Mexico is no longer in contention for the Gold Cup. Today has started off well, hasn't it?
The weekend is loaded for bear, as MLS is going the "schedule everything at the same time" route. It's a bad route, but there are thankfully two games that are being nationally televised on Saturday, which means a much higher quality feed than MLS Live.
The Rapids vs. LA match followed by either RSL vs. NY or Houston vs. Chicago will be a great four hours for those itching or soccer. Then again, they could be punch-laden bore-fests. Either way, those are the best picks when predictions must be made about the expected quality.
ESPN's pretty solid soccer coverage will be paying attention to two teams trying to build momentum, and Colorado is a team that shouldn't be passed over.
I can already see many people picking LA to win, but I believe that does Colorado a disservice. They have been pretty up and down this season and yet for some reason people only seem to remember the "down" part. When they're clicking, Colorado can play with the best of them. It's true that last week Seattle was not at their best when the Rapids got a draw from them, but that's beside the point. The Rapids are certainly capable of stopping LA, especially with the altitude affecting LA's performance near the end of the game.
LA has been pretty erratic as well. Generally I regard them as one of the best in the league. However, with parity being what it is in MLS, and with the absences of key players throughout the season, they simply have not started steamrolling as they're used to. Arena is a very capable man and has laid into his team several times this season for their performances.
I say it's a 2-2 draw.
New York Redbulls vs. Real Salt Lake // Saturday, 6:00 p.m. CDT, Red Bulls Around, MLS Live
This one doesn't require much explanation. Two teams with high expectations and plenty of hype will clash swords in New Jersey.
Real Salt Lake are arguably the best team so far this season. They have had their share of losses, but what they have managed to do given their roster turnover is impressive. Losing to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend will only fuel their fire to get back into the win column. New York will prove a tough opponent, and they will be facing former stud striker Fabian Espindola. It's a double edged sword, as both RSL know Espindola's tactics and weaknesses and he knows theirs.
New York has a slight edge in their attacking options, but Real Salt Lake has better defensive cohesion and discipline.
There are a few readers here who remember the heated days of the Brimstone rivalry. Those days are long gone and I would bet at least $3 that most of you, if forced to choose, would rather have Chicago win this game.
That's a good thing, because there's a very good chance that Chicago pulls a point or three out of this one. Now, that being said, it's a chance. Houston's homefield advantage is no longer what it was before, but it's still a big factor. Chicago has the players to hurt Houston, but it's a toss up as to whether they'll be able to weather the foul-storm that the Dynamo will send their way. Mike Magee can be counted on for big goals and the Dynamo's defense lends itself well to Chicago's attack.
I think it's unlikely that the Fire's new signing, Juan Luis Anangono, will be available for selection. Immigration tends to be a slower proces, even for athletes, though his impending arrival could help galvanize Chicago knowing that their ownership is doing what they can to get Mike Magee the ball more. If he is available, it would certainly be a huge boost.
Houston have recovered a bit from their unfortunate streak, but the teams they have beaten aren't the best, though you could make a case that New England is better than people realize. They did manage to shut out and out-Stoke Stoke to the tune of 2-0, so they're riding into their match against the Fire with a bit of momentum.
1-1 I say.
Food For Thought:
- Picking between Real Salt Lake and New York is tough. Who wins this one, and why?
- Would you rather Colorado or LA win?
- Will you be watching the All-Star game next week?
- Where you at the Gold Cup matches last night? If you were, was the atmosphere as terrible as people predicted it would be?