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What to watch for in Week 9
by Ridge Mahoney, May 21st, 2010 2:29AM

TAGS:  mls


[MLS] Just five league matches are scheduled this weekend, and only the Columbus Crew has to play another league game on two days’ rest after escaping from New York with a 3-1 victory Thursday night. Several teams will be playing international games over the weekend. Here are a few elements we’ll be keeping an eye on ...

STATEMENT TIME. Real Salt Lake lived up to its stature as defending champion by thumping Houston, 3-1, eight days ago. It plays Saturday at Chivas USA, which being shut out in its last two games needs to establish its attack pretty soon.

Chivas USA lost a heartbreaker in Columbus last weekend, conceding a very late penalty kick that Guillermo Barros Schelotto – suspended one game after the fact for an elbow thrown into the face of defender Michael Umana – tucked away. Back at home, Chivas USA’s attack needs to get in gear if it is to extricate itself from last place of a very tightly bunched Western Conference. The absence of Sacha Kljestana and Jonathan Bornstein – away on U.S. duty – complicates the task.

Also needing to speak up is Seattle, which scraped past New York, 1-0, last weekend when Freddy Montero came off the bench to score after Steve Zakuani had unhinged the Red Bulls’ defense several times to no avail. The Sounders (3-3-3, 12 points) host a very resilient San Jose (4-2-1, 13 points) team they probably never dreamed they’d be trailing in the standings. The gap between the teams is only a point, but who could have foreseen that the Quakes would be plus 4 in goal difference and Seattle would be minus-3?

TALLY-HO. The Dynamo, too, has issues; it has followed a win-lose-win-lose pattern since tying its season opener, and takes a 4-4-1 record into a home game against floundering D.C. United with exactly half as many points as the Galaxy, which is 8-0-2 (26 points) after beating Dallas Thursday night.

Defender Andrew Hainault and keeper Pat Onstad are with the Canadian national team, which is in Buenos Aires to be cannon fodder for Argentina in a Monday friendly. In goal for Houston will be former San Diego State keeper Tally Hall, whose resume includes U.S. Open Cup and Concacaf Champions’ League matches but no MLS starts.

In fact, he’s never started a league match, period. In two seasons with Danish club Esbjerg, he never played first-team soccer. This is a chance to get his team an important win against a struggling opponent, and perhaps give a glimpse into some futureworld in which the ageless Onstad has actually retired (or maybe just moved back home to Vancouver).

Hall scored against Isidro Metapan last October when his 75-yard kick off the ground sailed over the opposing keeper under pressure from forward Brian Ching, who is also in the U.S. camp this weekend. No matter what Hall does against D.C., that goal will be hard to top, but Coach Dominic Kinnear will probably settle for a win, which given the team’s pattern is in the cards after that loss to RSL last time out.

TURNAROUND. Toronto FC has flown back home after playing a pair of 0-0 ties on the West Coast; after tying its Nutrilite Canadian Championship match 0-0 in Vancouver Wednesday, it returns home to BMO Field for a Saturday rematch with New England. Last time they met, the Revs smashed TFC, 4-1, April 10 thanks greatly to a Jack Schilawski hat trick. TFC is missing Dwayne De Rosario, who is also in Buenos Aires with Canada. With six goals and three assists, he’s been involved in all but two of his team’s goals.

Julian de Guzman sat out the Vancouver game, as well as a 0-0 tie last weekend with the Galaxy at Home Depot Center, because of a hamstring strain. If he can make it onto the field, he’ll be fresher than most of his teammates and can handle some of the attacking burden in DeRo’s absence. But his efforts might be wasted if a leaky defense again has to rely on Stefan Frei, who staved off numerous Galaxy attacks to garner that point. And the points are precious; next weekend, TFC is back on the West Coast to play San Jose.

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