It has been a case of the good and bad in MLS this week. The referee lockout came to an end as the Professional Referees Organization and the Professional Soccer Referees Association came to an agreement on a five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, all three MLS teams were eliminated by Liga MX teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
There are a couple of home openers for the Canadian teams, a quick rematch in the West and a matchup of two eliminated Champions League teams this weekend. Two Eastern Conference teams with encouraging starts while another Eastern Conference team looks to end a notorious streak.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. New England Revoulution
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Saturday 2 pm
REF: Hilario Grajeda
ARs: Paul Scott, C.J. Morgante
News: The Vancouver Whitecaps (1—1—0, 4pts) will have almost a full squad available as they head to the East Coast for the first time this season. While center back Jay DeMerit will be rested, Andy O’Brien and Johnny Leveron both look fit to start in DeMerit’s stead. Russell Teibert will also be fit after not being able to start in the Whitecaps’ lame 1–1 draw at Chivas USA last weekend.
The New England Revolution (0—0—2, 0pts) are struggling. The Revolution lost their first two games against their direct competition for a playoff spot in the East. The most pressing concern from their 1–0 loss to the Philadelphia Union was Jose Goncalves’ exclusion from the matchday roster. Gonclaves was confronted by Head Coach Jay Heaps after an indifferent performance in the team’s 4–0 opening day loss as reports suggest Goncalves’ form and effort have dropped due to his frustrations regarding a new contract. If Goncalves is benched again, Andrew Farrell will remain at center back with Darius Barnes likely to feature at right back.
LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake
Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Saturday 4 pm
REF: Ismael Elfath
ARs: Ian Anderson, James Conlee
News: The LA Galaxy (0—0—1, 0 pts) will play Real Salt Lake again after an opening-night loss to RSL that was succeeded by a 4–3 aggregate loss to Club Tijuana in the Champions League Quarterfinals. There may be changes in the Galaxy’s defense after they gave up four goals against Tijuana in midweek. Center back Leonardo and left back James Riley particularly struggled. Tommy Meyer and Todd Dunivant could replace the two in the lineup.
Real Salt Lake (1—1—0, 4pts) came within seconds of starting their season off with two wins but have done well to ease any concerns regarding the transition from Jason Kreis to Jeff Cassar at head coach. They will likely have center back Chris Schuler available for their home opener as he will replace Aaron Maund. Javier Morales is probable after missing last week’s game with an injured back. Sebastian Velasquez is doubtful while Robbie Findley and Devon Sandoval are out with an injured knee and foot, respectively.
D.C. United vs. Toronto F.C.
BMO Field, Toronto, Saturday 4:30 pm
REF: Silviu Petrescu
ARs: Joe Fletcher, Gianni Facchin
News: D.C United (0—0—1, 0pts) benefitted from an early season bye week that followed a 3–0 home defeat on opening night. United have no new injury news although left winger Chris Pontius has suffered a setback while rehabbing from offseason surgery and it may be a few more weeks before he returns to the first team.
Toronto F.C. (1—0—0, 3pts) impressed MLS observers with their victory at the Seattle Sounders. They will celebrate their home opener in what is likely to be a snowy BMO Field. While the weather may be a concern, injuries are not a significant concern as forward Gilberto continues to recover from a preseason hip injury. That likely means Head Coach Ryan Nelson will feature Jermain Defoe and Dwayne De Rosario up front for a second straight game.
Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Saturday 6 pm
REF: Mark Geiger
ARs: Sean Hurd, Matthew Nelson
News: The Portland Timbers (0—2—0, 2pts) head to snowy Colorado to take on a fellow playoff team looking to improve on their playmaking struggles. Forward Gaston Fernandez has started his Timbers career well with goals in both games drawing praise from Head Coach Caleb Porter who credited Fernandez’s intelligence as the significant factor behind his early success. Center back Pa Modou Kah will likely miss a second game with a hamstring strain allowing Mamadou Danso to record his second start in defense.
The Colorado Rapids (0—1—0, 1pt) will play in a snow-filled Dick’s Sporting Goods Park exactly one year after the USA defeated Costa Rica in the “Snow Clasico.” While this is not a World Cup Qualifier, this is an interesting matchup of two positive, possession-based teams. The Rapids, however, will be without midfielder Brian Mullan and left back Chris Klute. Clint Irwin is questionable to start in goal after missing the Rapids’ 1–1 draw last week with a strained quadriceps. John Berner would get his second start in goal if Irwin cannot start, Marc Burch will start for Klute who will be out a few weeks.
Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew
Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Saturday 6 pm
REF: Ted Unkel
ARs: Jeff Hosking, Mike Kampmeinert
News: The Philadelphia Union (1—1—0, 4pts.) will try to record their first win in Ohio in franchise history and continue their impressive start. The Union will have their defensive depth tested again as center back Austin Berry will likely be unavailable after last week’s game with a left hamstring strain. Aaron Wheeler will likely get the start at center back alongside Amobi Okugo. Right back Sheanon Williams is questionable to make his first start of the season while forward Conor Casey is available. Midfielder Brian Carroll is also available after an illness forced him out of the lineup last week.
