The early season chaos in MLS is starting to wane now that teams are getting into the flow of things this season.
There is another meeting in Montreal of two winless teams as the Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact try to kickstart their seasons. In the West, the game of the week is in Texas as FC Dallas hosts a Seattle Sounders team buoyed by a two-goal comeback against their biggest rivals. That collapse cost the Portland Timbers a shot at their first win in 2014 and more dropped points at home. It is a result they will try to avoid again as they host Chivas USA.
Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Saturday 4 PM
REF: Jose Carlos Rivero ARs: Daniel Belleau, Scott Kachmarik
News: The Chicago Fire (0—4—1, 4 pts.) could not have come closer to winning their first game of the season last week when forward Juan Luis Anangono won a penalty that was saved at the death in their draw against the Philadelphia Union. Anangono was a difference maker for the Fire after he was subbed on by Head Coach Frank Klopas and may replace Quincy Amarikwa in the starting lineup on merit alone. While Anangono’s merit-based award may or may not come, forward Mike Magee’s came as he signed a new contract with the Chicago Fire ending speculation around his contract situation. The Fire have a full squad available for their trip to Quebec.
The Montreal Impact (0—2—3, 2 pts.) have gone from losing games without forward Marco Di Vaio to drawing games with Di Vaio. A slight improvement in that regard but it is the Impact’s defense that is most worrying having already conceded nine goals through five games. Several Impact players are satisfied with how the team is playing but are lamenting costly mistakes as the reason why they only have two points through five games. Forward Jack McInerney is available to make his Impact debut and may partner with Di Vaio sending Felipe Mertins to the bench even though he scored a goal and an assist last weekend.
Colorado Rapids vs. Toronto FC
BMO Field, Toronto, Saturday 4 PM
REF: Dave Gantar
ARs: Philippe Briere, Richard Gamache
News: The Colorado Rapids (2—1—1, 7 pts.) are slowly getting into a groove after a comeback win against the Vancouver Whitecaps that was propelled by a superb brace from Jose Mari. Considering the circumstances–mainly the uncertainty surrounding the head coaching position–getting two wins from the first four games is a pretty decent return for Colorado as they head to Toronto where they have only won once in their history. No new injuries or suspensions for the Rapids but left back Chris Klute did some light training and will likely be fit for selection by the end of the month.
Toronto FC (3—0—1, 9 pts.) recorded an impressive win at the previously perfect Columbus Crew to join them atop the Eastern Conference but they might be without their man of the match as Michael Bradley is questionable with fatigue-related injuries. Jermain Defoe is out for a second consecutive game due to a hamstring injury as well as defender Doneil Henry and midfielder Jonathan Osorio leaving Toronto possibly without their starting central midfield. Winger Alvaro Rey is also unlikely to play after he left practice early. Steven Caldwell does look like he will be fit to start in central defense while Bradley Orr is a question mark after a dead leg. Nicklaus Hagglund had an impressive debut at central defense against Columbus and may be called upon again as Toronto tires to get by with injuries.
Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union
PPL Park, Chester, Saturday 4 PM
REF: Alan Kelly ARs: Adam Wienckowski, Brian Dunn
News: An intriguing interconference meeting between two positive-minded teams that Real Salt Lake (2—3—0, 9 pts.) will enter without their starting goalkeeper for a second-straight game. Nick Rimando picked up an injury during the USA’s friendly draw against Mexico and was replaced by Jeff Attinella who had a fine performance against Sporting Kansas City last weekend. Attinella gets the start again with the full backing of his teammates and the coaching staff who voiced their confidence in him. Forward Robbie Findley will also be out while there are a handful of question marks for RSL including: forward Joao Plata, midfielders Luis Gil and Sebastian Velasquez and defenders Nat Borchers and Tony Beltran. RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar admitted to adopting a wait-and-see approach when it comes to the fitness of those players before traveling to Philadelphia.
