MLS Week 4: A Look Ahead

MichaelBradleyTorontoFC2-DCUnited2004 (USATodaySports)

By DAN KARELL

The conversation about the merits of Michael Bradley over Kyle Beckerman will reach a boiling point on Saturday as Bradley’s Toronto FC travel to face Beckerman’s Real Salt Lake.

The highly-anticipated match will be the first occasion for fans to see the two American midfielders face each other since Bradley left the league after the 2005 season. While TFC were able to dispatch the Seattle Sounders on the road in Week 2, the TFC attack will face a stern test from RSL as Jermain Defoe tries to break down the defense of Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers, with Nick Rimando waiting in the wings.

A win for RSL would only further instill confidence in head coach Jeff Cassar from players and fans alike as the first-year coach tries to fill the enormous shoes left behind by Jason Kreis.

Elsewhere in MLS, the Colorado Rapids host defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City, high-flying FC Dallas look to continue their winning ways when they host the Portland Timbers, and the Columbus Crew travel to face the Seattle Sounders in the hopes of returning to Central Ohio with a massive three points.

Here’s a rundown of the Week 4 slate:

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs. MONTREAL IMPACT (Saturday, 4pm, MLS Live)

The Union look to rebound from a tough road loss to the Columbus Crew when they welcome the struggling Impact to PPL Park.

While the Impact have faltered in the first three games of the season, they return Marco Di Vaio to the starting lineup. Union head coach John Hackworth will likely be without Austin Berry again and will have to put converted forward Aaron Wheeler alongside Amobi Okugo for the second match in the row.

D.C. UNITED vs. CHICAGO FIRE (Saturday, 4pm, NBC Sports Network)

Ben Olsen and D.C. United were busy this offseason but have done little to show fans that this year will be much better than last year.

The Fire gritted out a tight draw at home with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday but they’ll be missing Lovell Palmer for the second match in a row. The Fire won all three matchups between these two clubs last season.

COLORADO RAPIDS vs. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (Saturday, 6pm, MLS Live)

Pablo Mastroeni faces his latest test as a first-year manager when his Rapids side hosts Sporting KC.

The Rapids earned a crucial three points last Saturday against the Portland Timbers and have exceeded expectations so far. Sporting KC had their first extended break after a stretch of five games in 15 days and should expect Matt Besler to be back on the field.

Chance Myers recently returned to full training but it’s unknown whether he’ll unseat Kevin Ellis at right back just yet.

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 7pm, MLS Live)

After two tough draws on the road, Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps return to the friendly confines of BC Place as Robinson continues to tinker with his midfield.

Pedro Morales came off the bench at halftime but his addition wasn’t enough to provide the breakthrough against the New England Revolution last Saturday. The Dynamo on the other hand used a bye week last weekend to heal up some minor injuries to midfielders Tony Cascio and Ricardo Clark.

Dom Kinnear will be hoping that forward Will Bruin can take advantage of the experienced but aging Whitecaps defense.

FC DALLAS vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS (Saturday, 8:30pm, MLS Live)

The Timbers look to find last season’s consistency when they take a trip to Toyota Stadium to face FC Dallas.

Oscar Pareja has quickly turned FC Dallas into a formidable opponent with a 2-0-1 record in their first three games. The Timbers have remained winless as head coach Caleb Porter continues to mix around his front three.

Both squads will be missing key players for this match due to suspension. FC Dallas will be without holding midfielder Hendry Thomas while the Portland Timbers are without goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.

REAL SALT LAKE vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 9:30pm, MLS Live)

The upcoming match between RSL and Toronto FC represents not just a high-profile inter-conference match but also a battle between two philosophies; TFC’s high spending and RSL’s long-term team and homegrown development.

Central in the match will be the midfield battle between Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, though one should keep an eye on how Chris Schuler and Nat Borchers deal with Jermain Defoe. Jackson will be missing due to suspension, but despite TFC head coach Ryan Nelsen’s pleas, Alvaro Saborio is available for selection.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. COLUMBUS CREW (Saturday, 10pm, MLS Live)

The Seattle Sounders return home after a comprehensive 2-0 victory against the Montreal Impact to face a new kind of opponent.

