MLS Week 16: A Look Ahead

Cascadia (Getty)


By THOMAS FLOYD

Both the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have fallen on hard times recently, with Seattle winless in six and Portland tied for last in the Western Conference. But none of that will matter when they renew their Cascadia Cup rivalry Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.

The first meeting of 2012 between the two sides highlights a full MLS schedule this weekend. In another heated rivalry, the New York Red Bulls will look to avenge their 4-1 loss at D.C. United in April and draw even with their Atlantic Cup foes atop the Eastern Conference.

The top spot in the Western Conference will also be on the line, with first-place Real Salt Lake hosting the second-place San Jose Earthquakes at Rio Tinto Stadium.

Here is a rundown of the full Week 16 slate:

TORONTO FC vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)

Toronto showed signs of progress under Paul Mariner when it jumped to a 3-1 lead at Houston on Wednesday, then looked an awful lot like the Aron Winter-era side when it gave up the lead and settled for a 3-3 tie.

On the plus side for Toronto, Danny Koevermans has regained his scoring touch. With Shalrie Joseph sidelined by an adductor strain, denying service out of midfield to the Dutch striker will be all the more difficult for New England.

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)

The Union controlled the run of play against D.C. United last weekend in John Hackworth's first game in charge but couldn't find a goal before falling victim to a set-piece lapse — a match that was both encouraging and disappointing.

Against Kansas City, one matchup to watch will be how Union holding midfielder Brian Carroll handles SKC playmaker Graham Zusi, who should be fairly fresh after coming off the bench midweek at Seattle. 

MONTREAL IMPACT vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)

For Montreal against Houston, the defense's key task will be a simple one: stop Will Bruin. The second-year player has eight goals this season, including three in his past two games.

It is the other Dynamo forward that carries the headlines entering the game, though, as the match marks Brian Ching's return to Montreal after he was temporarily a member of the Impact following the expansion draft. The task of shutting down Bruin and Ching will likely fall to the centerback partnership of Nelson Rivas and Shavar Thomas as Matteo Ferrari continues to deal with a quad strain.

CHICAGO FIRE vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)

Columbus will put its six-game unbeaten streak on the line in Chicago on Saturday against a Fire team still riding high after last weekend's 3-1 win over New York.

With Arne Friedrich again likely to be sidelined, the Fire are expected to deploy the back line of Gonzalo Segares, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba and Dan Gargan to deal with Columbus' Justin Meram and Emilio Renteria. 

REAL SALT LAKE vs. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live/Direct Kick)

After an unusually poor defensive performance in a 3-2 home loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Salt Lake will look to bounce back by shutting down a prolific San Jose attack, led by Chris Wondolowski.

The match will mark a return from suspension for San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch, who had to sit out the Earthquakes' 2-1 comeback win at Colorado on Wednesday. 

FC DALLAS vs. CHIVAS USA (Saturday, 9 p.m., Galavision)

Although Dallas has claimed four in a row against Chivas, Schellas Hyndman's squad hasn't won a match in more than two months — a span covering 11 games in all competitions.

To make matters worse, Dallas will have to tinker its back line in the absence of suspended left back Jair Benitez. Chivas still has the league's second-worst offense, but Juan Agudelo and Co. have to be licking their chops.

LOS ANGELES GALAXY vs. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., TSN, MLS Live/Direct Kick)

With two wins in a row, the Galaxy are now just two points out of a playoff slot. But with a tough, defensively sound Vancouver team coming to town, they'll have to work hard to make in three consecutive wins.

With Landon Donovan expected to stay up top — regardless of whether Robbie Keane is in the starting lineup after returning from Ireland's brief Euro run — his darting runs should provide trouble for World Cup teammate Jay DeMerit.

PORTLAND TIMBERS vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Sunday, 5 p.m., ESPN)

The new Portland strike partnership of Kris Boyd and Danny Mwanga will have a tough task Sunday when the Timbers go up against a Seattle defense that is allowing less than a goal per game.

The match could mark the long-awaited return of Seattle winger Steve Zakuani from a broken leg after he returned to the gameday roster for the Sounders' 1-1 draw with Kansas City on Wednesday. 

NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. D.C. UNITED (Sunday, 7 p.m., NBCSN)

With two of the league's most prolific offenses on display, one can probably count on a few goals in this one. A key matchup to watch will be in central midfield, where United's Dwayne De Rosario and New York's Dax McCarty — two players traded for each other a year ago — face off. De Rosario got the better of McCarty in last year's meeting at Red Bull Arena, scoring the game-winning goal for D.C.

