September 28, 2012
A look at the upcoming games
Toronto FC @ New York Red Bulls, 6:00 pm CT (Gol TV Ca, MSG)
The New York Red Bulls are taking nothing for granted when they host Toronto FC on Saturday at Red Bull Arena. The Reds have nothing to lose after being the first team eliminated from playoff contention, and played the Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw on June 30. Injuries have plagued Toronto all season, taking DPs Danny Koevermans, Eric Hassli and Torsten Frings out of the lineup. In the absence of Koevermans and Hassli, unheralded rookie Luis Silva has stepped up on offense, playing a role in TFCs last four goals (1g, 3a). Still, Toronto is mired in the longest winless streak of an already wretched season at ten games. The Red Bulls stumbled last week, falling to third in the MLS East with their first home loss – 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night – and a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. But are firmly in the postseason picture and are playing for position and momentum heading into the final month of the season. New York will be shorthanded in back, with Rafa Marquez sidelined by a hamstring injury and Connor Lade suspended, giving Brandon Barklage his first start in more than two months. And third-string goalkeeper Luis Robles might get his first start if Bill Gaudette’s back injury does not respond to treatment. New Brazilian midfielder Digao’s MLS debut also will be delayed for at least another week while he nurses a hamstring strain. Thierry Henry is expected to be back in the lineup at forward after being suspended against New England, but his running mate against the Reds remains to be seen. Kenny Cooper might be second in the Golden Boot race, but has drawn criticism from coach Hans Backe, and did not play against the Revolution. Australian Tim Cahill started at forward against New England, but is much more effective out of midfield. Frenchman Sebastien Le Toux has chemistry with Henry, but has produced only one goal in 12 appearances.
Philadelphia Union @ Columbus Crew, 6:30 pm CT (TCN-Phi, FSO)
The Columbus Crew are one point out of a playoff spot in the MLS East, the Philadelphia Union are one loss away from elimination, so there will be a lot at stake Saturday night at Columbus Crew Stadium. The Union are coming off perhaps their best game of the season, a 3-1 home win over Houston last Sunday fueled by Freddy Adu’s two-goal performance. The former MLS wunderkind is questionable for Saturday, however, with a strained left quad. Ironically enough, the Dynamo could take their revenge on Saturday without sharing a field with the Union. A Houston win over New England takes Philadelphia out of the playoff picture regardless of the outcome against Columbus. The Crew’s postseason prospects are much brighter, despite a recent slump that has seen them drop three of their last four. Although high-scoring DP Federico Higuain has cooled a bit since injuring a toe, Jairo Arrieta has kept up the pace, scoring his sixth goal in 14 games in last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Chicago to extend his point streak to three games. The teams have split the season series to date, with the Union taking the opener 1-0 on April 14 and Eddie Gaven snatching a stoppage-time 2-1 win for the Crew on August 29, both games at PPL Park.
New England Revolution @ Houston Dynamo, 7:30 pm CT (CSNNE, FSH+)
The Houston Dynamo have won only one of their last seven games, leaving them with a slim one-point hold on the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS East. But they have yet to lose at home, and while a win over the New England Revolution at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday won’t punch their own ticket to the postseason, it will eliminate another conference rival in the Philadelphia Union. The Revs have already been eliminated from the postseason hunt, but showed definite spoiler potential in last weekend’s 1-1 comeback draw against the New York Red Bulls, salvaging a point on defender Darrius Barnes’s first career MLS goal, well into stoppage time. The Dynamo stumbled badly last Sunday, falling 3-1 to Philadelphia at PPL Park. New England is limping through the remainder of the season, adding midfielder Lee Nguyen to their already lengthy injured list this week. His ironman season was ended prematurely by shoulder surgery this week. Saer Sene, who scored both New England goals in a 2-2 draw with the Dynamo on May 19, is out for the season after knee surgery. Saturday kicks off a critical three-game homestand for the Dynamo, who need not only to pick up their goal production, but to shore up a suddenly leaky defense that has surrendered 12 goals in their last seven games.
