Thursday, March 24, 2011

INFTH MLS Predictions

 Seattle Sounders vs Houston Dynamo- In the first Friday night match of the 2011 MLS season, Zhiggi Schmidt's Sounders try to bounce back from their disappointing start to the season.

When the fixture Gods gave the Sounders matches against the best team in the West and then the best game in the East, fans of the two year old MLS franchise must have seen the writing on the world. However, supporters would have hoped for at least one goal from these two, difficult, games, and with the number of chances that they squandered against LA, one is only the least that should have been expected.

Meanwhile, Houston haven't exactly been setting the league alight with their start, and a 1-0 home loss to the Union was made even more embarrassing by a Dominic Oduro (now of Chicago) miss in front of an open goal.

Given their difficult start and the quality of Seattle's play at home, Houston would probably settle for a point in this match, though a maximum haul could potentially ignite Houston's season.

Prediction: 2-1

Toronto vs Portland- Aron Winter must have been punching the air with celebration when he saw that Toronto had been scheduled to play against two expansion teams in their first two games, but things didn't quite go to plan last week as Atiba Harris and Eric Hassli led the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 4-2 victory in Toronto's opener.

Meanwhile, John Spencer's Portland side didn't fare too much better, albeit against slightly sterner competition in the form of MLS Cup holders Colorado Rapids. In the first forty-five minutes of that game, Portland looked shell shocked and at half time they were 3-0 down and clearly out of the game. However, in the second half they played with much more poise and confidence, and the Timbers' travelling fans even got to see a first goal in MLS for the expansion side, courtesy of DP Kenny Cooper.

If Portland are to grab their first MLS win they they will certainly look to Cooper, who, if he can rediscover the scoring form he displayed at Dallas prior to his move to Germany, could lead Portland to a decent league  finish.

Prediction: 2-0

Chicago vs Kansas City- There is clearly a feel good feeling around the Sporting KC camp after the ushering in of a new era in franchise history was quickly followed by a 3-2 opening day win over Chivas USA, courtesy of two goals from debutant Omar Bravo.

As I wrote earlier this week, the attacking triumvirate of Bunbury, Kamara and Bravo could lead to success for Sporting this season, and with rookie Sapong also chipping  in with the odd goal, their could be one of the more dangerous in the league.

Obviously, due to a combination of international commitments and injury, Peter Vermes will be unable to call upon his top three attackers, but Bravo and Sapong alone should have more than enough to trouble the Fire defense.

Chicago kicked off with a solid, 1-1 draw with FC Dallas, a result all involved with the Fire will be delighted about, especially considering Dallas's superb home form last season. This week the Fire added strikes Dominic Oduro and Gabriel Ferrara to the squad, and fans will hope that those two signings add depth to a forward line led by Uruguayan Diego Chaves, the Fire's goal scorer against Dallas.

Prediction: 2-2

Philadelphia vs Vancouver- Since their season opener, the name on everybody's lips with regard to Vancouver has been Erik Hassli. The Frenchman scored twice against Toronto and his combination with Atiba Harris looked good in that game. It will certainly be very interesting to see how the duo fare in this game.

Philly also got off to a superb start as well, with a 1-0 win over former champions Houston Dynamo. Danny Califf got the winner in that game, but one suspects that the men Vancouver will be looking to stop in an attacking sense will be exciting strike duo Sebastian Le Toux and Danny Mwanga. The pair shone brightly in the Union's first season, and there will be big expectations on them for this year.

Despite their fine start, I'm going to have to go with Philadelphia for this gamen as I struggle to see Vancouver succeeding on their first ever MLS away trip.

Prediction: 3-1

Colombus vs New York- All the attention going into this game has been focused on the international break's damaging effect on the Red Bulls' squad depth. Last weeks star, Juan Agudelo, will be playing for the US against Argentina, while Marquez, Ream, Richards, Miller and Bouna Condoul will also be unavailable. To make matters worse, Thierry Henry remains doubtful after sustaining a hamstring injury in training earlier this week.

Colombus got off to a terrible start this season, with a 3-1 away loss at RFK Stadium in a performance described as "the worst possible." Only a late Robbie Rogers penalty saved the Crew the ignominy of being shut out against 2010's worst team, but one would hope that they fare better on the day of their home opener.

This is of course a rematch of the 2008 MLS Cup final, but the dynamics going into this one have changed immensely over the two year period separating the games. Now, the Red Bulls are the cream of the East, and one struggles to see 2008's MLS champions (The Colombus Crew) mounting any kind of playoff charge two season on from their famous triumph.

Prediction: 0-0

New England vs DC United- It's difficult to stress how much Charlie Davies' first two goals in a DC shirt will have boosted the morale of the striker himself, as well as everyone else involved with Ben Olson's side. Taking on the former US national forward was a risk for DC, but if Davies continues with the kind of form he displayed last weekend, then that risk will have been proved more than worthwhile.

New England kicked off their 2011 campaign with a 1-1 draw away at LA, and they could've done even better if Shalrie Joseph's late effort had been aimed a couple of inches further left. A win in LA would have been considered an enormous scalp though, and I think Steve Nicol will be more than satisfied with their solitary point.

It's difficult to predict the result of this game, especially considering that it is the Revs' home opener. Based on last week's results, DC would be an easy call for the win, but I'm starting to get a funny feeling about New England this year, they looked good in LA, and with Joseph over some personal problems, they could mount a push for the playoffs.

Prediction: 2-1

FC Dallas vs San Jose- San Jose will consider themselves unlucky to have lost to RSL last week, and had Nick Rimando not been on such superb form then Jason Kreis' side may have found themselves defeated by last year's Playoff surprise.

Dallas started out with a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Chicago, and Schellas Hyndman will expect more from last year's finalists in this game. Key to Dallas' hopes is, obviously, star play maker Davide Ferreira, and if the 2010 MVP can rediscover his form of last season, then we can expect another solid campaign from the Texans.

Frankie Yallop will have to hope that forward Chris Wondalowski continues from where he left off last term, if the Californian team are to mount any kind of charge this season. The Wondalowski-Convey combination was what launched San Jose towards their conference final appearance, and the pair will have to fire again this time around, if San Jose are to repeat their playoff form or, who knows, maybe go one better.

Prediction: 2-0

Real Salt Lake vs LA Galaxy- In by far the most enticing of this weekend's MLS ties, a Donovanless LA will have to dig deep if they are to triumph in Salt Lake City.

Two years ago these two sides met in the MLS Cup final, and LA were upset by Jason Kreis' superb team. One question looming over Real's season this time around though, is how they will cope with the dual responsibilities of MLS play and a Concacaf Champions League run.

Questions have been raised about LA's forward line following their 1-1 draw with New England, but with Angel back in the starting line-up, it's hard to see this LA team struggling to score goals, even without the now departed Edson Buddle. Angel will relish working off David Beckham's consistently impeccable service, but we'll really only see the best of the striker when he has both Becks and Donovan behind him.

Prediction: 2-1

Chivas USA vs Colorado- Colorado got their title defense off to the ideal start last weekend with a convincing 3-1 win over expansion side Portland Timbers.

Meanwhile, Chivas were beaten 3-2 by the newly branded Sporting KC, and will hope that a better home result is gleaned from this match. Former Kansas City defender Jimmy Conrad will be glad that he isn't tasked with combating the pace of Colorado striker Omar Cummings, as the Jamaican striker will be absent due to international commitments.

However, the Californians will have to deal with striker Conor Casey, who was highly inspirational during the defending champion's 2010 playoff run.

Prediction: 1-2

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