Except for one rather absurd start time (10 p.m. CT on a Sunday, really MLS?)**, this week's games are all nicely staggered so that fans will be able to catch at least one half of all the games if they feel so inclined.
This past Wednesday, the MLS faithful eagerly awaited what looked like an exciting clash between between the Red Bulls and Sporting Kansas City. They got their clash alright, though all the clashing was done by Juninho, both against defenders' walls and against Jimmy Nielsen's arm (though he would have liked you to believe his face was mauled).
The Red Bulls put in a dreadful performance, creating virtually nothing worth noting outside of two or three chances in the first half. Sporting controlled the match from beginning to end and never looked as though they would let go of NY's neck in the process. It was mostly one-way traffic, and when NY did gain possession they were quickly smothered by KC's high-pressure midfield.
The Red Bulls will look to regain their pride as they host the goal-starved Revs, but it will not be an easy task for Mike Petke's side. While New England can't hit the broad side of a barn with their shots (if they even get any shots off), their defense is very, very impressive. It's still relatively early in the season, but their defense has only allowed an incredible.40 Goals Against per game. Considering they're facing a stagnant New York side that simply cannot create much out of the midfield, and who will also be missing Juninho (although how much that hurts them is up for debate), the Revs will feel as though a point is a possibility.
New York's defending is still quite porous, and if New England want to get their scoring juices flowing they cannot ask for a better side to play against. There is well-founded hope that Jay Heaps' boys will be able to walk out of Red Bulls Arena with at least a point on Saturday.
Colorao Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders // Saturday, 5:00 p.m. CT, Dick's Sporting Goods Park, MLS Live
All eyes are on Seattle. The preseason favorites as picked by many outlets are having a wretched go of it so far, and at this point people are legitimately concerned that something isn't right. There isn't much else to say about their form (it's solid) other than they need to score, and badly. The problem for them is that Colorado's defense is at least competent enough to give them a really hard time, and in DSG Park the homefield advantage is rather unique.
Meanwhile, Colorado is coming off a nice away result at Chivas and with Seattle looking vulnerable (though more like a cornered tiger than a scared mouse) the Rapids will certainly be playing to win. With Clint Irwin instilling confidence in his abilities, the defense will continue to improve as they have more faith in Irwin to handle the odd spill in the back, allowing them to focus their attention elsewhere. And as with all Rapids games, expect the altitude to play a factor as well. All of Colorado's players will be in much better position to win the game as the clock winds down due to simple acclimatization.
It all depends on if Eddie Johnson is on the field, because if he isn't I don't see the Sounders having enough firepower to best Colorado away. Call me crazy, but I see an upset coming.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs Sporting Kansas City // Saturday, 9:30 p.m. CT, Home Depot Center, NBC Sports Network
The big event of the week, this game sees two strong teams fighting for different reasons.
The Galaxy are not enjoying a lot of success and have started the season a bit slowly. A national broadcast defeat against the Greatest Club in America did nothing to soothe the gnashing of teeth coming from Galaxy fans, and their next game looks to be just as difficult. A win against Sporting would do wonders for morale and for their standing with pundits, as the past few weeks have been a bit rough for LA.
However, there's nothing to seriously suggest that the Galaxy will be able to best a Sporting side that is just coming off a comprehensive defeat of New York. The Red Bulls aren't as good a side as the Galaxy, but Sporting's dominance in that match was so pronounced it should make any opposing team nervous.
LA's best bet will be to bank on Sporting's legs failing them in the second half, which isn't an unreasonable strategy. KC's high pressure system takes its toll just about every player on the field, as they're all required to press with urgency the entire game. That sort of system shuts opposing teams down completely when it's working, but when a team is tired they become prone to mistakes or having their legs fail on them.
In the high-pressure system that Peter Vermes likes, mistakes or fatigue can create a huge hole behind the defender that allows acres of free space to any player that can exploit a mistake. The Galaxy are a team that is lethal on the counterattack and if they can exploit Sporting's mental or physical fatigue they can get something out of this game.
Food for Thought
- Which team would you least like to face this upcoming week?
- What are your predictions for these three games? Why?
- How would you deal with Juninho if you were Mike Petke? A veteran of that caliber cannot be treated the same way as other teammates, unfair though it may be.