What To Watch For: MLS Week 18

What To Watch For: MLS Week 18

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On July 14, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 18, What To Watch For

New Vancouver DP Mustapha Jarju trains on grass to prepare for RSL this weekend. (photo via Vancouver Whitecaps)

While some folks will be focused on the World Football Challenge matches that are set to begin, or the opening of the last Harry Potter film, others will be concerned with the week 18 slate in Major League Soccer. Yup, its a pretty full one indeed this weekend too.

Only Toronto FC is off this weekend, probably a good thing too as they’ll want to get their new DPs used to their new teammates here. LA is also out of league play for the weekend as they dip into their first of two WFC matches as they play Real Madrid. Yeah, that should be fun.

Here are some items I’m keeping track of this weekend in MLS though.

1. Real grass, yes real grass. That’s the echo some folks will be saying in upcoming games in Seattle and in Vancouver (not to mention New England last night when the Revs got smacked around by Manchester United). Vancouver starts things off with Real Salt Lake this weekend who hope to bounce back from their USOC loss on Tuesday night in Dallas. Being back in cooler weather should help, RSL seemingly melted away like most clubs do down in Dallas on Tuesday night. The big wonder is what the real grass will mean for Vancouver. They’re used to the nasty turf at home and even though a majority of their road games are on grass, there is something to be said about new grass on a stadium. It could bounce weird, play funny or just not feel right. Advantage RSL if you ask me.

2. Brian Mullan and the Sounders. Oh boy, this could be the biggest story of the week. The rematch of Colorado and Seattle. We all recall what happened the last time these two got together in Denver. The fun thing to watch will be what the Sounder fans do at the 11th minute in this game. Chant for Steve Zakuani? Boo the crap out of Mullan? Both? We’ll certainly see.

3. More Sporting draws on the way? It was pretty shocking to see Sporting KC go down to a D-3 team this week in the USOC. But give credit to Richmond for bringing everything they had to the table in that wild, rain-delayed game. The Sporks travel to Houston this weekend for a big Eastern Conference showdown. Both teams are neck and neck in the standings and this will certainly be one of those matches that have a huge impact on the playoff race. Sporting has the games in hand but recently they aren’t doing enough with them even though they haven’t lost in a while. Just ask Chicago if all those draws are doing them any good (yes I know I’m comparing a team with 12 draws to one with just seven, but I do see SKC putting themselves in a bind with all of these draws that could/should have been wins).

4. Depth test for Dallas. I talked over at BigDSoccer.com earlier this month about how big July would be for the club. Already the club is being tested with their depth as a couple more players are battling injuries (not season-long ones like David Ferreira though). Andrew Jacobson went down last week against RSL and Daniel Hernandez didn’t even make the trip to Sandy. Both should be back for Saturday’s game with D.C. United but don’t be shocked if someone like Ricardo Villar gets the nod in the lineup after his strong play in the USOC game this past Tuesday. Dallas has the depth for this brutal month but they do have to show it.

5. Cunningham and the record. Could it be, now that Jeff Cunningham has (finally) tied the all-time scoring mark with Jamie Moreno that he breaks it this weekend? I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Cunningham goes off on a scoring run here now that he’s finally on the board for the season. Remember his impressive run a couple years ago in Dallas. He didn’t score that much, if at all, until the summer. From then on he was a monster for Dallas. If he can do that again for the Crew, then look out. That’s a playoff team and a dangerous one at that. They get San Jose in this week and should be plenty rested for it. San Jose had a midweek game the other night against West Brom. Travel and tired legs don’t bode well on a cross country trip.

6. Another cross country trip for NY. Boy this month is been tough on the Red Bulls. Lots of travel and plenty more to come too. I won’t go into the lack of desire that the club demonstrated the other day in the USOC. They should be going with their normal starters in this one against Chivas USA on Saturday night. Chivas is a tough out though so NY cannot let their guard down for a moment. NY has more to lose here in this match than Chivas which is always dangerous too. NY needs to get on the board early and dicate the tone of the game. I didn’t feel like they did that against D.C. (a club they should have beaten).