The Union (1—3—1, 6 pts.) waved goodbye to another former first team regular in Keon Daniel who fell down the midfield depth chart and was released earlier this week. Forward Andrew Wenger may get a start for Conor Casey after his first full week training with the club after being traded by the Impact for Jack McInerney. Right back Sheanon Williams should be fit to start after playing the second half of Philadelphia’s draw with the Chicago Fire last week. Williams played left back in the second half last week after he replaced Fabinho and if the Brazilian left back cannot start, Head Coach John Hackworth may elect to play Williams at left back to start. Center back Austin Berry’s status is uncertain but if he is fit, he would likely replace Aaron Wheeler in the starting lineup after Wheeler gave away a potentially costly penalty late last week that Zack MacMath saved. Saturday’s game is the first of a three-game stretch in eight days for the Union.
Houston Dynamo vs. New England Revolution
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Saturday 5 PM
REF: Edvin Jurisevic ARs: James Conlee, Peter Balciunas
News: The Houston Dynamo (2—0—2, 6 pts.) have dropped two straight after winning two straight to start the season and may be without Brad Davis as they face the New England Revolution for the second time this season. Davis suffered an ankle injury in the first half of the Dynamo’s loss to FC Dallas and is doubtful for Saturday. On-loan winger Tony Cascio would start for Davis on the left wing. The Dynamo will be without defender Eric Brunner for eight weeks after he had ankle surgery. Brunner has not played this season despite being a projected starter at center back. Brunner’s immediate replacement, David Horst, is also unavailable after getting a red card in last week’s defeat. Highly-rated rookie A.J. Cochran may get his first start after coming on as a substitute after Horst’s ejection last week.
The New England Revolution (1—1—3, 4 pts.) have gradually improved after their disastrous opening day defeat against the Dynamo and they can credit a stabilized defense for that. Center back Jose Gonclaves’ contract situation is temporarily water under the bridge and left back Chris Tierney is healthy giving Head Coach Jay Heaps his first-choice back four. Heaps, however, will not be on the field this Saturday after he was given a one-game touchline ban after getting ejected for verbal abuse at the officials. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe may miss a third game with a hamstring injury as he is listed as questionable.
New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United
RFK Stadium, Washington D.C., Saturday 7 PM
REF: Allen Chapman ARs: Corey Parker, Matthew Nelson
News: The New York Red Bulls (0—4—1, 4 pts.) remain winless after conceding a second-half equalizer against the Montreal Impact and are still facing lingering injury concerns. Right back Richard Eckersley and left back Bobby Convey are both out along with forward Tim Cahill and center back Armando. Kosuke Kimura and Roy Miller will likely start at right and left back while center back Jamison Olave and Thierry Henry are both available for the Red Bulls after missing last game due to the turf surface.
D.C. United (1—1—2, 4 pts.) ended a 15-game winless streak that dated back to last August with a win against the New England Revolution. That streak will go down as the second-worst in MLS history and is now a massive weight off of the club’s back as it heads into an Atlantic Cup tie with their biggest rivals. United will be without left midfielder Lewis Neal who was suspended one game by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for a reckless challenge last weekend. That will likely lead to Chris Rolfe getting his first start with D.C. United after coming on for Neal in the second half of last week’s game and scoring. Luis Silva will miss another game with an ankle injury all but guaranteeing a starting central midfield pairing of Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud.
Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas
Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Saturday 8:30 PM
REF: Juan Guzman ARs: Ian Anderson, Jonathan Johnson
News: The Seattle Sounders (2—1—1, 7 pts.) have their key player back in form after Clint Dempsey tallied a hat trick in a dramatic 4–4 draw against the Portland Timbers last week. While Dempsey is in form and on the field, his club and country teammate Brad Evans will not be for a fourth consecutive game as he is slowly recovering from a calf injury. His direct replacement, Andy Rose, is an uncertainty as he recovers from a hamstring injury that has kept him out of the last two games. Djimi Traore has served his suspension and will be available to start at center back.
