2012 MLS, Week 16: What To Watch For

2012 MLS, Week 16: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On June 21, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 14, Features

Portland looks to knock off rivals Seattle this weekend. (Getty Images)

After a slew of games last night in Major League Soccer, we get to quickly move into the weekend portion of Week 14. Just as it were a week ago, we’ll have six games on Saturday and two on Sunday to cap off a busy, busy week in MLS.

Saturday will likely be just another Saturday in the league. Sunday on the other hand will be a rivalry day with two big games between Seattle and Portland followed up by D.C. and New York.

Here is my weekly What To Watch For piece on the weekend ahead.

1. USOC may overshadow league games for some. Remember all the rage two weeks ago was about the US Open Cup? Now we’re down to the quarterfinals and five MLS sides have Tuesday dates in the ol’ tournament. The Seattle Sounders have to hit the road to play the San Jose Earthquakes in this on Tuesday while the rest of the MLS sides (Sporting, Philadelphia, Chivas and of course San Jose) are at home. Interestingly enough all the teams involved are on the road this weekend in league play.

All these clubs are wanting to make a good run in this tournament so it will be very interesting to see who gets rested and who does not. The Seattle part of this is all the more interesting since they are the three-time defending champions of this tournament and are on the road against their arch-rivals Portland this weekend. Does Sigi Schmid roll the dice and rest a starter or two for Tuesday or does he go all in with both matches?

Keep an eye out on Chivas as well, they host a team on Tuesday in USL-Pro’s Charlotte that has gone on the road three times in this tournament and won each time – including at FC Dallas. Robin Fraser’s club is on the road this weekend at Dallas and will have to battle some temperatures close to 100 degrees. Sit some starters Robin, go for the big prize.

2. Goals finally coming in Toronto. One thing we saw last night for Toronto FC was some goals. Finally, Danny Koevermans and company got on the board early and often against the Houston Dynamo but yet again were undone by their dreadful defense. Manager Paul Mariner just needs to keep his attack going like this in my mind and hope they can just out score other clubs at the moment.

They host a New England squad that at some points look very dangerous and then at other points look like a team that could be doomed to be battling for one of the top spots in next year’s SuperDraft. Mariner knows the Revs and knows Heaps and his style, one has to feel they match up well against the Revs.

3. Chicago and Columbus brew up rivalry. Technically they are rivals, the Fire and Crew. They’re closer to each other geographically and really are each other’s best shot at a good rival. Lately we’ve been seeing on Twitter the #VoteFire and #VoteCrew hashtags as the clubs go back and forth against one another. Clever stuff there from both sides.

This game has some solid potential here as the Crew are a solid team that keeps improving in my eyes. The Fire are the same way as they got a very nice result last Sunday against the Red Bulls. In a way both clubs have holes to deal with – the Crew still have offensive question marks – and the Fire have some defensive issues I’d like to see improve. The Fire want to impose their free flowing attack in this one with Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro and now Chris Rolfe. If they can pressure the Crew early like they did against New York, then this game has plenty of goals written all over it. If Columbus can keep it tight going late in to the game, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Crew sneak out three points in this one as well.

4. Quakes and RSL battle for top spot in the West. After last night’s disappointing result for RSL against the Galaxy, this game with San Jose lost a little luster. At one point it looked like both sides were going to stumble into this clash but San Jose picked up three points thanks to a PK from Chris Wondowloski in the dying minutes of their game against the Colorado Rapids last night.

Now, the Quakes are in prime position to strike and get the league back in the Western Conference. They are finally healthy again with the likes of Shea Salines and others back on the field. I’m still doubting this club at some point though for some reason after three months of solid play. I guess part of me wants to know that they can continue this form throughout the entire season while the other part of me is just waiting for the shoe to drop on their run.

Salt Lake is in the middle of a big home stand though – one that could help propel them a Supporters’ Shield if they can get some wins. Last night wasn’t a good start to it though as they dropped three points to the Galaxy after being up 2-0. Salt Lake has all the talent in the world in my mind but they do still fall on their faces against some clubs like LA. That has to stop.

5. Can Dallas end the rut? After two months and 10 games of not winning anything at all, FC Dallas has to be close to ending their current run. Why? Simple, this is the best chance for them to do so with Chivas USA in town after a short turnaround of games (they played last night in LA) and given the fact that they play again on Tuesday in the USOC.

But more importantly, FCD may finally be getting healthy enough to put out one of their better squads in the last two months. They’ve come super close with a group of starters and reserves in the last few games – including a tough 3-2 loss at Salt Lake and a disappointing loss last week in Houston. Getting the likes of Brek Shea, Blas Perez and George John back this week could be a big boost. I think realistically we could see this club go for a different kind of run in the next month as David Ferreira and Ricardo Villar are both getting closer to a return.

6. Round 3 of the Cascadia Cup. We’ve had a couple good round so far in this but now we get Seattle at Portland. Seattle came close to busting out of their current slump last night against Sporting KC while the Timbers are still a team in question. They lost in LA last week and really haven’t looked good in a while. Too many chances wasted on goal and one too many defensive miscues that kill three points for them.

Both teams need three points, it is as simple as that. Portland for the most part needs a win to get out of the Western cellar with Dallas. I tweeted earlier how I felt that the 5th and final playoff spot in the West would be a crap shoot between them, Dallas, Chivas, Colorado and LA. All teams are gunning for those spots and Portland has the games in hand to get around the other teams at the moment. But we’ve seen in the past that games in hand may not work out in the end for a club looking for a playoff spot.

Seattle really just need to impose their will in this game. They have the talent all across the pitch and are much better in the back than the Timbers are. They know how to win in this series and win big too.

7. Red Bulls need a rebound. Tough scheduling break for the Red Bulls here. Three games sandwiched in a busy week with two of them on the road – one being the longest road trip of the season for them in Vancouver last night. Now they head home to face Eastern leaders D.C. United – a team that got a result last week in Philadelphia.

New York has to get back to their core basics here with Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez likely returning for this one. Their offense hasn’t looked great in the last two games and really when you just have Kenny Cooper alone on an island up top, that won’t be enough. Cooper needs a partner like Henry to get him the ball, not a midfielder or a speedster like Dane Richards.

United has a lot going for them at the moment and with all those stars on the Black-and-Red roster going, this could be an exciting game. The big thing to watch though will be the keeper for United (Bill Hamid) and his stops on goal, he doesn’t have a great save percentage at the moment and he could be the one thing that keeps United away from getting a Supporters’ Shield this season. Same could also be said about Ryan Meara in New York, I still believe that kid will hit a wall before long this summer and cost this team big time.


  • How does Mariner know Heaps’ style any more than any other opposing manager? Mariner knew Nicol’s style, but he’s gone…

    • He was a coach there when Heaps was a player, he knows the guy and how he’ll be as a manager. Simple as that.

      • Except, Heaps as a manager isn’t remotely like how he was as a player. He’s an attack first manager and was a defense first player.

        • That doesn’t matter at all in this. Mariner knows Heaps – simple as that – it doesn’t matter if Heaps is different now than he was as a player. Mariner will know little things about Heaps and how to use them against him. Same will go for Heaps against Mariner. The familiarity factor between these two is a storyline for this game.

  • Karlito Vargas

    You misread whatever you’re using for statistics. Hamid has the best save percentage of a starter in the league and the second best GAA (although that tends to say more about the defense than the keeper). The only caveat is that he has roughly half the games played of most of the other starters. That said, this game will likely be a big test for him based on the quality of Henry and Cooper.