With a defense bolstered by the acquisition of Heath Pearce, expect New York to be far more sound in the back than it was during its lackluster trip to D.C. earlier this season.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- Chicago Fire, MLS- Chivas USA, MLS- Columbus Crew, MLS- D.C. United, MLS- FC Dallas, MLS- Houston Dynamo, MLS- LA Galaxy, MLS- Montreal Impact, MLS- New England Revolution, MLS- New York Red Bulls, MLS- Philadelphia Union, MLS- Portland Timbers, MLS- Real Salt Lake, MLS- San Jose Earthquakes, MLS- Seattle Sounders, MLS- Sporting Kansas City, MLS- Toronto FC, MLS- Vancouver Whitecaps. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to MLS Week 16: A Look Ahead

  1. Gnarls says:

    From a Galaxy fan, Portland vs. Seattle is the best rivalry in MLS. Nothing else compares.

  2. Theemurf says:

    Seattle fan so I’m really looking forward to the Cascadia Derby, but I can’t wait for NYRB v DCU. Great news to hear the game is sold out. Hopefully the casual soccer fan will tune in to SEA v PDX after ENG v ITA and then carry on to NYRB v DCU after that. Both atmospheres should be rocking.

  3. Jamie says:

    It’s so fake though. “Haha-you’re a smaller version of us! Your soooo corporate, our coffee is soo much more hipster than yours. We get almost 1 more inch of rain a year than you do! Sure, we’re more similar than any other two big cities in the country and naturally should have rivalries with culturally dissimilar cities like LA, but hey, it’s an event. It’s an excuse to roadtrip up north. Who can have a bigger tifo display? Ooooh portscum, oooh flounders. It’s just annoying, the lame trash talking, the faux-rivalry. I get it, you both played against each other in the past, but this rivalry, like basically everyone in MLS, just takes the worst aspects of college football rivalries minus the good parts-the ‘its an excuse to go get drunk and rowdy’, to pretend you have ‘hate’ when you really don’t. I’m not saying fan violence is a prerequisite for a good rivalry, obviously that is terrible, but some genuine reason for dislike that isn’t being propped up by the league is necessary.

    Every time somebody brings up a new team in MLS they have to assert it will bring a ‘natural rival’ with their geographically closest neighbor. No it won’t! It might, over time, if we let it breathe. For a league that is willing to say ‘stay patient’ for so much, I don’t understand why it won’t do that with rivalries as well.

  4. The Imperative Voice says:

    It would be a nice touch if the Stade Saputo bench area has rocking chairs for Ferrari, di Vaio, and Corradi to sit in to watch the game.

    I expect the Dynamo to be motivated because of the Ching issue even if objectively it was a mutual mis-judgment, we shouldn’t have dangled the marquee-stadium-seller and they should have let it go because anyone familiar with our personnel approach — eg, waiting three windows to acquire Boniek — would have known we would be quite content to wait them out, which screws their leverage.

    I’ll be interested how it goes because Montreal is prolific going both directions, +20 on both GF and GA. I think the Dynamo can be effective on the road but recent results are so….bad? Mixed?….that I can’t sell myself anything about this game is sure. We’vre recently beaten LA, tied Portland, New England, and Toronto, and lost to New York, San Antonio, Valencia, and Vancouver. While home squeakers over DC and Dallas give some hope, my impression is the team is mediocre at best, the “but KC did it last year” is overlooking the difference in quality, and the Tale of Two TFC Halves the other night could be taken as indicative that the coach doesn’t have a firm grasp on which players have their crap together this season. I think we need to do a better job identifying our best XI and the acquisitions this window need to extend beyond Boniek if we have serious aspirations as opposed to a desire for aesthetic moves like signing Ching for a 1G in 14 game victory lap in the new stadium….cause the reality is that most of the thinking fanbase is excited about Bruin’s productivity instead.

  5. Gnarls says:

    Well, I don’t disagree with any of that. And I’ve leveled the same criticisms a few times. Thing is, despite the MLS propaganda, the lame “portscum-flounder” name calling, and the fact that both cities are so damn similar it’s funny, they do genuinely rival one another in fan enthusiasm and pride. I believe that counts most in sports rivalries.

