[MLS] Saturday starts a crowded week of league play in MLS, with all 16 teams playing this weekend, eight of them scheduled for midweek action a week from Wednesday, and all but two set to play a week from Saturday.
In the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, New York replicated its 2-1 league defeat of Philadelphia last weekend by beating the Union Tuesday in U.S. Open Cup play by the same score. On Wednesday, FC Dallas hosts D.C. United in the Open Cup, and the Nutrilite Canadian Championship kicks off with Toronto hosting Montreal at BMO Field.
Here are three stories to follow as week 6 of MLS league play approaches:
FAKE GRASS VS. SCHELOTTO. The Crew, unbeaten but with only three games (2-0-1) on its docket so far, heads to Seattle with Crew coach Robert Warzycha uncertain if he will use Guillermo Barros Schelotto on FieldTurf.
Schelotto, who turns 37 in May and has lower limbs not fond of artificial surfaces, has sat out games on the fake stuff before. However, the Crew is not one of the teams with a game the following Wednesday; it sits out the midweek quartet and resumes its schedule a week from Saturday with an Eastern Conference foe, New England, that will be coming off a Wednesday game (against Chivas USA).
“I will look for places to rest him,” said Warzycha. “We started our season early, with Concacaf [Champions’ League], and we want to have a deep squad and give other players a chance to play. But he always wants to play, especially the big games.”
Unless the field is especially wet and treacherous, Schelotto should play in front of the rabid and passionate Qwest Field fans, and against former Crew coach Sigi Schmid as teams among the favorites to reach MLS Cup 2010 square off.
OPEN SEASON. Some teams and coaches take the Open Cup very seriously, a few others want to win but don’t totally commit to it, and the rest use it as a glorified training exercise.
If you’re Curt Onalfo, coach of pointless (0-4-0) D.C. United, or Schellas Hyndman, the man in charge of winless FC Dallas (0-1-3), do you use Wednesday’s match as a chance to notch a badly needed win, or stick to the formula of giving backups and reserves a rare start and extended minutes?
Onalfo really doesn’t have too much choice, with more than a half-dozen players either sidelined or hobbled by injuries. Most of his able bodies figure to answer the bell. At some point, Hyndman’s team has to turn its splendid approach play into victories, which won’t be easy in light of its chronic defensive breakdowns. But wins are wins, and a home game against a depleted squad gives FCD a prime opportunity.
MAPLE LEAF MOJO. In contrast to the Open Cup, which is limited to teams registered to play in the United States and with a few exceptions doesn’t generate much buzz, a Canadian mini-competition is thriving and feeding on rivalries north of the border.
The winner of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship, a six-game, round-robin competition that begins Wednesday with Toronto hosting Montreal in a MLS-USSF Division 2 matchup, advances to the Concacaf Champions League. Yet that doesn’t explain why Nutrilite games at BMO Field (Toronto), Stade Saputo (Montreal), and Swangard Stadium (Vancouver) played to 90 percent capacity last year.
“It’s something like an unofficial Canadian championship, since we don’t have our own league up here,” said Toronto FC Director, Business Operations Paul Beirne last year. “We take that very seriously, and we know Montreal and Vancouver do, too.”
In light of TFC’s 2-0 victory over Seattle Sunday, Coach Preki surely wants to maintain the momentum without taxing his players too much with just two days’ rest. Yet he has not only many Canadian players on the roster, but several raised in the Toronto area, including DP midfielder Julian de Guzman, who will play in the competition for the first time this season.
“It’s a tournament that’s a source of pride for our fans and for us here in Toronto and it’s a tournament that I think we should win,” said Scarborough, Ont., native Dwayne De Rosario to mlsoccer.com. He notched a goal and an assist against Seattle and last year was named Nutrilite MVP while leading TFC to the title.
Toronto hosted Montreal in the last 2009 Nutrilite game at Stade Saputo needing a huge victory to catch the Impact on points and pass it on goal difference. After TFC fell behind, 1-0, De Rosario scored the first three goals and since departed TFC attacker Amado Guevara tallied twice in a 6-1 romp that sent Toronto into the CCL.
“It’s an important tournament for us and we know we want to win that and we know where that leads if we continue to go further,” said De Rosario.