Despite a dearth of marquee matchups in Major League Soccer this weekend, there is still plenty of intrigue to monitor. American Soccer Now's Brian Sciaretta takes a look at the Saturday and Sunday contests.
THERE ARE NOT MANY
July 19, 2014
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high-profile matchups this weekend in MLS, but it is an important one nonetheless as some teams are fading while others are aiming to improve their grip on a playoff spot.
Here are the top storylines to follow for the games on Saturday and Sunday.
Kansas City hosts Los Angeles
Without a doubt, the Sporting Kansas City—Los Angeles Galaxy game is the weekend's marquee matchup. It boasts star power for both teams, two teams with the ability to win MLS Cup, and a packed house.
Los Angeles is coming off a convincing 5-1 win over New England, Robbie Keane is playing remarkable soccer, and Gyasi Zardes has been living up to his potential recently with a series of strong games. The talented American has four goals in his last four outings and is positioning himself well for a January U.S. national team call-up. Even without an injured Omar Gonzalez, Los Angeles is still one of the best teams in the league because few can match an attacking trio of Keane, Zardes, and Landon Donovan.
Kansas City has star power of its own with Matt Besler and Graham Zusi now fully back into the fold following the World Cup. Kansas City stole a win midweek against Columbus thanks to a stunning stoppage-time winner from Benny Feilhaber. Englishman (and perhaps future American) Dom Dwyer is a gritty and exciting forward who consistently scores important goals.
This game looks like it will be a good one.
Can New England halt its tailspin?
What is wrong with the New England Revolution? The club is in the midst of a total meltdown and Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Galaxy was painful to watch.
The Revs have the talent to get the job done: Rookie striker Patrick Mullins looks like the real deal but Kelyn Rowe is underperforming this season and Andrew Farrell is experiencing a sophomore slump. Getting both players to play to their abilities is a priority.
Though it enters the weekend on a six-game losing streak, if the season ended today New England would still make the playoffs. It is a young team with a lot to play for and Heaps is at a crossroads as a coach. Can he find a way to solve this or will it be a lost season for the Revolution?
Real Salt Lake—Vancouver
At first glance this seems like a matchup between two good teams. Real Salt Lake is in second place and Vancouver is in fifth. The point differential is tight and very little separates these teams from second place—and being out of the playoffs altogether.
Seattle is running away with the Western Conference, holding down first place with 38 points—10 points ahead of Salt Lake. Vancouver holds the fifth and final playoff spot at 26 points but is ahead of sixth place Dallas only on goal differential.
History suggests Salt Lake’s experience will play to its favor but with three losses in its last four games, it has struggled in recent weeks. This game could go either way.
D.C. United’s Impressive Turnaround
After a dismal season in 2013 during which it won just three games, D.C. United is enjoying a remarkable turnaround in 2014. The club now sits in second place, just one point behind Kansas City and with a game in hand.
With Fabian Espindola injured, D.C. United has reverted to an all-American starting lineup which should make many American fans happy. While players like Eddie Johnson and Chris Rolfe aren’t likely to have much of a national team future anymore, other players are aiming to catch Jurgen Klinsmann’s eye for January camp.
Most notably Perry Kitchen has been impressive and he plays a defensive midfield position where U.S. national team regulars Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman are likely to be phased out in the years ahead.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts below.