FC Dallas (4—1—0, 13 pts.) are one of two unbeaten teams left in MLS. Dallas stunned their biggest rivals in the Texas Derby with three second half goals to leave Houston with a 4–1 victory. They are a club that’s playing solid, well-rounded soccer on both ends. They are also getting healthier as midfielders Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson are both fit to at least appear in the matchday squad for Head Coach Oscar Pareja. Goalkeeper Raul Fernandez is also fit and is the team’s most talented goalkeeper but Chris Seitz just won MLS’ Save of the Week and is in good form which gives Pareja a choice to make in goal. Midfielder Andres Escobar will be out but is likely to be fully fit by the end of the month.
Chivas USA vs. Portland Timbers
Providence Park, Portland, Saturday 10:30 PM
REF: Baldomero Toledo ARs: Matthew Kreitzer, Kevin Klinger
News: Chivas USA (1—2—2, 5 pts.) may have performed to the low expectations set for them in the preseason in their 3-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy but they are performing just fine for a team in a situation as unique as theirs. It should also be noted that Chivas USA are having pretty big injury problems in defense with center back Bobby Burling and left back Tony Lochhead each out. Andrew Jean-Baptiste had a tough time playing as an emergency left back but will have to stay there as Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera will keep Carlos Bocanegra in center defense even though he has experience at left back. Eriq Zavaleta will start alongside the former USA captain at center back. Chivas USA will also have midfielder Martin Rivero available after acquiring him in a trade with the Colorado Rapids.
The fact that the Portland Timbers (record) remain winless is one of the biggest surprises of the season so far but there is a confidence about this team that suggests a breakthrough will happen soon. The Timbers’ attack has had its success but defensive errors have proven to be the decisive reason as to why the Timbers are dropping points. One thing that will help the Timbers this weekend is the return of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts who was suspended and injured. Winger Steve Zakuani is questionable with a hamstring injury as well for a relatively healthy team looking to get its first win of the year.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy
StubHub Center, Carson, Saturday 10:30 PM
REF: Jair Marrufo ARs: Adam Garner, Mark Cahen
News: The Vancouver Whitecaps (2—2—1, 8 pts.) can thank their rebuilt attack for the good start they are off to but the recent change to a 4-4-2 diamond is a curious one given the personnel Head Coach Carl Robinson has at his disposal. The Whitecaps have a clean bill of health save for the two long-term injuries but will be without midfielder Matias Laba who was sent off in their loss to the Colorado Rapids last weekend. Nigel Reo-Coker is healthy after suffering a concussion and facial injuries when he tripped over a bike rack two weeks ago and will replace Laba in the starting lineup.
The LA Galaxy (1—1—1, 4pts.) are one of two teams in MLS to have only played three league games at this point in the season and it took the third game for Bruce Arena’s side to finally record its first win of the season. However injuries and poor play in the defense and goal has given Arena plenty to think about in the early going. Left back James Riley is out until September and Todd Dunivant will be out due to a strained abdominal muscle. Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo is fit and eligible to play after injuries and visa issues kept him sidelined for the past two games but Brian Perk has played well in Penedo’s stead and the coaching staff may elect to keep the Panamanian number one on the bench and stick with the hot hand in goal. Winger Robbie Rogers is fit but was loaned to the Galaxy’s second team for their USL Pro (third-division) game against Sacramento this weekend.
Columbus Crew vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Buck Shaw Stadium, Santa Clara, Sunday 3 PM
REF: Kevin Stott ARs: Corey Rockwell, Anthony Vasoli
News: The Columbus Crew (3—0—1, 9 pts.) were stunned at home by an injury-depleted Toronto FC for their first defeat of the season. Columbus struggled in the final third last week and will face a physical, defensive minded Earthquakes team that is well-rested following a week off. The Crew have no new injuries and midfielder Daniel Paladini is on his way to full fitness after arthroscopic surgery.
The San Jose Earthquakes (0—1—2, 1 pt.) benefitted from a week’s rest after a tough month of March in two competitions that led to a quick surge in injuries for Head Coach Mark Watson. Most of the team is healthy but center back Jason Hernandez is still out with a strained quadriceps and forward Steven Lenhart will be out a month due to a knee sprain. While Hernandez was a depth option at center back, Lenhart was a starter who will be replaced by Alan Gordon preserving the Earthquakes’ attacking ethos of having a strong target man lead the line with a poacher underneath.
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