Gregg Berhalter has the Crew playing an attractive style of soccer but the team, with one of the league’s strongest spines thanks to the offseason acquisitions of Michael Parkhurst and Giancarlo Gonzalez, proved last Saturday that they could grind out a victory. Osvaldo Alonso will have his hands full dealing with Federico Higuain.

Clint Dempsey misses out for the second of his two-game suspension, but Brad Evans is expected to be back in the lineup.

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (Saturday, 10:30pm, MLS Live)

The New England Revolution have been the surprise team of the season, and for all the wrong reasons.

Despite expectations for them to take a step forward this year, so far they’ve failed to not only win a game but to score, too. Having Jose Goncalves back in the lineup helps but Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe can’t afford to keep misfiring. The Earthquakes came close to scoring against Sporting KC and they’ll make the Revolution play as physical as possible at Buck Shaw Stadium.

NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. CHIVAS USA (Sunday, 3pm, UniMas)

The New York Red Bulls continue to search for their first win of the season, but they’ve been handed a glorious opportunity on Sunday.

Chivas USA, though improved, looked short of talent last Saturday as they succumbed to a late surge from FC Dallas in a 3-1 defeat. Erick Torres has talent but Thierry Henry should be able to break through the Chivas USA defense. Then again, the Red Bulls have had trouble scoring this season and lost to Chivas USA last year in Carson City, which sparked the late season run that lead to them ultimately being Supporters Shield winners.

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Which match-up are you most looking forward to? What are your predictions for Week 4?

Share your thoughts below.

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48 Responses to MLS Week 4: A Look Ahead

  1. Vic says:

    Out of USMNT stories, previously Yank’s abroad and now MLS. What percentage of the stories have Michael Bradley’s picture? I would say at least 50%.

  2. shawn says:

    RSL vs Toronto should be on TV

    • Daniel says:

      Absolutely. I would much prefer to watch RSL vs. Toronto over the D.C. vs. Chicago game.

    • downintexas says:

      It is on MLS stream of the week. Although it didn’t work for me last weekend

    • Chodilicus says:

      MLS has terrible TV ratings because they just don’t get it. They do not put compelling games on TV, they just try to get the largest markets on. The problem is that bad teams in Chicago, D.C., Dallas or other large markets are not going to draw those markets attention. There is a lot of competition for the fans attention in those cities with other professional sports teams. The approach is terrible.

      MLS needs to forget about the size of TV markets and just focus on putting great soccer on TV. When there are matchups between attractive styles or teams that have been contenders for a few years in a row, those need to be on TV. I think most MLS fans would agree that the D.C. United v Chicago Fire game is one of the least interesting of the weekend. No offense to those teams, but it just isn’t interesting.

  3. Fredo says:

    May Houston, TFC & The Crew carry on with their fine form, and may the Revs, NY and KC be victorious.

  4. tom says:

    No power rankings this week?

  5. Jack Del says:

    DC United v. Chicago Fire — The Battle of the Incompetent Franchises

    Should be an interesting vain for the direction of their individual seasons though. In terms of a real bellwether at this point in the season, if any match claims that title it’s probably this one.

  6. malkin says:

    There’s a conversation about the merits of Michael Bradley over Kyle Beckerman? I’m a Beckerman fan, but that’s like having a conversation about how water has better hydration qualities than chalkdust.

    • malkin says:

      All sarcasm aside, certainly will be a fun match to watch. Two great midfielders going head to head. It’s just that one is legitimately world class, while the other is just a “pure giver.”

    • Bryan says:

      It’s because mlssoccer’s facebook page put up some dumb thing asking who’s better or something, Bradley or Beckerman. It was probably the dumbest thing they could post, because everyone knows we are COMPLETELY different team when MB is on/off the field.

      • Vic says:

        Anyone have stats for USMNT with and without Bradley?

        • beachbum says:

          we have eyes Vic. come on man, what’s your point here?

