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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Foresight – MLS Round 7 Weekend Preview

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

 Is this the weekend the dreaded Champions League hangover is shaken for a pair of clubs looking to get their campaigns back on track?

The elusive and unexplainable CONCACAF hangover suffered by Los Angeles and Toronto – something POV-FS has been investigating the past week – to begin their MLS seasons has left both clubs languishing near the bottom of their respective tables, a place neither club had anticipated finding themselves at any stage in the calendar.

Granted it is still early in a young season, but dreams of honours and playoffs have been slipping silently away. For Los Angeles, three unanswered goals against Portland last weekend – two in the final ten minutes – appears to have signaled an awakening amongst the would-be champions, allowing them to leapfrog the Timbers and exit the Western Conference cellar. 

Will it be followed with a successful trip to Colorado this weekend to further their charge up the table? 

Toronto FC too has struggled mightily in consequence of their regional exploits. Winless, pointless, goal-less at home, last weekend saw another in a string of losses – five, for those still bothering to count – but there was a glimmer of light at the end of that tunnel. 

Adrian Cann made his first appearance since a knee injury cut short his 2011 season, helping to solidify a fractious backline. The goal conceded, this time, did not come from midfield breakdown that precipitated a counterattack, but from a lost marker on a set-piece, a much simpler mistake to rectify.    
With Torsten Frings set to return to the lineup – having picked up an injury in the opening match at Seattle – will TFC use their match against Chicago as a spring-board to begin their ascent up the Eastern ladder.  

Can Kansas City continue their assault on the MLS record books as they search for an eighth straight victory to open the season?

            Still shy of an all-time record, though previous ones are somewhat clouded by the peculiarities of early MLS – i.e. Shootouts – in terms of the modern era, Sporting has been nothing short of impressive in their first seven matches.

            A perfect seven and O record; a long shutout streak, emphasized by its pairing with nearly three matches of not even allowing a single shot on goal – both ended in their last two matches against Vancouver and Salt Lake respectively.

            Kansas City must now continue their West Coast challenge with this weekend’s visit to Chivas for a third match in a week against the backwards Goats.

            Chivas, winless at home and perfect on the road, are solid, if unpredictable. All of their matches have been decided by a single goal and Juan Pablo Angel is set to return to the lineup following his concussion saga that has seen him absent since opening day.

            Can Sporting carry on under the rigid tutelage – and haircut – of Peter Vermes, or does Dan Kennedy stymie their quest for perfection?

With injuries following last weekend’s clash with New York, can San Jose dig deep and overtake Salt Lake for the lead in the West?

            Victor Bernardez – MCL – and Shea Salinas – clavicle – who have both started every match for the Earthquakes will be unavailable; so too for Marvin Chavez – suspension – and Ramiro Corrales - calf, while Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, who have missed the last few matches, are lined up as probable, through a full ninety is unlikely.

            Much was made of San Jose’s newfound depth, a quality that will be put to the test when Salt Lake visits. Simon Dawkins, Tressor Moreno, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, et al. will be given their chance to impress. 

            Should Jason Hernandez be given the start, it would mark a personal century in MLS; should his side win Frank Yallop will have earned a century of his own, one of wins.

            The Royals have had their own injuries to contend with this season and will be hoping to make amends for a disappointing display in Kansas City last weekend.

            Currently ranked second and first respectively, the winner of this match will either strengthen their control – in the case of a Salt Lake victory – or overtake the leader – should San Jose emerge victorious.

            With the Supporter’s Shield’s devaluation at the termination of the balanced schedule, divisional domination – and its post-season benefits – have become the ultimate goal, at least until the Cup is rolled out.   

The lone Sunday match pits Atlantic Cup rivals DC and New York in the battle of the Eastern seaboard foes; with both sides displaying some substantial firepower, will there be an offensive explosion?

            Both sides have struggled in recent years, something that has been detrimental to the rivalry, which was once – apparently – one of the best in MLS.

            Beneath the disappointments, a hatred still lingers; there will be enough attacking talent on the pitch to perhaps provide the much needed spark.

            Storylines aplenty: the goal-scoring feats of Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, and … Maicon Santos; the string pulling of the yet to fire Dwayne De Rosario – odds on he opens his account this weekend; a meeting of top rookie contributors as Nick DeLeon and Ryan Meara will come face to face. 

            Rest safely, Rafa Marquez has been suspended for his body slam on Salinas last weekend, and will not be able to ratchet up the tension even higher in this one.

            The two sides are separated by a single point at the top of the Eastern Conference table, trailing Kansas City by some distance, of course.

            Sunday, at tea time – as the English would say – should be an excellent nightcap to another weekend of MLS matches.


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

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