After several weeks of less-than packed action, MLS scheduling returns with a vengeance. A full slate of games await.
The Fire are hot. Since the 25th of May, they have two draws and three wins. One of those draws was against the Portland Timbers. For a team that couldn't get out of its own way just a few months ago, things are looking rosier around the cheeks for Chicago.
How much of an influence Frank Klopas has in this Phoenix-act that Chicago is trying to conjure up is debatable, but there's no denying that his job looks much safer than it did six weeks ago. Part of this is due to the stellar play of Mike Magee. The former Galaxy man has performed exactly as advertised, and if he continues the season at this pace, LA risks looking more than a little foolish for trading him for Robbie Rogers.
The Fire defense has been nothing to write home about, as they've been letting goals in at a disappointing rate, but Magee's scoring prowess coupled with the rest of Chicago's revived attack have placed the Fire in a good spot for the next few weeks.
The Columbus Crew will be looking to avenge their loss in the US Open Cup to Chicago last week, but their form is a bit wild. They beat the current SS leaders (the Montreal Impact) just recently, but before that suffered a hammering at the hands of the Union and couldn't get more than a point against Houston at home. The injury situation in Columbus isn't pretty, but the Crew are going to need to overcome it (and score more goals than they have been scoring)if they hope to beat the Fire, even on their own turf.
Two disappointing teams meet, though one is clearly worse off than the other (I'll let you pick which).
Toronto FC actually won a game, though it has to be pointed out that it was against the sports-disaster known as D.C. United. They have otherwise been dreadful. There is no cohesion in the side to speak of, and they can't score to save their lives. It's not pretty, but they almost beat the Dynamo last time they met, only to concede a heartbreaking last minute goal off a corner kick. If they play as they did in that game, perhaps there's a chance they beat Houston.
Houston's "Fortress", BBVA Compass Stadium, has been sieged, ransacked, pillaged and levelled. They have lost twice in a row there, have lost to New England, and have recently (Wednesday) recorded another loss against the Montreal Impact.
"But international absences...!"
Too bad. Losing is losing. Everyone deals with absences. Houston has been mediocre for a while now this season, and it'll take a decent stretch of positive play to overwrite that perception.
The only win they have registered in the past six games came in the US Open Cup against FC Tucson.
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders // Saturday, 8:30 p.m. CDT, Rio Tinto Stadium, MLS Live
This is a big one.
Both western conference teams have improved considerably since the earlier parts of the season, and both are riding on a streak of solid form.
Salt Lake beat LA to soothe the burn of their last meeting (which they lost to a mostly reserve Galaxy side), and the confidence gained from that victory will have fans and players believing that taking down the surging Sounders isn't an impossible task. Their roster will no longer be hurting from international absences as well. Salt Lake are primed to play at their best.
The last five times these two teams met, a grand total of five (5) goals were produced. I know that goals don't necessarily measure the excitement and quality of a match, but I have to hope there's a bit more fireworks out of this game than the usual standard defensive battle.
More goals might actually be on the docket, because the Sounders have rediscovered their scoring touch in the wickedest of ways. Obafemi Martins has helped a bit, but it's coming from all angles, and they have scored 13 goals in their last five MLS games. Some of those goals came at the blowout in LA against Chivas USA, but goals are goals. They all count, and you can't score them without skill.