The Columbus Crew (1—0—0, 3pts) rebuilt their defense under the guidance of a former defender and the combination got off to a good start shutting out D.C. United on opening night. Although center back Michael Parkhurst is listed as questionable with a right calf strain, he will start as Head Coach Gregg Berhalter will have his full squad available for the Crew’s home opener.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Park, Kansas City, Saturday 8:30 pm
REF: Ricardo Salazar
ARs: Peter Manikowski, Chris Strickland
News: The San Jose Earthquakes (0—0—1, 1pt) were at the wrong end of late-game drama in midweek as they were eliminated by Toluca on penalties. It really is remarkable how close the Earthquakes came to defeating Toluca featuring a rookie making his first professional start at center back in J.J. Koval and Ty Harden a journeyman depth defender. Koval may make his first league start on Saturday as the Earthquakes continue to deal with early-season injury problems in defense. While Victor Bernardez will start, Clarence Goodson is questionable and Jason Hernandez will be out due to a quadriceps strain. Left back Jordan Stewart is out with a hamstring strain, right backs Brandon Barklage and Andreas Gorlitz are also out injured. Shaun Francis played 120 minutes at left back and Cordell Cato did the same at right back and will be expected to do the same. Forward Steven Lenhart, left winger Shea Salinas and midfielder Sam Cronin have all played more than four hours of soccer in 11 days and may be rested by Head Coach Mark Watson.
Sporting Kansas City (0—1—1, 1pt) are also feeling the wear and tear of a long month. After a 5–1 thrashing at the hands of Cruz Azul on Wednesday, Sporting will play their fifth game in 15 days on Saturday. Midfielder Peterson Joseph and forward Soony Saad are before out while right back Chance Myers is questionable to make his first start of the season. Kansas City Head Coach Peter Vermes admitted he will continue to make lineup changes but did not reveal much about his plans.
Chivas USA vs. FC Dallas
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Saturday 8:30 pm
REF: Ramon Hernandez
ARs: Nestor Chavez, Matthew Miscannon
News: Chivas USA (1—1—0, 4pts) came away with a draw despite playing nearly 80 minutes with ten men last week after midfielder Agustin Pelletieri’s red card. Pelletieri lost the appeal and will be suspended for the game. Daniel Fragoso will likely get the start in midfield. Center back Bobby Burling is questionable with right arm injury.
FC Dallas (1—1—0, 4pts) will be happy with the fact they came away with a point after a late equalizer from center back Matt Hedges. Head Coach Oscar Pareja will face his former assistant in Wilmer Cabrera and may have his first-choice goalkeeper, Raul Fernandez, available for the first time this season. Defenders George John and Walker Zimmerman were upgraded to questionable and could also feature for the first time this season.
New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire
Toyota Park, Sunday 3 pm
REF: Drew Fischer
ARs: Anthony Vasoli, Peter Balciunas
News: The New York Red Bulls (0—1—1, 1pt.) failed to record a win in their first two games for the third consecutive year but showed improvement in their 1–1 draw against the Colorado Rapids. Center back Armando will be out for New York after being suspended a game after an altercation with Rapids forward Deshorn Brown in last week’s game. Ibrahim Sekagya will likely replace Armando in the lineup.
The Chicago Fire (0—1—1, 1 pt) tried to squash rumors of a dispute growing between forward Mike Magee and Head Coach Frank Yallop. Yallop maintains that Magee is recovering from a hamstring injury but there was never a full explanation as to why Magee was not with the team for much of the preseason with rumors of a contract holdout persisting. While Magee’s status will be uncertain, Patrick Nyarko will be suspended after being sent off in the Fire’s draw against Portland. Veteran winger Chris Rolfe will be available but midfielder Dily Duka will not be with what is being described in MLS’ injury report as “gluteal pain.” Fortunately for the Fire, New York has not been a pain in the butt at home as they have only beaten Chicago in Chicago three times ever.
Seattle Sounders vs. Montreal Impact
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Sunday 4 pm
REF: Armando Villarreal
ARs: Corey Parker, Craig Lowry
News: The Seattle Sounders (1—0—1, 3pts) will be without Clint Dempsey after Dempsey was suspended two games for striking Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom in the groin. Midfielder Brad Evans was limited in training after having to be subbed off due to a muscle contusion in last weekend’s loss to Toronto. Center back Chad Marshall was also limited in training.
The Montreal Impact (0—0—2, 0pts) will be without midfielder Sanna Nyassi who suffered a knee injury in the Impact’s loss to the Houston Dynamo. Defender Nelson Rivas returned to Canada after a three-week rehab stint in his native Colombia and is training with the team but Head Coach Frank Klopas said he will gradually phase Rivas into the fold. This game was postponed 24 hours given Olympic Stadium’s snow policy that forbids any game to be played if in-game snow accumulation exceeds 3cm, which could harm the stadium’s roof.
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