Friday, October 06, 2006

MLS Week 28 Predictions

Just two weeks to go in the regular season and all the games mean something. After the weekend, we should have at least one and maybe two more playoff spots decided and we might know who has 'home field advantage' in the first round of the playoff series. By the way, the game of the week on Fox Soccer is Chicago-Columbus at 8:30pm ET.

DC United vs. New England Revolution
7:30pm ET
TV: Direct Kick (DK), MLStv
Radio: DC - 1160am, 1540am (Spanish); Boston - 850am

Although both teams have their playoff spots, this game will be very important. DC United has been stumbling for months and need to show some kind of good form before the playoffs start. For New England, they have recently begun playing like the Revolution of last year, but they have been doing it against some of the worst teams in the league. Are they for real or are they just good at picking off the low fruit?

DC needs to regain their midfield form. Earlier in the season, I was just amazed by the quality they should in the middle third. It was the engine that drove them to the outstanding start, but now it has gone far off the tracks. With Joshua Gros out for this match due to suspension, their job will be that much harder. One other note, since he is one card away from getting suspended for a match, look for Bobby Boswell to get a yellow card, thus keeping him from being suspended for the first playoff game.

For the Revolution, Taylor Twellman is returning to life and providing a double threat with Clint Dempsey, but just as big of a story is the good play Matt Reis has been putting forward in goal of late. His backline is not of the level of DC's, but he has been able to save their failures most of the time. The question for him this week is can he do it without Avery John in front of him? John has been called up for international duty with Trinidad & Tobago.

Me - DC 1-1 NE
Wife - DC 2-1 NE

FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
8:30pm ET
TV: HDNet, DK, MLStv
Radio: Dallas - 1160am, 990am (Spanish); LA - 1700am, 830am (Spanish)

FC Dallas must win this game. That might sound odd since they already have their playoff tickets and LA is fighting to keep hope alive, but let me explain. These two play each other again next weekend in LA. Dallas cannot win in LA. If FCD does not beat LA tomorrow, the Galaxy has an excellent chance of sneaking into the fourth spot in the West. Even if they lost the next two games, chances are Dallas will still win the West. If so, they will then have to play LA in the first round of the playoffs, meaning they will have to go to LA and play a team that is very confident and very hot in a stadium Dallas never wins in. This would be a horrible outcome for the team.

Dallas's big question is in goal. In seems like every year this is the question, so why change now. Normal starter Dario Sala is out due to injury, so Shaka Hislop will have to cover. Hislop is a good keeper, but has seemed out of his element in all three of his starts for the team. The best thing FCD can do is keep the ball far away from their posts. The good news for them is Kenny Cooper seems to be working out well in his newish midfield role and Carlos Ruiz and Abe Thompson are finding ways to confuse their opposition. Add to it Ronnie O'Brien, who should get his 100th cap with the team on Saturday, and you have the makings for something good.

The Galaxy, on the other hand, is good at playing desperate. The obvious key is Landon Donovan, but don't overlook Santino Quaranta and Alan Gordon. The addition of Quaranta has brought life to the deadest middle in the league and Gordon is starting to get smart with his touches. However, LA is bad at stopping smart play. Get a good passing game together and you will find their holes.

Me - FCD 2-1 LA
Wife - FCD 3-1 LA

Kansas City Wizards vs. Chivas USA
8:30pm ET
Radio: LA - 1020am (Spanish)

Will Chivas finally get a much deserved playoff spot and, in the process, all but kill the off the dismal blah that has been KC in '06?

The Wizards have looked better of late, having only lost one of their last seven, but they still seem uncomfortable on the ball. Their touch is just not there. If it weren’t for the skill of forward Scott Sealy, they would be challenging Columbus for worst in the East instead of New York for fourth. Jose Burciaga Jr and Jimmy Conrad give some good backline protection, but too often their defense is a mess.

