Well the MLS week kicked off on Wednesday as Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire battled to a 0-0 draw, that same result came as Real Salt Lake faced off with the Seattle Sounders at Qwest field on Thursday night. Now we are ready for some more already and MLS is going to oblige by offering up two teams who both are fighting for some glimmer of playoff hope:
Two teams that are grasping to the very slimmest of playoff hopes, New England would need 18 points from their remaining 8 matches, and Chivas needs even more as they need 20 points from their 8 matches and to be honest I doubt either would get to the "magic" number of 42 points. New England is coming off a 3-1 win over Seattle last weekend, while Chivas got beat 3-0 at Colorado.
While Chivas USA is only 4-4-2 at home with a mere +1 goal differential and just 12 goals scored, they are facing one of the very worst road teams. New England is 1-8-1 with just 7 goals scored and 22 allowed for a -15 goal differential on the road. Both teams are still offering fans lineups of names that just the few hardcore fans of each team would recognize, New England because of injuries and Chivas as the rebuilding process undertaken by Martin Vasquez is still underway.
Chivas only have 3 players who have more than a single goal (Justin Braun with 8, Jesus Padilla with 4, and Blair Gavin with 3), but New England's defense has allowed 36 goals and very few team have allowed more. New England has a bit more balanced attack, but their leading scorer Marko Perovic with 6 goals will be out for this match on yellow card suspension. The Rev's will have to rely on Zack Schilawski with 5 goals, Kenny Mansally with 3 goals, and 3 others with 2 each. This match will likely not be a goal fest as each team has scored 1 or fewer goals in 16 of their matches, so I am going to pick this one as a 1-1 draw.
Saturday action coming after the jump:
OK, wanted to get the Chivas vs New England preview out there, I will be updating these others as the night progresses:
DC United (4-16-3 15 pts) at Toronto FC ( 7-9-7 28 pts) - 2:00pm MT - Direct Kick
A one-sided battle of a home team that is 6-1-5 with a +6 goal differential at home against a team that is 1-8-2 on the road with a -14 goal differential. That is what will happen will take place as DC United head to BMO field to face Toronto FC, and anything less than a win for TFC will crush their outside shot at the playoffs. To make it to the magic 42 points, TFC would need 14 points from 7 matches and given their 1-8-2 record away from BMO it is almost an impossible task.
DC United are simply trying to find out who will survive, who on their roster of players, who on their coaching staff, who in their front office will be around when the 2011 season starts. They also are trying to see if they can find 11 goals in their final 7 matches to avoid the record for fewest goals scored in a season. There are few names on the DC United roster that excite people but Andy Najar is one that does and with 3 goals and 1 assist the youngster could be the cornerstone of the rebuilding project that is DC United.
At BMO field in Toronto, TFC is almost unbeatable and they rely on Dwayne De Rosario who has 9 goals and 3 assists (out of 22 goals scored by TFC), and with Chad Barrett out with an injury, the offensive power of the Red's is greatly reduced and they will need to rely on their defense. That defense has only allowed 9 goals in their 12 home matches and given the struggles of DC United to score, I am going to have to pick this one to be a 2-0 win for Toronto FC.
Colorado Rapids (9-6-7 34 pts) at New York (11-8-4 37 pts) - 2:00pm MT - Telefutura
This might just be the best match of the weekend as both sides are looking to secure their playoff hopes, for Colorado who have found themselves on the outside of the playoff more often than not in recent years the pressure is huge as they look to secure enough points to keep themselves in front of both threats from the East and West. New York is likely in the playoffs but they are looking to keep pace with the Columbus Crew who lead them by 7 points in the Eastern Conference.
Colorado is a very average road team with a 3-5-3 record and just 11 goals scored and a -3 goal differential, they will be looking to ride the hot run that Omar Cummings has going with 3 goals in his last 2 MLS matches, both 3-0 wins by the Rapids. A healthy Conor Casey is always a threat up top and the Rapids have only been shut out once since May 5th, but their defense has only 7 shutouts all season long.
The Red Bulls showed RSL a lot of respect at Rio Tinto Stadium last weekend, but you have to believe they will be a bit more aggressive and determined at home as they look to improve on their earlier 1-1 draw with the Rapids on July 4th. Can the high powered 3 DP lineup of the Red Bulls get back on their winning ways? After Colorado they will face two tough road matches in Dallas and then in LA against the Galaxy, they currently are 4-5-3 in their matches against teams from the Western Conference.
At home I am going to pick the home team to get all three points in what I expect to be an entertaining 3-2 match but the Red Bulls will be too much for the Rapids.
Chicago Fire (6-7-8 26 pts) at Philadelphia Union (5-11-6 21 pts) - 4:00pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel
A month ago everyone was trying to convince me that the Chicago Fire were a sure thing for the playoffs, but after their 2-1 win over New England, they are 0-2-2 and now need at least 16 points from their remaining 9 matches (1.78 pts per match) which is a big task given their current form is 1.24 points per match. If they are going to do it they will need a road win over the expansion side Union. Unlike the expansion Sounders last year, the Union aren't going to make a playoff run but their 5-11-6 record so far is fairly respectable for a new team. At home the Union are 3-2-5 with a +2 goal differential, and the Fire are just 3-5-2 on the road with a -3 goal differential.
