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Friday 11 May 2012

Foresight – MLS Round 10 Weekend Preview

Four questions to be answered in this the tenth round of MLS action.

Just how awesome is Houston’s sparkling new BBVA Compass Stadium?

    The commercials have been aired, the aerial cinematic reels have been run, and the soft opening was a success, but now it’s time for a proper match.

    Saturday afternoon sees the Houston Dynamo finally play their inaugural match in their new ground by welcoming back past hero Dwayne De Rosario and his DC United. It has been a half-dozen years in the planning, the franchise originally moving from San Jose to Texas in search of a proper home, but the time has now come.

    Another downtown, soccer-specific stadium; one more jewel in the crown of MLS.

    But how will it play out on the pitch?

    A seven-match road-trip to open the season, after a strong start, has been unkind to the Dynamo; winless in their last five matches, losers of the last two.

    The two sides met just fifteen days ago, an entertaining win for DC at home by the odd-goal in five.

    Will a new home be kind to the Dynamo, or will Dwayne return to haunt them as he has so many former employers?

Will the Impact rebound from a disappointing display midweek, falling out of the Voyageur’s Cup by two goals to Toronto, under the spotlight of David Beckham’s celebrity?

    Word is that a crowd approaching sixty-thousand will be in attendance when Montreal takes on Los Angeles at Stade Olympique on Saturday night; potentially a new attendance record for soccer in the city.

    A stunning win in Kansas City last weekend was followed by that underwhelming performance in Toronto; the expansion Impact, though dogged in their determination, have found results spotty at best.

    Home advantage, largely in the form of that terrible turf, has served the Impact well and there remains some question as to whether the Galaxy star will be risked on such a troublesome surface. In the least, expect a courtesy cameo appearance from Mr. Beckham.

    The Galaxy have struggled mightily out of the gates themselves, ever since failing in the Champions League versus Toronto, and are currently winless in their last three, having failed to score in their last two.

    A big match, in many ways for both sides indeed.

When Western powers meet, who will take top spot?

    The most important match of the weekend, at least in terms of early season table position, sees Seattle host Salt Lake on Saturday evening.

    A rematch of last season’s Western Conference Semifinal, which saw Seattle nearly climb out of a three-goal hole in the return leg of the series.

    The home-side Sounders are in scintillating form, riding a five-match winning streak and three straight clean-sheets to climb towards the upper echelons of the table. Salt Lake, trudging through a difficult stretch of schedule, are unbeaten in four with a pair of draws alongside wins.

    Despite currently sitting atop the West, this has not been a vintage season for Real; eking out wins at home, they are winless in their last four on the road.

    Goalkeeper Nick Rimando is expected to return in goal from a shoulder injury, replacing Kyle Reynish who filled in admirably in his absence for a goal-less draw in Chicago midweek.

    Seattle too has seen their keeper sidelined with a knock. Michael Gspurning has missed the last two and half matches, though Bryan Meredith has picked up where he left off, maintaining that impenetrability throughout his two hundred-plus minutes of action as deputy.

    Whoever wins will take top spot in the table for a time; San Jose can pip that position with a win over Chivas in the final match of the weekend on Sunday evening.

When two long winless streaks clash in the Pioneer Cup, will one end or both carry on?

    Columbus and Dallas take the pitch Saturday evening in a commemorative match of sorts, celebrating the role of Lamar Hunt in the evolution of the league and the game.

    The two remaining Hunt-owned clubs are both mired in long slumps – each winless in five - and hampered by lengthy injury lists.

    Hosts Columbus will be without eleven players including keeper Will Hesmer, defenders Chad Marshall, Julius James, Rich Balchan, and Danny O’Rourke, midfielders Kirk Urso, Dilly Duka and Carlos Mendes, as well as, forwards Tommy Heinemann, Aaron Schoenfeld and Olman Vargas – according to latest reports at least.

    Dallas will be missing seven men, headlined by long-term injury absentee David Ferreira, but including his replacement Ricardo Villar, captain Ugo Ihemelu, role players Bobby Warshaw, Carlos Rodriguez, and Andrew Wiedeman, while American star Brek Shea is still nursing a case of turf toe that has limited his minutes in recent matches.

    Neither side has even scored a goal in each of their last two matches. A match destined for a scoreless draw or will one side snap the frustrating deadlock?

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

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