• San Jose Earthquakes and Portland Timbers meet again
• FC Dallas look to put bottle incident behind them
• Rising Sporting KC travel cross country to face LA Galaxy
Events in Boston on Monday were a shocking reminder of where sport's place should be in our order of priorities, and by Wednesday, when New York fans unfurled a large banner in support of Boston, the narrative within MLS had fortunately shifted to concern for their own. As you'll see below, our regular Revs commenter Julie Kumor, was touched by the league-wide support for a club that was still processing the news of Kevin Alston's leukemia when Monday's tragedy happened. Players Matt Reis and Chris Tierney had loved-ones injured in the blast, and while sport is indeed a pretty trivial distraction at a time like this, the Revs will perhaps be glad of any such distraction as they visit New York on Saturday and try to get back to some sense of normality.
Before that game takes place Toronto will start the day off welcoming a Houston team who now stand alone in holding the longest unbeaten home record in the league. Though they're not at home this week, they're in Toronto — where the hosts have discovered the joys of scoring rather than conceding late, hauling back a 2-0 deficit in the last five minutes in their last home game against Supporters Shield leaders Dallas. Dallas will be back in action on Saturday against Vancouver, in their first of two successive games against the 'Caps. We may know more about both sides' long term credentials after that series, though we may also know a little more than we'd wished to about seating arrangements at the home stadium, as the club concludes their investigation into the incident that saw George John hit by a beer bottle last weekend.
Seattle would settle for the rather more prosaic activity of hitting the net - yet to win, the Sounders take their travails to Colorado, who checked the Chivas express last week and who have inched their stretched squad to within goal difference of the early playoff frontrunners. The Sounders aren't the only team who've been struggling for goals, though Chicago have rather broken their drought by scoring four in their last two. Not enough to get anything from their last game though, and they host a Crew side solidly tucked in behind the frontrunners, and who held the Impact to a 1-1 scoreline last week.
Real Salt Lake continue to labor a little, though a point in Vancouver last time out was a decent result. They host a Chivas side who failed to really show up in their home loss to Colorado last week. For a Salt Lake team still in that dread phase of "transition", a similarly subdued perfromance from the goats would be very welcome. Don't count on it though. Meanwhile the Galaxy will try to get their disappointing result against Dallas out of the way when they host a Sporting KC side who are steadily easing into their stride. One thing the Galaxy have in their favor is that Sporting played in New York on Wednesday night, though the encouragement of a win that took them to the familiar summit of the Eastern standings may give the visitors some momentum on the long journey across the country to the Home Depot Center.
Two games on Sunday. An officially struggling DC take on a Philadelphia team unbeaten since a lackluster trip to New York last month, and coming off a rest week, though in the interests of balance it should be noted they haven't actually won a game since squeezing past New England 1-0 on March 16th. That game could be tight whatever way it goes. Finally, Portland travel to San Jose on Sunday night for what could be a fractious affair, after former Timber Alan Gordon landed a three match ban for homophobic comments made during last week's game. Portland got the better of last week's game all round, after Will Johnson curled in a great free kick to win it, but back at San Jose, and with players coming back from injury, the Earthquakes may believe that Gordon or no Gordon, they can reverse the result.
As always, we've asked our usual cast of fan reps and writers to give us their take on the big stories at their clubs this week. See what they have to say below then give us your take on the week's events and what you think will happen this weekend. And we'll be back on Monday with Five things we learned.
All game times ET
Sat 4:00PM, BMO Field (TSN)
Sonja Missio, 90 Minutes of Hopp:
Toronto FC is not its own worst enemy. It's not the backline that kills the team, nor inconsistency of unmarked opposing players or the killer stoppage-time-equalizing-goal. No, Toronto's biggest enemy is the city's train system.
