This is unrelated to the preview, but when did MLS' website become such a gossip-mongering operation?
At any rate, this week has major games that involve big teams trying to solidify their playoff spot, or take the #1 seed from someone else.
New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union // Saturday, 7:00 p.m. CDT, Red Bull Arena, NBC Sports Network
The most heated of forced rivalries takes the national spotlight Saturday night, as for once there is a real reason for these two clubs to try and knock each other senseless. In case you haven't noticed, the Red Bulls and Union are neck in neck in terms of points per game, and have played the exact same number of games to boot.
For the Union, first place in the east would be attained with a win over the Red Bulls and a Sporting Kansas City loss. That is reason alone to take it to the Red Bulls Saturday night as opposed to playing a more defensive style, which is just as well because they're horrid at the whole defending bit. The Union hold their own defensively against mid-table teams, but against players like Dax McCarty the Philly back line is vulnerable. Couple New York's offensive threat with the lottery draw that is Zac McMath (Will he make a great save? Will his blunders make the blooper reel?) and there's definitely the potential for some goals against.
The Union will need to stay organized in the back like they have shown they are capable of doing and hope for McMath to have one of his good games, as opposed to one of his games that doubles as a RIngling Bros. routine.
The Red Bulls are in good position to win at home for the aforementioned reasons, but their defense is pretty poor as well. That isn't some huge revelation though; New York's defense has been like this for a while now.
Pictured Above: New York's defensive organization
If anything, their defense might be worse than the Union's. If Jack McInerney can remember how to hit the ball in the direction of the net (a bit of a question mark these days), New York could be in trouble.
This is a big one for several reasons, but the biggest one would be that Clint Dempsey could get his first start in lieu of the perpetually injured Obafemi Martins.
The Dynamo need to win, no ifs, ands or buts. The Chicago Fire are breathing down their necks in the standings, just two points behind having played the same number of games. The Dynamo have now shown that they are the best team in the East this season, or even third best. Their win-streaks are undone by unsightly winless streaks, and with Andrew Driver out, it will be harder for them to mount an attack on a great Sounders team.
There's not much to say about the Sounders that readers don't already know. Their ownership did not have to pay the princely sum of 9 million dollars for Clint Dempsey's transfer fee (MLS is very generous under the right circumstances), but they are having to pay the man the highest salary in all MLS. Mauro Rosales will greatly benefit from Dempsey's presence in the attack, and in just one game Deuce showed more soccer smarts in three touches than most players display all game.
The Sounders are very motivated by Clint's arrival, and that will be enough reason to bet on them taking a point out of Houston, if not all three.
RSL makes this weekly preview rather a lot, but that's what happens when they keep charging for the Supporter's Shield.
The Galaxy are sitting just inside the playoff line at 5th, holding an unimpressive 1.48 PPG. Bruce Arena's men just locked down Omar Gonzalez a little while longer with his DP deal, but they're going to need more than Gonzo to reclaim the Supporter's Shield glory from a couple of years ago. The Galaxy - RSL games have all been a bit odd and have gone contrary to expectations, and this one will hopefully adhere to a more sensible narrative so all us bloggers can regurgitate easy to write blurbs come Monday.
In a perfect world, the game goes like this:
RSL come out conservative, using their possession and defense to minimize the damage that LA can do on the counter. LA tries to break down RSL by using Keane and Sarvas and Donovan to cut through their defense from the outside. Both teams' strengths cancel each other out after a couple of goals, and everyone goes home with a point after a 1-1 draw.
That's not what's going to happen though. If Zorro came into the game and kidnapped Omar Gonzalez to make him into a crime-fighting aristocrat, it would be only mildly surprising.
Gonzo would look pretty great with a cape and épée.