Week Whatever MLS Predictions

John Nyen finally has dial-up, just like T-Mobile subscribers

Oregon croissants at Ken’s in Portland…oh mama!

A comfort, a bit of peace, a place where you can be yourself and relax…. that is home. Finally, I have one of those places as I write amongst the sunny confines of the new Shin Guardian Semi- Corporate Portland Office and Chicken Tikka Masala center while Dynamo v Red Bull plays on the tv. Let us not underestimate the advantage of feeling comfortable, and the advantage of having a home. More specifically let us call attention to the idea of home cooking.

It seems that some of the teams in MLS have lost that loving taste for their home cooking. Teams like Chivas USA, LA Galaxy, Portland Timbers, Toronto FC, Columbus Crew, and the Philadelphia Union all have poor records at home this year. Certainly wins and ties on the road should be key for any playoff team but let us not forget the all important, “win your games at home”. More specifically it asks the question… “Do you deserve to be a playoff team if you can’t win your games at home?” To the point, the Montreal Impact are quickly forging a name for themselves at home. Oh sure, they might not be the sexiest team out there or the best team in the business; however they are unbeaten at home and now have carried their momentum into a road win. On the opposite coast and spectrum, Chivas USA would be a playoff contender if not for their 0-5-0 record at home.

So let us pay attention to those teams who set up to win at home and do so.

Now, onto the business at hand.

#1 This weekly column is back, is bad, and is better than ever.

#2 Go to a US Open cup game next week. I mean it. Go. They are cheap. You have no excuse. Seriously.

THE RECORD!

When we last left our intrepid observer I sunk below the maginot line into the delerium of sub .500 picktitude. This leaves my current record at 24 – 28 with 4 exactas.

As always, all times are East Coast, all spandex is not necessary as a bike outfit choice, and this particular column is brought to you by Dapper Dan Pomade and Hamm’s. Hamm’s… it’s not Pabst!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

4:00PM – Montreal v Los Angeles – Olympic Stadium – Television: TSN RDS

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of Montreal, The Team (not the Band, which was named after a failed relationship with a woman of Montreal) is strong. For an expansion team this is a tight unit that plays well through the midfield and attempts to beat you with effort, determination and ugliness.

Many people have criticized the drafting and the makeup of Montreal, but defensive intensity combined with a slug it out midfield, plays very well in MLS. They absolutely dominated Portland in every way on the bad turf at Olympic Stadium and then took their winning ways on the home beating Kansas City at Livestrong. They play compact through the midfield, attempting to set up long diagonal balls to switch the field.

A picture worth a thousand…goals…

Meanwhile the Los Angeles train has started to break down. Without the ability to completely rely on their defense anymore, LA has lost the gameplan of “solid defense, counter attack” that has served Bruce Arena through the years. I still think that this season fits the Bruce gameplan to a T as it fits his stereotype as a coach that tends to run his course with teams. The Galaxy are pretty awful on the road this year and are losers of two games straight. Now they have to go play in Montreal on stitched together field, and it remains to be seen which version of LA is going to show up. Given that we are talking about an away game across the country on turf, my guess is that there will be a week of waffling on whether Beckham is there or not.

With Beckham, LA will probably resort to trying to get the ball at his feet followed by him sending a ball into the box. Plan B has yet to be explored.

My Prediction: LA travelling cross country and playing on turf? Montreal playing two games in four days? Erp… Draw 1-1

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4:30PM – Houston v D.C. United – BBVA Compass Stadium – Television: NBCSN

Now, that is not a new designated player too….

Home resonates through this entire column and this preview is no different. Here we have Houston finally ending their (for whatever reason) NOT much ballyhooed road trip beginning to the season. Houston has played seven straight games on the road and managed to come away with a few wins and draws. If they can manage to have a run of good home form, they will find their current standing in the league skyrocket.

DC meanwhile still maintain the ultimate “Don’t gamble on these guys in Vegas” status, as you aren’t 100% sure exactly how they are going to come out and play during the season. Their current form is trending in the positive as Ben Olsen’s men are sitting pretty in the top three of the East.

Speaking of serious home field advantage, it appears that Houston have built BBVA compass stadium without any breezeways. This is going to lead to that place getting hotter than the face of the sun during the summer months. This ultimately will benefit the Dynamo and it will be interesting to see how some of the teams (Cascadia, I am looking at you) handle the heat.

My Prediction: A fired up Houston absolutely take it to DC United physically while DC attempt to play the skill game. I go with Houston winning this game 2-1

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7:30PM – New England v Vancouver – Gillette Stadium – Television: Local Only

Oh, I’m sorry Philly…did I take all your scoring and excitement with me to BC budland?

