Well Sporting Kansas City got to open their home stadium on Thursday night and now 3 more days of MLS action are in store for our weekend. We kick off with Fox Soccer Channel's Soccer Night in America:
New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls - 6:30pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel
So with 2 huge DP's, with two top 5 scorers in the league, with the highest payroll in MLS history, you would think being 4-2-7 with no wins in your last 6 matches that it would be time for some soul searching. For New York all of that is true and now they get to deal with Gold Cup call ups that have pulled 5 top players (Rafael Marquez, Dane Richards, Juan Agudelo, Tim Ream, and Dwayne De Rosario) away from your team yet they still have a very talented team available, the only real question marks are on defense.
New England continues another year of what seems a never ending rebuilding project, they just haven't seemed like the same team since Clint Dempsey left and headed to the EPL. Of course there was also the premature retirement of Taylor Twellman, huge shoes that they haven't been able to fill. Then there is the guy who has been the rock of the Rev's the last few years, Shalrie Joseph, perhaps the best midfielder over the last 5 years in MLS, his role now is much more creative and offensive that it was years ago when he was primarily a d-mid. He now leads the team with 4 goals (the only player on NE with more than one goal) and 1 assist.
There is no way New England should be able to get a result in this match, they simply are out manned at almost every position, but with the Red Bulls having two huge holes at centerback you never know what might happen. I am going with a 2-1 New York win, but wouldn't be surprised if it was a draw or upset by New England.
Update- Well I got that one right, but New England was a missed PK away from getting a draw against the Red Bulls.
The rest of the matches after the jump:
Real Salt Lake at Philadelphia Union - 2pm MT - Direct Kick
Of course this match will get it's own in depth preview
Update - RSL will start 17 yr old Luis Gil in the midfield. The starting XI are Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy, Andy Williams, Jean Alexandre, and Fabian Espindola.
San Jose Earthquakes at DC United -5:30pm MT - Direct Kick
Teams having to travel from one coast to the other haven't had much luck this year, so San Jose will be looking to buck that trend and build on their solid 2-0 win last weekend over the Houston Dynamo. The Quakes have a very average record at 4-4-4 with 16 goals scored and 14 goals allowed but over their last 5 matches they haven't lost going 3-0-2, but those 11 points only lifted them to 16 points and that has them in 8th place in the West. DC United also have 16 points and a 4-4-4 record, but they have a -4 goal differential with 16 goals scored and 20 goals allowed, they to haven't lost in their last 5 matches going 2-0-3.
For DC United the battle this year has been made much harder by the injuries they have suffered, but the upside is that Charlie Davies is no longer on the injury report and DC has to hope that he will be able to go on Saturday and able to add to his 6 goals and 1 assist. DC is another team that has found itself on the right end of PK calls, 5 of their 16 goals scored have come from the PK spot. San Jose is getting players back and perhaps none will be able to make a bigger impact going forward than Simon Dawkins who has shown a real flair and got his 3rd goal of the season last weekend in the 91st minute after coming on as a second half sub. This match has 1-1 draw written all over it.
Chivas USA at Houston Dynamo - 6:30pm MT - Direct Kick
Two teams that seem to be heading in different decisions, Houston started well but in their last 5 matches they haven't gotten a win (0-2-3) and Chivas USA started awful but have just one loss in their last 5 (2-1-2). It is interesting that Chivas USA have lost only once away from home (2-1-3), and Houston have already lost twice at home (3-2-2). Houston have scored 17 goals and allowed 17 goals in their 14 matches, while Chivas have scored 16 and allowed 14 in their 13 matches.
For me the issue with Houston is the lack of a creative playmaker in the middle, they have lacked that since Stuart Holden left for Europe and it is clear that Geoff Cameron isn't the solution. It is a shame that nobody is there to support Brad Davis or Collin Clark who are great on the outside of the midfield in creating chances. Knowing that their owners have given them a green light to get a big name DP, I have to believe a creative midfielder is what they are looking for. Chivas have started playing better defense and in 10 of their 13 matches they have either kept a clean sheet or allowed just a single goal, it has been finding a consistent finisher on offense that is probably the one thing they are still working on, Justin Braun showed up great against the New York Red Bulls, but before or after that match he has done nothing. Marcos "Javi Killer" Mondaini returned last weekend and got the game winner against Portland, so maybe he will be the finisher they need. I am not sure why but I am going to pick Houston as the 1-0 winner in this one.
Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers - 8:30pm MT - Galavision
Well the Timbers were the golden boys for a couple weeks, but back to back losses have exposed that they might be more typical of an expansion team than they think. No team is going to head into JELD-WEN Park without understanding they will have a battle on their hands, and the defending MLS Cup Champions will be looking to win the fight. It has been 6 matches since the Rapids won a match, of course it has been 8 matches since they lost a match, the 6 straight draws may sound bad but given the injuries that Colorado has dealt with I don't think it is actually that bad. The question is with all their offensive injuries, can they find a way to score goals, in 10 of their 14 matches they have been held to one goal or shut out. Thankfully their defense have only given up more than 1 goals twice this year, and it has been defensive midfielder Jeff Larentowicz who has provided a lot of their offense, he is tied for the team lead in goals with 3 and has added an assist as well.
For the Timbers the last couple weeks have been a reality check, losing their first match at home 3-2 to DC United, and then last weekend ending up on the wrong end of a 1-0 result at Chivas USA, back to back losses are tough to take after you win 5 of your previous 8 and only lose once in that time as well. It looked as if Kalif Alhassan was going to be their creative playmaker and he is still tied for the team lead with 5 assists but it has been Jack Jewsbury who is tied with him on assists and tied with Kenny Cooper and Jorge Perlaza for goals with 3 each that has been the creative guy for the Timbers and there is your problem. I like Jack Jewsbury, I think he is a good player who works hard and he has clearly stepped up into a let your actions speak loud type of leadership role for the Timbers, but this is a guy who struggled with consistency as a d-mid in KC. I think a lot of people expected Diego Chara to be the creative guy but so far he has under-impressed.
This one is likely to end up in a 1-1 draw, but could be a match where one of these teams try to send a message and do something special, but I am not counting on it.
Toronto FC at Los Angeles Galaxy - 8:30pm MT - Direct Kick
Well TFC are simply struggling and their 0-3-2 record on the road doesn't inspire much hope as they head to the Home Depot Center to face off against the LA Galaxy who are 4-0-3 at home. It gets worse for TFC when you consider they have scored just 3 goals on the road while allowing 9, and LA have scored 11 at home while only allowing 3 goals. I really feel bad for the fans of Toronto, who thought this year they would build up from last year and not strip down, but the reality is last year the team rode the back of Dwayne De Rosario and Chad Barrett, and with those two gone their hasn't been much to be excited about. Even the guy who looked so solid in goal last year Stefan Frei, now looks like a fairly average keeper with a 1.64 GAA. When you factor in injuries and national team call ups, it seems a real long shot that the Red's will do more than try not to give up 6 goals on Saturday.
For the LA Galaxy, they have become a get a goal and hang on team, in their last 8 matches they have scored a single goal in 6 of them and have a 4-1-3 record in those matches. Talk about grinding out results, but you should expect more of that in June as Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts are both on national team duty. It is what we saw from them in last weeks 0-0 draw with DC United, but you have to believe they will be able to do better against Toronto. For me the biggest question about LA this year is why sign and pay Juan Pablo Angel if you aren't going to really use him as a target forward? He has played in just over 60% of their available minutes, he has 2 goals and 1 assist, you would think the combo of him and David Beckham would be good for huge numbers this year but that hasn't been the case.
Still LA should get a 3-1 win in this one.
Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders - 8:30pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel
Well the first match of the Cascadia Cup was entertaining but I doubt many at Qwest field were happy with the 1-1 draw against Portland and I doubt anything less than a convincing win would be acceptable to the Sounders fans. The Sounders have struggled to score goals in most of their recent matches, just once in their last 7 matches have they scored more than 2 goals and in those last 7 they have just 2 wins. One huge upside for Seattle is that their injury list is getting shorter, as only Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White are listed as out, while Alvaro Fernandez is listed as questionable. Perhaps the bigger question for them is what is going on with Sigi and Fredy? I really hope we don't see a repeat of the issues with Freddie that happened last summer.
Vancouver simply isn't that good of a team, they have some good players but as a team they haven't found a way to play well with each other to capitalize on their talent, will that change with Tom Soehn now in charge? I am not sure, I think the team lacks an on field leader and that the changes in goal with Joe Cannon and Pete Vagenas both having a lot of MLS experience it will combine well with Jay DeMerit and Eric Hassli to give the team some really solid players who have been on great teams. I do think they really miss the toughness of Atiba Harris.
I am going to pick the Sounders to get a tough fought 1-0 win at home.
I will preview the Sunday matches on Saturday afternoon, but you are set for your Friday and Saturday action.
OFF MY SOAPBOX