A busy weekend of eight games on top of midweek action has a few teams doubling up, including expansion Portland, one of six teams to play on Sunday.
REPEATS ON THE CARDS? Three teams coming off their first victories of the season face very different opportunities to win consecutive games with their attacks being revamped.
Seattle, its offensive troubles seemingly put aside by beating Chicago, 2-1, at home after tying, 2-2 in San Jose, travels to Philadelphia to face the league’s stingiest defense: only one goal conceded in four games. Houston can confirm its credentials at home against New England after belting expansion entry Vancouver, 3-1, Sunday at Robertson Stadium. FC Dallas broke out of a scoring slump with a 3-0 pasting of Colorado and gets a chance to spoil the expansion party in Portland.
Seattle is searching for a striker to replace Blaise Nkufo; O’Brian White has made a good case by scoring in his last two games, and Steve Zakuani got his second goal of the season last weekend. The availability of Fredy Montero, sidelined after undergoing wrist surgery, isn’t known, yet even if he sits head coach Sigi Schmid still doesn’t have enough spots to accommodate Mauro Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez, Erik Friberg, Nate Jaqua, White and Zakuani.
Houston got three goals against the Whitecaps without Brian Ching; he’s been sidelined with a rib injury, and his status for Sunday’s visit of the Revs is up in the air. Forwards Cam Weaver and rookie Will Bruin accounted for two of the goals and could start as a tandem. Midfielder Lovel Palmer and Brad Davis may be dominant in midfield with the Revs’ Shalrie Joseph suspended, but the Revs should have more energy than they did last week in losing to RSL, 2-0; that was their third match in eight days.
David Ferreira helped destroy the Rapids with a pair of goals as speedy newcomer Fabian Castillo played the full 90 minutes in his first MLS start. FCD might also deploy ex-Chivas USA forward Maykel Galindo, who scored for the reserves and adds yet more pace to a Dallas attack that can find gaps if the Timbers are dragging after their historic opener Thursday.
EARLY BURDEN. Four teams will perform double-duty this weekend, including the expansion Timbers, which follow up their historic Thursday opener with a game against FC Dallas Sunday
The heaviest schedule load of the season so far is in play this week, with 11 games scheduled from Wednesday to Sunday even though there is no Friday night game, as was the case the past three weeks. There could be lot of tired legs after halftime this weekend.
The Galaxy and Fire will be playing for the third time in nine days on Sunday in Chicago. The Fire played in Portland Thursday and must travel and regroup for a 3 p.m. local kickoff after losing two hours in the time change. Yet it could be healthier and fitter than the Galaxy, which hit the crossbar through Chad Barrett and the post via David Beckham Wednesday in Toronto during a 0-0 tie.
Landon Donovan has sat out the last two games with knee inflammation and did not travel to Toronto; he is day-to-day but has not been ruled out of the Fire match. David Beckham is suspended for yellow-card accumulation and Juninho picked up a second caution in stoppage time against TFC.
After a 1-1 tie in San Jose last Saturday, Toronto FC returned home to tie the Galaxy, 0-0, Wednesday and gets out there again Saturday at BMO Field against D.C. United. TFC wingers Alen Stevanovic and Javier Martina have looked dangerous in spurts the past two games and could exploit the suspect D.C. defensive flanks, but if they can’t, head coach Aron Winter has a few eager young players who may get their chance to please the home crowd.
Speaking of crowds, Portland hosts its second home game Sunday against FC Dallas and regardless of how tired the Timbers are after a 70-hour turnaround, another packed, rowdy house should pump them up enough to keep the intensity level reasonably high.
REMATCH AT RBA. The Red Bulls came away from PPL Park incensed that they didn’t get at least a point, and await the visit of San Jose this Saturday to get the goals and big win they feel are deserved.
Maybe, maybe not. The last time these teams played at Red Bull Arena last November the Quakes spanked NYRB, 3-1, in the second leg of the conference semifinals to win, 3-2, on aggregate. San Jose has failed to win any of its three home games this season yet on the road it beat FC Dallas, 2-0, on March 26, and its on-loan signing from Tottenham, Simon Dawkins, is just the kind of slick, confident dribbler who can torment a Red Bulls midfield still adjusting to the loss of Tony Tchani, who was traded to TFC in the Dwayne DeRosario deal.
Thierry Henry, bothered by an Achilles problem earlier in the week, has resumed training and reportedly looks sharp. He missed all but a few minutes of the semifinals with injuries, and if he’s hobbled again the attack may revolve around De Ro, who started his MLS career with the league’s original version of the Quakes, with which he won his first two titles – of four – in 2001 and 2003.
De Ro’s amazing talent is sometimes plagued by frustration and impatience. If the Quakes can limit his touches and constrict space in their defensive third, he and the Red Bulls may get anxious in front of a demanding, expectant home crowd.