It is here folks, MLS’s big grand weekend known as Rivalry Week. For the first time the league was able to get the majority of clubs pitted against their toughest and most bitter rivals in one action packed weekend. It will certainly be fun to watch with NBC’s expected all-day coverage Saturday followed by two good games on Sunday.
I do wonder what MLS will gain from a weekend like this, hopefully it means they can pull this off more often down the road once the schedules become balanced again. We’ll have to wait and see what this weekend really brings out too. Some have complained that it came too early in the season, while others might argue that for three of the teams (Houston, Seattle and LA) that it gave them a bit of a disadvantage going into the weekend after playing in the CCL during the middle of the week.
Whatever way it spun here, this certainly will be an exciting weekend. The league has already been pumping out tons of good content on their website. I hope to get a few things up before the end of the week as well.
Until then, here are some key points going into Week 3.
Canadian rivalry overload
While the Cascadia Cup, Atlantic Cup, Texas Derby, and SuperClasico will get the majority of the headlines this weekend, one rivalry needs to be explored way more by the causal MLS fan in my opinion. I’m talking about the 401 Derby between Montreal and Toronto.
The Montreal-Toronto rivalry goes way back, not just in soccer or any other sport but just in life in general. The two cities just do not like one another. Montreal is said to be a laid back city while Toronto is a fast-paced type town. I’ve never been to either but I get why the two cities have a dislike for one another.
This rivalry is about to explode in MLS in my book though. We haven’t really seen what this series will bring after Montreal’s expansion year. With the Impact improved so far this season and this being their home debut on the year, you have to figure they are the heavy favorite in Saturday’s game.
But we can’t sleep on Toronto here either. While the Reds lost their first game of the season against other fellow Canadian rivals Vancouver, they looked improved in the process. Last week they stunned Sporting KC for their first win of the season thanks to two goals from Robert Earnshaw. The more I watch Toronto, the more I think they are on their way back up here. Obviously they have a long way to go here but seeing some positive momentum out of this club is always good.
I expect this game to be one of the better ones this weekend. Maybe not the most heavily contested like some others listed here but certainly one that could have a few cards and goals.
Talking the Texas Derby
Excuse the homerism for the moment here. I only bring up the Houston-Dallas rivalry in this piece because I’ll be at this game and it intrigues me more than most due to its close proximity to me.
I won’t show favoritism over either club here. Houston comes into this game after getting smacked around last night in the CCL down in Mexico to Santos Laguna. Tough break for them and the league as I really wanted to see them out one of the top Mexican sides. Now they have to quickly piece things together and take on their top rivals in North Texas. I will go out on a limb here and say there will be plenty of cards in this one and the chances of a Jair Benitez red card is probably pretty high, even if he is just on the bench.
Dallas has struggled so far this season but they will have their main striker Blas Perez back after this two-game suspension. What he and Kenny Cooper will bring to the attack will greatly depend on the midfield behind them. If the combination of Andrew Jacobson, Bobby Warshaw/Je-Vaughn Watson doesn’t get the job done in the central midfield, then it will be a long day in Dallas for the home faithful on Sunday.
Schellas Hyndman’s club struggled last week against Chivas USA of all clubs. They had the offense and chances but squandered them when it mattered most. Not to mention the defensive miscues that did them in during the second half are going to have to be corrected to win this one.
Even with the loss in the CCL I give the edge to the Dynamo. Even with the short turnaround, there is just something about playing a couple games quickly early in the season like this that can help a team out.
Cascadia Cup Year 3
Year three for MLS that is.
Portland and Seattle square off for the first time this season. Just like with Houston, the Sounders had to deal with a mid-week game but in a way I see that as an advantage going into this game with Portland.
The Sounders finally got their offense going on Tuesday night in the CCL against Tigres. Two goals came from distance and from defenders but getting Eddie Johnson on the scoresheet is a big deal. Very big deal as the club gets back into league play this weekend. Seattle will need every bit of his scoring abilities against the Timbers, a team that has been quite leaky in the back so far this season. Portland has already given up five goals in two games.
The Timbers have to come out in this one with a fast-paced attack if they want to win on the road. Diego Valeri needs to combine well in the midfield and guys like Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe have to get plenty of chances on goal. Seattle’s defense isn’t perfect but I do see them giving Portland trouble in this one, similar to how Montreal did a week ago at JELD-WEN Field.
Also watch out for that Valeri-Osvaldo Alonso battle in the midfield. If the Cuban gets the better of the Argentine, it will be a good day for the Sounders.
D.C. United at New York Red Bulls – The Atlantic Cup has had its moments over the years, including a few last year. Mike Petke’s group has struggled defensively so far this season and United will want to put in a big game to show them that they still own them in this series.
Chicago Fire at Sporting KC – Another underrated rivalry in MLS. There is no name to it so that may be why no one really talks about it. The Fire have struggled big time out of the gates but then again Sporting KC hasn’t looked so hot either. I still have faith in Peter Vermes’ club but they have to show us something this weekend.
New England Revolution at Philadelphia Union – Tough to gage this one after this weekend. Both teams look much better in 2013 than they ever did in 2012 but it is a long, long season here.
San Jose at Columbus – The lone non-rivalry of the weekend pits Columbus and San Jose against one another at Crew Stadium for it’s season opener. Not much else to say about this one yet other than that.
Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake – Rocky Mountain Cup, another good series to discuss. Colorado has lost two straight to open the season but have looked decent at times in the process. Lots of key players still out for them which will hurt going into this big match on the road.
Chivas USA at LA Galaxy – Can we really make a lot from Chivas’ win over Dallas? No. They have to win a few in a row to really get my attention here. At least we know Chelis will be entertaining in his first rivalry game.