MLS Week 21: What To Watch For

MLS Week 21: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 4, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 21, What To Watch For

Columbus hopes to remain on top this weekend in the Eastern Conference. (Getty Images)

What a wild night in Major League Soccer it was last night. Week 21 got off with a bang in some ways as the LA Galaxy saw their long unbeaten run come to an end at the hands of the Portland Timbers of all teams. Kansas City made quick work of a struggling Real Salt Lake side. And then there was the debut of Pavel Pardo in Chicago, boy, who would have guess he’d show up better than Nery Castillo ever did for the Fire.

This weekend is pretty packed too. Every MLS club is involved over the weekend for the first time in what seems like a couple months.

1. Which teams show up in Commerce City? For a few weeks we’ve been talking about how weirdly-good the Columbus Crew are here. They’ve inched their way up the Power Rankings and are now the Eastern Conference leaders with Philadelphia stumbling in their last couple games. Columbus now travels to Colorado this weekend to face a Rapids side that has its bad battles with consistency here this season. You think for a moment that they are down and out of it and then the next week they’re back with a convincing win. I think as long as the Crew play their style of defense in this one that they’ll get at least a point in this match. Colorado hasn’t put two back-to-back quality games together in ages here. A stumble seems likely after winning in Philadelphia last week.

2. DC needs a statement. We know Toronto has been gassed by travel lately and it will only continue to happen for the Reds but just when we thought they’d go down last week in Portland, they shocked us all with a draw. They go to DC this weekend to face United and we all know how poorly DC has played at home in recent games. The Black-and-Red need a home win in the worst way right now in hopes of reaching the post season this year. This is one of those statement kind of games for DC in my mind. They win and it shows they are in it for the long haul here, but to lose it to a team like Toronto shows me that they’ll stumble all the way to the finish line here this season.

3. Will the real Union please stand up? A couple games in a row with sub-par performances for Peter Nowak’s team and now they host the Houston Dynamo, a team that appears to be trending upward. Notice the word appears there in that last sentence. The Dynamo have still yet to win on the road this season and a win in a place like PPL Park would almost certainly help their case for a playoff spot here. Nowak really need his team to come together here though. After the whole Carlos Ruiz situation last week, its apparent that some leadership within the club is missing and someone needs to step up and get this team out of the funk that they’ve been in recently. I do believe its time for Sebastien Le Toux to get back to his 2010 form here. Hard to believe his stats have declined so much from last year. I know Ruiz was part of the reason for it but at some point he’s gotta do something about it.

4. One test down, KC could start to be on a roll. Last night was a big test for Sporting Kansas City. While RSL has really been in a funk for a large part of this season, they’re still a very deep and talented team. Knocking them off in a dominating fashion shows that this Sporting KC team is ready to be a contender this season. If they can continue to show up well against the top tier clubs in MLS like this at home then we should expect them to add more points to their name here real quick. A tired Seattle squad comes to town next on Saturday. While both clubs played in the midweek, I’d expect a fresher SKC team given how big of a win it was to knock off RSL last night.

5. Will RSL respond? Some are starting to think the world is coming to an end here now that RSL has stumbled yet again. We rarely see two bad efforts in a row from this club and I even heard some supporters say last night’s loss in KC felt like a game from the early days of the club. With a New York team coming into town fresh off a win in the Emirates Cup, this will be a tough test for Jason Kreis’ club. The biggest issue right now for me with this club is their defense, which has disappeared since the injury of Jamison Olave. When the big man went down in the All-Star game last week it seemed like that was enough to take the wind out of the sails for this club. They’d already been hit in the gut twice this year by losing in the CCL final and then from losing Javier Morales, but losing Olave, even for a few weeks seemed to be the biggest blow of all.

6. Battle at the top. Before LA’s surprising loss to Portland last night, everyone was already looking forward to this big showdown in LA this weekend between the Galaxy and FC Dallas. It’s possible that LA was looking ahead to this game and dropped points for the first time since May 1, which happened to be against their weekend opposition. Dallas comes into this match fresh off their big CCL win that pushes them towards the group stage. With both teams playing in the midweek, I’d expect to see some changes in the lineup. Keep an eye on Brek Shea though, he was subbed out early in last night’s CCL game for Dallas, so I’d expect him to go a full 90 on Saturday in LA.