As fans prepare for tonight’s USMNT World Cup qualifier with Costa Rica, I had our MLS fans in mind as I was looking ahead to this week’s matches.
Several teams are shorthanded due to International callups. Nothing new for experienced MLS fans. For newbies there are plenty of stories, posts, opinions about the conflicts between MLS and International schedules to mull over, so I’m not going to get into that in this post.
First up this week will be the Red Bulls on the road to DC United. The Bulls just finished a four game homestand in which they took only 4 points. They are now on the road for 7 of their next 9 matches. At this point last year the Bulls were 1 point out of the playoffs, now they’re 7 points out and they will be missing Alfredo Pacheco(El Salvador), Jorge Rojas(Venezuela), Andrew Boyens(New Zealand). DCU are only missing Avery John(Trinidad and Tobago). DCU is coming off of a difficult loss at New England and should come back strong against a struggling Red Bulls team.
Friday we get a tasty matchup, although tempered by missing players as Houston travels to Chicago. Houston is undefeated in their last 7 games while Chicago suffered its first loss this past weekend. Brain Ching is on duty with the USMNT and the Fire are missing Gonzalo Segares(Costa Rica), Bakary Soumare(Mali) and Blanco(Mexico).
The weekend gets under way with LA travelling to Toronto. With Donovan away on national team duty, I expect it will be difficult for LA to continues its league leading 9 game unbeaten string. TFC however, will have to manage without right back Marvelle Wynne and playmaker extraordinaire Amado Guevara(Honduras).
A good Eastern conference game follows with Columbus visiting the Wizards. Columbus seems to have righted the ship and are on a 7 game unbeaten streak. But Kansas City is showing itself as an early contender, unbeaten in their last 3 after a 4 game unbeaten streak earlier in the season. Columbus will miss Frankie Hejduk(injured), Alejandro Moreno(Venezuela), and Duncan Oughton(New Zealand) while KC will miss Roger Espinoza(Honduras). Columbus trails KC(among others) by 3 points.
Lots of chatter in the soccersphere about RSL’s troubles. They are playing fine at home(3-1-1) but have only 1 point from 18 on the road. This weekend they are at home against Rocky Mountain Cup rivals Colorado who are riding high after a road win against the Red Bulls and have played 5 games without a loss. Pablo Mastroenni will miss this match. Should be a good matchup with a team strong at home vs a team on a streak.
On the left coast, Seattle, currently in 3rd place in the west play leader Chivas USA at the HDC. The AmeriGoats beat Seattle in their first meeting. Sasha Kljestan(USA) and Jonathan Bornstein will miss this match(and maybe more if selected to the Confederations Cup squad). Smith of New Zealand will be gone for Seattle. Advantage to Seattle but Chivas USA are tough at home and are accustomed to missing players. Seems like half the starting team has been on the injury list for a couple of years. Preki has been superb.
The weekend wraps up with the Western conference bottom feeders FC Dallas and San Jose clashing at Pizza Hut Park. Both teams should be on a high after winning their last matches, especially FCD after knocking the Fire out of the unbeaten ranks. But one of San Jose’s goal scorers from their victory, Cornell Glen(Trinidad and Tobago) along with Simon Elliott(New Zealand) will be on int’l duty. For FCD, who knows. Have they settled on a lineup or a formation? Arturo Alvarez’s strike was stunning but I’m still looking for consistency from this talented player. 2nd year player Anthony Wallace at left back seemed to team up well with Ricchetti at center back on the back line and goals by Jeff Cunningham and Kenny Cooper sealed the deal. I wonder how many folks will show up at PHP.
Finally, it doesn’ get easier for the Red Bulls as they play New England at Foxboro. Taylor Twellman is back and was an influence in the Revs win over DCU. These teams drew at the Meadowlands earlier this season. New England are still missing Badilla, Castro and Albright to injuries but they should prevail in this match. Maybe something to watch for(or maybe not) is that the Revs are last in the league in shots with 80, 26 fewer than the next lowest team, while the Red Bulls are 2nd only to RSL with 139. And just in case you were wondering, 41% of RBNY’s shots are on target while the Revs are at 51% accuracy.
That’s it. Enjoy the week’s matches.