Sporting Kansas City vs. New York Red Bulls // Saturday, 5:00 p.m. CDT, Sporting Park, NBC Sports Network
These two are locked in a battle for the title of "Most Hyped Team", and with a primetime slot to showcase their credentials, you can imagine this one will be good. At least, it should be good. There have been so many times that a promising match devolves into a boring foul-fest that I am cautiously optimistic.
Graham Zusi came out early from the All-Star game because of a quad strain, a sign of exactly what worries fans about friendlies such as those. While it's entirely possible that he was hamming it up in order to keep himself fresh for the matchup against New York (a significantly more important game than the one against Roma), it's still enough to give you pause. If he actually injured himself KC could be in a spot of trouble.
New York has their own injury to deal with, as Tim Cahill will be out thanks to the hacking tackles that MLS likes so very much. One would assume those tackles are impermissible. The thing is, the crime so often goes unpunished one must wonder if the referees are specifically instructed to swallow their whistles unless someone pulls out a gun. With Cahill out, it will fall on Dax McCarty, Fabian Espindola and Thierry Henry to put SKC under their boots and send them lower on the table. That's not a bad trio of stars to work with. I feel good about New York's chances to win this one.
Real Salt Lake is for many the most well run team in the league. Their recent losses have been chalked up to a bit of bad luck and the usual "it happens", while Colorado is usually seen as inconsistent. However, should they lose to Colorado things will flip around.
Colorado will be the hot team that is taking down the big boys, and RSL will be the inconsistent one. There is always the altitude to factor in. Can Colorado repeat these performances on the road? Regardless, with bush-league hypoxia draining RSL of their stamina early, the Rapids should at least be able to take a point away. When one team just can't muster the steam to keep fighting past the 70th minute mark, there is always a major chance you can get something out of the game.
If RSL win though, altitude and all, it will only reinforce their reputation as the top team in league. This one is a toss-up. I think Colorado is capable of winning, but Salt Lake has a lot of quality and a smart manager.
As usual, the Cascadia teams must not be interested in anyone seeing their matches. With a start time this late, it is likely many (including myself) will watch only one half, if they watch it at all.
Portland has finally hit something resembling a stumbling block. Their possession tactics are a bit dysfunctional at the moment, quite similar to SKC's when things go wrong. They ping the ball around endlessly, sometimes attractively, and generate close to zero danger for their efforts. Portland's dangerous because suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, they can zip in behind you and bag a goal when you least expect it. They react quickly and don't take many touches on the ball when this tactic works.
On the flip side, when they're not particularly dangerous is when for all their possession, they don't get close enough to really trouble a solid defense. The two factors combined make the Timbers a bit unpredictable, which is a double edged sword. Their rivalry with Vancouver is well documented, and with them having the home crowd behind them perhaps the Timbers can get a win to get back on track.
Vancouver has lost two in a row, with their last one coming against Philadelphia. Philly isn't a particularly great team, but they aren't poor either. Chalk it up to Vancouver cooling down from their hot streak and it makes sense. Despite Portland's homefield advantage, I'd be surprised if Vancouver dropped three in a row.
Food For Thought:
- What is your call for upset of the week?
- Do RSL or Colorado win?
- What did you think of the All Star game? Did you watch any of it?
- Expansions: We all know the usual suspects: Orlando and Miami keep getting mentioned. What two other cities would you like to see? Which ones are realistic?