    You mentioned their tifo displays. That’s good stuff! Both team’s fans always kill it. With respect to other teams’ fans, including my own ACB, our displays just don’t hold a candle.

    Even if the Seattle FO helps facilitate their displays, and Portland fans are a bunch of ambivalent hippies impersonating soccer fans, every SEA-POR game is a spectacle. My point is, if they’re faking it, they’re doing it right.

    And it’s always entertaining seeing their rain-soaked plastic pitches from the comfort of my 80 degree, blue sky, low humidity abode in Southern California.

  6. Charles says:

    You are entitled to your opinion and you really seem to have one.

    Question: They have met 75 times, have you been to even one of them ?

    For me Vancouver was a much bigger rivalry through the years and the Sounders have played them 50 more times.

  7. Jamie says:

    Fair enough, I guess my criticism is more of MLS’ general attitude towards ‘rivalry cultivation’, the initial post was probably unfairly narrow. Still, I think many of my points still apply to this rivalry, especially for newer fans who perhaps don’t remember the 75 previous meetings. I ask this-why do you not like Vancouver? I have very concrete reasons for the rivalries my college football team has, my NBA team, the US national team, etc. ‘the event’ never, and shouldn’t ever, outweigh ‘the rivalry’.

    Gnarls-thing is, I don’t think their ‘fan passion’ or tifo displays are predicated on one another-Seattle has had 60k show up for games before. That all occurs independent of any rivalry. I guess I just take issue with the artificial nature of most rivalries, maybe even ones that were at one point very organic (think Arlo White saying the word Cascadia 200 times if NBC were doing the game) when the league’s fans make a point to show their non-artificial attributes (no cheerleaders, pump up music, etc.) as stark contrasts to traditional big 4 sports.

  8. DCblackandred says:

    Sheesh, I’d hate to see how long you would go on about something that was actually an issue. If you find it annoying, its pretty easy to not read articles or watch games. Ignore it, your diatribe isn’t going to make it go away.

  9. Theemurf says:

    As a side note, the FO doesn’t help facilitate any of the displays in Seattle. The supporters groups (primarily ECS) make and pay for it all.

  10. Gnarls says:

    Jamie, it sounds like your biggest beef is with the way the historical NASL rivalry has been hijacked for marketing purposes by MLS and the modern incarnations of each team. To that point, I really do agree.

    It’s a symptom of MLS being an American league with an inferiority complex, in my opinion. MLS wants to compete with the big four American sports and the more prosperous, competitive Euro leagues, in terms of viewership and fan passion. MLS is obviously trying to capitalize on the rivalry theme, and Seattle and Portland fans eat it up.

    DCblackandred, Jamie and I are engaging in civil discourse. Relax.

  11. Gnarls says:

    I included that comment to jab at Seattle fans. You’re a sensitive bunch.

  12. The Imperative Voice says:

    Six of one half dozen of the other, Houston-Dallas was a serious rivalry before the FOs and MLS started trying to amplify it through ads, social media, etc. I suspect Portland-Seattle has enough of the same where “faux-rivalry” will always be an exaggeration and the suggestion the FO-types are trying to manufacture rivalries will be only x% true because there was plenty of natural rivalry already developed.

    So, is it lame to be trying to fan the flames further unnaturally, if there’s already something there? Maybe. It does smack of a little Europhilia. But the Cascadia trophy pre-dates the MLS expansion to the NW, so it’s a rather limited complaint, when compared to, say, Houston trying to give the fans a series of instructions of how to behave pre-game, eg, we say the Dynamo first name, you say the last; stand for corners; and so forth.

    I mean, there’s plastic fake, and then there’s “let’s run with something the fans already feel a little.” It’s not like there is no local tradition here.

  13. DCblackandred says:

    I am so relaxed right now, thank you. I just got back from the pool with my son (its mid 90′s here right now) and I’m sipping a brew, so life is good. To you’re point, so what if some fans and players get a little bit more excited or have a little more anticipation regarding a mid season match? Do you think Seattle and Portland would act like this was just any other game if it wasn’t for the “inferiority complex””capitalization” marketing by the MLS? Why aren’t you crying foul on all other sports leagues or networks for playing up “rivalries” for marketing purposes. Wouldn’t it be stupid not to market that angle when every other sport does as well?? As far as the regional thing goes, I was one of 500 DCU fans who could make it to the game vs. Union, and while its not a “rivalry” per se, the ability to travel to games adds an intensity to the experience for home and away fans that is undeniable, regardless of history. And who gets to decide what is a rivalry and what isn’t? Is there a list of requirements somewhere I’m not aware of? You just sound a little curmudgeonly, like “those kids are having too much fun”.

