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Friday 16 September 2011

Foresight – MLS Round 27 Weekend Fixtures

Four questions to be answered in this weekend’s round of MLS

    How will the playoff picture look at the close of the weekend? With Los Angeles having broken away, seemingly out of reach of the chasing pack in the race for the Supporter’s Shield, it remains to be seen how the Cup contenders will line up entering the playoffs.

    Two contests of particular import in the weekend fixture list. Firstly, an Eastern Conference clash between Philadelphia and Columbus in the ‘Always Sunny’ city. The Union - winless in eight matches - has stumbled, falling down the table, as have the Crew – winless in their last three. Five points are all that divide the first-place Crew and the fourth-place Union; will Columbus take the points and solidify their standing, or will Philadelphia pull them back to within their grasp?

    Later that same evening FC Dallas host New York in another crucial encounter with playoff ramifications. Dallas, mourning the loss of Bobby Rhine and academy player Jose Perez, will take the field with heavy hearts needing to collect all three points to fend off the challenge of the hard-charging Salt Lake. Dallas, who has had a slight dip in performance of late, is not at risk of dropping out of the postseason picture their opponents are.

    New York has had a torrid few months, winless in their last eight matches, with a staggering fifteen draws on the season. They currently find themselves out of the playoffs, something that must be rectified quickly lest the unrest in the stands and boardroom come to a head.

    Who will come out on top in the Battle of the Earthquakes?  The original Earthquakes picked up stakes and traded the Southern California Sun for the Texas Heat following the 2005 campaign rebranding as Houston Dynamo. It took two years for the new Earthquakes to return to MLS and since then these meetings have always had a bit of extra importance.

    With Houston on the cusp of a playoff berth and San Jose languishing in the Western basement, it would be sweet for those loyal SoCal fans who had to watch in agony as their former club went on to such success in another locale, should they get a bit of revenge and deny their former idols any more joy.

    In a contest of defense versus attack who comes out on top? Two teams rounding into form meet in Salt Lake as RSL host Kansas City. Salt Lake - winners of three straight - look to climb into the guaranteed positions largely off the back of a strong defensive unit who have allowed the joint least amount of goals this season – twenty-two.

    That defense will be tested by an attack that has racked up the joint most goals – forty-three – in the form of Sporting’s attacking triumvirate. Peter Vermes has a variety of options to fill the four attacking roles in his forward thinking formation.  

    When first meets worst in the Western Conference will the expected domination occur, or will the struggling Whitecaps prove an obstacle as LA romp to the title? Vancouver stayed in the match for the first two-thirds in their last meeting only to be hammered by four goals in the time remaining.

    Still without a road victory on the season, an upset would go a long way to encouraging a disparaged fan base, while potentially putting the Galaxy back in the crosshairs of their challengers.

Portland v New England; Toronto v Colorado; Chicago v Chivas; Philadelphia v Columbus; Houston v San Jose; Dallas v New York; Seattle v DC; Salt Lake v Kansas City; Los Angeles v Vancouver.

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