EDIT: Well, most of my preview was heavily influenced by the upcoming national team call-ups, but not every player has departed yet. Blame to cold medicine. Here comes a hastily updated weekend preview.
This weekend will see a hard fought Texas derby between Dallas and Houston, two top teams on the road as New York faces Vancouver and Los Angeles faces New England, and another contender step up to break Portland’s perfect home record.
Toronto FC (2W-4L-6T) vs Philadelphia (5W-3L-2T)
12:30 PM EST
Another early home game for Toronto will see the Reds attempting to continue their recent defensive form against a Philadelphia team that has struggled as of late despite being near the top of the table in the east. While Philadelphia has had difficulty getting results in away games to Portland and Dallas as well as in hosting league-leaders LA, their offense showed signs of coming to life at home against Chicago. Despite scoring a stunning goal last week, Carlos Ruiz will need to mesh more with his teammates if the Union want to truly become an offensive threat. Toronto, meanwhile, have shown that they can be potent either on attack or defense while struggling to put forth a complete game.
Vancouver Whitecaps (1-5-5) vs New York Red Bulls (4-2-5)
5:30 PM EST, TSN
The Whitecaps will fancy their chances against a New York side who are already depleted by call-ups and under pressure to win. While Vancouver sit low on the standings the fact remains that they have only lost once at home so far this year and if they are going to turn their inaugural season in MLS around, they will need to start here. New York is sitting atop the table in the east, but have only taken three points in the last four games and a cross country road trip while lacking central defender and leader of the defense Rafa Marquez will not help. Vancouver has shown that its offense can produce this year and they will need to do so this weekend if they want to come away with the upset.
Columbus Crew (3-3-4) vs Chivas USA (3-4-3)
7:30 PM EST
Both Chivas and Columbus have suffered from setbacks as of late after mustering some impressive runs of form. Columbus looked good against the Portland Timbers in a difficult away loss while Chivas were snuffed out by their in-town rivals, the Galaxy. Chivas are without the services of a number of players including Jimmy Conrad and Michael Lahoud due to injuries. The forwards of both teams will likely be the key to this match as both Justin Braun of Chivas and Andres Mendoza of Columbus have not found the form that made them so dangerous last season.
New England Revolution (3-4-4) vs Los Angeles Galaxy (7-2-5)
8:00 PM EST, Galavision
The New England Revolution are working on what could be one of the premier midfield duo’s in the league in Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph, however, before both players leave to their respective national teams, they will be tested against the league leading Galaxy. The Galaxy will also lose two key components in Landon Donovan and Donovan Ricketts after this match. While LA have been at the top of the league since the beginning of the season they were not looking impressive in terms of points per game. However, as the season continues the Galaxy have found their form and are rapidly climbing the points per game standings. Despite their home field advantage, New England will be hard pressed to come out of this game with any points at all.
Chicago Fire (1-4-5) vs San Jose Earthquakes (3-4-3)
8:30 PM EST
The Chicago Fire are a team looking to put all the pieces together, but after attempting to do so all season, are still struggling. The Earthquakes look to have found their missing piece to the puzzle, having won their last two games largely due to the contributions of forward Chris Wondolowski. While San Jose has not been as one dimensional this season as they were last year, they still rely on Wondolowski to provide a spark and a scoring touch for their offense. The Fire’s streak of four games ending in a tie was only snapped by a Carlos Ruiz effort that came out of nowhere, and while they have looked outclassed from time to time, the Fire have shown that they can compete with anyone in the league. Chicago will now have an opportunity to show that they can not just compete with but can beat other teams in the league.
Houston Dynamo (3-4-5) vs FC Dallas (6-3-3)
8:30 PM EST
As Major League Soccer has grown, so has its rivalries, and the Texas derby (or “El Capitan” named for the artillery piece taken home by the winners) is one of the most natural and fiercest. The Texas Derby has seen eight red cards given in its last fourteen matches. In the Dynamo’s six years in MLS they have only lost at home to Dallas once, winning five of their other seven meetings in Robertson Stadium. However, this year the Dynamo will play host to a Dallas team that ranks third in the league in points per game and who are undefeated in their last five. Houston are coming off a hard fought defeat at the hands of the LA Galaxy where they had little control and, despite a stout defensive effort, never really looked like scoring themselves. Both teams were away in midweek, so some warm Texas weather may make for a grueling game that could break wide open.
Colorado Rapids (4-3-5) vs Sporting Kansas City (1-6-1)
9:00 PM EST
The Rapids are win-less in their last three games at home but will be looking to change that against Kansas City who are still slogging through their season opening road trip as their new stadium is completed. Things are looking up for SKC after playing their first home game of the year in a 5-0 win over New England in a US Open Cup play-in match. Colorado, meanwhile, have been unable to find a win after tying their last four games. Injuries and call-ups continue to hamper the Rapids’ chances of regaining their early season form. With Conor Casey contributing from the bench and Omar Cummings still injured it seems unlikely that any spark will come from that formerly dynamic forward pairing. Teal Bunbury of Kansas City was expected by many to be called up to the USMNT next week, but his exclusion from the US Gold Cup side will drive him forward and will add some motivation to the talented but struggling SKC attack.
Real Salt Lake (5-1-2) vs Seattle Sounders (4-4-5)
9:00 PM EST
This game will be a face off between two teams expected by many to be at the very top of the league. Seattle has had to contend with injuries and a difficult schedule from the start and now find themselves squarely in the middle of the pack. Salt Lake started out with an impressive four wins in a row but have stuttered without midfielder Javier Morales to lead their attack. RSL’s defense has been able to carry on with two of last year’s defender of the year candidates, Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers, in the center of the defense ahead of 2010 goalie of the year candidate Nick Raimondo. They will attempt to continue RSL’s impressive unbeaten streak of 29 league games without a loss when playing at Rio Tinto Stadium. It will be a tall order for Seattle’s injury plagued side to come away with any points in Salt Lake this weekend.
Portland Timbers (5-3-2) vs DC United (3-4-3)
5:00 PM EST
The Portland Timbers continue to be unbeatable at home in the Rose City, but DC United will be looking to bring their dangerous attack to bear and get the first league points for a visiting team in Jeld Wen Field. The Timbers’ defense has had several solid outings after a shaky start to the season and have not allowed a goal at Jeld Wen in the last three games, all 1-0 victories. DC will be welcoming Josh Wolff back to the line-up but will be missing his fellow forward Charlie Davies to injury. Davies has scored six goals so far on the season and was a large part of a dangerous DC attack that will struggle to replace him.