“It’s never too late”, as Seattle Sounders might say, after another come from behind late win, in a season already full of them. “It’s never too late”, as Alessandro del Piero might say, before contemplating rescuing last decade’s MLS-as-retirement-home narrative (, at the ripe age of 39 — though if it’s the latter club he might want to consider Eddie Johnson’s claim that he now he's playing in the nation’s capital).
“It’s too late” says the Guardian sports editor, as the MLS week ten preview is handed in in week 19. But MLS previews are like a fine wine in that they
are prone to spillage and indelible stains improve with age, so save the text below till next month, and join us on Monday to find out what we learned this weekend.
If you do insist on reading on, you'll see that, with the help of some of our friends around the league, we've brought you what you can look forward to this weekend, in between running goal difference calculations for . (“It’s never too late,” says Brendan Rodgers, when it probably is).
All times are listed as ET
Philadelphia vs D.C. United
Sat 4pm, PPL Park (CSN-PHI / CSN-Washington)
If anyone understands John Hackworth’s pain, it’s DC United coach Ben Olsen, who will show up at PPL Park with his team, able to describe a last minute loss to Portland last weekend as an unfortunate way to end an unbeaten run, rather than something that happens every single, soul-destroying week (as it did last year). For Hackworth, a promising start to the season, at least in terms of how his rebuilt midfield was gelling, has not translated into results as yet — with last week’s creditable enough, but ultimately futile performance against Seattle being fairly typical fare.
Despite last week’s loss, DC meanwhile are (Eddie Johnson aside) looking like a better proposition all round so far this year. Whatever empathy he might feel for his fellow head coach, Olsen will want to get back to winning ways against a rival feeling the pressure, while at this stage Hackworth will probably want to borrow Olsen’s own “win ugly if you have to” stylings of a month or so ago, just to start getting some points again.
Montreal vs Sporting KC
Sat 4pm, Stade Saputo (TSN / Univision Dep. / RDS / KMCI-38)
Having got their first win of the season against, indeed, Philadelphia, the Impact promptly took a week off to relax, tell tales of their heroics in the poutine restaurants of Montreal and practice the ongoing process of turning Jack McInerney into Marco di Vaio (they’ve shaved him and he’s currently standing the wrong side of a yellow flag in a field near the US border). The Impact continue to be a dangerous team going forward and a danger to themselves in defense. They’ll be hoping to meet the concentration-lacking Sporting team who slipped up in New England a couple of weeks ago, rather than the efficient one that saw off Columbus comfortably last week. There’s still the odd doubt about Sporting’s ability to see out games, but not so much that they won’t be favorites on the road against the Impact.
New York vs Chicago
Sat 7pm, Red Bull Arena (MSG / My50 Chicago)
Speaking of the inability to see out games, the presumably traumatized team show up in New York this week, after letting their first win of the season turn into a loss to Real Salt Lake in a few injury time moments last week. It’s not as if the Red Bulls propensity to give up penalties (six so far this season) will be of much consolation, given that Chicago keep missing them, and now Luis Robles, in the New York net, has started saving them again. So how do Chicago gain some traction in what’s turning into a rough start? We asked Section 8's Dan Martin. Here's what he sighed in return:
The collapse against RSL was eerily predictable for anyone following the Chicago Fire closely this season. Sure, it was great to watch Mike Magee clean up a rebound like it was 2013 again and even better to see embattled DP Juan Luis Anangono catch Nick Rimando flat-footed with a graceful header for the 2-0 lead in the first half, but you could just feel the counterpunch to the gut coming. And then it happened, in stoppage time no less, and the people booed and moaned, just like they had for missed PKs at the death of previous games except there was no consolation point this time.
So if the question is "What now?" I feel like we're going to learn against the Red Bulls. I would expect Bakary Soumare to sit on the bench with Patrick Ianni taking his place. Greg Cochrane has been mostly good as a fill-in at left back for the injured vet Gonzalo Segares but it was painfully clear that Cochrane was a key part of some of the defensive lapses that led to late Salt Lake goals. When Frank Yallop was brought in he stated his first priority was to solidify the Fire's leaky defense that had never really recovered from the surprise loss of Arne Friedrich. After several trades and blown games that has obviously not happened. Will Plan B bring any different results? I wish I could say I’m optimistic, but I’m not.