Seattle Sounders FC @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 8:00 pm CT (NBCSN)
A six-game winless streak has sent Vancouver Whitecaps FC spiraling into fifth place in the MLS West, with only a two-point cushion over sixth-place FC Dallas going into Saturday night’s match against Seattle Sounders FC at BC Place. The Sounders, meanwhile, can lock up a spot in the playoffs with a win or draw, and are expected to have midfield general Mauro Rosales (2g, 13 a) back in the lineup on Saturday. The goal-starved Whitecaps did come up with two tallies against the Colorado Rapids last Sunday, but settled for a 2-2 draw. Saturday is the first of three straight Vancouver home games, which increases their chances of being able to hang on to a postseason berth, but they have little margin of error through the final four games of the season.
FC Dallas @ San Jose Earthquakes, 9:30 pm CT (KTXA, CSNBA)
FC Dallas are only two points out of a playoff berth in the MLS West, but face an uphill climb to the postseason. Three of their last four games are on the road, where they have lost nine of 14 so far, and the first of those is against Supporters’ Shield favorites the San Jose Earthquakes and runaway MLS Golden Boot leader Chris Wondolowski at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday night. San Jose leads the season series to date, following up a scoreless draw on July 7 with a 2-1 win at home on July 18 on goals by Marvin Chavez and Alan Gordon. Wondolowski is only five goals away from the MLS all-time regular season scoring record, netting his 22nd of the season, and league-record tenth game-winner, to deliver a 2-1 win over Seattle last weekend. Prior to that, he scored two late goals to lift the Quakes into a 2-2 draw with upset-minded Portland. San Jose is unbeaten in five straight. The Hoops have not played since a 1-0 win over fifth-place Vancouver on September 15, with Julian De Guzman doing the scoring honors in stoppage time. The game could have been won much earlier, but David Ferreira could not get his 16th-minute penalty kick past Whitecaps’ netminder Brad Knighton. Balance has been key for FCD this season – De Guzman was the 17th player to score for the team this season, the most players to score for a single team in MLS this season.
DC United @ Portland Timbers, 9:30 pm CT (CSNMA, ROOT)
The Portland Timbers are on the verge of elimination from the playoff chase, but are unbeaten in their last four home matches going into Saturday night’s game against DC United at Jeld-Wen Field. United are riding a three-game winning streak after knocking off Chivas USA last Sunday, but have struggled to a 4-9-1 record on the road and have been outscored 24-14 away from RFK Stadium this season. Even on the road, the Timbers have generated some offense over their last couple of games. Danny Mwanga scored both goals in a 2-2 draw with the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes, and Bright Dike came off the bench to score the Timbers’ only goal in a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake last weekend. Sal Zizzo has turned into an effective playmaker, notching four assists in his last seven games. United notched a pair of 1-0 wins last week, over Philadelphia Wednesday at PPL Park and over Chivas USA at home on Sunday. Former Union striker Lionard Pajoy had the game-winner against his former team at midweek, and Branko Bokovic dove across the goalmouth to head home his first goal in three MLS seasons on Sunday. United captain Chris Pontius admitted that, despite the two wins, he and his team could have played better, and since three of their last four games are on the road, they had better start on Saturday.
Real Salt Lake @ Chivas USA, 9:30 pm CT (KTVX, Prime Ticket)
Chivas USA bring a nine-game winless streak into the Home Depot Center for Saturday’s match against Real Salt Lake, and a loss would put them in danger of being eliminated from the playoff chase before the end of the evening. The Goats are struggling at both ends of the field, having been outscored 10-3 in the month of September and shut out for the last 352 minutes after a 1-0 loss to DC United last Sunday. They have a road win against Real Salt Lake to their credit this season, taking a 1-0 decision on March 24, but were spanked 3-0 when Salt Lake came to the HDC on June 16. Robin Fraser will be back behind the Chivas USA bench after serving a two-game suspension while the team was on the road last week. RSL are assured of a playoff spot, but are jockeying for position with the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders FC. Defender Jamison Olave will be suspended for the match, opening up a spot for Chris Schuler. Javier Morales won last week’s MLS Goal of the Week award for his game-winning free kick against Portland last Saturday. Scoring leader Alvaro Saborio also is expected to return to action after missing a game due to a shoulder injury.