Marquee Matchups: Different Directions


Who can stop Montreal? Will San Jose ever pull out of their nosedive?

MLS actions resumes, albeit still with a slightly shorter schedule. Where will you be when FCD takes on Portland?

FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers // Saturday 4:00 p.m. CDT, Jeld-Wen Field, ESPN

We tend to avoid featuring FCD in these columns, but like the LA Galaxy match, this one can't be ignored.

FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers are the two best teams in the West, and the only other team as solidly in command of their spot is the Montreal Impact. Whoever wins this match takes a decisive stop towards their quest for the Supporter's Shield and towards the unnecessary approval of the national media.

Not that Portland needs more national approval, mind you.

Both of these teams have played, and won, a US Open Cup match on Wednesday, meaning that fatigue could be an issue for some players. Portland in particular will be hurting, missing out on several starters.

Keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for a more in-depth preview from Drew tomorrow.

Columbus Crew vs. Montreal Impact // Saturday 6:30 p.m. CDT, Columbus Crew Stadium, MLS Live

All eyes are on the Impact to see if they can continue their run of dominance over all things soccer.

Montreal have already won the Voyager's Cup this season, have defeated Sporting Kansas City away, and have established themselves as top dog in the Eastern Conference. Despite a few unsavory moments involving headbutting and coach ejections, the Impact have conducted themselves admirably on the field of play. Their defense is stingy and their star forward, Marco Di Vaio, is scoring goals at an alarming pace.

They travel to Columbus to take on the Columbus Crew, a team whose coach is under the microscope. Robert Warzycha is coming under increasing scrutiny for the continued ho-hummery surrounding his teams' performance. Their last performance was a comprehensive drubbing at PPL Park. The Philadelphia Union came out and used the Crew to fertilize their fields, and scored a few goals in the process.

Eddie Gaven is out for the season with a terribly unfortunate ACL rupture, and Chad Marshall is still nursing a hamstring strain. With the anchors of the team missing, it hurts Columbus' chances to keep Montreal from scoring. There are other places Columbus can look to for hope, in the form of the well-known Federico Higuain, and Dominic Oduro. They're going to need to score more than one goal if they intend to win.

If we're honest, things look grim for the Crew against the Impact. I don't have a great deal of confidence in them pulling points out of this game if the Impact show up to play.

Colorado Rapids vs. San Jose Earthquakes // Saturday 8:00 p.m. CDT, Dick's Sporting Goods Park

Talk about two teams in completely different places.

The Colorado Rapids have put together a really impressive run of form considering their roster situation, and have solidified their team to the point where fans know what to expect week in and week out.

In fact, Oscar Pareja has been drawing quite a bit of praise from fans and neutrals alike for his handling of the team. A positive vibe surrounds the Rapids, and there seems to be a sense of "moving in the right direction" that has permeated the locker room. They may or may not make the playoffs, but the future looks bright in Carson City.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the San Jose Earthquakes.

Frank Yallop was fired last Friday afternoon. Friday afternoons are a perfect time to dump news you need to release but want little attention paid to, and with the pending USMNT game it made even less noise than it normally would have. Smart move on behalf of Quakes ownership.

Coach of the year? Fired. Supporter's Shield winner? Fired. Mountains of injuries and suspensions? Fired. Canadian? So fired.

None of his accomplishments mattered when the time came, though the specifics of the situation are not yet known. Yallop may go on to coach the Canadian Men's National Team, or to lie on a beach in Tahiti.

Losing your coach is a motivational tactic when bad situations go on long enough, but in this case it seems a bit odd. This Quakes team is now missing their coach, in addition to their team spirit.

Seeing Yallop fired might cause the rudderless Quakes to come together and take out the Rapids at altitude.

But I doubt it.

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