What To Watch For: Week 1

What To Watch For: Week 1

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On March 17, 2011
  • 3 Comments
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 1, What To Watch For

 

Empire Field will be a whiteout for Saturday's game between Vancouver and Toronto. (photo via Vancouver Whitecaps)

For the 2011 season I will be doing some thing differently around here. The Power Rankings will remain the same, as will the weekly predictions (though those will be shorter than in previous years). But I will be adding a couple new regular posts for each week, first of which is today’s What to Watch For, followed next week by a “What We Learned” post.

Why the change? Simple, with 18 clubs in the league it is nearly impossible for me to write out long previews each week. I don’t have the time anymore, nor do I have that kind of energy. Now should someone pay me loads more to do this then I’d go back to the longer previews each week in a heartbeat but I think in the long term these kinds of posts will add to the blog nicely. I hope you all enjoy.

As we go into the first week of the new season there are loads of questions out there surrounding each club. The “What to Watch For” post searches those questions and points them out to you.

1. Canadian Wonders. Going into the first all-Canadian matchup that Major League Soccer has seen, one has to wonder which club really is ready. The Vancouver Whitecaps are your typical expansion team in the sense that we really don’t know what to expect out of them yet. Defensively they should be good and its possible their offense could come alive with DP Eric Hassli. Toronto on the other had has just many questions. Going on the road to Empire Field for the first meeting doesn’t help either. Vancouver has had Toronto’s number in previous meetings in the Canadian Cup over the last couple years too.

2. Empire Fields. Our first look at this new but temporary venue. The thing I am looking most forward to is the Vancouver fans. I’ve been told they are some of the best around. Though I’m sure their rivals will say otherwise. Plus the stadium will be a whiteout for the game too, with donations going towards relief in Japan. That’s cool.

3. Early travel for Seattle and LA. I gotta say the schedule makers did Seattle and LA no real favors early on with two games in the first week like this. Both played Tuesday and yet they each still have to make cross country trips for games this weekend. At least for LA they have a game on Sunday against New England instead of Saturday like the Sounders do in New York.(Note: for some reason I had been under the impression LA was on the road, my mistake.)

4. Full Oven. Incase you’ve missed it, Pizza Hut Park should be packed this weekend when FC Dallas hosts the Chicago Fire. I know, most of you say you will believe it when you see it but my sources here in town tell me the talk is legit. This is a good thing to see too. A lot of folks have made plenty of comments over the last couple years (with good reason too) about the lack of support for Dallas in Dallas. Times are changing though, the club will have more of their games air on some different local TV stations this year (same ones that have NBA, MLB and NHL games). Very nice things are happening in Dallas.

5. Olsen’s Army. I’ve been waiting all winter really to see the re-tooled D.C. United play. Sure it isn’t a big deal considering how bad the club was last year but with new faces in Black-and-Red for D.C. like Dax McCarty, Josh Wolff, and rookie Perry Kitchen, it could be a solid year in our nation’s capital.

6. New Look Dynamo. The Dynamo of 2010 should be no more. Dominic Kinnear has done a good job at tweaking his lineup in a way to make Houston fans quickly forget about last season. Look out for the two rookies Kofi Sarkodie and Will Bruin to be a big part of their turnaround this season. As long as the defense steps up in 2011, the Dynamo should have little problem reaching the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.

7. The Fish is back. Yes, Carlos Ruis is back in MLS, this time around it is with the Philadelphia Union. I must say though I do believe this move will work out for both sides. Philly needed some offensive support to go along with Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux. Ruiz is a bit older but he’s still a guy that knows his way around the net.

8. Defending champs open with Portland. Getting the championship banner or whatever they’re going to do in Colorado to celebrate their first title happens this weekend. They also get a nice break in hosting an expansion club. I know Portland had a very nice preseason but you can’t go solely on what a club did in preseason when it comes to the regular season (if I recall D.C. had a nice preseason last year too and look how that ended up). Colorado should control this game from start to finish.

9. New looks in Chivas and KC. One side of the pitch you get a Chivas USA club that is totally re-tooled from last year with new manager Robin Fraser, the other side has just a renamed franchise in Sporting Kansas City. Both are clubs I am eager to see in action this weekend. For KC I want to see how they start this 10 game road trip and for Chivas I just want to see if their offense can actually come alive.

10. First real look at the Timbers. Just with Vancouver, we get our first real look at the Portland Timbers this weekend too. I have to admit, I’m kind of pulling for this club to do well this season. No real reasons behind that, mainly I know there are just a bunch of good people there supporting that club and I feel like throwing my support their way too.

11. Has SJ done enough? Going up against a club like Real Salt Lake first is no easy task but lucky for them this game is after a tough CCL game for RSL. So maybe the Quakes will catch a break in that sense. Still, the Quakes are a club that I have plenty of question marks about. I do see their defense being better than last year with the return of Ike Opara and if Bobby Convey has another strong season then there is little doubt in my mind that Chris Wondolowski will continue his goal scoring form from last year.

12. Gas in the tank for RSL. I know Jason Kreis and his club won’t talk about the tight schedule to start the season off, actually I’m sure they’ll be more than fine with it considering how well they are carrying the banner for MLS in the CCL. But you do have to wonder if it will take it’s toll in this game any. Still, RSL is so deep that it probably won’t matter all that much in the end, its probably more of a pipe dream for San Jose fans hoping they’ll catch RSL on a down night because of the short prepare time for RSL.

13. Who will score in New England? Seeing how LA played in Seattle, their defense is going to be very tough to beat in 2011. That’s bad news for a club like New England who still have issues on offense. If Shalrie Joseph can step up to start the season and carry them offensively then maybe there is a chance. I have my doubts though.

  • Blacloo

    Both Seattle and LA’s finishing was horrendous…There is no way these teams compete with RSL and NY. Sporting KC and San Jose are going to put out quality sides also.

  • baumer

    I guess by whiteout you are referring to the first outing of the whitecaps and their strips. It looks like rain in the forecast.

  • ViperLA

    LA’s match against the New England Revolution is a home game at the HDC so they don’t have to travel cross country like Seattle does. How do I know this? I will be sittin’ my ass at the stadium in the supposed rain. Yes, you heard me, the weather report calls for rain in what is normally sunny So Cal.