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MLS First Kick Weekend - Match Previews and Predictions

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Well this is it, the MLS season kicked off on Tuesday with LA beating Seattle, no real surprise there since they have a 5 match unbeaten streak against the Sounders in MLS action.  Now it is time for everyone else to get into action, and not only will you be getting my match predictions, but those of two other contributor to the Soapbox.

Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps - 4:30pm MT - Direct Kick

This is the first match for the Whitecaps in MLS action but they know the boys from Toronto well enough as they have faced off in the Nutralife Canadian Cup to see which team would qualify for Champions League action.  There are a lot of questions in this match on both sides of the ball as Toronto again has changed coaches and mad major changes to their roster during the off season, and while a few names on the Whitecaps side of the ball will be known to MLS fans there are far more that will be unknown.  This match comes down to two big names, for TFC it is all about Dwayne De Rosario and his 15 goals ans 3 assists last year, he was TFC, and on the other side of the ball it will Eric Hassli the Caps DP striker, a 29 year old 6'4" striker who comes from the Swiss Super League side FC Zurich where he had 4 goals in 16 matches this year.  For me this is De Ro's match and while the home crowd will provide a boost to Vancouver this one goes to the visitors 2-1.

Spoonsky  picks Vancouver 1-0 over TFC and says:

You have to feel sorry for the fans at BMO field, they're consistently some of the loudest and proudest in MLS, but their team consistently stinks it up on the field. Look for the Whitecaps to get their first ever MLS win in their first match. 

Scott offers this prediction:

Vancouver Whitecaps v Toronto FC - Toronto's end of season slide and the huge changes that came about because of it last year are their biggest bane to start this season. Vancouver is looking for it's first win in regular season play, and with them being home with that opening day crowd, I can't see Toronto getting any result here. With any expansion team there are questions though, and I don't see it being a pretty game. 1-0 Vancouver.

The rest of the weekends action after the jump:

Columbus Crew at DC United - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Perhaps the biggest story line of the weekend is the return of Charlie Davies who is projected to start up top for DC United, I have real mixed feelings on Charlie and for me the questions will take a lot longer than a match or two to get answered.  This is a very new look DC United from the leagues worst team in 2010, and the verdict is still out on if Ben Olsen can get them back on track or not.  The Columbus Crew should have a slight advantage in match fitness and sharpness having played their Champions League series with RSL, and while they also have a lot of very new names on their lineup most have been around MLS for some time.  Names to watch in this one are of course Charlie Davies for DC United and impressive rookie Cole Grossman for Columbus, in what should be an entertaining match I think it ends in a 1-1 draw.

Scott says:

These two teams I think meet in the middle somewhere. DCU's offseason transactions made them a much better team possibly, while Columbus picked themselves apart in an effort to rebuild their core. Key players to watch in this match are Dax McCarthy (DC) and Jeff Cunningham (COL) who both need to step up and show their talent for their new teams. 0-0 with some moments of brilliance on both ends.

Spoonsky says:

A couple of teams that are in a transition period, with many predicting DC to be on the rise and the Crew to be falling from grace. Both teams have very news rosters, and I think it'll end up in a draw with two debutants scoring, possibly Jeff Cunningham and Charlie Davies. DC United 1- Columbus Crew 1.

Seattle Sounders at New York Red Bulls - 5:30pm MT - Direct Kick

For the start of the season perhaps no two teams have more players likely to miss action due to injury than these two, 11 combined players on their injury reports.  For Seattle their week is a tough one as hours before MLS First Kick, DP striker Blaise Nkufo was released without much details and then a home loss to the Galaxy to start the season then a trip to the East Coast to face a preseason favorite of many people to be the best team in the league.  The Red Bulls will be looking to prove that their big name DP's of Henry and Marquez are worth the millions of dollars they are paying them, but perhaps the real stars will be the young players for them as Tim Ream has impressed many with his defensive skills and next to Mexican National team captain Rafa Marquez he will have a bit less pressure on him than last year and up top is Juan Agudelo who has many people talking about his potential both for team and for the USMNT.  I expect the Sounders will rebound in this match and find their first goal of the year but it will be too little as they will end up on the losing side of a 2-1 match.

