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Major League Soccer Week 9 - previews and picks

Major League Soccer has 8 matches for you this weekend, but none of them start until 6pm MT on Saturday (when will MLS learn that TV ratings are hurt by having 4 matches at the same time?) and then two matches on Sunday.  A couple of big matches this weekend, and while MLS has focused their attention on Chivas USA vs. LA Galaxy, I think the better matches will likely be the New York Red Bulls at the Houston Dynamo, and Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas.  So let's get started:

Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union - 6pm MT - Galavision

Well the Union couldn't have chose a better opponent to try and break their two match losing streak against than the 1 win Chicago Fire, who are 0-2-3 on the road with 10 goals allowed and just 7 goals scored.  The Union need to find a way to score goals, they have just 6 on the season and haven't scored more than one in any of their matches. The Fire haven't lost in 4 matches, but they haven't won in 4 matches as they have a quad of back to back draws, last week the Fire fought from behind and earned a 2-2 draw after goals by Marco Pappa and Orr Barouch ( a 19 yr old Israeli who joined the team this preseason).  Perhaps the biggest change in this recent streak of draws is the play of Jon Conway who has taken over goal keeping duties from Sean Johnson, but they still have a lot of questions on defense with just one clean sheet in their 9 matches.

The Union have found that grinding out results isn't easy in MLS and it is even harder when you defense has given up 6 goals all year and your offense hasn't been able to score more than 1 in a match.  I still question their move to play a more defensive style and move away from the attacking offensive style that they played last year, it looks like the change gutted the energy and effectiveness of Sebastien Le Toux, who was a legit MVP contender last year and this year has just 1 goal (a PK) and 1 assist.  The defense has been much better with the leadership and work of keeper Faryd Mondragon, but without an offense that can score consistently they will find their stay in the upper half of the Eastern Conference short lived.  If the Union can find a way to score they should get a result but I think this one could end up a 1-1 draw. 

more matches after the jump

New York Red Bulls at Houston Dynamo - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick

When these teams met in New York earlier this year nobody gave Houston much of a shot against the high powered Red Bulls, but Houston got a 1-1 draw.  The Red Bulls, like the Dynamo have been a very mixed bag this year, New York is 4-2-3 with 13 goals and 6 goals allowed, while the Dynamo are 3-3-4 with 13 goals and 10 allowed.  Perhaps nothing will have a bigger impact than will the absence of Thierry Henry who didn't travel with the team, which will likely push Juan Agudelo up top with Luke Rodgers, but the bigger issue will be how the Red Bulls react to giving up 3 goals last weekend to Chivas USA.  That match showed that the Red Bull defense is very vulnerable when they push forward as much as they do, will the team learn from that mistake?

The Dynamo are still looking for the consistency the franchise is known for but with a lot of changes to the roster it is the play of Brad Davis (6 assists) that is the most steady factor.  Rookie Will Bruin scored a hat trick against DC United and has 4 goals on the year, and Cam Weaver has found the back of the net 3 times.  Last week Tally Hall wasn't tested often in goal against RSL but in two matches before that he had given up two goals in each match. Hall was huge against New York in the first match and will need to be impressive again to keep his team in the match.  I see this one ending up a 2-2 draw.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Chivas USA - 8pm MT - ESPN2

Oh my how the league loves to build up the "Super Clasico", what they don't tell you is that of the 18 matches between these two team Chivas USA has won just 3 of them and they have been out scored 32-18 by the Galaxy. Heck even when Chivas is the "home" team (both sides play at the Home Depot Center) they have just a 1-5-3 record against the Galaxy.  Yes Chivas was able to get a huge 3-2 win over New York last weekend but they have a 3-3-3 record after starting with back to back losses, all 3 of those wins have come in their last 4 matches and in each of them they have scored 2 or more goals. The big question will be can Justin Braun (who got all 3 goals against New York) step up again?  I keep waiting to see who will step up as the creative guy in the midfield for Chivas, will it be Nick LaBrocca or Ben Semanski?  Both have shown flashes but neither have been very consistent, and they will need a consistent match to beat the Galaxy.

You would think the Galaxy had won MLS Cup the way so many people started singing their praises after beating Sporting KC 4-1 last weekend, which is very confusing to me as Sporting KC have given up 17 goals this year and have just a single win.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Galaxy is that Landon Donovan has simply put them on his back again and is carrying them to results.  He has scored in each of their last 5 matches and they have only lost one of those matches, going 2-1-2 over their last 5. There is no doubt that LA can score, they have 17 goals on the season, but they have given up 12 and out of their 12 matches they have only 4 clean sheets.  It might be a big test for the Galaxy to get a result against a surging Chivas team, going to pick an upset in this one as Chivas win 2-1.