Who had Vancouver down for a Playoff spot and fourth place in the west? If you have your hand up and you aren’t from Vancouver… you are a liar. Showing quite a bit more grit this year, and a retooled (and healthy) back line Vancouver have a positive goal differential and have only let in 7 goals on the year. Hassli has finally started getting his game together and if those words don’t scare you than you aren’t a fan of another team in this league. Even more shocking is the fact that the Whitecaps have 7 points on the road this year, after last years road trip debacle.

New England, on the other hand, are once again an up and down team. After showing a bit of a spark early in the year, they have slumped in the last five games with 4 losses and a win. The statistics are showing a major issue for New England as even though they are winning some of their games at home, they aren’t keeping the goals out. Usually a suspect defensive record will burn your record a bit more than a good win streak at home as those lapses are exposed over and over again on the road (see Portland Timbers last year).

My Prediction: Vancouver v New England would potentially seem a bit of a mismatch in the Whitecaps favour, but the long road trip is something that cannot be counted out. I go with New England gett a result here 1-0

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7:30PM – Columbus v FC Dallas – Crew Stadium – Television: Local Only

Move over Chad Marshall! Birchall’s back!

Columbus played to a scoreless draw against the Timbers in a game that was entertaining and frustrating for both sets of fans. If not for a Jack Jewsbury header off the line, a Perkins save or a few well timed clearances, Columbus could have come out a winner in Portland. Of course they also let Portland have a few chances, one of which Kris Boyd probably should have scored. Dallas, on the other hand, remain Schellas Hyndman personal play toy as he attempts to figure out a lineup that it seems nobody wants to see. Of course his own hands have been tied with things like Ugo Ihemelu’s concussion, Brek Shea’s fitness/turf toe, Blas Perez’s suspension, Daniel Hernandez’s suspension, Ricardo Villar’s foot strain, Carlos Rodriguez elbow dislocation, and David Ferreira’s continuing medical problems. with all the injuries and new players Dallas didn’t quite look like a team capable of coming back from two goals down against Seattle.

It has to be said that Brek Shea hasn’t looked the same since the mid-part of last season. He has looked lost for both US Soccer and now for Dallas. Hopefully he can find his way again as without Brek, Dallas is even more one dimensional.

My Prediction: 1-1 Draw and potentially some boring play

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8:30PM – Chicago v Sporting KC – Toyota Park – Television: Local Only

The Sporting train derailed in Portland and floundered at home against Montreal. For a team that scored 12 goals in 7 games, they have now (own goals aside) been shut out for 2 straight games. It appears that teams have figured out that clogging the midfield, using a man to mark Graham Zusi, and pressuring at the fullback position will lead to positive results. When Kansas City lose the man advantage with Zusi unable to roam around in the midfield and connect, they turn into more of a one dimensional attack without as much vertical creativity.

Chicago is another one of those teams that needs an uptick in form at home. With a few more wins under their belt they would solidify their attempt at getting back into the playoffs. With the speedy Dominic Oduro still scoring goals, Chicago are trying to blow through the lineup. Marco Pappa and Grazzini are still running hot and cold at times, but it will take the midfield connection to really produce against Sporting.

The key here is going to be (again for Sporting fans) the matchup of the middle of the field and whether Chicago have the ability to stifle the KC attack there. I do believe you will see Oduro drift out wide in order to really put pressure against the fullbacks of KC.

My Prediction: KC come alive and grab a vital road win. 2-0

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10:00PM – Seattle – Real Salt Lake – CenturyLink Field – Television: Local Only

Seattle were exceptionally luck to not lose a man to a second yellow against Philadelphia as Andy Rose (already on a yellow) came in strong from behind. However, despite the call or non call they forged ahead to a victory against the Union. They took that momentum to Dallas and managed to shut down the walking wounded behind strikes from Freddy Montero. It’s hard to know what to take from Seattle given that they exploited a very weakened Dallas lineup for their latest win. Now, saying that doesn’t mean that Seattle is bad team. It means that playing teams like Salt Lake when they are healthy will give us a better barometer of the current state of Seattle than Dallas with 7 players out of the starting 11.

Salt Lake took care of business at home against Chivas as they look to improve on their current weakness, their middling road form. Salt Lake are winning at home and near the top of the league, but they will need to improve in order to keep pace in the busy west. Unfortunately for Salt Lake they will attempt to do so in Seattle.

These two teams are pretty balanced against each other over the years and the records seem to reflect that. I believe the all time record is 3-3-2 between the two teams. Hopefully the madness and excitement of the two playoff games last year will carry over to this one and bring some spice.

My Prediction: Seattle win this game over a tired and weakend RSL team 2-0

Sunday, May 13, 2012

12:30PM – Philadelphia v New York – PPL Park – Television: ESPN2 ESPN Deportes TSN 2

“I am not a crook!”

New York managed to keep Houston at bay in New York, but they face a much more potent offen…. oh wait…. they travel to play league low scorers Philadelphia. This has the high potential to be one of those games that New York SHOULD win, but get frustrated part of the way through. Lionard Pajoy finally scored, in a game that didn’t matter, bringing his goal total for the year to 1 goal in the league. At the same time, Philadelphia just got done beating Schalke 2-1 during the week and will try to take that positivity into the den against New York.