  14. The Imperative Voice says:

    It needs to be artisinal!

  15. Theemurf says:

    Guess I did get kind of whooshed considering your sarcasm on the other points you made. Kind of funny how many get offended (coming off as sensitive) by Seattle fans and then call us paranoid or sensitive when we joke or defend ourselves. I know, I know, you’ve been in MLS longer, won the league, blah blah blah :)

  16. Gnarls says:

    I think this debate got derailed at some point. Portland and Seattle have the best rivalry MLS.

    Swim and a brew? Cheers!

  17. Jamie says:

    I’dGnarls-right. And I get the whole utilitarian argument of ‘yeah it’s artificial, but so are timeouts in the last minute of an NBA game-doesn’t mean it doesn’t build up suspense/excitement’ sort of thing. You’re right, that is most of my beef. And I have the deepest respect for the MLS office, I think they do a lot with not a ton. I just hate the bleacherreport caliber logic that is often used in non-Cascadia rivalries (where there isn’t really even a hint of anything real). At the end of the day, I disagree with the other poster who said ‘if other leagues leverage it, why can’t we?”, because, at the end of the day, I don’t think the NFL or the NBA really do anything to provoke feelings that aren’t already there. Skins fans feel a certain way about Cowboy fans, the NFL doesn’t need to rehash that. In my opinion, as great as Red Sox-Yankees is, that is an example of media outlets (ESPN namely) going too far and to some extent hurting the rivalry. The fact they play so often also contributes to that.

  18. Swift says:

    Hey Seattle how about them Quakes I thought you guy’s were the best you just needed to get healthy?

  19. Theemurf says:

    We shall see on Tuesday :) The tear Wondo has been on is unreal.

  20. Kejsare says:

    Classic response to those who with no understanding of current events.

  21. RAMONE says:

    Portland – Seattle runs deeper than just Timbers – Sounders. Oregon and Washington are similar in many ways but Seattle grew much faster than Portland did and became a bigger city (Portland is older by about 24 years and Seattle founded by some malcontents from Portland who left). Blazers vs Sonics was always more than just a game, Ducks vs Huskies (Yes, UofO is located 100 miles south of Portland, but most of their alumni are in Portland) and to a lesser extent OSU-Huskies (though that one has never seriously taken root) in P12 football as well as a Hockey rivalry that dates to the 1930s (all minor league, most recently with Winterhawks vs Thunderbirds) and historically, before MLB came to Seattle the PCL was almost a 3rd major league with Portland and Seattle the northern anchors of the league.

    As far as soccer goes, yes, I realize current MLS cities have had various clubs over the years … but that is why Seattle keeping the Sounder name and Portland keeping the Timber name (and Vancouver keeping the Whitecap name) was so important to so many fans. It would have lost a whole lot of decades old identity if we had the Seattle Jugaloos vs Portland OrganicHemp playing this game. Portland, Seattle and Vancouver played each other a lot back in the NASL days. These were marketed as rivalry games back then (when it was more a city vs city and clubs hadn’t yet had time to have much history) but in its various incarnations across the years there have been plenty of heated moments. All of these groups of fans love to call each other out, all have a traditions of traveling to away games, soccer took deep root in the NWest in the 70s unlike most other places in the country I have been. It is sad it took until a decade and a half after MLS founding to figure this out, but it did. Yes, there was no realistic ownership groups which was the problem.

    I am a Timber fan. I don’t want to pretend our club is god’s gift to MLS. Far from it. I am glad we are playing in the nation’s top league now. I love the fact that we were able to carry forward the traditions I witnessed as a kid (saw lots of NASL as a kid, Seattle and Vancouver several times and those games always had extra intensity). In 20 years there will be other rivalries just as deep and heated, but it takes time and history to create these. I get it that it seems fake to some outsiders who had no idea who the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps were until 2009 when they were awarded MLS level clubs, but for soccer fans in the NWest it is a little different.

  22. Gnarls says:

    Seattle Jugaloos vs Portland OrganicHemp. Brilliant!!