The Union have had problems on defense, they have yet to record a clean sheet in 2010, and 13 times they have allowed multiple goals. They have shown signs of improvement in the last month, only once has a team gotten more than one ball into the back of the net, a big part of that was the arrival of Juan Diego Gonzalez and holding midfielder Eduardo Coudet. However both of them are listed as doubtful with injuries, which could mean that the Fire's offensive attack could make Chris Seitz work very hard.
I have to believe that the return of Marco Pappa, the leading goal scorer (7 goals, 4 assists) for Chicago from International duty will be a very good thing and they have also gotten more playing time out of their two new DP's as both Freddie Ljungberg and Nery Castillo have began to adjust to their new team. Their biggest task will be trying to slow down Union's scoring duo of Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga, using a defense that has given up 29 goals already this year and 19 road goals.
I think this one ends up being a 1-1 draw, as the Fire are more smoke and mirrors than a playoff bound team.
A huge Western Conference showdown as the hottest team in MLS, FC Dallas have a 13 match undefeated streak and the team sitting in the final playoff spot San Jose. I have been impressed with the run of very good play that FC Dallas has put together over the end of last season and this year, losing just twice in 22 matches is incredible, but my heart feels for San Jose who have managed to deal with injuries and red cards that would have crippled most teams and yet they keep on ticking.
The arrival of Geovanni may be exactly what the Quakes needed to survive, with just 3 players on their roster scoring more than a single goal, and one of them being rookie defender Ike Opara with 3 goals (the others are Chris Wondolowski with 8 goals and 1 assist, and Arturo Alvarez with 3 goals) their offense needed a real boost. Perhaps the play of Geovanni and constant quality creativity of Bobby Convey can get either Cornell Glen or Ryan Johnson to start playing up to form. It is the balanced play of good defense and OK offense that has kept the Quakes alive this year, they have scored just 24 goals, but have a +1 goal differential having allowed only 23. Their defense will be tested by a FC Dallas team that has only been shutout twice this year.
Most MLS fans don't know many of the names on the FC Dallas roster, but most of them don't know Schellas Hyndman either, after his arrival from SMU he quickly rebuilt the roster featuring a lot of young players with a pinch of veterans and has a 24-21-24 record in his two year tenure with the team. This team has some great creative players who like the rest of the roster go from young players to aged veterans, but you have to love that a mutli-time golden boot winner Jeff Cunningham has gotten back to form and now leads the team with 8 goals. They have a legit MVP level player in the midfield with David Ferreira who has 6 goals and 9 assists and has been involved in more than 50% of their offense. The FC Dallas defense has turned around with Kevin Hartman in goal, and they have allowed just 17 goals to be scored against them, tied for second best in Major League Soccer.
This should be a very entertaining match, and I have a feeling that this one could be the upset of the week as I am going to pick San Jose to pull off a 2-1 win to hand FC Dallas just their 3rd loss of the season.
Columbus Crew (13-5-5 44 pts) at Los Angeles Galaxy (13-5-5 44 pts) - 8:00pm MT - Direct Kick
If there is a winner in this match they will claim first place in the race for the Supporters' Shield, if it is a draw then both teams would still be tied for first for the Shield, and both would still be in first place in their division. There is much more on the line in the match for LA, who have really struggled over the last couple months after one of the hottest starts in MLS history. The Crew have plenty to play for as well as they look to 3-peat winning the Supporters' Shield, and look to stay ahead of New York for the top place in the Eastern Conference.
For LA so much talk this week has been about the possible return of Beckham, that I fear the disruptive force that comes with him may do more harm than good. Sure "the Don" loves the PR and I am sure the fact that 6 of LA's last 7 matches are at the Home Depot Center has something to do with his desire to see them back in the MLS playoffs and give him a dream MLS Cup of LA vs. New York (going on record now, not going to happen and if it does people should really question things in MLS). The Galaxy have just 2 goals in their last 4 matches, while allowing 4 and their defense which looked like the best in MLS has just one clean sheet in their last 9 matches. Beating LA comes down to the ability to stop their counter attacks that use Edson Buddle (13 goals, 2 assists) and Landon Donovan (5 goals, 12 assists), because beyond them their offense is much less effective. If you stop their counter attack by possessing the ball and applying pressure you can crack their defense and LA is horrible when allowing the first goal in matches (0-5-2).
The Crew are an interesting team, they sometimes show up and play great soccer, and then sometimes they lay total eggs. If you can take GBS (Guillermo Barros Schelotto) 7 goals, 8 assists, out of his flow then they really struggle to find much creativity on offense and will resort to long balls over the top to Steven Lenhart. Lenhart has 5 goals, and 2 assists. The Crew have the best defense in the Eastern Conference and have allowed just 20 goals to be scored against them, while they have scored 32 times. Will Hesmer is solid in goal and has played every minute of every MLS match for them, his 0.87 GAA and 10 clean sheets are in the top 3 in the league.
This is almost a must win match for LA, not that their playoff spot is in question but rather a question of can they regain their form? They got a big win against another top team, when they beat New York 1-0 a month ago, but their only other win in their last 8 matches was over the MLS doormat DC United. I don't see either team getting a win but a likely 0-0 or 1-1 draw.
OK there finally all of the previews are done and I am
OFF MY SOAPBOX