          • malkin says:

            I think the point is genuine curiousity. I have eyes, too, (which are quite appealing to the ladies if I may add), and it’s obvious we’re a different team without MB90, but I’d still be curious what the stats are.

            • beachbum says:

              ok, doesn’t look that way to me in reading Vic’s other posts on this but if you feel that’s his point, OK. I don’t but would like to see stats fwiw

              • Vic says:

                I don’t hate Bradley. I posted yesterday my ideal starting lineup which included Bradley. I simply don’t overrate him like some others. I think Donovan and Dempsey are more important to us than Bradley. I have no idea if our record is better with or without him. If someone has those stats I would be curious to see them. I think Bradley has been one of our top 5 players the past few years, I just don’t think he’s our savior.

              • beachbum says:

                would like to see Bradley/Beckerman and let’s see what happens

    • Jack Del says:

      I found it to be a fascinating article that exposes a lot of bias where fans mix their personal favoritism of players with objective assessment of the game.

      Kyle Beckerman is one of the most accurate passers in MLS history. He is great going forward when he needs to, but he excels as the deep-lying midfielder who breaks up tackles. Most importantly, he–more than the average professional–makes intelligent decisions with the ball and reads the game extraordinarily well. For years, he has gone unnoticed on the national punditry scale because he doesn’t play for a flashy market club. But make no mistake about it–he’s been the best defensive midfielder in MLS since its inception. He is the quintessential number six.

      Michael Bradley roams forward more than Beckerham playing in the box to box number eight role. He is more athletic, if only slightly, and takes his position further up the pitch to heart as he attempts riskier passes more regularly. He can put in on a tackle, but can be often caught out on the defensive level. He is calm on the ball though and sets the tempo well when he’s playing. He can command the offense and slow things down.

      I have no qualms saying that Kyle Beckerman is a better defensive midfielder than Michael Bradley. I also have no issue saying that Michael Bradley is a better box to box midfielder than Beckerman.

      • Vic says:

        Thats my biggest problem with Michael Bradley. The guy does some great things. However, you are limited in who you can play with him. Jones doesn’t play that well with him. You can’t pair a natural creative midfielder like Diskerud, Corona or Torres because its not enough defensive cover. Bradley’s best pairings are with Beckerman, Edu or Cameron. That approach is too defensive.

        • Jack Del says:

          This seems to be the case for him and Klinsmann had words on that awhile back if I recall. He couched them in ambiguity, but you could tell it was in reference to Bradley about learning how to work with another central midfielder.

          Bradley seems to have a tendency–like Wayne Rooney actually–to track back way too far to collect the ball or to track forward way too far with the play. It leaves the midfield exposed often. We’re actually seeing that currently with Toronto FC–who are being dominated in the midfield by every team they play. Lethal on the counter though.

          • beachbum says:

            Seattle did not dominate them in the midfield, and don’t quote ne stats about passes completed. etc. Seattle’s midfield was forced to cough up the game early which dictated tactics the rest of the way. TFC won on the road in Seattle, which is kind of unbelievable, and their midfield was key in managing that victory

            • Jack Del says:

              Even with Toronto’s hot start to the match, Seattle ended the game with 67.7% possession.

              I’d like to break out a few stats….

              Total Passes:

              Seattle: 569
              Toronto: 266

              Total Pass Completion Percentage:

              Seattle: 83%
              Toronto: 72%

              In the attacking third, total passes:

              Seattle: 173
              Toronto: 76

              In the attacking third, pass completion:

              Seattle: 72.7%
              Toronto: 59.5%

              Toronto came out with the win–and that’s obviously the most important thing. But Seattle dominated that game pretty substantially.

              Even outshot Toronto 13 to 9. But Defoe is a classy finisher, so he managed to paint over everything else.

              • beachbum says:

                like I said, Toronto played a different tactical game once they force Seattle midfield to cough up the game, which they did. the second half stats were a direct result of these tactics.

                did you watch the game? many here who did understood exactly what I just relayed to you here. you can go with it or not, up to you.

