2012 MLS, Week 26: What To Watch For

2012 MLS, Week 26: What To Watch For

  • Posted by Drew Epperley
  • On August 30, 2012
  • 2012 MLS Season, 2012 Week 26, Features

Don’t look now but here come the Columbus Crew. (Getty Images)

Major League Soccer rolls into the Labor Day weekend here. Yeah, September is here folks, crazy huh? Nine games are spread out across three days for the holiday weekend.

Last night got Week 26 off to a very fast and crazy start. Three games, two draws, two wild finishes and 13 goals across those games. I still can’t get over the scoreline to the Chivas-New England game – a 3-3 draw that saw Chivas come from three goals down to claim the road draw. Just a wild night in MLS.

There are a few big games on the schedule for the weekend – including one inter-conference match that could be the top match of the weekend when it is all said and done.

Here are some items I’ll be keeping track of this weekend.

1. Columbus showing fight. Last night’s wild 2-1 win in Philadelphia that saw Eddie Gavin lift the 10-man Crew over the Union in the last seconds of the match showed a couple things. One, this Columbus side can win games without keeper Andy Gruenbaum; and two, this team has a ton of fight in them that we didn’t know existed several months ago.

Say what you will about this Columbus side – their play isn’t the sexiest or the most flashy – but what they bring is toughness that reminds me of a previous Columbus side that won a MLS Cup a couple years ago. Now I am not saying that is in the cards just yet for this edition of the Crew but I wouldn’t think twice about the possibility of it happening if they continue this hot streak into October.

Columbus now heads into the weekend where they hope to get by yet another hurdle in their way of getting into the playoffs – the Montreal Impact. The Crew have done well at home this year while the Impact have struggled away from Stade Saputo. In a way, this game really could be anyone’s guess as to who will win. Columbus has tired legs while the Impact haven’t exactly shown the rest of the league that they can do well away from home. Either way this will be a fun one to watch given the Impacts Italians going up against the Crew’s Latin flavor.

2. RSL and D.C. hope to get back on track. Let’s face it, the last few weeks have been rough for both D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. Both looked to be safe in the playoff zone a few weeks back but lately things haven’t been quite as good as they once were. Salt Lake has been hurt with key players being injured or just on bad form while United can’t seem to get their act together from game-to-game.

Right now, the playoff hopes are still there for both sides. Salt Lake is firmly in a tie for second place in the Western Conference with Seattle but the LA Galaxy are breathing down their necks. I don’t think RSL will slip out of the playoffs entirely like Vancouver may. United on the other hand has two clubs chasing them in the red-hot Crew and the Montreal Impact.

After last night’s draw for United, a win this weekend is almost a must-have thing. The Crew and Impact are just two points back and Columbus even has a game-in-hand.

Salt Lake just needs to get back on track with how they’ve played previously this season. Alvaro Saborio is white-hot these days and is about the only one scoring for RSL. Find Saborio early and pressure this United defense that is struggling to handle pressure. It should be as simple as that.

3. Galaxy and Whitecaps battle for playoff positioning. I said it a few lines up, the Whitecaps are in real danger of dropping out of the playoff zone all together here. Lucky for them the clubs chasing them aren’t good (Chivas) or have played more games then they have at this point (Dallas). Still, their trip to LA has to be a big one that they take with as much seriousness as a one-game playoff match. Win and continue on, lose and you may as well be done.

LA was able to rest a lot of their key players last night in the Champions League, so you’ll see their best group out there as well on Saturday. Throw in the fact that rookie striker Darren Mattocks is suspended for this match and the pressure will be on Kenny Miller and company to finally show up in the attack.

LA just needs to stick to their strength here and use their defense to win this one. In a game where both sides have quality defense, you have to take the team that can also score a bunch too, and LA is that team.

4. Chicago, Houston also battling for positioning. Yeah, from here out, games like this between the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo will be about playoff positioning. The Fire announced this morning that midfielder Marco Pappa would be leaving on transfer to Dutch side Heerenveen today instead of after the season. That move certainly will have an impact on the Windy City club but my money is on the Fire knowing that this was going to happen sooner rather than later – as in after the season ended – like they previously reported.

The Dynamo have to be careful in this game. The following Thursday they have another league game against RSL at home and the quick turnarounds like this and for their games in the Champions League could cause issues for this roster. The Dynamo have made good moves this season but I do still worry about their depth going into these last two months of the season. The talent is there but going against teams like Chicago who have less to deal with outside of league play could be worrisome.

5. Dallas starts six-game playoff. Last weekend’s loss at LA put a huge damper on the playoff hopes for FC Dallas. With six games left on the season slate, it really comes down to a six-game playoff for the North Texas side. Schellas Hyndman has to get his club in the mindset that they have a bracket style group of games left. They win and continue on with hope, but lose and you can pretty much kiss the post season goodbye.

Dallas hosts the Seattle Sounders this weekend in yet another must-win game. Hyndman hopes to get one of his leading scorers (Blas Perez) to get back on the scoresheet after a few months off. More importantly he needs to get more out of Brek Shea.

It won’t come easy against a team that just scored six goals last week. Seattle is going to be coming off a game in Trinidad and Tobago. Dallas will have to hope the key guys like Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales get used more tonight in the CCL game and hope that they’ll only be coming off the bench on Sunday in Frisco. Still, both are dangerous off the bench and if the game is tight on Sunday, you have to figure Sigi Schmid will go all in as he can see the San Jose Earthquakes in the distance at the top of the table.