple goals.

Colorado will look for a way to get a win, and that task may be made harder if Conor Casey is unable to go, he suffered a possible concussion last week and is listed as questionable for the match.  Casey's 7 goals and 3 assists account for over 50% of Colorado's 19 goals scored this year, and would put great pressure on Omar Cummings who has 5 goals this season.  Only Medhi Ballouchy has more than a single goal, his 3 goals and 3 assists round out the real offensive threats for Colorado, they only have 3 other players who have scored and each of them have just a single goal (Larentowicz, Mastroeni, and Drew Moor).  Colorado has done will on defense allowing just 17 goals in 17 matches, only 3 teams have allowed fewer goals. They only have 4 clean sheets, each resulted in a 1-0 win, and the flip side is that Colorado hasn't allowed more than 2 goals to be scored on them in any match, and 9 times they have only allowed a single goal to be scored against them.

This is a match where Colorado's home record 3-1-4 is solid but not impressive, and San Jose has prove to be a solid team on the road with a 3-2-3 record away from Buck Shaw.  Saturday night at Dicks, I think Colorado will find a way to take advantage of a wounded San Jose with their 5th 1-0 win of the season.

OFF MY SOAPBOX