2012 MLS, Week 23: What To Watch For

2012 MLS, Week 23: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 9, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 23, Features

Both RSL and Vancouver need points this weekend. (Getty Images)

So how about that US Open Cup final last night? Tons of drama and excitement as Sporting Kansas City claim the crown for their first trophy since 2004. They knocked off the Seattle Sounders in penalty kicks – ending Seattle’s impressive run in the USOC since joining MLS back in 2009.

Sporting clinches a berth in the next installment of the CONCACAF Champions League – they’ll begin play in that tournament next year.

Both teams will have a short time to enjoy or get over the game as each have games this weekend.

Once again we have a full slate of games scheduled for this weekend – spread across three days – and oddly enough we kickoff the week once again with a Houston-New York match on Friday.

1. Dynamo look to keep Eastern lead. With the news of the new tiebreakers in MLS, the Houston Dynamo have a lead in the Eastern Conference standings right now – but only a small one. They are tied on points with SKC but the goals scored ends up in their favor. That is a good thing considering how many goals the New York Red Bulls have notched already this season. The Red Bulls sit two points back of Houston but have a three goal lead in the goals scored department.

The return match of last week’s 2-0 win in Houston for the Dynamo could see the return of Ricardo Clark as well. It should also see the return of Dax McCarty to the New York lineup – something that was definitely missing last week as the Red Bulls lost in Houston.

New York has to get out early in this one, use their power and quality up front with the big four of Kenny Cooper, Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Sebastien Le Toux. With Houston going in the 4-3-3 these days there is ample room on the wings to spread out the Dynamo and their attack. Making them chase the game with fluid passing and solid movement off the ball will go a long way for the Red Bulls. I think this one will be closer than last week and I do hope to see the start of some solid play out of Cahill as well.

2. The something-has-to-give game in Vancouver. Yeah, I don’t know what it is about the Vancouver Whitecaps or Real Salt Lake but boy neither one is really exciting me these days. I want to like both – and for the most part I do – but there is just something about each side that screams one-and-done in the playoffs this year.

Don’t get me wrong folks, Salt Lake is definitely the better side here in this match. They have more talent across the field than the Whitecaps do but the Vancouver defense is something you can count on at home. But we have to throw this out there about the Caps, they are probably the one Western club in real danger at the moment of slipping out of the playoff zone. They may have an eight point lead over Colorado at the moment but sometimes leads like that are never safe in this league – especially given the fact that the club chasing them has a three more games to play than they do at the moment.

Again, something has to give in this game. Either the Caps show up offensively or Salt Lake finally wakes up for good this season after getting knocked off by their rivals last week.

3. Columbus moving on from Urso. A death in the family is never easy to overcome. We’ve all been there and it is no different for a soccer team too. Last year in Dallas, the passing of Bobby Rhine did a number of FCD whether people think it did or not. Rhine may have not been a player but it was the face of the organization in some ways and everyone was connected to him.

Fast forward to the here and now and one has to expect the Crew to feel the same way. The passing of rookie midfielder Kirk Urso sent shock waves throughout the league. It won’t just be the Crew that have trouble coping – there will be players throughout the league that will have to cope as well. Columbus get their first game to since the news came down on Sunday morning about Urso against their rivals from Canada – Toronto FC. Dallas had a similar rivalry game last year after Rhine’s passing with Houston and fell flat in that game.

4. USOC hangovers for SKC and Seattle. Boy neither get a break after that game last night. Sporting stays at home to host rivals D.C. United while Seattle has to travel to the Bay Area to face the league leaders in San Jose. One has to expect some hangover effects for both sides in these games – particularly for Seattle. You have to remember they will be dealing with CCL games this month as well and have already had one so far. The extra miles and minutes will do a number on this club but they are a deep team that could handle it well if they decide to.

Kansas City on the other hand has to enjoy the moment now and move on to the game with D.C. as quickly as possible. United is hot on their heels in the standings and is looking to build off their win over Columbus last weekend. With games-in-hand in favor of United, they need to use this game as a spring board back up the standings.

5. LA battle heads up again. With Chivas USA just a few points back of a playoff spot, their games-in-hand have to begin counting now as they host rivals LA this weekend. The Galaxy are coming off an embarrassing loss to Seattle last week and now face the uphill climb again in the Western Conference.

Chivas has made several splashes in the trade market this season getting Juan Agudelo, Danny Califf and Shalrie Joseph. The time is definitely now for them if they want to make a playoff push but the biggest thing they need to do is get their offense going. The new tiebreaker rules are not in their favor at the moment – given how few goals they have scored this season.

LA on the other hand needs to get back on track with their big three up front doing the damage and their back line stepping up to help out. The Galaxy can score goals, that we know, but defending them seems to be a different story this season.