It’s All-Star week in MLS, and what better way to kick it off than with the all-scoring, all-action Dom Dwyer prior to his appearance in … checks All-Star roster, backs away softly.
Dwyer has been in fine form this year, and can count himself particularly unlucky to be the odd man out in the All-Star selections among the other surprise goalscoring presences – Bradley Wright-Phillips and Erick Torres.
Dwyer will get his chance to shine on Friday night, though, as Sporting KC take on Philadelphia Union at home, with Sporting having rounded into some serious form just as the Eastern Conference hots up. Philly haven’t played in MLS since taking a point on the road in Chicago on 19 July, though they had a mice morale-boosting win over New York in the outing before that. Kansas City at home may be too much for them though.
LA Galaxy take on more Cascadia opposition after stunning Seattle 3-0 on Monday night. They face Portland on Saturday, in a match-up that always seems to generate a note of controversy, from missed calls to offside goals, late winners and some occasional feather-ruffling on the benches. Portland had a win on the road last weekend, an achievement tempered slightly by it being in Montreal, where the Impact just can’t seem to gain any traction.
Montreal Impact owner Joey Saputo tried to alter that this week by relieving sporting director Nick de Santis of his duties, after 20 years with the team in various capacities. Head coach Frank Klopas will assume his duties and given the season the Impact have had that’s either a big vote of confidence or a big can for him to carry at the end of the year. We’ll see. Starting with the visit of Canadian rivals Toronto FC, who grumbled their way through last week’s home defeat by KC and whose mood won’t have been improved by a 3-0 thrashing in DC in midweek. Not all going to plan in Toronto right now.
New England stopped the rot in midweek. After appearing to be on a fatal slide, they recovered some of their early season form to beat Colorado 3-0, which will give them the confidence to travel to a tired New York on Saturday evening. New York, having hosted and beaten Arsenal last weekend, traveled to play at altitude in Utah on Wednesday. They got a 1-1 draw against RSL, but not without a late injury to Thierry Henry. And with New England’s slide having started with a home loss to the Red Bulls inspired by an outstanding Luis Robles performance earlier this year, the same goalkeeper might expect to be busy on Saturday, with the Revs out for revenge.
Chicago Fire fans singing “I believe that we will win” when they face the Columbus Crew on Saturday night may have scant evidence of that fact. Not that they’ll lose, necessarily, but they have drawn more than their fair share of games. It’s Columbus on Saturday night and we asked Section 8’s Dan Martin what he expects (spoiler alert: a draw):
Following the Fire’s 0-0 draw with Vancouver Wednesday night I saw a tweet that read “Chicago Fire: Dukes of the Draw, Tsars of the Tie, Elites of the Equalizer” and thought nothing could sum up the current state of the club better. Given the lineup that started the match, the fact that this was one of the dullest of the Fire’s 12 draws this year wasn’t surprising in the slightest.
In a Guardian preview from a season past I used the word “ennui” to describe the collective feeling of the club’s supporters, and I’m using it again. There doesn’t seem to be much life in the club of late. Sure, there’s lots of talk regarding the possible addition of Jermaine Jones, and the club’s management have made some moves in the transfer window to bring in Razvan Cocis and Sanna Nyassi, but big questions remain. Mike Magee has not been in his best form, so where will the goals come from? The backline has been dire, so who will help stop goals? Jones could certainly help defend, but he would be part of a very crowded central midfield … who would go?
Games against Columbus are always testy affairs and I certainly hope for a win, but given the Fire’s record to this point, can you blame me for expecting a draw?
We asked Ben Hoelzel of Crew Union what the visitors will bring to the table. Quite a lot, he reckons:
In late May, the Crew beat an injury riddled Chicago team, then went on a seven-game winless streak. Add to that the fact that the front office has failed to sign some big-name attacking help despite clearing plenty of cap space, the natives were getting restless in Columbus. But now on the heels of back to back 2-1 wins, the Crew find themselves squarely in the playoff picture and with lots of momentum.
The boost has also seen Federico Higuain return to his devastating form after a nagging injury held him back and an increase in production out of Ethan Finlay, now with five goals and an increased role in the offense. Look for Higuain pinpoint passes to find a streaking Finlay to wreak havoc over a suspect Chicago backline, but it will be also be important for the Crew’s back four to minimize chances after allowing nine goals in the last five games. With a poacher like Mike McGee, one mistake in the back could cost you valuable points.
The Crew have 13 games remaining, and only two against clubs that currently have more points than the Black & Gold – LA and Toronto. Yes it’s early, but it’s imperative that Columbus maximize points on the Eastern Conference clubs just below them in the playoff race. And with momentum on their side and the Fire struggling their last few games, the Crew should take all three points out of Chicago.
There is Rocky Mountain Cup action in Colorado later on Saturday night, as the Rapids host Real Salt Lake. Neither side will be particularly thrilled with their midweek outings, though the Rapids probably had a particularly grim journey back from New England after that 3-0 defeat.
Rapids fan rep Todd Haggerty doesn’t sound optimistic:
Thirty starters. A team as deep as the ’Pids should be able to handle midweek games, especially a game against a team on an eight-game losing streak. Unfortunately the expertly crafted depth of the Rapids produced a meager performance against the Revs. With the low of New England, a home date against RSL looms large. Rapids versus RSL always carries significance but this weekends match is especially crucial. A ’Pids loss would continue the team’s downward spiral, while a win could rejuvenate the squad and strengthen the team’s playoff odds. Either way, we will see a number of changes from the midweek game as Pablo Mastroeni will look to make sure that his 30 starters get some playing time.
