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Major League Soccer - Week 16 match previews (Saturday Matches)

Well there are some interesting matches this weekend, it all gets kicked off at BMO field in a non-MLS match:

Vancouver Whitecaps at Toronto FC - Nutrilite Canadian Championship - 10:30am - none

Well these two teams started the 2nd leg of this final by in May but the match was called due to weather conditions and Vancouver was forced to give up their 1-0 lead in this leg and now the teams will start over again tied at 1-1 the result of the first leg in Vancouver.  These teams faced off on Wednesday in MLS action and Toronto was able to get a ugly 1-0 win in a match where both teams really looked rough.  With a shot for Champions League action at stake, I expect that both teams will battle hard for the win, for Toronto a 0-0 draw would be a great result that would advance them on away goals.  The Whitecaps rested many of their starters in the midweek match and will look for them to find a way to get a win at Toronto and move on to represent Canada in the Champions League.  I think this will be an interesting match that is likely to end up in a 1-1 draw and force extra time where the experience of TFC will will allow them to move on.

Philadelphia Union at DC United - 5pm MT - Fox Soccer Channel 

The injury plagued DC United are just 2-2-4 at home with year with 11 goals scored and 14 goals allowed, in June the Black and Red were just 0-1-3 and 0-1-1 at home.  The Union don't resemble the team that was every bit an expansion team in 2010, in fact after 16 matches they find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 7-4-5 record.  The Union have had some drama this week as Carlos Ruiz, brought in to boost the Union offense this year is down in Mexico looking for a new team to play with (no he hasn't been released by MLS or the Union).  I actually think the Union will be better without Ruiz who demands so much attention as part of the offense, the downside has been that Sebastien Le Toux, who was a legit MVP candidate last year has been a silent most of this season.  He has one goal, a converted PK and has started getting assists recently, he is up to 5 on the season.

DC United simply have the worst defense in MLS again this year, having allowed 27 goals in 15 matches (1.8 goals per match), and their offense has come down to relying on PK's which has contributed 6 of the teams 21 goals scored.  Yes that is over 25% of their offense this year has come from the PK spot, and that makes me wonder if the diving seen a couple weeks ago is much more than an isolated incident for DC.  There is some good talent on this team but far too often they play as individuals, as opposed to playing as a team.  Ben Olsen has made things better but this team still has a long way to go and this week they may have taken a big step in the right direction as Dwayne De Rosario will join them after being traded from New York..  I think the Union keep the home woes going for DC United, I am picking a 2-1 win for the Union.

more previews after the jump:

Columbus Crew at FC Dallas - 7pm MT - Direct Kick

Well the Crew will head to Pizza Hut Park to look for their second road win of the year, they are 1-3-3 away from Crew Stadium.  The Crew have been getting some good results recently with a 4-1 win over the Rapids last weekend, and a 2-0 win at Houston the week before that.  FC Dallas rebounded from their first loss in two months with a 4-0 win over Portland last weekend, the Hoops are 9-4-4 and just 4 points behind the LA Galaxy for the top spot in the West with two matches in hand.  It should be an interesting clash of these two teams, both have built their revised playing style based on speed and counter attacks. It should be a wide open match and I expect the keepers to be among the busiest guys on the pitch, this one ends up 3-2 with FC Dallas coming out on top.

Chicago Fire at Chivas USA - 8pm MT - Galavision

Well these two teams need a win in the worst ways, each has just one win in their last 5 matches.  For Chivas the need is a bit greater as they have 3 straight losses and they have dropped to 8th place in the Western Conference, that is the same place the Chicago Fire find themselves in the Eastern Conference.  The Fire lead MLS in draws with 11 (2-4-11) and haven't tasted defeat since Frank Klopas took over the helm, but they also have just one win with him in charge as the team continues to look for an identity.  Chivas USA had a stretch where it looked like Robin Fraser had gotten them to buy into a solid defense that would lead to offense and they had 3 wins in 4 matches but in June they only got one win a 1-0 win over Portland and in their last 3 matches they have given up multiple goals.  They shouldn't have that issue with Chicago who have just 3 goals in their last 6 matches, so I have to pick this one to end as a 0-0 draw.

New York Red Bulls at San Jose Earthquakes - 8:30pm MT - ESPN2

One of these teams came into the season with sky high expectations, while the other was simply considered one of the also rans of the Western Conference, well the New York Red Bulls with the highest payroll in MLS history have just 5 wins after 17 matches and their overall 5-3-9 record has left many people scratching their heads.  This week the team traded away Dwayne De Rosario to DC United for Dax McCarty in a move that should provide them some defensive bite in their midfield which should help out their defense which has given up 8 goals in their last 3 matches and after giving up just 3 goals in their first 8 matches has given up 18 in their last 9.  Could be a real reason why they have just 1 win in those last 9 matches.  

While San Jose's offense is still lead by Chris Wondolowski's 6 goals and two assists, they have found that Steven Lenhart and Simon Dawkins both can contribute as well, each has 4 goals.  Their defense has improved as well and only given up multiple goals in two of their last 9 matches, neither was a loss as they outscored DC United 4-2 and drew with the Chicago Fire 2-2.  It should be interesting to see how the Quakes players respond to moving their home match from Buck Shaw Stadium to Stanford Stadium for this big national TV match.  San Jose like RSL have only played 15 matches so every match in hand is huge for them if they want to move up in the Western Conference. I have to believe that this one will likely end up in a 2-2 draw.

Sporting KC at Portland Timbers - 9pm MT - Direct Kick

Two teams heading in very, very different directions will face off at JELD-WEN Field as the Timbers have lost 4 of their last 5 matches and after they had some people believing they might shake off their funk with a 3-3 draw against New York, they went to Texas and got handled 4-0 by FC Dallas.  That FC Dallas team got beat on June 12th at home by Sporting KC 4-1 and that was just one of 3 wins that SKC have in their last 5 matches.  I think the Timbers like all expansion teams in MLS have moments where the efforts of individual players can carry them to big wins, but far too often the chemistry needed for the long MLS season is lacking.  When I look at the Timbers roster I am left wondering who is their leader on the pitch?  Is it Jack Jewsbury who is having one of his best years ever in MLS with 4 goals and 6 assists?  It is hard to believe a guy can go from role player with KC in 2010 to team leader with Portland in 2011.  Should be interesting to see him face his old team on Saturday night.

Sporting KC started the year with a brutal 10 match road trip and now just 15 matches into their season will be playing their 13th of 17 road matches.  This team however has started to believe in themselves and while the team is still figuring out how to play with a lot of new players, the experience of Omar Bravo, Roger Espinoza and the youthful energy of C.J. Sapong and Graham Zusi are making for a very solid team.  When a team can bring on high energy offensive guys like Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamara off the bench, they keep the pressure on opponents.  Don't be fooled into thinking that Sporting is all offense, oh no, in fact in they gave up just 2 goals in 6 June matches.  This matchup should be interesting, I expect a 1-1 draw but this one could be a blowout if either team can catch fire at the right time.

So there are your Saturday match previews, I will be back later on Saturday with a look at the Sunday and Monday matches.