You see, trains depart from the stadium almost on the hour; therefore the train's schedule does not coincide with the length of a soccer game. In other words, if a game at BMO Field starts on the hour, those who take the GO Train either leave early or having to wait another full 60 minutes for the next train. And in bad weather, after a bad game, that can be a long 60 minutes.
However, the fans that chose comfort over the final whistle are doing themselves a disservice, as the most exciting part of a Toronto FC game is the last ten minutes. And this season, sometimes those exciting moments actually come from TFC.
In their last home again against FC Dallas, Toronto came back to draw 2–2 in the final minutes. Not only were there goals, but also bad calls, missed handballs, and general hullabaloo from the crowd. The last ten minutes of the game had more energy, emotion, and singing than the previous 80 combined. Of course, the complete opposite happened in their next game against Philadelphia Union. The lesson? On Saturday, stay for the whole match when they face Houston at BMO Field; Toronto FC will make it worth your while (disclaimer: no guarantee it will be in a positive way).
Stephen Eastepp, Dynamo Theory, Houston:
The Houston Dynamo secured a spot in the MLS history books with a big win over the Chicago Fire last weekend. With the win, they are now unbeaten in 35 straight home matches which is a pretty impressive feat. While there hasn't been incredible hype around the feat in Houston, the fans certainly were all over it and it really was a special moment for all of them.
Now the Dynamo turn their attention to the enemy – a road game. It really doesn't matter the opponent at this point, Houston just can't seem to figure out their problems away from BBVA Compass Stadium. This time, they'll travel to BMO Field to face Toronto FC who are hungry for a win after three straight draws.
Last time the Dynamo visited Toronto, they walked off the pitch with a 2-0 shutout win and their first ever victory at BMO Field. Hopefully some of that luck will carry over to Saturday's match. We're likely to see the same starting lineup that was fielded against Chicago, with Boniek Garcia still nursing an injury. I've been told Garcia will make the trip, but may be limited on playing time. Will Bruin and Giles Barnes are beginning to gel up front and I wouldn't be surprised to see both of them get on the scoreboard Saturday. The Dynamo defense will have their hands full with Robert Earnshaw and pulling of a win won't be easy.
Sat 6:00PM, Dick's Sporting Goods Park
Richard Bamber, Centennial 38 Supporters, Colorado Rapids:
The Sounders are coming to town this weekend for a game that's already being dubbed the Cannabis Cup, as the two sides are in states where legalization has happened, and evidence that someone at MLS scheduling might have a sense of humor the game is being played on 4/20.
Even more bizarrely, the Rapids are on a streak - unbeaten in three and winning the last two, the second choice #rapkids are getting the job done. So much so that captain Drew Moor came back from suspension only as far as the bench last week, and with the way that rookie goalkeeper Clint Irwin is playing there's no guarantee Matt Pickens will come straight back into the team when he eventually returns from injury. Irwin has faced an MLS record 4 penalties in his first four games - going the right way on all of them and saving two (and four points with them). The Sounders have been having trouble scoring and against all the odds with all the injuries, the Rapids aren't conceding. We're even seeing light at the end of the tunnel with the injuries. Anthony Wallace is back after two years out, and Mastroeni and Rivero are back in full training.
Dave Clark, Sounder at Heart, Seattle:
Sounders FC has problems right now. The easy way to look at it is that they have yet to win an MLS game. Slightly deeper is to notice that they are not scoring goals, but the defense is still decent (Best XI Defensive Mids will do that). Taking it even deeper still is that they are getting shots at a mere average rate. Lastly, maybe the most worrisome stat is that is that Sigi Schmid has tried nine different players at forward.
There is some good news. The two of those forwards that are supposed to be the best — if salary equals talent — are both practicing again. A team that has trouble scoring goals that gets to reinsert Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson should get better at finding chances and converting chances to elusive goals.
Because that's what Seattle needs right now, probably even more than a win. A couple of goals would start to resurrect the meaning to a season that is teetering. The brink of a nothing year is right there. To pull away from that edge the club will need to take on a Colorado Rapids side that is also struggling and prone to weaknesses in the same areas where Seattle is strong. Three points would be best, but at this point a couple of goals may mean more.
