Saturday, August 12, 2006

MLS Week 20 Preview

Four MLS matches take place today with ESPN2 broadcast the battle for Texas, but in tape-delay form (A US Open Series tennis match from Toronto will air instead of the live game). Anyway, here are the previews.

Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas
8:30pm ET
TV: ESPN2 at Midnight ET

There is a lot more at stake in this match then just Texas bragging rights. If the Dynamo is going to make a run at the Western Conference crown, they need to start their move today. With 11 games remaining for Houston, they are 7-points off FCD's pass who also have a game in hand. If Dallas increase their lead to 10-points, it will be hard for anyone to catch them.

The great news for Houston is De Rosario is back. On Wednesday Houston controlled most of the match against LA, but without De Rosario they were unable to create much danger in front of the box and had a hard time stopping the Galaxy on fast breaks. Sure enough, the team fell 1-0. Brian Ching might be the goal-scoring star, but he needs the second threat of De Rosario to be totally efficient.

FCD start a four-match road trip with this game, so any points will be welcomed. Carlos Ruiz is listed as probable for the game, which will give the side yet another attacking option. It will be interesting to see if Ruiz starts or is used as a sub for Abe Thompson.

My guess is a late goal for FCD to earn a tie.

KC Wizards vs. Columbus Crew
8:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK), MLStv

Nothing like watching the basement dwellers of the Eastern Conference take each other on. On paper, this should be KC in a walk, but on paper, KC should only be about 8 points behind DC. Instead they sit 23-points off United, but due to the shape of the East, they are only 6-points out of second.

For the Wizards their woes are everywhere. How can a team with Josh Wolff and Eddie Johnson have the third lowest goal total in MLS (22)? Their defense has been good enough to keep them in the running, but now that Jimmy Conrad is out for 4-6 weeks, how do they expect to have any chance? If the Wizards are to turn this season around, it will be their midfield that will do it and if they don't, it will be a year with out a playoff.

That said, they are facing Columbus who has the lowest number of goals of any time in MLS (16). For the Crew, it is injuries that have turned this season sour. They have no real offensive threats, their midfield has trouble holding balls and their defense has had so many goalies this season that it just cannot get things to click. Yet, somehow, they have been able to 12 of their 20 points on the road.

I suspect that KC will control in the start, but not get goals. This one just seems to be begging for a tie.

Chicago Fire vs. Chivas USA
8:30pm ET

Both teams sit in fourth place in their conference. Chivas has 4-points on fifth place LA, but Chicago sits even in points with KC, but have 2 games in hand.

Chicago looked surprisingly strong after their marathon road trip to start the season, but their home field has not been as kind to them as they need it to be. They also come in without a win in their last three games. But there is some good news, Chris Rolfe seems to be returning to form and Justin Mapp is proving himself to be a great sub. If they can keep their defense strong and start feeding better balls up top, they will have a good final stretch.

Chivas is still a team that cannot get all it's parts working together at the same time. They have excellent ball skills, but without a defense stopping the threats or an office making them, they blow matches more often then win them. The talent is there, coach Bradley just can't make them put it together.

Chicago might be having troubles at home, but Chivas is not a road team. The Fire should be able to get a win out of this one.

Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy
9:00pm ET

Both these teams were outplayed on Wednesday night, but LA managed to get a win. With the Galaxy and Real turning on the heat in the West, teams like Colorado and Chivas need to start getting wins soon.

The Rapids have played well below form their last two matches and now one must wonder where their offense will come from. With Dedi Ben Dayan gone to Israel, their threats are few in number. Put that together with their poor defensive state and you have a bad recipe.

Since Frank Yallop took over the Galaxy, they have started looking like the team of 2005 again. Donovan is playing better, Cobi Jones is picking up some good minutes, Kevin Hartman is keeping the goal safe and former DC United man Santino Quaranta proved that he can work in this system on Wednesday night. Still, their midfield is bad at winning balls and their air attack is nothing.

The Rapids are good at home, but I think LA is going to find a way to slip some past them and get the win.

Don't forget the US Soccer Carnival part IV.



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