                MB played a great game in that one actually which goes to show how little stats can reveal without proper context

              • beachbum says:

                here’s a stat from that game

                shots on goal: TFC 4-2 Sounders, one in the first half

                Cesar was hardly bothered

              • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

                Jack Del, we ( the Sounders ) were down 2-0 when those stats started adding up for real.

                And Toronto did hang on for a win, so they played it correctly.
                Not sure how you can disagree with that ?

                I think Toronto is overrated, but we will see this weekend, not by those stats.

              • Jack Del says:

                I did.

                That’s why I said Toronto finished better, but Seattle controlled the game.

              • beachbum says:

                but they didn’t control the game my friend…they were forced to chase it actually

        • shawn says:

          why doesn’t he be deployed as attacking mid. Have jones and mix in behind

          • CJ says:

            probably because deuce and ld have that spot, and he’s probably more effective starting his runs from a deeper position… just a guess

      • louisz says:

        Beckerman’s passing (lateral or to the back) will get you high percentage. his vision looking forward is limited. His best assest is he plays within his limits.

        • B says:

          Beckerman has fantastic vision going forward. He did this in MLS Cup: link to youtube.com. Pinpoint accurate, no-look, weak-footed pass into the central forward. There are other examples of this as well. He also consistently has the highest stats for goals and assists for his position in the league (already w/ one of each this year). Your comment indicates you’ve only watched him play for the Nats. Klinsi asks him to stay at home play conservatively, so he does. That doesn’t mean he can’t create though.

      • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

        Jack Del, Beckerman is not as good as Ozzie Alonso, but you meant away from him of course, not a fair fight.

  7. beachbum says:

    report that Klinnsman stated that MLS needs to start earlier if we want to compete in CCL…YES! Agree 100%

    “”Its something to think about,” said Klinsmann, speaking to ussoccer.com this week, after three MLS clubs were eliminated from the competition by their Liga MX counterparts.

    “I’m sure that MLS [and league commissioner] Don Garber are looking at that, saying ‘we’ve got to do a better job here’ and maybe next year schedule MLS a little bit earlier so that these teams that go into the quarterfinals of the Champions League already have three or four games at least in their legs.

    “Otherwise,” Klinsmann continued, “It’s going to be difficult to beat those very good Mexican teams.”

    link to espnfc.com

    • Jack Del says:

      He’s been taking that role of Technical Director of USSF really seriously lately, in a positive way. He’s been so vocal on issues regarding MLS officiating, scheduling and now your link.

      • beachbum says:

        MLS must continue to evolve, they have so far, and hopefully there are ways to incorporate some of these items Klinnsman is putting out there, like the scheduling thing

    • Vic says:

      Didn’t Klinnsmann state that the MLS season should run 13 months a year?

    • slowleftarm says:

      I wonder if JK would enjoy attending a January match at RBA or Chicago or any other northern city. In the NYC area it was frequently below 20 degrees this past February and there were several big snowstorms. Who wants to sit in that? MLS already starts about as early as it can.

      Since 3 or 4 of the quarterfinalists are usually from MLS anyway, why not just push back the CCL quarters back a couple of weeks? Anyway, I think MLS’ losses to Liga MX teams have less to do with timing and more to do with Liga MX teams just being better at this point.

      • QuakerOtis says:

        You’re right on that last point. I think this really has more to do with JK wanting to expand the season… he’s just hitting them where it hurts with this commentary. That said, I think it would *help* if MLS teams were in better form, had more games, and I don’t see why those northern teams couldn’t just have away games the first week. Also, I don’t think we can unilaterally push the CCL back at all. Not just ours.

  8. MLSfan says:

    That photo of Michael Bradley makes me want coffee at Tim Hortons… oh wait.

  9. jones says:

    For anyone interested, there is an article in the Boston Magazine for April titled “The Krafts are the worst owners in the league” (you can read it online).

    It makes many points all of us here are already aware of, but it isn’t common to see the Krafts’ poor MLS ownership called out (in an entire article) in a publication here.

  10. UclaBruinGreat says:

    I’m sure both Nick Rimando and I were drunk last night. As we both drank away our sorrows after seeing UCLA crash out of the tournament. Maybe Toronto FC can take advantage of a depressed Rimando.