Kenny Cooper is still scoring for New York, although his last goal contained 50% luck and 50% effort. Those that know say “sometimes all you need to do is show up” which certainly Cooper did. Meanwhile the camera loved cutting to Theirry Henry and Rafa Marquez sitting in the box overlookup RBNY. One can only imagine that Rafa was trying to sell Theirry the idea of starting up a food cart that would attempt to offer food to people, take their money, and then get suspended by the FDA…

My Prediction: I think Philly has enough defensive oomph to give New York a game, and it remains to be seen if RBNY has a defense or not. In the end though, I go with form and pick New York to win 2-1

7:00PM – San Jose – Chivas USA – Buck Shaw Stadium – Television: Galavision

Believe it or not, he’s having a best eleven season….

San Jose are really good. They also play a version of MLS Total Football. They also rely on a few key players that really cannot get hurt this season if they want to legitimately challenge long term in the league. I’m not entirely sure that they are good enough or deep enough to pull the supporters shield, but you wouldn’t want to play them in the playoffs (provided they are fully healthy). Steven Lenhart is turning into one of the most polarizing players in recent MLS history, even moreso than Rafa Marquez as Lenhart actually plays.

Chivas are two different teams really. There is the team that plays at home and has lost every single game there, and then there is the team on the road who have a record of 3-1. They also hate scoring goals with only 5 on the year. There is a very very good chance that this game ends 1-0. Chivas is going to try to pack off the service to Lenhart and Wondolowski, which will hopefully keep the ball closer to the half way line. Meanwhile, San Jose (as I said above) play a certain kind of MLS Total Football. No I don’t speak of the Ajax or Barcelona version, but the MLS version which as moving parts, hard defense, big man/little man play and enough gumption in the middle of the field to spread the ball around. It isn’t always pretty but in this league… it is effective.

My Prediction: San Jose win 1-0 over Chivas

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

8:30PM – Houston v Portland – BBVA Compass Stadium – Television: Local Only/the big screen at Jeld Wen Field during the U-23 US Open Cup game

The following are two players that Portland traded in the last two years: Adam Moffat (starting for Houston) and Dax McCarty (starting for RBNY). They happen to play exactly at a position in which the Timbers are lacking, that being a defensive midfielder. Now, of course, I have ranted in other columns on websites, such as this exact one, about the Timbers needing an attacking midfielder. However, the same could be said about the CDM position right now… As a matter of fact, John Spencer has resorted to playing Lovel Palmer (formerly of the RB position) in the defensive midfield position with Jack Jewsbury playing RB. That is an indictment on both players as Jewsbury this season has been as ineffective at midfielder as Palmer was at fullback. Meanwhile, Houston are smiling all the way to the bank as the trade of bench players Mike Chabala and Lovel Palmer netted them Adam Moffat and a trip to MLS cup. It is not hard (one year out) to suggest that Portland did not get the best out of the deal with Houston.

Houston (as everyone should know by now) play tough, organized soccer. Their main problem seems to be their ability to score goals, or rather it is their lack of ability at scoring goals. They have 7 goals for with 8 goals against on the year. With the problems the Timbers currently have keeping goals out (13 goals against), this could be the game for Houston to really put a few in the back of the net. Against New York, Houston had the bulk of the posession and were able to control the ball around the 18 of the opponent. However, despite multiple chances and great effort, Houston could not find a goal to save their life. How that game ended without a Houston goal is beyond comprehension.

My Prediction: Houston win 1-0, as the Timbers haven’t really shown me yet that they can effectivly play for a win at home much less on the road.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

7:30PM D.C. United v Colorado – RFK Stadium – Television: Local Only

Well we discussed DC up above, so let’s cover Colorado here. Colorado are exactly what we thought they were. They have a good team with some weaknesses and a good home field advantage. Unfortunately, they have also lost 4 games on the road. Somehow Colorado is going to have to find some road victories if they want to stay tight with Vancouver and Dallas. They certainly bear the signs of a team in transition with their ability to seemingly lose shape while away from Denver, however the steady ship of Jeff Larentowicz (last name typed without checking spelling) is always there to distribute the ball and break up plays in the midfield.

I do think that Colorado has a good chance in this game, but some of that depends on whether they are able to score a goal before DC United does. With Omar Cummings injured in the last game, Colorado is facing a serious lack of fire power in the attacking third. With Connor Casey coming back (for one minute) against Chivas, there remains some hope that he can quickly recapture his form from years gone by. It should be noted that his injury isn’t the kind that you immediately shake off and come back from guns blazing. It may be a while before Casey has a large impact on the Rapids again.

My Prediction: DC United to get in front of Colorado early and ride it home for a win 2-1

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