2012 MLS, Week 20: What To Watch For

2012 MLS, Week 20: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On July 19, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 20, Features

San Jose hopes to extend their lead in the standings with a win in Vancouver this weekend. (US-PRESSWIRE)

Don’t blink folks, this week is going by fast. If you didn’t notice there was a slew of games last night and they’ll be another group of games this weekend. MLS laughs at the dog-days of summer with all of these games.

There are eight more games to round out a very busy Week 20. The playoff races are getting tighter by the week and we’re starting to see that the split for five clubs from each conference may very well be a good thing after all as no team sitting outside of the playoff zone has more points than one inside from another conference. Win-win so far.

Anyways, time to get down to the task at hand at look at some items for the games on this weekend’s menu. We have a couple rivalry games along with a potential goodie on Sunday in Vancouver. 

1. Can the Union stay on top form? After bidding adieu to Peter Nowak, the Philadelphia Union have looked like a brand new team – and in a good way too. Only one loss in their last four matches and overall the Union have looked solid all across the pitch in the last few weeks. Their defense has returned to being one of the best in the league and now their offense is catching up with the rest of the team. Good timing too as they travel to New York to face their their Red Bull rivals.

New York is coming off a decent showing yesterday against the Chicago Fire that saw a beautiful Thierry Henry goal that sealed the three points for the Red Bulls. New York is one of two remaining teams in MLS that is unbeaten at home (Houston being the other). New York has a chance to possibly end the weekend in first place in the Eastern Conference with another home win while the Union could get three points closer to that fifth playoff spot that Chicago/Houston are holding on to at the moment. Big time positioning game in July for the playoff race.

2. United look to rebound in Columbus. Another important game for two clubs coming off a loss last weekend. Neither had midweek games so expect both to be ready to go for this one. Columbus at some point has to find their offense. With just 17 goals on the season – second worst in MLS – they just aren’t good enough to be a playoff contender. What gets them there is their defense and the goalkeeping craziness from Andy Greunebaum.

This game is simple for United in my opinion. They must get their offense back on track with Dwayne De Rosario, Chris Pontius and either Hamdi Sahili or Maicon Santos. Last week’s blow out loss to Houston also showed that their defense still has a long way to go to make them a true contender in the Supporters’ Shield race. Ben Olsen has to get his club up and ready for this game or else Columbus will hang around and make it difficult on them to get three points.

3. Bottom dwellers square off in Dallas. FC Dallas nearly squeezed another draw out of their butts last night in San Jose. Had defender Jair Benitez not missed a late penalty, we’d be talking about how Dallas came from 2-0 down to steal a point from the league’s best team. Instead we’re focusing on them hosting fellow cellar dwellers the Portland Timbers – who are also coming off a road loss yesterday to Chivas USA.

This one is fairly basic for Dallas though. Schellas Hyndman’s squad is finally getting healthy enough to be a decent club even though they lack a true striker. Julian de Guzman made his debut last night and played pretty well for the most part. David Ferreira is gaining minutes by the bucket load and is proving he is nearly 100% again. Once they get a striker that knows how to finish, this club could be very dangerous in the Western conference playoff race.

Portland on the other hand has a ton of work to do. Gavin Wilkinson’s side is the worst team in the league on the road and yesterday’s result in LA proved it. Tactically speaking the Timbers looked off their game and Kris Boyd looked bored up top for them. He’s getting absolutely no service and at times he just looks like he doesn’t care to be out there. Defensively speaking the Timbers continue to be weak on the flanks – an area Dallas will certainly exploit.

4. The Battle of Los Angeles. Everyone loves a good derby match and once again we’ll be treated with the LA SuperClasico this weekend. Chivas got the better end of the deal last time around but that was against a Galaxy squad that was struggling to find themselves. Right now Bruce Arena’s group is doing just enough to stay in the playoff race and are proving to the league that they can come from behind in games when they need to. Given Chivas’ lack of offensive power – only 12 goals scored this season – they’ll have to rely on their defense to slow down the likes of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham. With the Galaxy playing hungrier these days, it won’t be an easy game for the Goats.

5. Rocky Mountain highs and lows. Last time around, Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids’ didn’t get enough time to really hype this game up. Going into Saturday’s game in Salt Lake, the hype machine is quiet for this one as well given the form that the Rapids are on (six losses out of their last seven) and seeing RSL coming off a blow out loss last weekend in San Jose.

Salt Lake sits just seven points back of San Jose now in the standings, points from here on out are vital as they have to hope that the Quakes stumble at some point here this season as both gun for the Supporters’ Shield trophy. Facing a weaker Colorado squad – even without Kyle Beckerman – may be just what Jason Kreis’ club needs at this point to turn the jets on. Remember RSL does have extra games coming up in the CCL so they can’t afford to stumble anymore, especially in home games like this.

6. Whitecaps hope to cool off San Jose. Out of all the games on the schedule this weekend – this may be the one I am most excited to watch. The Whitecaps showed for at least 45 minutes lat night against LA that they are a team to be concerned with in the playoff race. They have the talent across the field to get results and if newcomer Kenny Miller can be an impact from the start, I’d expect big things from this club late in the year.

Having said that, their defense gave up some costly mistakes late and LA made them pay for it. Given how their offense hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this season, they can’t afford costly error in the back. When they host San Jose this weekend they have to find ways to eliminate the bone-head mistakes as the Quakes are too good at the moment not to many anyone pay for it. I love watching what San Jose has been able to do this season. They have so much talent across the board that people don’t respect enough.

This one will come down to a simple thing – defense. Both have it and both will have to find ways to stop the other’s attack.