It will never be said that MLS is one that shies away from trying out something different. The teams that are scheduled to meet each other mere weeks, or back to back, find themselves forced into a rivalry based on timing. After all, seeing the same team in quick succession is a sure-fire way to get tempers flaring.
Here is a tale of two teams that just a month ago held so much promise. They both impressed everyone at the start of the season, and both teams had people saying "Finally! TFC/the Crew are going to be good this year! Just you watch out!"
I have to say, I was thinking the same thing about these teams. While they struggled in some areas, they looked capable of mounting a serious playoff challenge, and didn't appear to be completely helpless.
How things have changed. Both the Crew and Toronto have gotten into an ugly rut that has seen their estimation amongst pundits fall, and how. From "exciting and fresh" to "same old, same old", these two teams both need a win. A draw helps neither.
(I swear to you, this could be a carbon copy of a preview I wrote for these two teams meeting last year at BMO Field.)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Portland Timbers // Saturday 6:00 p.m. CDT, BC Place, MLS Live
The Whitecaps defeated a rather insipid LA Galaxy this past week, and with their recent positive result against cross-country rival Montreal, are surely riding with more confidence than they're used to. Their defense has shored up considerably the past two games, with only two goals allowed against them in the run of play. Shutting out Montreal is a fairly impressive thing to accomplish especially away at the Stade Saputo. Martin Rennie will have to hope his team can repeat the feat against their next visitors.
The Timbers are coming off a very good run of form, having pushed Chivas around and pretty much doing whatever they wanted to last Sunday. Normally, teams visiting BC Place will have some issues with the turf they Whitecaps play on, but this will be no obstacle to Portland since they play on turf as well. Caleb Porter has his team attacking with speed and finesse passing, which is something Vancouver has struggled with so far. The Timbers also match FC Dallas in scoring, and have many weapons at their disposal to trouble the Whitecaps. Can Vancouver stop the Timbers from doing as they please in this Cascadia Cup match?
New York Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy // Sunday, 12:00 p.m. CDT, Red Bull Arena, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN Deportes
This is the big one.
This is the match that draws massive promotion from around the league every year, and for once it migh tlive up to its billing.
New York is finally performing the way people were hoping they would, and Socceroos skipper Tim Cahill has been leading the charge alongside famed Frenchman Thierry Henry. There's always the potential for someone in New York to do something dramatic, whether it be Luis Robles botching a clearance, Henry scoring a wondergoal, McCarty threading a spectacular pass... those all can happen within 90 minutes. At the very least it should lead to entertaining television, though the quality of the soccer to be had is always debatable.
The LA Galaxy aren't quite as impressive as the Red Bulls at the moment, and yet they have just wrapped up a trip to Pennsylvania with three points in the bag. Not bad for a team that can't seem to find its footing.
The Galaxy have all the latent potential you would expect out of the two-time defending champions, though at the moment that's all it is: latent potential. Dismantling a defensively laughable Union is nice, but is not in any way a real indicator of quality. It has become very difficult to predict which LA Galaxy team will show up. The 3-1 loss to a mediocre Vancouver team, or the 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City team? Donovan looked good in Philly, and if the Galaxy are to enjoy success, Mr. Donovan will have to be involved again.
My money is on the Red Bulls to win. As a disclaimer, this is a prediction based on two things:
- Office coffee, enriched with powdered Nestle hazelnut creamer and powered by Folgers.
- Divination using the entrails some roadkill I passed by this morning in rural Tennessee. Beware the ides of May!
Food for Thought:
- What results do you want to see this weekend?
- Would you take a gamble on Zac MacMath?
- Where will you watch the FC Dallas match?