Sat 7:00PM, Red Bull Arena
Tim Hall, author of "The view from 101" for First Touch, New York:
The Red Bulls wrap up a three-game week on Saturday at home against the New England Revolution. New York will be feeling the after effects of a shutout loss against Kansas City on Wednesday, but there's really no shame in that given Sporting KC's performance as of late. The real issue is that head coach Mike Petke will again have to reshuffle the deck. Inconsistency is the only consistency with the Metros right now, through no fault of Petke's own. Defender and shock Golden Boot candidate Jamison Olave left Wednesday's game early with a hamstring issue. Juninho joined Olave in the locker room before full time after deciding that the one thing missing from Jimmy Nielsen's face was a driven soccer ball. Tack on Thierry Henry's arthritic knees and the short turnaround, and it may come down to picking eleven names from a hat and hoping for the best. If there is a time for a 'get healthy' game, it could be against the Revs, who come into Harrison having scored just one goal through five games.
Julie Kumor, Midnight Riders:
Last week was a rough week for the entire New England Revolution family. With the news that Kevin Alston was diagnosed with Leukemia, I felt the warm embrace of the MLS community. I was overwhelmed with how other teams and players responded to the news, and hoped Kevin would get well. Saturday I went back to rooting for those guys on the field in Seattle.
Then Monday happened. As the news spread through my Boston friends, we were in shock. Again I heard from my fellow soccer fans from all over the country, and for the second time in two weeks, I felt the love and respect from my fellow fans, there was that embrace again. I reminded my friends back home that I was safe in Cambridge, this big old university doesn't get the day off, so I was a river away from the finish line. I was okay.
As the day played out, I heard stories of the injured and friends that had just been in the area moments before, it didn't seem real. Then it was. When the Revs confirmed that Matt Reis' father in law was among the critically injured, suddenly I wasn't okay. My soccer family was hurt directly by this tragedy.
I have spent more of the 2013 season rooting for my boys off the field, and hope the healing starts on Saturday when 200 us travel to Red Bull Arena. We can finally cheer for our boys on the field away from home, show our soccer family we are strong.
Sat 8:30PM, FC Dallas Stadium
Gina Zippilli, The Inferno, Dallas:
The main story all week would have to be "Beergate". I really wish it was beating LA but it's not. Obviously I spoke to the Guardian earlier this week about how embarrassing it is for us as fans that this happened — the one silver lining being that it turned out that the culprit was not a member of any of the supporters' groups. He can count himself lucky George John didn't press charges and all he got was a charge of public intoxication, but as of right now the club hasn't confirmed what they're going to do in response other than getting rid of aluminum bottles (which the supporters group leaders themselves said were a bad idea at the start of the season).
To try and move on to the soccer, it was a hard fought, tense win against LA, but a really important one in proving we're genuine challengers. Now we go into the first part of a home and away sequence against Vancouver, and I'm hoping we ride some momentum from the LA game, because the Canadian sides have really improved this season. Toronto gave us a hard time at BMO Field and Vancouver look solid again. But I think we'll keep the run going.
Brenton Walters, @CapsOffside:
It's all squad issues all the time here in Vancouver of late. Martin Rennie probably didn't think he'd run into this issue so early in the season, but you can't plan for injuries and form. An extended injury absence has made the fans' hearts grow very fond of Kenny Miller. He's out again for our trip to Dallas, which could mean trouble for the team, but we've looked pretty good of late, even though we haven't racked up a ton of points.
Our midfield is a point of contention, with everyone championing their favourite combination of players. Canadian Soccer Jesus Russell Teibert has come in and impressed, but that has pushed fan favourite Gershon Koffie to the bench. Meanwhile Davidson has come under fire. Will Rennie look at something different on the road in Dallas? Not likely.
