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Cuauhtemoc Blanco set to make MLS debut with Chicago
by Ridge Mahoney, July 27th, 2007 7AM

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REAL SALT LAKE (1-8-6) vs. NEW ENGLAND (7-3-6)
Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol

RSL got away from league competition last week and posted encouraging results against foreign opposition, beating English Premier League club Everton, 2-0, and tying Argentine powerhouse Boca Juniors, 1-1. Carey Talley and rookie Robbie Findley netted against Everton and Freddy Adu, being wooed by Portuguese club Benfica, converted a penalty kick against Boca.

The matches enabled head coach Jason Kreis additional time to sift his new players into the squad and test out his reserves. He doled out playing time to recent acquisitions Findley, U.S. under-20 Nathan Sturgis, midfielder Kyle Beckerman and defender Chris Wingert with an eye on the remaining half of the season.

New England has found it tough to break down RSL; two of the last three meetings ended goalless and last year at Gillette, RSL pulled off a 3-1 victory. The Revs rallied to tie Houston, 3-3, last weekend and are the best road warriors in MLS at 4-2-2. Red Bull New York's loss to Chivas USA presents New England the opportunity to move into first place with a road win, and there's no more likely place to do it than Rice-Eccles.

TORONTO FC (5-8-4) vs. CHICAGO (4-8-4)
Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, TeleFutura

He'll probably relish the raucous atmosphere at BMO Field, yet how Cuauhtemoc Blanco takes to artificial turf is a key factor in how much he can help Chicago down the stretch.

In the Fire's first visit to BMO May 12, it conceded the first TFC goal and the franchise's initial victory, a 3-1 decision since which Chicago has posted just one win. It also has games scheduled on turf in New York and Real Salt Lake during a run-in of 14 games that includes eight on the road.
 
Chris Rolfe is still questionable with the ankle sprain that has kept him out for more than two months, and Justin Mapp is doubtful because of a groin strain. Blanco's neat goal against Glasgow Celtic in a friendly Sunday is a reminder he can score goals as well as set them up given enough support, which hasn't been the case in Chicago since early May.

(Costa Rican star Paulo Wanchope will be introduced as the newest member of the Fire frontline at a press conference on Friday.)

TFC is back home after a rough six-game road trip necessitated by the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Though it won just once, it also garnered three ties and is just five points out of a playoff spot. But it lost to Aston Villa, 4-2, in a friendly Wednesday that was marred by dubious refereeing decisions, and its two most potent forwards, Jeff Cunningham and Danny Dichio, are banged up.

Dichio (five goals) is struggling with a sore back and Cunningham (three) could miss up to six weeks with an abdominal tear. Keeper Greg Sutton is still suffering from post-concussion headaches as TFC prepares to play eight of its final 13 games at BMO.

KANSAS CITY (7-5-5) vs. CHIVAS USA (8-5-3)
Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, mlslive.tv

As Chivas USA head coach, Preki returns to the stadium he graced as a player and left under somewhat acrimonious circumstances for Miami, only to return and finish out his career.

He's eighth in all-time goals and third in all-time assists, and in his first year as a head coach his record is a shade better than counterpart Curt Onalfo, who is also a rookie at the helm. The reason is consistency.

The Wizards' modest 4-3-2 home record is a product of squandered opportunities. It lost to D.C., 1-0, on the Fourth of July despite a 21-11 edge in shots, and blew two leads fashioned on Eddie Johnson goals to end up tied, 2-2, with Colorado Sunday. Davy Arnaud's slick pass provided Johnson the assist on his first goal and a shot off the post rebounded to Johnson for the second.
Chivas USA won only its second road game of the season Thursday in New York with goals by Ante Razov and Sacha Kljestan. It blanked Juan Pablo Angel with hard work and some luck; can it do the same with Johnson in razor-sharp form?



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