As the MLS season enters its second month, some of its teams are already beginning to revamp their rosters.
While Sporting Kansas City made some opportunistic signings, four other Eastern Conference teams were involved in trades that involved starting players. DC United received news of another injury setback for left winger Chris Pontius so they traded allocation money to the Chicago Fire for Chris Rolfe, the Fire’s long time left winger and forward. The bigger trade came on Friday between the Philadelphia Union and the Montreal Impact. The Union traded one of their original players in forward Jack McInerney to the Impact for forward Andrew Wenger. Union Head Coach John Hackworth said Wenger better fits his plans to run a 4-3-3 than McInerney who has developed a reputation for being a poacher and not the complete forward Hackworth believes he needs in the Union lineup.
All trades aside, it’s a rivalry round with four rivalries set to resume as well as a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup Final.
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
Providence Park, Portland, Saturday 3 PM
REF: Hilario Grajeda
ARs: Kermit Quisenberry, Paul Scott
News: It is the first Cascadia Cup meeting of 2014 as the Seattle Sounders (2—0—2, 6 pts.) head to Oregon to take on their fiercest rivals the Portland Timbers (0—2—2, 2 pts.).
Although he played the full 90 minutes in the USA’s 2–2 draw with Mexico on Wednesday night, Clint Dempsey is confident he will start for the Sounders as he finished serving his two-game suspension. Right midfielder Brad Evans suffered a setback in training and is doubtful while left back Leo Gonzalez played 90 minutes in a scrimmage last Sunday and could get his first start of the season.
Timbers Head Coach Caleb Porter earned a fine from MLS Commissioner Don Garber after criticizing the referees of Portland’s last match against FC Dallas. That game saw left back Michael Harrington get sent off for an off ball incident and Darlington Nagbe leave the game at halftime with a leg contusion. Harrington will be available after the red card was rescinded while Nagbe is an injury doubt. Winger Steve Zakuani’s status is also uncertain as he is dealing with a sore hamstring.
New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Saturday 4 PM
REF: Silviu Petrescu
ARs: Phil Briere, Gianni Facchini
News: The Montreal Impact (0—1—3, 1 pt.) gained their first point of the season in a 1–1 draw with the Philadelphia Union. The two teams shared the points and then swapped forwards with the Impact acquiring Jack McInerney to partner with Marco Di Vaio. McInerney is in Montreal and should feature. Nelson Rivas and Sanna Nyassi are both out for another week.
The New York Red Bulls (0—3—1, 3 pts.) have struggled in the early going and are now encountering significant selection issues. Since the game is on turf, Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave will both be unavailable for Head Coach Mike Petke. Petke will also not have forward Tim Cahill and right back Richard Eckersley available as Cahill suffered a right hamstring strain while Eckersley sprained his ankle. Expect to see a Bradley Wright-Phillips, Peguy Luyindula partnership up front, Eric Alexander in central midfield and Kosuke Kimura at right back.
Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Saturday 5 PM
REF: Chris Penso
ARs: Brian Poeschel, Chris Strickland
News: With Jack McInerney off to Montreal, the Philadelphia Union (1—2—1, 5 pts.) are going to hedge their bets on Conor Casey and Andrew Wenger to handle the scoring load. While Head Coach John Hackworth wants to field a 4-3-3 on a consistent basis, he may not have the ideal personnel to do so this weekend with midfielders Danny Cruz and Cristian Maidana each questionable. Right beck Raymond Gaddis is also an uncertainty to start but he should be fully fit soon.
The Chicago Fire (0—3—1, 3 pts.) may also be making an organizational commitment and that is to youth. Chris Rolfe’s trade signifies that to a degree but it is the consistent playing time being given to young players like Harrison Shipp, Benji Joya and Quincy Amerikwa that illustrates this in the best way. There are no new injuries or suspensions for Head Coach Frank Yallop to deal with.
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew
Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Saturday 6 PM
REF: Ismail Elfath
ARs: George Gansner, Jason White
News: Toronto FC came down to Earth with a humbling defeat to Real Salt Lake last weekend and are now dealing with a rash of injuries. Head Coach Ryan Nelson will be without defenders Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry, midfielder Jonathan Osorio and forward Jermain Defoe, all of whom are injured. Michael Bradley had a Man of The Match performance on Wednesday and will need to be on form again if the makeshift Canadian team can steal a result.
The Columbus Crew (3—0—0, 9 pts.) are receiving plaudits from around the league for a perfect month of March built off of a solid back four that has only given up two goals all season. The only bit of concern for the Crew as they prepare to host the first installment of the Trillium Cup rivalry is that forward Dominic Oduro is questionable with a thigh contusion suffered when he forced a penalty in last week’s win at Seattle. If Oduro does not start, Jairo Arrieta, who started the first two games for Columbus while Oduro served a suspension, will get the nod up front.
Colorado Rapids vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
BC Place, Vancouver, Saturday 6:30 PM
REF: Ioannis Stavridis
ARs: Kevin Klinger, Matthew Kreitzer
News: For the second time in four years, the Vancouver Whitecaps (2—2—0, 8 pts.) started a season by going undefeated in their first four games. They host the team that eliminated them from playoff contention last year in the Colorado Rapids (1—1—1, 4 pts.)