Sporting KC at  Seattle Sounders - 8pm MT - Direct Kick

Oh how I feel for the players and fans of Sporting KC, starting with 10 matches on the road is simply a huge task to put before any team and SKC haven't responded well with just a 1-5-1 record.  The Sounders have lost just one of their last 5 matches (2-1-2) but after failing to get a win last weekend at home against Cascadia Cup rivals Portland, you have to imagine they are going to be looking to get a huge result for their fans against Sporting KC who have given up 17 goals in just 7 matches and has allowed multiple goals in 5 of those matches.   SKC have proven they can score goals as well as they have scored multiple goals in 4 of their 7 matches.  Kei Kamra and Teal Bunbury lead the offense for Sporting, each has 3 goals, but the real questions on defense as clearly the changes there haven't been nearly as successful. 

The Sounders are an interesting team this year, their 3-3-5 record shows the improvement they have made since they started the season with back to back losses, but far too often the results have been draws.  Even at home the Sounders have as many draws as they have wins, but the reality is that they should be able to find a way to get the win over sporting.  I know they are hoping to have at least one of their injured midfielders back, it will likely be Mauro Rosales who has practiced all week, but clearly their chances would be improved if they could also get Erik Friberg or Brad Evans.  I think with or without them that the Sounders pick up a 2-1 win.

New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick

Both of these teams need a win in the worst way to build on their wins from last weekend, New England got a 1-0 win over Vancouver and San Jose got a huge 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew.  Teams who have had to travel from one coast to the other coast have really struggled this year, so you have to think that the Quakes will have an edge, but New England has just one loss in their last 4 matches.  I keep waiting for the combo of Rajko Lekic and Benny Feilhaber to lift up the level of play of the Rev's but so far their season has been a mixed bag.  The reality for now is that the Rev's are good as Sharlie Joseph is, and not much more.

The Quakes finally got some help for Steve Wondolowski last week, but he still has scored half their goals this year (5 of 10) and no other player has more than 2.  With Simon Dawkins on the injured list and Bobby Convey spending a couple matche on the bench it has pushed Khari Stephenson into a more creative role but it will take more than a single win over Columbus to prove that they have things back on track.  I do think their defense has improved in recent weeks having given up just 2 goals in their last 3 matches.  I hope the Quake's can pull out another win, I think they will but this one will end 2-0.

Columbus Crew at Portland Timbers - 9pm MT - Direct Kick

Well the Crew got hammered last weekend on the West coast by San Jose and now they have to head to Jen Weld Field the home of the Portland Timbers who have simply been perfect at home with a 4-0-0 record.  The Crew haven't been able to get a win on the road this year, they are 0-2-2 with just 2 goals scored and 7 allowed.  The Crew are still looking for a creative play maker and a finisher up top, of their 8 goals they have scored this year half of them have come from the PK spot, and no player has more than 2 assists.  The reality is that their defense has kept them in matches as they have 4 clean sheets and had given up just 6 goals before the 3 they allowed last weekend.  

I still am not convinced that the Timbers are as good as some other people think, sure they got the wins at home and last weekend's draw with the Sounders was solid, but I just don't buy it.  They got handled by LA a couple weeks ago, so it will take more than a couple of bunkered wins at home.  When two of your top scorers are defenders it it makes you wonder.  Kenny Cooper leads the team with 3 goals, and they have 4 players with 2 each, including Rodney Wallace and Mamadou "Futty" Danso.  Listen I get that they have a great home field advantage, but as the season moves along things will get tougher.  Still I think they can get a result against the Crew and I have a feeling it could likely be a 1-0 win for the Timbers.

Toronto FC at Colorado Rapids - Sunday 5pm MT - Direct Kick

Well the Red's are simply awful on the road again this year, they are 0-3-1 with just 3 goals scored and 9 goals allowed, while the Rapids have been solid at home with a 2-1-1 record with 8 goals for and 4 allowed.  The Rapids are dealing with huge injury issues and most of them at the forward position where Omar Cummings, Caled Folan, and Macoumba Kandji are all out, and Quincy Amarikwa and Conor Casey are listed as probable.  Toronto is dealing with a very different issue, the rebuilding of their roster, almost every week they are putting out a different lineup and that is hard for any team to deal with.  One of the few constants for TFC is Stephan Frei in goal, beyond that they have had 24 different players in their lineup, hard to be consistent when you never know who is going to be on the pitch for you.

The Rapids are finding that being defending MLS Cup champions is not easy, and clearly the injuries have taken their toll but they have found a way to get 4 straight results after 3 straight losses. Getting 5 points from a 3 match road trip isn't bad for a team that has had to dig very deep for offensive players.  If they can get past the injuries I have to believe that this rough start will probably make them a better team, I do worry that their defense has struggled to keep a clean sheet (they have just 2 so far this year) but against a struggling TFC they should be able to get a big home win.  I see this one being a 2-0 win for the Rapids.

Real Salt Lake at FC Dallas - Sunday 5pm MT - Direct Kick

You can check out the full match preview here.  Short version, I think RSL get out of their funk and break their drought in Dallas with a 2-1 win.