One would be tempted to overlook the two matches going on tonight in MLS and focus on an incredible slate of games this weekend, with LA/NY as the headliner. To do so would be to miss some important storylines as the four teams taking the pitch tonight are all in a critical stretch of games that could define their place in the playoff race.
Each match is analyzed separately below, and feel free to offer your own pre- and post-game thoughts in the comments section.
DC United v. Seattle Sounders, 7:30 PM ET
Fun Fact: Seattle has never lost at RFK
Momentum: Momentum is all on Seattle’s side, as the team is winning despite high-profile injuries to their starters. The Sounders have not lost since March and are coming off a 3-0 stomping of woeful Toronto this weekend. Fredy Montero looks to finally be getting on track and the club is actually undefeated on the road this year, winning once and drawing twice. They are also third in the Western Conference and can create some daylight between themselves and Colorado/Dallas with a good road trip.
The Black-and-Red, meanwhile, are struggling of late. They were thumped by New York and Houston in MLS play and dumped from the Open Cup by New England last week. The defense is in shambles and, as Steven Goff points out, the same buzz words used last year during DCU’s dreadful campaign are beginning to surface again. They still sit sixth in the standings, two points behind New England and five behind Columbus, so if they can get it together they can make their own playoff run.
Key match-up – Brad Evans/Osvaldo Alonso v. Clyde Simms: There are rumors that Simms could sit this match as a result of his poor play the past few weeks, so we could see Kurt Morsink here or Dax McCarty drop back. But the key match-up regardless of who starts is the midfield of DC stopping the midfield of Seattle. For all the flack the DC backline has received, the midfield has done a poor job of controlling possession and playing a holding role, something they absolutely have to do against Seattle. If Seattle is able to get on the run and create quick scoring chances, like they did against Colorado, this game could be over quickly.
Prediction: This is not the same DC team as last year and it has more talent, so I do not expect an implosion here. Seattle also may be peeking ahead to Columbus on Saturday and may not start their entire best XI. Regardless, I think Seattle controls possession and creates plenty of scoring chances, but the DC defense does just enough to hold on for a 2-2 draw.
Houston Dynamo v. Colorado Rapids, 8:30 PM ET
Fun Fact: Houston has never lost to Colorado in Robertson Stadium
Momentum: Colorado finally stopped their losing streak with their 1-1 draw with Chicago this weekend. The fact is this team is banged up and their absences have hurt them. Getting Pablo Mastroeni back helps the midfield but they are still thin up top without Conor Casey or Quncy Amarikwa. Added to that is the fact that starters like Matt Pickens and Caleb Forlan are banged up, and Brian Mullan is out for a while, and you’ve got a team struggling to keep up in the West. Colorado has fallen out of the top three and is being caught from behind by Dallas. They need to right the ship and get a result against Houston.
Houston is playing the exact opposite right now. The Dynamo are coming off a dominating performance at home against DC where Will Bruin and Brad Davis had their coming out parties. They sit on 12 points which is third best in the East and if they can keep their momentum going can go a long way towards securing a playoff spot in the inconsistent East.
Key Match-up – Brad Davis/Pablo Mastroeni: Davis recently took over the league lead in assists and played very well in the DC match. He looks to be the kind of difference maker in the midfield that can help a team with inconsistent forwards find good chances to score. If Mastroeni or the Rapids midfield can shield him from getting the ball to Bruin and Weaver, they have a chance to win.
Prediction: Houston’s tough at home and on a roll, but Colorado is too good to just roll over. The Dynamo edge the Rapids 2-1.