Midweek games here in Dallas never cease to amazing me at how much it breaks up my week. Normal weeks have me doing the same old thing but a game smack dap in the middle of the week is a nice break.
Last night’s RSL-FC Dallas game was a good one to get the new week started in Major League Soccer too. Even though both clubs were missing key players in big spots and neither truly looked like taking a hold of the game from the other, it got us going this week.
Now we head into the weekend where we see nine games on Saturday. You read that correctly, nine games. Big stinkin’ weekend.
Five of the nine are East v. West matchups while the others are good ol’ conference clashes. Unfortunately we don’t have any big time rivalry games to really get us in the mood this weekend but New England-New York on NBC will be solid enough to hold us over on the rivalry front.
With plenty of games there will be plenty to talk about as well.
1. The Big O getting some Timber. It may not be the sexiest match on the weekend slate but Montreal hosting the Portland Timbers has plenty to offer. For one, the Timbers are finally off the mark after a four-game losing streak and are hoping to find their way offensively against a defense that has had plenty of issues against quality attacks. Kris Boyd is loving life in Portland according to some, and is finally getting use to MLS defenses.
The Impact on the other hand have had a little time off here to get their act together. This group has the talent. After seeing them in person I can say there is plenty of it across the field but Jesse Marsch hasn’t found the right combination of that talent to get quality results out of the door. Either it is a combination of not having a big-time go to scorer or the fact that their midfield is probably missing a link on the creativity side or something else entirely, Marsch and the Impact still have a long way to go here.
2. Red Bulls down defensively. Just about every quality name that Hans Backe has on defense will be missing this weekend against New England. So what will he have to do instead? Hope to the soccer Gods above that Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper can run up the score to make up for it. Rookie keeper Ryan Meara has been good but given how many goals he’s given up this season, I’d almost be wiling to go ahead and say he isn’t the answer for them yet. But at the same time it is hard to say it when his defense is just standing still so much when quality attackers come down on them.
The Revs have a chance here to get going offensively in a game like this. New York showed last weekend in D.C. that they aren’t good at handling quick attackers with decent ball skills. New England does have a few guys that know how to dribble and a couple that have really good pace. Backe has a lot of work to do if Saer Sene, Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen come down on them with pace.
It isn’t at all out of the question that this could be a 4-3 game.
3. Quakes show on the road. All the talk earlier in the week was about the San Jose Earthquakes. Writers like myself wrote about what a pleasant surprise they are and just how good they’ve been this season. They hit the road this weekend to face a Philadelphia Union squad that may give them trouble. Confidence is slowly building with the Union after two straight wins. Frank Yallop’s group has been so strong defensively this season on the road but an East Coast trip is always tricky for Western clubs.
San Jose just needs to keep it simple and effective. While their style of play isn’t at all sexy, their results are speaking for themselves here. The run and gun attack with Chris Wondolowski is still as effective as ever and with a couple missing links on the Union this weekend (due to suspension), he may have a little more room to be his dangerous self.
4. Sounders back in action. Hey remember the Sounders? Yeah, it feels like it has been weeks since we saw this club play last. Their Week 8 opponent knows exactly how they feel. The Chicago Fire have been on and off a couple times this season but are finally getting into the meat of their spring schedule. Both Seattle and Chicago have only played five games thus far here.
One thing will be clear, whoever can take a hold of this game will get the points. Chicago loves to play an open style where they find Dominic Oduro in space to run at defenders. We saw how effective they were last week in Toronto when Oduro and Patrick Nyarko were open and were running at defenders. Grant it Toronto’s defense is no where close to the same quality that Seattle has in the back but the Sounders will have to stay grounded in the midfield and now allow the open space that the Fire will be searching for. On the flip side the Sounders need to get Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson going here. While Johnson had been hurt to begin the season, he did play in their last game against Colorado. Each player needs goals here to get this team where most believe they can go, a MLS Cup.
5. Winless in three against winless in six. Yeah something will have to give Saturday night in Salt Lake. Either Real Salt Lake will end their three game skid (they did pick up a point in Frisco last night but no wins are no wins here) while Toronto is just hoping for points period here. At some point Toronto’s front office will have to look and decide if Aron Winter is the guy for the job. I thought he was, and so did plenty of other people. But when you don’t win a single game after nearly two months of play, plenty of questions have to be asked.
I don’t like the Reds chances though in this one. RSL looked hungry last night in Frisco and could have gotten three points easily. I don’t believe RSL has gone winless in four games under Kreis, and I wouldn’t expect it to happen this season either.