Up front we have another squad issue, with new starter Corey Hertzog injured. That likely means a place back in the starting line-up for Darren Mattocks, who hasn't impressed lately.
At least we know that our backline and keeper will be the same. And that's a good thing, as they'll have to function extremely well as a team in order to keep out Dallas' potent attack, which comes from all directions. Not a great time for uncertainty in the squad. At this point I'm just hoping for some luck.
Sat 8:30PM, Toyota Park
The big news out of Fireland this week is word of an injury setback for German center back Arne Friedrich. There was an audible collective groan from the fans at this news and for good reason. The Fire have had a lot of injuries in the back this season and results have reflected this, with one win and 12 goals conceded. No team so far this season has let in more goals or has a worse goal difference. Friedrich makes everyone else around him better and his presence is sorely missed at the moment.
Against Houston last week, the Fire gave up two soft goals, with one clearly being the fault of poor marking from a cross. Luckily for the Fire, Brad Davis doesn't play for Columbus, but they have other strengths. The speed of Dom Oduro will be an interesting challenge for the Fire's defense. He will want to stick it to the Fire coaching staff for trading him in the offseason; a move I still agree with even though Oduro has 3 goals to his name this season. This isn't a must win, but another loss at home, especially against a conference rival, would mean that alarm bells would start ringing.
Ben Hoelzel, Crew Union, Columbus Crew:
The biggest debate in Crewville continues to be who should start up top. Most supporters feel that it was wrong that Jairo Arrieta lost his starting spot after returning from national team duty a few weeks ago. However, no one can deny that Dominic Oduro has performed well since moving from the wing to the top of the formation. Last week's fantastic upper-ninety finish makes it hard to call for him to move back to the wing (especially as Ben Speas continues to play well out wide). One has to wonder if Coach Warzycha will consider changing the formation to incorporate two strikers so that the Crew can get its best eleven players on the field at once.
Heading into Chicago this weekend, may seem like a good time to try something new as the Fire are struggling greatly at the start of the season, managing only one win while amassing a negative 7 goal differential. However, the Crew have a history of terrible play in the Windy City with their last win at Toyota Park coming nearly seven years ago (6 loses and 3 ties during that time). I suspect we'll continue to see a defensive posture that uses Oduro's speed to create quick counter attacks. The result will likely be lackluster play from both teams resulting in a draw.
Sat 9:00pm Rio Tinto Stadium
Denzel Eslinger, RSL Perspective:
After failing to get a result in Vancouver last weekend, Real Salt Lake will look to rebound in a major way with 3 straight home matches after starting out the season with 5 of their first 7 on the road. In the early season RSL has faced lost minutes from names like Alvaro Saborio, Robbie Findley, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Chris Wingert, and Nat Borchers. Now most of those players have either returned to full action or are close, and while it can take time to gain match fitness and sharpness, the extended home stand could help out.
Even with a 2-3-2 record, RSL haven't really been seriously outplayed in any of their matches and the last time at home they were simply electric against the Seattle Sounders in what has been the most exciting match I have seen in all of MLS so far this season. Chivas USA and RSL have a history of tough matches and the rivalry of both clubs joining MLS in the 2005 season. Last year RSL was dealt a 1-0 home loss by Chivas early in the season, but RSL was able to win both of the away matches in impressive style (3-0 & 4-0). This is a very different Chivas USA, but the question remains if they are as good as their early record (3-2-1) might suggest or is this just smoke and mirrors of a new coach and a lot of new players who are unprepared for the long haul that is the MLS season? I expect a tough match but RSL should be able to pick up a solid 2-0 win on Saturday.