Spoonsky says:

New York have lost Juan Pablo Angel but Seattle also look lacking in offensive firepower with the losses of Sanna Nyassi and recently Blaise Nkufo. I think the Red Bulls will come out as winners, although I don't think Henry will score; instead look for Dane Richards to be a threat again. New York 2 - Sounders 0

Scott says:

Last year it seemed that the Red Bulls were the media darling having added two ex Barca players as DPs midway through the season. Neither seemed to produce to their potential, but part of that comes down to the fact that both joined when they did. Seattle will be entering this game unhappy about losing at home, but sadly I think they will be going home after the first week of the season 0-2-0. 2-1 NY with Henry scoring.

Philadelphia Union at Houston Dynamo - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Well this match will mark the debut of the Dynamo as an Eastern Conference team (thanks Don) and many think will be their return to the top levels of MLS, I think they will be a top team in the East but only because it clearly looks like the East is still a very weak conference.  They Dynamo are going to be relying on rookie Will Bruin and Crew castoff Jason Garey up top as Brian Ching is out with an injury (hasn't that become the norm?), they also have parted ways with Pat "Ice, Ice" Onstad and will have highly untested Tally Hall in goal.  The Union are hoping their second year in MLS sees them building on the better soccer they played at the end of 2010, and for me they could be a real sleeper in the East.  I do worry that while the returning Carlos Ruiz may score some goals for them, his antics could disrupt what appeared to be good team chemistry last year.  The Union will be as good as Sebastien Le Toux is this year, and last year he was really good with 14 goals and 11 assists.  I consider this one a minor upset as the Union pull out a 1-0 win.

Scott says:

With Le Toux possibly out due to injury (or at least playing in a limited capacity) Phili loses the edge I think they would have had. Last year these teams were fairly even record wise, but the telling stat was the GD. Phili scored 5 less goals but allowed the same number as Houston. Neither team made any moves that either really hurt nor pushed their team up roster wise either. 1-1.

Spoonsky says:

Philadelphia like to attack and I think with Mwanga and Le Toux they should be able to get at 'Houston and score. On the other hand, they're defense isn't the best and I can see Houston grabbing some goals as well. An exciting tie should be the result. Houston 2- Philly 2

Chicago Fire at FC Dallas - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

You would think that FC Dallas would have looked to build on their success of 2010 and making it to MLS Cup, but instead they had a clearance sale of Jeff Cunningham, Atiba Harris, Dax McCarty, and Heath Pearce, and their 16 goals and 11 assists.  They did get David Ferreira signed to a new deal and brought in 1 18 year old DP from Columbia Fabian Castillo, but many wonder what losing on field leadership of Dax and Heath will have on one of 2010's biggest surprises?  The Chicago Fire were a disappointment in 2010 and looking at their roster for 2011 there is simply nothing but questions as it is likely that even their diehard fans are scratching their heads and wondering who are on the pitch for them.  They can at least relax a bit knowing that Marco Pappa, perhaps one of the most underrated players in MLS is still there pulling the strings for them, but almost everything else is a question mark.  I think Dallas opens with a 2-0 win.

Spoonsky says:

I can see Ferreira again running the show in Dallas, especially against a poor Fire team. Dallas have lost some key players, like Aiba Harris, Dax McCarty, and Jeff Cunningham, but they should still be able to comprehensibly beat Chicago at Pizza Hut Park. FC Dallas 2 - Fire 0

Scott says:

It can't help the confidence in the team you play for to lose your jersey sponsor. It also can't help to be playing the champs of the west in week one. David Ferreira will come out of the gate showing why he was the MVP last season and Chicago will continue it's downward spiral. 3-1 Dallas.

Portland Timbers at Colorado Rapids - 7:00pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel

There should be a huge amount of energy in the Mile High City for this match as the defending MLS Cup Champs (dang that is hard to type) kick off their 2011 campaign against MLS newcomers the Portland Timbers.  The lineup is almost the same for the Rapids as it was in 2010 with their powerhouse duo up top leading the way as Cummings and Casey both have to be looking for big years and maybe big deals coming from overseas this summer.  The second set of new kids on the block (yeah NASL, USL don't count here) have a lineup that features a number of familiar names for MLS fans, in fact more than many teams that have been around the league for years. Perhaps no bigger name than Kenny Cooper who makes his return to MLS as a Timber, and having spent some time following the Timbers last year, look out for Ryan Pore who I think could be a major factor in 2011 for them. The emotion and familiarity should be enough for the Rapids to pull out a 2-1 win over the Timbers.

