MLS Weekend Preview: Texas invasion looms large

Both New York teams are in action Friday as Week 11 of the MLS season kicks off with another Univision Deportes doubleheader.

The Red Bulls took the first derby between the teams, 2-1, last weekend at home but are up against Western Conference co-leader FC Dallas. Winless in its last eight games, NYCFC gets a home date with Chicago, which has lost its last two.

The Saturday card features a Cascadia Cup clash between Vancouver, which is tied for first with FCD, and third-place Seattle. On Sunday, struggling Orlando City and Philadelphia can stop their slides at home against the Galaxy and D.C. United, respectively.

MLS, Week 11 Schedule:
Friday, May 15
New York City vs. Chicago, 7 pm UDN
FC Dallas vs. NY Red Bulls, 9 pm UDN
Saturday, May 16
Montreal vs. Real Salt Lake, 4 pm
Vancouver vs. Seattle, 7 pm
New England vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 pm
Houston vs. Portland, 8:30 pm
Sporting KC vs. Colorado, 8:30 pm
San Jose vs. Columbus, 10:30 pm
Sunday, May 17
Orlando vs. LA Galaxy, 5 pm ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Philadelphia vs. D.C. United, 7 pm Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
All times ET.

They’ve taken points from three of their four away games so far this season, but the Red Bulls take on one of the league’s hottest teams Friday at FC Dallas.

Aside from winning a Player of the Month award in 2014, midfielder Mauro Diaz has seldom been able to display the talents that prompted FCD to sign him 18 months ago. He’s making up for time lost to a run of injuries with four assists in FCD’s last two games. Not many MLS players can conceive, much less execute, the scooped pass that set up the first of two goals for Blaz Perez in a 2-1 defeat of the Galaxy last weekend.

Fabian Castillo – the team leader in scoring “points” with four goals and five assists -- has been tearing up teams all season. As solid New York has been centrally with Dax McCarty buttressing a potent attacking force, it will need plenty of two-way support on the flanks to avert a stampede. How often Sacha Kljestan can find time and space to spring Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam may dictate the outcome, but FCD is just as potent on the counterattack and if able to take the lead will make it a long night for NYRB.

2. Sounders and ‘Caps conclude first ‘round’ of Cascadia Cup.

Vancouver completes its first run through Northwest foes when it hosts Seattle on Saturday with a chance to open up a seven-point gap on the Sounders.

The ‘Caps have already beaten Portland, 2-1, at home and tied, 0-0, on the road to take the early Cascadia Cup lead. (Seattle beat the Timbers, 1-0, in their only 2015 meeting to date.) Last week Vancouver dumped Philadelphia, 3-0, but only after a stunning save by keeper David Ousted shook them out of a sluggish start. Octavio Rivero’s sixth goal of the season and Ousted’s league-high sixth shutout were more than enough against the Union. Yet Vancouver is a mediocre 2-2-2 in its last six games.

A 3-2 loss in Columbus last week snapped Seattle’s three-game winning streak and quelled some of the enthusiasm generated by head coach Sigi Schmid’s praise of a revamped defense. Clint Dempsey moved into a share of the lead atop the league scoring charts by netting twice but Crew SC’s speed and movement left the Sounders floundering. ‘The Caps are well-stocked in the wheels department with Kekuta Manneh, Darren Mattocks, and Sam Adegkube, so Seattle must control the tempo and avoid the mistakes that helped Vancouver take seven of a possible nine points in their head-to-head meetings last season.

3. Valeri return pumps up Portland.

Is all the hullaballo about Diego Valeri’s long injury absence and emphatic return apropos? Uh, yeah. He bent it like Beckham last week to help down Montreal, 2-1, for Portland’s third victory in the last six games.

As is the case with Portland, a Houston victory in its last game is hard to assess, since Toronto FC is also struggling and botched the re-opening of BMO Field by losing, 2-1. Valeri will draw a lot of attention, so Darlington Nagbe – sixth in the league with 24 chances created (including two assists) – should be able to find the time and space to poke holes in the Dynamo defense.