Alicia Ratterree, The Goat Parade, Chivas USA:
The main story at Chivas USA this week has been the fallout from Saturday's 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids. It was probably the Goats' worst performance so far this season, and while they had a chance for a draw via a 1st half penalty kick, they blew it. As a result, the question is whether Chivas USA have been found out, or whether this was just a blip in what has otherwise been a strong start. I think the inclination among fans has been that this was likely a blip, since Chivas just didn't do the things they have been doing well so far this season: pressing opponents, making passage through the midfield difficult, and converting their chances. Missing Juan Agudelo for most of this match due to a hamstring injury certainly set the attack back. The hope heading into the next game is that Agudelo may perhaps be healthier (that is currently unclear) and also that another available striker can start producing, since both Jose Correa and Tristan Bowen have been among the only players to really struggle for the team.
As if that weren't enough, Chivas play Real Salt Lake on the road this week. It won't be easy, and could make for another rough night, but RSL hasn't been invincible, and Chivas hasn't been as abject as in the past, so the Goats certainly have a shot. I think fans want to see an improved performance, and we'll go from there.
Sat 10:30PM, The Home Depot Center (NBCSN)
This weekend against Sporting KC it will be up to a defense that will have to play without Leonardo (Red Card Suspension) and an offense that may be forced to play without Irish international Robbie Keane (Left ankle injury).
The defense will be reinforced with either AJ DeLaGarza making the switch from right back to central defense or 2012 MLS Playoff standout Tommy Meyer. Injuries to Todd Dunivant in the CCL may preclude him from anchoring the left back role. In his absence expect Bryan Gaul or Greg Cochrane to fill in.
Ultimately it will come down to finishing. And finishing is something that has been greatly lacking in both losses to Monterrey and their last MLS loss to FC Dallas. Landon's form has been marginal since his return to the field and McBean and Villarreal have been putting shots on target but haven't found the net. Many feel that LA is looking for the perfect shot instead of just shooting. The Galaxy also need to maximize their advantage on set pieces with Omar Gonzalez. His height and his scoring ability should be utilized throughout every game.
With Juninho and Marcelo Saravas to lean upon the Galaxy midfield should be up to the task of keeping Sporting Kansas City from easily transitioning from the middle of the field. But in order to be successful they will need to find an answer for Graham Zusi and company on the wings.
Malena Barajas, co-founder, Women United FC, Sporting Kansas City:
Wednesday's win over New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena took Sporting KC top of the table in the Eastern Conference. It was an edge of your seat second half, with NYRB having several opportunities going just wide of goal. Sporting's back line proved it's worth once more, and goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen celebrated his 37th shut out, tying the club record with Tony Meola. Defender Aurelien Collin had a great game but not the best we've seen from him. Nonetheless, he made key tackles and scored the game's only goal. NYRB appeared frustrated, and Juninho made it clear when he kicked a ball at Nielsen's face after a dead play earning him a red card in stoppage time.
Sporting KC will now travel across the country to face LA Galaxy in Los Angeles. The Galaxy has been losing points left and right but have had a week to rest after loses to FC Dallas and Mexican side Monterrey in CONCACAF Champions League. Hungry for points, the Galaxy will present a test for Sporting, as it will work to breakdown the backline. Given that LA's defense has had several ball-watching episodes lately, Sporting KC may want to go on the attack, which will make for an exciting dynamic in the midfield.
Sun 5pm RFK Stadium (ESPN2)
Kim Kolb, Screaming Eagles:
Lost: United's offense, if found please return it to RFK or the nearest MLS facility. Bill Hamid revealed he was merely human, and United couldn't muster much against New York, and now the Ben Olsen has started to talk about it. Could it be unfair to not have faith in the offense with DeRosario only appearing in a handful of matches (he entered in the second half last week)? Maybe, but it seems as though United is looking hard at Casey Townsend who was acquired during the Chivas USA garage sale. Townsend, a local college product, has been on loan to the Richmond Kickers as part of the USL agreement, and scored twice there last week. So at least SOMEONE in the organization is scoring. So Olsen will start pushing buttons to find the attack. But will he find the right buttons and balance? United takes on Philadelphia in Sunday afternoon matchup. There's a rivalry spark in this game, too and marks the first time that the teams meet since the final pre-season game that had the DeRo/Cruz altercation that led to DeRo's two game suspension.
