Thanks to the Eastern Conference having a slate of incredibly boring-looking games scheduled, it's up to the Western Conference to save everyone's MLS weekend.
The Colorado Rapids are on this list all the time, but that's because they always seem to be involved in a meaningful game in some form or another. Last week it was a game against the best fringe team in the history of the league, and this week it's against a team from some charming little hamlet up in the Northwest. They also happen to be on the fringes of the playoff race.
The Timbers, once favorites to win everything MLS could possibly award (including other unrelated awards such as Best Sound Editing), are now looking at the very real possibility of dropping out of the playoff picture. It would take a pretty big stumble to get them there mind you, and they're very much in control of their destiny sitting in the fifth spot. But this is in stark contrast to a few months ago where they were practically guaranteed a spot. There's some cliche about games needing to be played that seems applicable here.
Portland might have Diego Valeri back to starting as he was seen in full training with the team and played 45 minutes against Chivas USA. Valeri is a massive reason behind the Timbers' success and his absence has apparent on the field of play. Without Valeri, the Timbers lack a killer presence inside the box. Valeri's instincts are leaps beyond the rest of Portland, and if he manages to play even 45 minutes, it will make a big difference and create havoc for a Rapids defense that's prone to falling asleep at the wheel.
It's hard to foresee the result. Portland needs these points more than Colorado do, but so did Dallas last week. This game could be an all out slugfest, or a defensive masterpiece. Or it could be an MMA event if Hendry Thomas does as he pleases.
Can San Jose really make a charge at the playoffs? There's no denying they have improved since the coaching change. Take that as you will, but their last few results definitely suggest an upward trend (CCL excluded). However, even taking into account the changes made by interim manager Mark Watson, there isn't really a good reason to suspect the Quakes will get in.
They will have a good chance to play spoiler though and step on other teams' morale. They're certainly good enough to be able to win a game.
RSL is a team that has bounces back regularly enough this season, so it's not out of the question you'll see a much more organized and in-control squad this time out. It's always fun to watch RSL after a loss, because they always seem to come out with guns blazing. I don't know if that's perceived or real, but their record after losses this season is 5 wins, 5 draws and 2 losses. You can't say they go into ruts very frequently.
Real are clearly the good guys here, while the Quakes are something like a losing version of the Hawks (from the great American classic, "The Mighty Ducks").
Are there good matches scheduled for this weekend or what?
The Galaxy are in a ridiculous race for the 3-5 slots in the west, where the largest difference in PPG between the teams is .03. Even a tiny slip up could cost them big time, and with the WCQ players being given a bit of a rest, it's time to see what a full strength Galaxy squad will look like against the current Supporter's Shield leaders. The Galaxy doesn't quite know what it's like not to be top dog in the league, but they're looking at a whole season's worth of being "very good, but not the best".
Seattle could probably afford lose this game because there's a bit of padding involved in the SS race, but a draw would definitely not hurt them. It's probably going to be a cagey affair from the Sounders as they should expect the Galaxy to go for the throat. I wouldn't be surprised to see Seattle go a slightly more defensive route than usual to protect themselves against LA's counterattacking tactics.
Food For Thought:
- Pick the winners (or matches with a draw). It's tough to pick anything for sure this week.
- Since Dallas won't get it, who do you want to see win the shield this year?
- We're all pulling for Colorado vs. Portland, right?
- You can only go to the game with either nachos, or a hot dog. Which do you pick?