MLS Week 23: What To Watch For

MLS Week 23: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 18, 2011
  • 2011 MLS Season, 2011 Week 23, Features, What To Watch For

It is a big week for Dwayne De Rosario and D.C. United. (Getty Images)

I think it could be safe to say that this has been a very good week for Major League Soccer. Clubs from the league are 4-for-4 in CONCACAF Champions League group play so far, with a real possibility of going 5-for-5 tonight with Toronto FC.

We’ve already talked about the history that FC Dallas made last night but we cannot forget the quality play that LA, Colorado and Seattle all had as well. Colorado struggled in their 3-2 win last night but at the end of it a win is a win. LA and Seattle both made quick work on Tuesday night and really opened up their group stage games with big results.

But let’s remove ourselves from the CCL for a moment and examine what all could take place this weekend in MLS.

1. Expecting a draw in Chicago. Should we really expect anything else out of the Chicago Fire these days? With D.C. United coming into town one thing instantly comes to mind for me, a draw. Chicago already has 14 of them this season and looks well on their way to getting a few more. D.C. on the other hand has been doing well in recent weeks but still stumbles every now and then. But considering how D.C. dispatched Vancouver last week with ease and that same Whitecaps team did the same against this Fire team, it kind makes think this one could just end up being wild. I just hope we get a good match tonight with Dwayne De Rosario adding to his MVP campaign.

2. CCL hangover. Every year around this time we get to hear and see the same thing, the dreaded CCL hangover for the clubs involved in the group stage games. Of all the teams that could have a possible hangover this weekend it has to easily be FC Dallas. Toronto is on the road as well tonight and on Sunday in Chicago but given how big of a win Dallas achieved last night in Mexico, the hangover effect has to happen.

At least for Dallas they play a team that could be going down the same path as them in terms of fatigue and hangover. The Seattle Sounders dominated most of their first CCL group game on Tuesday. Traveling down to Seattle and playing in some heat will certainly be an issue for the Sounders.

I’ll say this about Seattle and Dallas, get used to this matchup. We’ll see it this weekend, at the end of the month in the USOC and likely in the playoffs should these two remain #2 and #3 in the Western Conference.

3. Battle for the Eastern Conference. While other match ups may appear a little sexier on paper this weekend, we could have a great one up in Columbus when the Crew host the Philadelphia Union. As we know these two are only separated by three points in the standings so this is a mega match for each in terms of seeding and seeing who will likely win the Eastern Conference this season (that is unless Kansas City really gets their act together and wins a few in a row like they should).

I keep saying how impressed I am with both clubs here. I called Philadelphia my dark horse at the start of the year and they keep making me look pretty good with that. Columbus on the other hand is making me and every other writer out there look silly. Most of us wrote the Crew off way too early this year, or even before the season started. Seeing how much they let go before the season it wasn’t too hard to.

Now the Crew are in a situation where they can put some good distance between themselves and the rest of the conference. The difference between six/seven points and only one or two at this stage is huge. A win over a upper level club would only make their playoff profile that much stronger.

4. Holding on for dear life in New York. I think it is fairly safe to say that should the New York Red Bulls fail to win in New England this weekend that most people will completely write them off for reaching the playoffs this season. Yeah, I really believe that.

Here’s the thing, New York has to not only deal with Columbus and Philadelphia but now Kansas City just passed them in the standings, Houston did as well and then there is D.C. not far behind (and United have games-in-hand against NY).

So this weekend is more than big for Red Bull fans. A win keeps them in the discussion and probably a little heat off Hans Backe’s back. A loss or even a draw only adds more fuel to the fire.

5. Rivalry weekend. We’ll close out Saturday night with two good rivalries. LA Galaxy hosting the San Jose Earthquakes and the Portland Timbers hosting the Vancouver Whitecaps. Both have intensity and being a physical game written all over them.

At this point Vancouver should be in spoiler mode. With ten games to go, the club would have to go on a ridiculous run of winning at least seven games in their final 10 to even have a hope of reaching the playoffs. Yeah, not gonna happen. Going on the road, against one of their top rivals who is still slightly in the playoff mix has to be a good chance for the Caps to do some damage. Even a draw would look good for them because it would really hurt the Timbers’ chances.

As for San Jose, they have to be desperate for a win here. Going winless in their last 11 games, getting a rivalry game was probably what they needed to fuel their emotions a little bit. The Quakes need to find some emotion and use it in this game. LA could be overlooking this game in a big way too. Time to make their mark or else their playoff hopes are going to die real quickly.

6. Short rest for Sporting and United. Both play in the midweek (though D.C. is tonight) and each are in the hunt right now. I really felt last night was one of the first nights in a while that I felt good about Kansas City’s playoff chances. I wrote earlier in the week about how I thought Peter Vermes was slightly sitting on the hot seat, well that cooled off a bit. But his club needs consistency here at home. D.C. will be a bit gassed from the travel and will likely want a road draw. Seeing how United have games-in-hand on the rest of their conference foes, this one is one that KC cannot let get out of hand early.