Dan Walsh, Philly Soccer Page, Philadelphia:
Union manager John Hackworth still hasn't played his best 11 together. Last Saturday, he started forwards Conor Casey, Jack McInerney, and Sebastien Le Toux together for the first time, with Le Toux deployed at left midfield. The three didn't flourish together, but blame likely lies less on them, as Hackworth said Wednesday, and than the midfield.
Philadelphia's midfield has lacked fluidity all season and looked no better Saturday, when their four most technically adept midfielders started the game on the bench.
The Union's primary problem may be poor play from the flanks. Danny Cruz has started five games at right midfield and impressed in none. Union fans admire his hustle and fearless play but have lost patience with the subpar technical ability and positional sense he's shown since arriving in Philadelphia last season. On the left, Le Toux showed once again that he's a far better striker than midfielder.
Twins Michael and Gabriel Farfan started Saturday's game on the bench but have routinely proved to be the team's best outside midfielders, though neither always plays there. Center midfielder Keon Daniel has played better when paired with the Farfans, as they offer more short passing options and one-on-one dribbling ability than Le Toux or Cruz, whose styles are based on runs behind defenders.
Hackworth continues to experiment with his lineup while balancing that by keeping his back six unchanged. Look for more of this Sunday against rivals D.C. United, when he could start newly acquired midfielder Kleberson for the first time.
Sun 11:00PM, Buck Shaw Stadium (UniMas)
Lisa Erickson, Center Line Soccer, San Jose:
A week everyone associated with the San Jose Earthquakes wishes to forget from the President, Coach, Players and Fans. Quakes put out their Three-Headed Monster and it was tamed by the Timbers but not before Alan Gordon said an Anti-Gay slur to Will Johnson and summarily got a second yellow to be shown his marching orders to an early shower. The Quakes proceeded to lose not only the game but the reserve squad ended up losing to Portland too. During the latter match, the Quakes backup keeper David Bingham came up lame and had to be subbed out. On top of all this, the Portland Police are now looking for video/picture evidence of Quakes fans having an altercation with a Timbers' Army member which led to over $1000 worth of damage to his car and another black eye on the San Jose team. As for Alan Gordon, he immediately released an apology for his language (as did Quakes President Dave Kaval) and Don Garber quickly sentenced Gordon to sitting out an additional 3 matches, an undisclosed fine, and more Diversity and Sensitivity Training.
But all is not blight; injured Steven Beitashour played a full 45 minutes in the reserve match! The Honduran midfielder Pery Martinez notched his first goal in MLS for the Quakes during that 2 – 1 loss to Portland's reserve squad. And now mumblings out of training sounds as if recovering speedster Marvin Chavez might be ready to play this weekend too! Here's hoping for a quiet win!
The Alan Gordon furore overshadowed everything else this week, with a lot of Timbers Army fans turning on him after his homophobic insult was caught on camera. Gordon's a former Timber and he's remembered fondly here for the occasional hat trick and grabbing the chainsaw to cut the log to celebrate his own goal. I think he's fundamentally a good guy and people will come round eventually if he's sincere in his apology and how he carries himself in the future, but for now his reputation is definitely tarnished.
The other story that's rather been overlooked is the Timbers' defense. Before the season started I think people would have thought Futty Danso would have been around number six or seven at best as a starting central defender, but there he was last week in a back line that's looking pretty thin. Silvestre played despite being listed as "doubtful" last week, and Andrew Jean-Baptiste was out. They could be down to Danso, who they don't seem to fancy that much, or possibly the rookie Tucker-Gangnes. It wasn't such a problem in Portland last week, but it might be the difference in San Jose with the Earthquakes getting more of their attacking players back from injury.