5. MLS WEEKEND: Week 4 Game Previews

By Ridge Mahoney

TORONTO (0-3-0) vs. KANSAS CITY (2-1-0)
(Saturday, 12:30 pm ET, Direct Kick)


The Wizards' fifth game in 15 days (counting a 2-1 midweek Open Cup loss to Salt Lake) will be in front of a sellout crowd as Toronto celebrates the grand unveiling of a new stadium. Toronto's players will be sky-high emotionally but they are still at sea-level physically, and desperately need to score first, as in their first goal of the season. They've scored none and conceded nine! Strikers Edson Buddle and Alecko Eskandarian haven't look sharp. If Kansas City midfielder Carlos Marinelli potent left foot and probing instincts don't mind the artificial turf, the Wizards will find opportunities to attack a shaky TFC backline.

COLUMBUS (0-0-3) vs. D.C. UNITED (0-2-0)
(Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Direct Kick)


Whether or not United tweaks its traditional 3-5-2 formation, if Coach Tom Soehn gets more cohesion and bite from his back line and more guile in midfield, he can leave the attack more or less the way it is, although Fred has been somewhat lackluster on the right flank. Putting Fred in the middle moves Ben Olsen to the right flank, and while Olsen and left mid Josh Gros can run forever, they aren't especially clever. The Crew has at times played with three up front, though the four-game suspension handed to Andy Herron for elbowing Jay Heaps in the face limits Coach Sigi Schmid's options. Supported by Joseph Ngwenya and Ricardo Virtuoso on the wings, and with Eddie Gaven prompting from midfield, Kei Kamara can pierce the D.C. back line and test keeper Troy Perkins.

LOS ANGELES (0-1-1) vs. CHIVAS USA (2-1-0)
(Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET Fox Soccer Channel & Fox Sports en Espanol.)


The scene is set for what should be a sizzling SuperClasico. Los Angeles tuned up for its return to league action (it lost to Dallas way back on April 12) by beating Columbus, 1-0, in the Open Cup Tuesday on a Nate Jaqua goal. Chivas USA hammered Real Salt Lake, 4-0, last weekend at HDC, after burner Maykel Galindo scored twice in the first nine minutes. Sacha Kljestan is servinga two-game suspension for a dangerous slide tackle that injured RSL's Andy Williams, which may open up the midfield for Amado Guevara to take on a greater role. He has seldom sparked the Chivas USA attack so far this season, but Galindo and Ante Razov have already struck up a potent partnership. Chivas USA has conceded just one goal, the same number scored by the Galaxy, yet with Landon Donovan buzzing around the Chivas defense will be tested.

DALLAS (2-2-1) vs. NEW ENGLAND (2-1-0)
(Sunday, 3 pm ET, Telefutura)

Nine days after a 2-2 tie in Columbus, the Revs return to the venue at which they lost the last two MLS Cups. The Revs' Taylor Twellman is in sharp form. He leads MLS with three goals and against Dallas has scored 13 all-time, the most success he's had against any MLS team. Injuries and occasional defensive breakdowns have tainted an otherwise strong start to Dallas's season. Based on current performances, this game matches two of the best midfields in MLS. Young Dallas midfielder Juan Toja, 21, will have a lot to do, containing Andy Dorman while monitoring Shalrie Joseph, and Steve Ralston will stretch the Dallas defensive shape.

HOUSTON (1-1-1) vs. CHICAGO (2-0-1)
(Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Direct Kick)

The Fire starts a three-game road trip where it won last year, 1-0, on a brilliant goal by Thiago. Houston returns home, where it opened the season with a goalless tie against the Galaxy before beating Chivas USA, 1-0, and losing to New York by the same score on the road. Houston's lack of attack is puzzling, considering it scored four goals in two matches against Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions Cup, yet rarely threatened last weekend while playing a man up for more than a half in Giants Stadium. A listless Dwayne DeRosario obviously saps some of Houston's potency, and none of the forwards - Brian Ching, Paul Dalglish, Alejandro Moreno - have turned in a strong performance. Chicago last weekend jumped on Kansas City with goals by Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe for a 2-0 lead and conceded only a late penalty kick.

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