The Impact have yet to beat anybody in MLS, home or away, so a difficult road trip may reveal more about where the Dynamo stands more than two months into the season. Houston is already near the midpoint of its home schedule, and losses in its last two games to FC Dallas (4-1) and San Jose (1-0) have dropped its record at BBVA Compass Stadium to 2-3-2. The transition from former head coach Dominic Kinnear to Owen Coyle has yet to take hold, but a winning goal from Will Bruin -- who has been in and out of the lineup under Coyle -- against Montreal is an encouraging sign.

4. Double-dip with D.C. looms for Philly.

A rough season so far for Philadelphia doesn’t get any easier in the short-term. The Union hosts Eastern Conference leader D.C. United Sunday and after a visit to Red Bull Arena next weekend it plays a rematch at RFK May 30.

Philly’s porous defense has conceded 21 goals – more than two per game and seven more than any league foe – and its ponderous attack is tied for last in the league with just three goals scored in five home matches. It failed to score against United in both of last year’s meetings, a pair of 1-0 defeats, and the 2015 season is already slipping away. In four consecutive defeats, it has been outscored, 10-2.

United could be a bit fatigued after rallying to beat Orlando City, 2-1, Wednesday at RFK. But it is unbeaten in the last eight games (five of them victories) and head coach Ben Olsen does have depth. Against OCSC, a quad strain sidelined Fabian Espindola, and after a sluggish first half subs Miguel Aguilar, Chris Rolfe and Jairo Arrieta all contributed to the comeback. Following a Kofi Opare equalizer from a corner kick, Arrieta floated a diagonal serve that Rolfe tucked away with a flying, left-footed flick.

A team that can’t figure out what to do in goal is severely challenged at several other positions as well. It has scored just eight goals in 11 games and Sebastien Le Toux has registered only two assists. It has lost four in a row. Something ain’t right

MLS, Week 11 Results:
Wednesday, May 13
D.C. United 2 Orlando City 1.
11 ORL -- Cyle Larin (Aurelien Collin)
70 DC -- Kofi Opare  (Taylor Kemp)
79 DC -- Chris Rolfe (Jairo Arrieta, Davy Arnaud)
Att.: 12,532.

MLS Standings:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

PTS TEAM W-L-T GF/GA

21 D.C. United 6-1-3 13/8
18 New England 5-2-3 14/10
16 NY Red Bulls 4-1-4 14/9
14 Columbus 4-3-2 15/10
9 Toronto FC 3-5-0 12/13
9 Chicago 3-5-0 7/10
--------------------------------------
9 Orlando City 2-5-3 9/14
6 New York City 1-6-3 7/12
6 Philadelphia 1-7-3 10/21
2 Montreal 0-3-2 3/8

WESTERN CONFERENCE

PTS TEAM W-L-T GF/GA
20 FC Dallas
6-2-2 17/13
20 Vancouver
6-3-2 14/9
16 Seattle 5-3-1 15/9
14 San Jose 4-4-2 10/11
14 Sporting KC
3-3-5 13/13
14 LA Galaxy 3-3-5 11/11
--------------------------------------
14 Real Salt Lake 3-2-5 9/11
13 Portland 3-3-4 9/9
13 Houston 3-4-4 13/14
10 Colorado 1-2-7 9/9

Leading MLS Scorers:
G PLAYER (TEAM)
7 Clint Dempsey (Seattle)
7 Kei Kamara (Columbus)
6 Octavio Rivero (Vancouver)
6 Obafemi Martins (Seattle)
5 Bradley Wright-Phillips (NY Red Bulls)
5 Chris Wondolowski
(San Jose)
5 Blas Perez (FC Dallas)
5 Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)
5 Giles Barnes (Houston)

MLS, Week 12 Schedule:
Wednesday, May 20
Sporting KC vs. New England, 8 pm ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
Friday, May 22
Columbus vs. Chicago, 8 pm UDN
LA Galaxy vs. Houston, 10:30 pm UDN
Saturday, May 23
Toronto FC vs. Portland, 5 pm
New England vs. D.C. United, 7:30 pm
Montreal vs. FC Dallas, 8 pm
Colorado vs. Vancouver, 9 pm
Real Salt Lake vs. New York City, 10 pm
Seattle vs. Sporting KC, 10 pm
Sunday, May 24
NY Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia, 5 pm ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
San Jose vs. Orlando, 7 pm Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes
All times ET.

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