Chivas are in the middle of injury city. Hopefully midfielder Juan Pablo García will be able to play along with forward Ante Razov, because as we saw last week against LA, without them Chivas is only half the team they can be. If Chivas can get their ball skill together, they should get the points to reach the preseason and, in a twist of irony, help their coach's former club, New York, make the playoffs.

Me - KC 2-2 Chivas
Wife - KC 1-2 Chivas

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew
8:30pm ET
TV: Fox Soccer Channel, DK, MLStv
Radio: Chicago - 1200am (Spanish), 1030am (Polish); Columbus - 105.7fm

Of all the games this weekend, this is the one that I care less about. Chicago has their playoff ticket while Columbus has no chance of getting one. About the only thing Columbus might have to play for is the worst record in the league, thus the top draft pick.

The Fire fell apart last week against New York, but that might have been due to their US Open Cup win hangover. I can't recall, but I think forward and key playmaker Andy Herron was taken out in the second half of that game for fear of injury. If that is true, Herron might sit out this one to prep for the playoffs. Without Herron, the Fire will need Chris Rolfe and Thiago to team up to push the attack.

The Crew looked sharp against Dallas, but having slipped behind the wall that was to their, will they be able to bring that skill and intensity to Chicago. Short answer, no. With nothing to play for, it will be interesting to see what Columbus comes up with. Could Eddie Gaven throw off the chains and explode? Will Bill Gaudette become a bulldog in front of the net? Will Jason Garey be accurate again? My guess is no.

Me - Chicago 1-0 Columbus
Wife - Chicago 1-0 Columbus

Real Salt Lake vs. Houston Dynamo
9:00pm ET
Salt Lake - 700am, 1600am (Spanish); Houston - 850am (Spanish), 101.7fm (Spanish)

It is a shame this one will not be viewable as it might just be a firework of a match. Houston has been wobbling for a while now, but winning like they did against DC last week can really set a team straight. Real can almost taste the playoffs, but anything less then a win will turn that food away.

Houston should field much the same team as the one that took on United. As always, look for the duo of Dwayne De Rosario and Brian Ching to put some flair into the proceedings, but I wonder more about Eddie Robinson on defense. The last few times I've watched him, his timing has seemed a little off. He's not intercepting as much as he did earlier in the year. If he can't solve this problem, Real should find a few chances in the box.

Salt Lake will be looking to Jeff Cunningham to make his statement. He has some good support around him, but without Cunningham cutting deep into Dynamo territory, Real doesn't have a chance. By the way, I just have a hunch that Eddie Pope is going to have a big game on Saturday.

Me - Real 2-1 Houston
Wife - Real 1-2 Houston

Colorado Rapids vs. New York Red Bulls
9:00pm ET
Radio: Denver - 950am; New York - 1280am (Spanish)

The battle of the fourth place teams. Neither side deserves a playoff spot, but both might earn one. The Rapids have the easier time of it, but they have been playing a little worse then the Red Bulls.

Colorado is going to have a difficult time getting any points thanks to Clint Mathis. His red card for a hard foul last week has him tossed from their last two games. For a team that has just 7 goals in their last 13 games, losing any of their offensive threats is going to kill them. He might only have 2 goals and 1 assist on the season, but he is good at drawing players to him. That opens up space for Kyle Beckerman. As hard as this is to believe, without Mathis, the team doesn't even limp.

That said, in most games, a limp would be a good experience for the Red Bulls. New York fans have got to be wondering, can Jozy Altidore do it again? The 16-year old wonder boy has twice saved the season for his club, but can he make it happen in the mile high city? It is amazing that Jozy has only one less goal from 21 fewer matches then Amado Guevara. Anyway, the team from New York needs to overwhelm Colorado with shots on goal. Take chances from 30 yards out, flood the box early and often and don't let the Rapids have a chance to settle.

Me - Colorado 0-1 New York
Wife - Colorado 0-1 New York

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