[MLS WHAT TO WATCH] On Wednesday, the Galaxy travels cross-country without David Beckham to face former teammate Carlos Ruiz and the Philadelphia Union as MLS presents three Wednesday games spread across the nation. FC Dallas aims to extend a three-game undefeated streak despite injuries when it hosts Toronto. And the Quakes and 'Caps are both looking for their second win of the season. ...
Philadelphia (4-2-1) vs. Los Angeles (4-2-4), 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick
BECKHAM, NOWAK NOT HERE. The biggest draw in the history of MLS won’t be at PPL Park when the Union takes on Los Angeles. David Beckham, citing fatigue and a third game for the Galaxy in seven days, won’t be in the house. He did not travel with the team.
Also absent will be Union coach Peter Nowak, who left the team in charge of assistant coach John Hackworth so he could attend the “Match of Stars,” a charity game involving former Polish stars playing a team of ex-players from Europe. Though Nowak is Polish, he spent much of his career in Germany, and so will play for the “Stars of Europe.”
Although it lacks the glitter of the entertaining 1-1 tie played by the Galaxy and Red Bulls at Home Depot Center last Saturday, it also matches up top teams in each conference. Los Angeles (4-2-4) holds a slim lead over RSL in the West; Philly (4-2-1) is third in the East, and by winning would overtake New York as conference leader.
Former Galaxy forward Carlos Ruiz has taken a few potshots at his former team, calling them “old” and “not good like everyone thinks,” according to mlssoccer.com. It remains to be seen if he gets into a jousting match with Landon Donovan, whose verbal sparring with Red Bulls’ forward Luke Rodgers in last week’s game prompted Donovan to tweet, “Who is Luke Rodgers?”
FC Dallas (3-3-2) vs. Toronto FC (2-3-4), 9 p.m., Direct Kick
POST-FERREIRA ERA CONTINUES. A run of five games in 18 days for FC Dallas starts off with a home double-dip of Toronto FC Wednesday and Philly on Saturday.
Though stripped by serious injuries of David Ferreira and left back Jair Benitez, FCD hasn’t lost in its last three games. They generated just two shots on goal last week but escaped RFK Stadium with a 0-0 tie thanks to some stellar work by keeper Kevin Hartman.
But if TFC sits back, Dallas will need Roger Chavez and perhaps Brek Shea to get in behind the back line. In the absence of Ferreira’s cunning and explosiveness stemming from his central position, more wide play – including the outside backs – will be needed to open up TFC, whose own attack was energized last weekend by Player of the Week Joao Plata in his first MLS start. He’s not big (5-foot-3), but he’s good.
Vancouver (1-4-4) vs. San Jose (1-4-2), 10 p.m., Direct Kick
SHAKY QUAKES. The gloomy picture in San Jose went even darker when midfield catalyst Simon Dawkins underwent surgery for compartment syndrome in both calves.
His absence, for perhaps as long as two months, deprives the Quakes of a tricky, creative player with pace and touch at a time when Coach Frank Yallop is scratching desperately for answers heading into a Wednesday game at Vancouver and a home match against Columbus Saturday.
He has no direct replacement on his roster, so Yallop may pick workhorse Brad Ring to man the middle, or he could slide Brandon McDonald into midfield to open up a centerback slot for Ike Opara, who is nearly recovered from hip and groin problems. Also nearing full health is midfielder Joey Gjertsen, whose wide play has been missed.
Getting the ball more to Chris Wondolowski, who leads the team with three goals and often draws an extra defender as the ball is played to him, would solve many problems. So far, teams have been keying on Bobby Convey, whose raids from the left flank haven’t been as incisive in a 4-3-3 formation utilized at the start of the season. Yallop has reverted to a 4-4-2 variation.
Risking Opara on the turf at Empire Field in his first start against a team desperate for a victory – the ‘Caps (1-4-4) haven’t won since blasting Toronto, 4-2, in their MLS debut in mid-March – might tilt the arrow elsewhere. The Quakes are just about as desperate; since winning, 2-0, in Dallas March 26, they have failed to win any of their last five league games. A victory would also move them past the Whitecaps and out of the Western cellar.
Vancouver defender Jay DeMerit hasn’t played a full game since that win over Toronto because of a groin injury but might be back on the field against San Jose. His help would help; Vancouver has conceded 14 goals in nine games, second-highest in the league.