Scott says:

Ego boost to Portland if they can beat the MLS champs at DSG Park for their first game as an MLS club. Will it happen? Not likely. They might know Seattle well in how they play, but the Rapids' duo at the front will make life hard on Portland. 2-0 Colorado with both Casey and Cummings netting goals.

Spoonsky says:

I like the look of the Timbers this season (literally, they're jerseys are awesome) but against the champs they'll just lose out, Casey getting the lone goal in a boring match. Colorado 1 - Portland 0

Sporting Kansas City at Chivas USA - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick

One team has a new name, a new look and potentially the biggest headline of the preseason, the other team has a new coach looking to make his mark and take his team to the top of MLS.  I am not a fan of the new name in KC, but that is their choice, I do like their chances to become a better team this year but a lot of that will depend on getting Kei Kamra to play consistently.  They are also expecting big things from DP Omar Bravo who joins the team this year, they will have a rough go early in the year as they play 10 road matches before opening their new stadium, that could put them in a very deep hole early in the season.  Chivas USA has made a number of changes brining in veteran defenders like Jimmy Conrad and Heath Pearce, exactly what many would expect from new head coach Robin Fraser.  I think this one ends up in a 1-1 draw

Spoonsky says:

I think KC will do well this season, with Omar Bravo, Kei Kamara, and a player I'm really high on: Ryan Smith. Chivas on the other hand still lack idendity despite a great new coach in Robin Fraser. It won't be a great match but I think KC will dominate and get their first win as Sporting. SKC 1- Chivas 0

Scott says:

Wizards no more (I think they wanted to separate themselves from a certain NBA team and it's lack of success with the name) KC is my pick for having a breakout year. They had started showing promise at the end of last season, and they will ride that through this year. Chivas is rebuilding. Robin Fraser has the potential to do a lot with what he has been given, I just don't see it being done this year (at least not early). 1-0 KC.

Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:30pm - KMYU 2.2 (Comcast 22, Dish 12) Direct Kick

Well you can check out my full match preview here the short of it is that RSL is simply to sharp coming off their huge 2-0 Champions League win on Tuesday, but will miss having MLS defender of the year Jamison Olave who is out with an injury.  I still have this a 2-0 win for RSL

Scott says:

San Jose's defeat of NYRB in the playoffs last season was a bit of a shocker to me. I did not see that coming. Know what helps? Having a guy who can score the way Chris Wondolowski does. He will be a real test for RSL's back line. If they hold, RSL comes out with 3 points, if not, I think a draw will result. After a tough game on Tuesday weariness may be a factor for RSL as well. If he doesn't play Tuesday against Saprissa this will be Alvarez's debut in the Claret and Cobalt for the advantage he can give against his old team. 1-1 with Saborio and Wondo the ones with the goals.

Spoonsky says:

RSL are going to do great things this year, and they'll start with a win. This is not the same Quakes team that lost 3-0 to RSL on the opening day of last season, but I think RSL will still get a win. I really doubt Chris Wondolowski's ability to match his 2010 exploits and with RSL's defense at its best, San Jose will just lose out in an exciting game.

New England Revolution at Los Angeles Galaxy - Sunday 6:00pm MT - Galavision

Well you got a look at LA on Tuesday and while it wasn't a convincing win they did what made them so good in 2010 they simply found a way to get a win.  Now they will face a team that had a number of issues in 2010 and even in the preseason of 2011, the New England Revolution.  There is no easy way to say this but LA is simply too good to lose to New England on Sunday, the question is will the LA fans get to see the debut of Juan Pablo Angel, can Donovan Ricketts go, and will Landon or Beckham get their first, second or third goals of the season in this match?  LA gets the 3-1 win

Spoonsky says:

No way the Galaxy lose this one. Easy stuff for them. Galaxy 2- Revolution 0

Scott says:

The walk in the park of the week. LA has to be grateful that they get to open for their home fans against what I consider the worst team in the league. 3-0 LA.

Well there you go, every match of the weekend covered and picked by three different voices, not many place offering up that type of coverage for you.

OFF MY SOAPBOX