And here’s what Matt Montgomery of Under the Crossbar had this to say about RSL:
Real Salt Lake will be looking at two distinct opportunities on Saturday against Colorado.
The first: gain a foothold in the Rocky Mountain Cup, as prestigious (or not) as it is. The second: a chance to increase their standing in the league and perhaps secure a win instead of conceding a draw. Form for the club has been a mixed bag; coming off a three-game home stand with only one win is hardly the greatest set of results in the club’s history. Still, it’s an improvement on five losses in seven games, so it can’t all be negative.
The story now is getting the strikers actually scoring. It’s not as easy it sounds: part of the task will surely be adding an element of unpredictability to play. Consistency over the years has been a strong point for RSL, but it does have some unintended consequences – like being increasingly predictable to defend against. Solutions aren’t easy in this regard.
In the case of injuries, no news is good news at this point. Some players may be kept out after the midweek match – Olmes Garcia for one, perhaps for a bit of naughty behavior – but it would seem most of the team came out relatively unscathed, which seems a minor miracle at this point in the season.
Up in San Jose, the Earthquakes were in transfer action this week as they signed attacking midfielder Perez Garcia from Club Atletico Tigre as the team’s third ever designated player. Saturday’s game against Seattle will doubtless be a pleasant-tempered welcome to San Jose for Perez, if previous history between these two sides is anything to go by. We asked Lisa Erickson of Center Line Soccer to preview it:
The Earthquakes are able to make history twice in one week. The Quakes were fortunate enough to play the last competitive match at the San Francisco 49ers‘ old home, Candlestick Park. The boys in black and blue were able to hold off the Champion’s League runners-up, Atlético Madrid, all the way until penalties where the Quakes decided to be good hosts and let the visitors fly home with the trophy.
Thus, after closing out the old home of the 49ers, San Jose gets to make history by being the first event at the 49ers‘ new home, Levi’s Stadium, where they will meet their arch-rivals the Seattle Sounders Saturday night. This should be a sold-out event to help the Quakes get their name out to more American football fans (since tickets were open to all 49ers season-ticket holders) and allow the 49ers to test run their stadium and staff before their pre-season kicks off.
It will also be very interesting to see who in Seattle will show up. When tickets first went on sale, the Seattle supporters declared they would boycott the match. We will see if they hold true to their word or if the draw of a new NFL stadium will bring them flying in from the north. It will also be great to see which Seattle team will show up – the Supporter’s Shield-fighting team or the one that gave up three goals (scoring none) on Monday at home to the LA Galaxy. As for SJ, they are coming off a 5-1 win over Chicago and are looking good without the Bash Brothers (Gordon and Lenhart) in the line-up. Will this environment be enough to energize the Quakes into bringing home another three points?
Into Sunday, and Houston Dynamo are back in action for the first time since their 19 July draw with Toronto – and it’s another home game against a side who on current form are a rather more formidable prospect than Toronto. Indeed, as we’ve noted DC United swept Toronto aside 3-0 in midweek, in what has been an impressive turnaround from last season’s record low-point. Ben Olsen brought several young players through at the end of that debacle and it seems to have paid dividends as they are only a point behind Sporting at the top of the East, with a game in hand. Houston are well adrift right now and face a lot of work in their hunt for a playoff spot.
Dallas are just inside the playoff spots in the West after their recent resurgence. That, combined with their early season form, has them seven points clear (though having played a game more) than their hosts on Saturday, Chivas USA. Chivas’s mini-surge halted over the past couple of games, and you’d have to say that this is a must-win game if they want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Though frankly, given the state this club has been in at times over the last couple of years, “slim playoff hopes” has to count as good times for the Goats. There is still no word on a buyer, by the way, though the apparently definitive statements from Don Garber regarding the potential lack of a downtown stadium in Miami being a possible deal breaker for David Beckham’s MLS ambitions there, have meant that the potential open spot in LA might at least be used as a bargaining chip as that deal shakes out.
Given all this, doubtless there will be several interesting conversations going on in Portland hotel conference rooms during next week’s All-Star game. But there’s a weekend’s business to take care of first. Have your say in the comments on how you think the games are going to go, and we’ll be back on Monday with five things we learned.
Schedule (all times ET)
Sporting KC vs Philadelphia
Friday 8pm, Sporting Park (NBCSN, TSN2)
LA Galaxy vs Portland
Saturday 2.30pm StubHub Center (NBC, TSN)
Montreal vs Toronto FC
Saturday 5pm, Stade Saputo (TSN, RDS)
New York vs New England
Saturday 7pm, Red Bull Arena (CSN-NE, MSG)
Chicago vs Columbus
Saturday 8.30pm, Toyota Park (My50 Chicago, TWCSC-OH)
Colorado vs Real Salt Lake
Saturday 9pm, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (ABC 4, Altitude)
San Jose vs Seattle
Saturday 10.30pm, Levi’s Stadium (NBCSN, TSN2)
Houston vs DC United
Sunday 8pm, BBVA Compass Stadium (UDN, CSN-Hou, CSN-Washington)
Chivas USA vs FC Dallas
Sunday 10pm, StubHub Center