Marquee Matchups: Cluttered Starts

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

Mid table teams are lining up to take each other out.

The weekend has so many matches starting within an hour of each other that keeping up with most of them will prove impossible. I'm assuming MLS is doing this to punish fans for the lack of TV ratings they keep bringing in as a league.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps // Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CDT, BC Place, MLS Live

This is interesting. The Quakes have a reputation for being excessively physical, while the Whitecaps have a reputation for being excessively acrobatic in their diving.

The Quakes have put together a pretty decent string of performances lately, including a win over the Portland Timbers a few weeks ago. While Wondolowski still isn't putting the ball in the back of the net on a whim, they're still averaging a bit over a goal per game in their last 5. They even beat Norwich City in friendly, and while Norwich isn't the greatest EPL team to ever grace our shores, and even though they're in preseason, that's still pretty nice. San Jose will need a miracle to really have a chance at the playoffs, but at this point all they can do is keep winning.

They lost in the CCL yesterday against Montreal though. It's amazing what a single year can do to a team. Last year, they were the Goonies who won the Supporter's Shield. Now they're in a fight for their playoff lives, one they're very likely to lose.

The Whitecaps are about as middling as a team can get. They're not poor, they're not great. They're just there. In their last five they have lost two, won two and drawn one. I think that's about as mathematically average as you can get with 5. Kenny Miller and Jay DeMerit have resumed training though, which will lift team spirits a bit. Miller could start, while DeMerit is a few games away. It's great to see DeMerit back on the training pitch though. That guy has had some pretty bad injury luck.

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact // Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CDT, Toyota Park, MLS Live

The Impact are quickly losing the stranglehold they had on a playoff spot. At first blush it looks as if they're in a perfectly fine situation.They're currently third in the east and have two games in hand on second place Sporting Kansas City (who are only one point ahead of them in the standings). But then you realize they have looked majorly out of sorts in the past month and a half, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them continue to struggle. Houston and Philly are breathing down their neck for that spot. While I think the Impact are a better team than either the Dynamo or Philly, that won't be the case if they continue losing.

The Fire have fallen behind the New England Revolution, but only by two points and still have a game in hand. This match is one they need at least a point out of. With New England facing off against SKC, the assumption is that Chicago isn't under a great deal of pressure to definitely win. Though if the Fire were to pull off a win against a tough opponent while New England lose... well, that puts them right back into the thick of things. All that "Fire Klopas" bit has quieted down. Is it because of his management, or because of Magic Mike Magee?

Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo // Saturday, 8:30 p.m. CDT, Rio Tinto Stadium, MLS Live

This is the best match of the weekend, on paper at least. Houston is trying to hold onto the last playoff spot in the east while Real Salt Lake is neck in neck with the New York Red Bulls for the Supporter's Shield. It's not unrealistic for RSL to think they can win the SS. Taking care of business at home against a hated Dallas rival would do wonders for this Dallas fan.

I know, RSL is a team in the west and blah blah facts blah standings blah. But if we're honest with ourselves, I don't think any of us can truly have faith that FCD can catch RSL. Dallas has a pretty solid chance at making the playoffs but I have zero faith in them catching Real. With that in mind, RSL needs to win. For many reasons.

They're a team whose management deserves to be rewarded for its perseverance and continual adjustments. Sometimes those adjustments don't work out, but more often than not Jason Kreis has figured out a way to make fertilizer out of poop. Joao Plata (that first O isn't silent) is the latest player to have been released from the talent-draining clutches of TFC, and he's just one player that Kreis has helped improve.

Houston's boring, but they have been winning, albeit against weaker/mid-table teams. If they manage a draw out of Rio Tinto Stadium it would place them back into the "solid contender" category. Having just signed Alexander Lopez, the Dynamo will certainly give it a go knowing that reinforcements are on the way.

I think RSL wins this though.

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