All five of the Rapids’ goals this season have come off of penalties with four being converted spot kicks and one coming from a rebound. If they are given a penalty this weekend, the Rapids will have matched their own league record in consecutive games to receive a penalty with four. That record is the least of Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni’s concerns as he heads to Vancouver with several selection issues. Vicente Sanchez, who has converted four penalties this year, may be rested because of the turf surface. Left back Chris Klute is still sidelined with a hamstring strain and Dillon Serna will miss a second game due to an ankle sprain. Marc Burch is also out after a calf contusion suffered in last week’s win against Portland. A bit of good news for the Rapids comes with Clint Irwin coming off the injury report and may return to goal for the first time in 2014.
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United
RFK Stadium, Washington, Saturday 7 PM
REF: Jorge Gonzalez
ARs: Greg Barkey, Richard Gamache
News: The New England Revolution (1—1—2, 4 pts.) got their first goals and first win of the season last week in San Jose and now have a chance to build off of that big win as they head to the capital. The Revolution will be without midfielder Kellyn Rowe for a second game due to a strained hamstring. Other than that, Head Coach Jay Heaps has a full squad available for selection.
D.C. United (0—1—2, 1 pt.) earned their first point of the season in a draw with the Chicago Fire and then traded for the Fire’s Chris Rolfe earlier this week. Rolfe can play on the left side or up top and will feature straight away for Head Coach Ben Olsen whose team has not won a game in eight months. The situation gets even more bleak with the news that left winger Chris Pontius could be out several months as he is slated to have surgery to remove scar tissue that is causing nerve irritation around his surgically repaired hamstring. Luis Silva is also out for a few weeks due to a sprained ankle.
FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Saturday 8 PM
REF: Ricardo Salazar
ARs: Peter Manikowski, Mike Kampmeinert
News: The first and only Texas Derby of the year is a good one as FC Dallas (3—1—0, 10 pts.) and the Houston Dynamo (2—0—1, 6 pts.) meet in Houston with both teams starting the season off strong.
FC Dallas are atop the Supporters Shield table through one month of play as the club has yet to lose under new Head Coach Oscar Pareja. While center back George John and midfielder Andres Escobar are each expected to out, right winger Je-Vaughn Watson will be available after the red card he received in last week’s win against Portland was rescinded by the Disciplinary Committee.
The Dynamo gave up their first two goals of the season in a 2–1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps last week but the veteran squad should be pleased with how they have started 2014 off thus far. The defense has been rock solid while forward Will Bruin has been in form throughout the early season though it may be too little too late as he was not called up to the USA camp for last week’s friendly and there are no more camps until the pre-World Cup camp. Brad Davis was with the USA and played 60 minutes. While Head Coach Dominic Kinnear acknowledged Davis’ travel from Vancouver to Arizona to Texas could be a selection factor, Kinnear said Davis reassured him of his fitness for Saturday’s game and he should start.
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City
Sporting Park, Kansas City, Saturday 8:30 PM
REF: Armando Villarreal
ARs: Corey Parker, Craig Lowry
News: It’s a rematch of the 2013 MLS Cup Final as Real Salt Lake (2—2—0, 8 pts.) return to Sporting Park where they suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Sporting Kansas City (2—1—1, 7 pts.) on penalties.
Real Salt Lake are unbeaten under Head Coach Jeff Cassar who was Jason Kreis’ assistant in last year’s defeat. Cassar has RSL playing the same style as Kreis had and it has been effective as the defending Western Conference Champions are still capable of passing opponents out of the park as was the case with Toronto FC last week. Forward Joao Plata will miss a second game due to a knee injury. Defenders Aaron Maund and Kwame Watson-Siriboe are likely to be unavailable due to injury but Jordan Allen should be available as well midfielder Sebastian Velasquez and forward Devon Sandoval.
Sporting KC are riding a three game unbeaten streak in MLS since losing their opening game in stoppage time to the Seattle Sounders. The MLS Cup holders rallied from a goal down with 11 minutes to go to defeat the Colorado Rapids 3–2 in stoppage time. The result and some injury news should buoy the club into a noteworthy tie this weekend. Right back Chance Myers and forward Soony Saad are both fit for Head Coach Peter Vermes to select for the first time this season. Myers should replace Kevin Ellis in the lineup while Saad may or may not start given the good run of form Sal Zizzo has had. Forward C.J. Sapong was downgraded to out as he recovers from a lingering neck strain while midfielder Peterson Joseph is sidelined due to an illness.
LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA
StubHub Center, Carson, Sunday 3 PM
REF: Drew Fischer
ARs: Corey Rockwell, Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho
News: For the first time in awhile, LA Galaxy (0—1—1, 1 pt.) enter the SuperClasico not as the in-form team. While the Galaxy have not lost to Chivas USA while hosting the rivalry game in two years, they have yet to win a game this season while already having two bye weeks this season. While the bye weeks have given the Galaxy a stuttering start to 2014, it has allowed for some players to recover from injuries. Winger Robbie Rogers fully trained after recovering from a preseason ankle injury while A.J. DeLaGarza is a question mark as he recovers from a shin injury, Gyasi Zardes is an uncertainty as well.
Chivas USA (1—2—1, 5 pts.) can thank goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for earning them a point last weekend after a fine performance against the New York Red Bulls. Kennedy leads Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera’s side into the SuperClasico and will have to be in-form again with injuries sidelining another member of Chivas USA’s defense. Left back Tony Lochhead suffered a hamstring injury last weekend and will be unavailable along with center back Bobby Burling who tore the labrum in his right shoulder. Midfielder Oswaldo Minda will miss a second game due to a hamstring injury.
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