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Friday 23 March 2012

Foresight – MLS Round 3 Weekend Preview

    Four questions to be answered in this the third weekend of MLS action.

Even though it’s still early in a young season several teams are facing selection troubles – injury, international duty, and suspension are already rearing their heads - who will persevere in the face of early roster headaches?

    New England faces a shortage of centre-backs with Darius Barnes and John Lozano injured, while Stephen McCarthy is suspended for his red card against Kansas City. Benny Feilhaber, a key cog to their midfield, may also miss the match.

    Toronto FC must overcome the loss of captain Torsten Frings, as well as a tragic training ground injury to Stefan Frei, not to mention the long-term absences of Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams and without Doneil Henry away serving Canada.

    Dallas, shorn of their talented attack – Brek Shea, David Ferreira, and Fabian Castillo – and now Panamanian Carlos Rodriguez to call-ups and injury, will attempt to find a way past Sporting.

    Seattle will face Houston without the services of Mauro Rosales and the on-going Danny Califf saga in Philadelphia sees them without their captain.

    It is a good sign that so much of North America’s young talent is in the league and representing their nations at Olympic Qualifying, but for several managers, it is an early problem to be overcome.

For Salt Lake however, the selection issue is not who will fill the hole, but how to integrate returning starters to a lineup that has done so well – Does Jason Kreis continue with the role-players who have begun with such impetus, or return to his first-choice lineup?

    Javier Morales has returned to full fitness; Alvaro Saborio is just about ready as well; same goes for Will Johnson and Nat Borchers who will be ready to resume their roles in due time.

    Salt Lake has two impressive wins over Los Angeles and New York based on the work of young players such as Sebastian Velasquez, Paulo Jr, Chris Schuler, and Luis Gil.

    Go with what’s been working or return the big names to their positions? It’s a good problem to have.

With five Eastern sides playing their home-openers this weekend, will they finally put some points on the table and take them from the West?

    In eleven cross-conference matches the West has dominated, winning nine of those meetings. It is generally accepted that the Western Conference is the stronger of the two, but is it really that lop-sided?

    Only one of the matches took place on Eastern soil – Philadelphia’s loss to Colorado – while Houston was able to take full points from two visits to California – Chivas and San Jose.

    With four Western teams flying east this weekend, will those numbers start to level out and paint a truer picture of the balance of power in the league?

3-0 or 0-3?

    There are ten teams facing very different starts to their season.

    Salt Lake, Vancouver, Kansas City, Houston, and Colorado are undefeated in the first two rounds of play and could see themselves with a third-straight win to kickoff the conquest.

    Philadelphia, DC, New York, New England, and Chivas are winless in their first two matches and could face a three-match losing streak to begin theirs.

    Three is the number; good or bad. Who will reach such heights? Who will fall to such despair?

Bonus Thought – Marquez’s suspension is over; he can return to the pitch for New York. Is this good or bad for the struggling Red Bulls?

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

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