MLS 2012, Week 6: What To Watch For

MLS 2012, Week 6: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On April 12, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 6, Aron Winter, Brek Shea, Brian Mullan, Bruce Arena, Carlos Rodriguez, Chris Wondolowski, Danny Koevermans, Danny Mwanga, David Ferreira, Fabian Castillo, Features, Freddy Adu, Jair Benitez, Jason Kreis, John Spencer, Justin Morrow, Kenny Cooper, Marvin ChŠvez, Peter Nowak, Robin Fraser, Schellas Hyndman, Shea Salines, Steve Zakuani, Thierry Henry, Victor Bernardez

Sporting KC and RSL square off in the biggest match of 2012 - so far. (Getty Images)

What else can you say about the upcoming weekend in Major League Soccer? It’s damn full. Nine matches, eight of them on Saturday. Tons of interesting matchups across the board that should have everyone’s attention.

This could be the start of where we begin to see how teams will go for the rest of the season. Six weeks in and we know a good amount about each club but it always seem that once those first few games are out of the way that teams begin to separate themselves from one another at this stage. This season should be no different really.

I have a few items I will be looking at heavily this weekend, and here they are:

1. Getting off the mark. For both the Philadelphia Union and Toronto FC, this is a big weekend. Both have win-able home games against clubs that they should beat. Toronto gets Chivas USA, a club making the cross country trip while Philadelphia welcomes in the Columbus Crew, a team fresh off a 4-1 drubbing last week from the hands of the New York Red Bulls.

Even though it is still early, this could easily be a make-or-break kind of weekend for Aron Winter and Peter Nowak. Both of their clubs have been dreadful thus far this season and neither have found their way.

Toronto has to find a way to get their offense going with Danny Koevermans, while making sure that this gritty Chivas team doesn’t make it three straight on the road. Saying that Chivas is a pushover can’t be true anymore after wins in Portland and Salt Lake this season but a long trip to Toronto could be tough for Robin Fraser’s club. Toronto has to find their game and take it to Chivas early or else they could be staring at yet another loss.

For Philadelphia – the plan is simple – find the attack and make it happen against the Crew. Whether it be Danny Mwanga, Gabe Farfan, or someone even like Freddy Adu stepping up…someone has to take over for the Union attack.

2. Reaction to Mullan. It has been nearly a year since the dreaded tackle from Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan on Seattle’s Steve Zakuani. With Mullan’s return to Seattle set for this weekend, the reception of the veteran wing could be some must-see TV. To me, I hope the Sounder fans keep it classy when dealing with Mullan. I’m not saying they should shower him with praises and roses or anything like that but I do hope that the faithful there realizes that holding a grudge against a player that has already been forgiven for too long could come back to haunt them.

My guess it will end up being mostly boos from the crowd each time Mullan touches the ball. Thankfully most fans do get bored with booing the same guy over and over for 90 minutes.

3. Can the Quakes quiet the Red Bulls? Who would have thought six weeks ago that this could be an interesting match? I certainly did not with the way the Red Bulls started the first two games of the year. Now as we enter Week 6 you have one of the top offenses squaring off against one of the best defenses.

San Jose has done well so far this season at quieting quality offenses like Seattle and Vancouver while finding ways to get Chris Wondolowski the ball. Their style and pace on the wings has come alive with Marvin Chavez and Shea Salines but for me what is so impressive is their defense. Victor Bernardez and Justin Morrow have quietly become a force in the middle of the defense. They’ll certainly have their hands full with Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, two of the hottest strikers in MLS.

The Red Bulls come into this match scoring 13 goals in the last three games, with Cooper and Henry doing most of the damage. So far this year the Red Bulls have been quieted by good defenses in Dallas and Salt Lake, while running all over Colorado, Montreal and Columbus. How they handle another quality defense like in San Jose will answer a lot about this team. If they can run up the score yet again this weekend, New York will certainly be a force to deal with for the rest of the season. If not, then we’ll know their kryptonite.

4. What formation does Schellas Hyndman put out this weekend? For most of the season FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman has used the 4-1-4-1, a trusty formation that really works best with a healthy David Ferreira. But last week against the New England Revolution, he switched it all up going to a 4-4-2. The speed of the wings with guys like Brek Shea and Carlos Rodriguez doubled with the speed of Fabian Castillo up top made it tough for the Revs to deal with at times. This move was made to counter suspensions to Jair Benitez and Daniel Hernandez but with their returns you have to wonder what Hyndman will go to next.

Typically Hyndman doesn’t like to make too many changes from game to game if he doesn’t have to but with the injury to Ricardo Villar, he may have to make a switch again when they host the Montreal Impact on Saturday. Replacing Villar in a 4-4-2 setup isn’t that difficult, seeing how he wasn’t that involved in last weeks game. But in the 4-1-4-1 setup, it proves to be a tougher challenge.

5. Battle at 15 points. Real Salt Lake head to the midwest to battle Sporting Kansas City, in the battle of the top two sides in the league. Each team has 15 points so far and SKC is undefeated after five games. Two extremely strong teams here, really no edge either way in my book as to which way this one leans.

Sporting will want to assert their speed and skill up front early in this one but so far this season they haven’t seen a defense quite like RSL. Jason Kreis’ club always plays tough against quality offenses like Sporting’s and this one will certainly come down to who blinks first.

I’m sure somewhere some executives at MLS are wishing this has been a national TV game for the league. IT would have been a great one to showcase.

6. Dreadful Timbers and Galaxy square off. John Spencer said recently that this last month has been hell, well I am paraphrasing him with that. I’m sure Bruce Arena is thinking the same thing about his club’s performances over the last six weeks as well. Both sides only have a win to bank on up to this point and neither look like the clubs most expected them to be at the start of the season.

Both teams need points but more importantly each need a big performance out of their defense in this one. Neither has shown up well this season and while you could make the point about their offenses not stepping up to the plate as well, it is the defenses that really win in this league.

7. Oh yeah, Houston and Chicago. Man I hate the unbalanced schedule for reasons like this one. Both the Houston Dynamo and the Chicago Fire have been on and off all year not because of poor play on the field but because of the schedule. Both teams have played just three games so far. Yes just three. How insane is that?

Hopefully this match will shed a little more light on just how good the Fire will be this season. I think what we’ve seen so far is they have some quality around the pitch but someone else has to step up offensive other than Dominic Oduro. The same can be said in a way for the Dynamo as their offense has to have some form of life here too.


  • Apr 12 2012
Mullan is a dirty savage and I will never forget what he did ... He will be booed here until he retires or until someone ruins his career like he did zakuani's.  Off the field, I hope someone kick his ass real good while here. 
    • Apr 13 2012
    Well that's hardly fair. The guy is doing his job and he made a (relatively) small mistake. Things like that happen in soccer, it's a risk every player takes when they suit up and walk down to the pitch. Mullan served his term; you can argue that it was not harsh enough, but you shouldn't wish the guy harm. 
      • Apr 13 2012
      He went in with both feet hard as revenge for getting roughed up and then after the match was remorseless ... he's an embarassment to the league.  I don't think he is owed any fairness at all.  Rapids are thugs and they display it almost every week.
  • Apr 12 2012
Feel sorry for Mullan.  He made a bad decision, but hopefully after this people can move on. It would be nice if ECS opted for a pro-Zakuani tifo as opposed to an anti-Mullan, but not expecting much.