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Friday, 14 October 2011

Foresight – MLS Round 31 Weekend Preview

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

    When Western Conference rivalries renew who will take the bragging rights for next season? Two big matches – one with playoff implications, the other meaningful to one man in particular – take place this weekend. Friday night sees the finale of the Rocky Mountain Cup as Colorado host Salt Lake in a match that regularly witnesses some late drama. Normally these manufactured rivalries lack true bite, but this one has turned quite spiteful over the years. Salt Lake took their home leg 1-0 through a stoppage-time Fabián Espíndola-strike and both sides are in search of points – Salt Lake to wrap up a guaranteed playoff spot, while Colorado are clinging to a wildcard berth.

    Sunday night sees the two Los Angeles-based sides take the field for the Galaxy’s home leg of the SuperClasico. With LA having sealed the Supporter’s Shield and battling injuries will they rest key players and allow Chivas some revenge for the Chad Barrett-winner in their first meeting? Keep an eye on the performance of one Juan Pablo Ángel, as the Columbian striker should be hungry to prove his former club wrong in their decision to send him down the hall to the Goats.

    Not quite a rivalry, but equally - if not more - important is the Friday night meeting between Portland and Houston. Both sides are pushing for inclusion amongst the final ten, and points won will go a long way towards solidifying and continuing those hopes. The managerial duel – though friendly at its core – between Dominic Kinnear and John Spencer, former colleagues turned opponents should be interesting. Any time two Glasgow boys get together fireworks should ensue; two physical teams playing for the right to progress to the postseason – it should be a classic. Who gets the upper leg in the battle of compatriots? Tune in tonight to find out.

    The Eastern playoff picture – as discussed in a piece over at The Shin Guardian – is a murky one at best. With so many teams still in the picture and all spots available, who will take the initiative in the four Eastern Conference head-to-head matches? Two matches see direct rivals battle for the three points – Kansas City v New York and DC v Chicago; while the other two see eliminated sides attempt to spoil the party for those still in the running – Philadelphia v Toronto and New England v Columbus.

    With the final round of the CONCACAF Champions League set to go next midweek how will their consideration affect the lineups fielded in this weekend’s fixtures? Dallas host Toronto in a winner moves on contest on Tuesday, while Seattle welcomes Monterrey that same night in need of a win. Colorado and Los Angeles travel to Santos Laguna and Motagua respectively in need of victories to seal their progression to the knockout stages of the tournament next spring.
   
Colorado v Salt Lake; Portland v Houston; Kansas City v New York; Philadelphia v Toronto; DC v Chicago; New England v Columbus; Dallas v Vancouver; Seattle v San Jose; Los Angeles v Chivas.

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