Chicago face the strike partnership of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry — with the former plundering five in the last three games and the latter operating as much as a deep-lying playmaker as a forward at this stage of his career. We asked Dan Dickinson of Gothamist to put the duo in context. Here's what he said between puffs on his pipe:
The Wright-Phillips/Henry partnership is finally returning dividends, answering my question from a few weeks ago about where the goals will come from. BWP is developing into the 2014 version of 2012 Kenny Cooper: not always able to get around defenders or create goals on his own, but quite adept at getting on the end of service to knock goals in.
Henry seems to be content to provide that service this year. His dropping back and bringing the ball forward is more deliberate, shifting New York's traditional 4-4-2 into more of a 4-4-1-1. While he has had some goals, it feels as though he's almost having more fun generating assists. His selflessness on the Dallas game winner was particularly stunning. Played through by Dax McCarty, with a clear shot on goal, he opted to dish the ball to BWP, a pass that could have gone horribly wrong. Thankfully, it did not.
Some things about Henry have not changed, though, like his matter of fact statements after the match saying New York didn't deserve to win. The Red Bulls will need to be better front to back (particularly when it comes to the rate they concede penalties, as they currently lead the league with six) to contain a Chicago side desperate for their first win of the season.
Columbus vs Vancouver
Sat 7.30pm, Columbus Crew Stadium (TSN / TWCSC-OH)
The Crew have played a couple of the teams around them in the East over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been something of a chastening experience, especially when you add Houston to the list of teams around them, which we now have to do after the Dynamo beat Columbus in midweek. With that result following a loss against Sporting KC and a run of three draws, Columbus suddenly find themselves winless since March 29th and that last gasp victory in Seattle. It won’t get any easier with the visit of Vancouver, who had to fight off a San Jose comeback last week, but had done more than enough by running up a 3-0 lead in the first place. Kekuta Manneh has been enjoying a great year so far up front for the Whitecaps — and he may keep the Crew busy this weekend.
San Jose vs FC Dallas
Sat 10.30pm, Buck Shaw Stadium (CSN-Bay Area / TWCSN-TX)
Dallas got another penalty this week to try and make up for the one they missed in the loss to New York last week. This one they scored to temporarily lead the Sounders in Seattle, only to go the way of a lot of there teams this year as the Sounders came bak to win 2-1 via an 88th minute winner from Dallas old boy Kenny Cooper. At least Dallas had Michel back to score the penalty. His suspension had hurt Dallas against New York, along with the worrying absence of playmaker Mauro Diaz.
Another western trip this weekend, to San Jose, who have been pretty unimpressive at home so far this season — results-wise at least. The Earthquakes did batter Colorado in their midweek game this week, but couldn't score. But with that performance and the spirit the team showed in at least attempting a fightback against Vancouver last week, the Quakes will hope to continue the rough run for the visitors.
Portland vs LA Galaxy
Sun 2.30pm, Providence Park (NBCSN / TSN2)
It was a slightly graceless LA Galaxy who left Colorado last week, seemingly bemoaning the failure of Colorado Rapids to do the decent thing and roll over. Truth told, it was a lackluster Galaxy performance and they can’t expect things to get easier when they travel to Portland on Sunday afternoon — the Timbers having finally got their first win of the season last week to help settle what had become increasingly nervy ends to their games as the winless streak went on. Landon Donovan’s search for his record goal goes on, and with the US World Cup provisional squad being announced on Monday, this weekend might be a good time for the Galaxy forward to ease some nerves of his own in that regard.
Colorado vs Chivas USA
Sun 3pm, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (UniMas / Altitude)
Colorado didn’t get a lot of credit from Bruce Arena after beating the Galaxy last week, and while Clint Irwin's efforts in goal deserved a lot of praise in their midweek draw against San Jose, nobody was particularly lining up to praise the rest of the team. We asked our man on the spot, Todd Haggerty, if the Rapids were getting credit where it was due. Here's his frank assessment:
The Rapids have managed four points in the last two matches. This is good. While the game is based on results, the play on the field is better at predicting future outcomes. This is bad. The 'Pids midfield, even with Dillon Powers' return, continues its missing persons act. Routinely in the last two games the ball bypasses the midfield to an isolated forward with little or no option but to take on the defense alone. The lack of support is reflected in the offensive output of the team. Fortunately the last two opponents the 'Pids have played have been even more toothless. At some point though, probably not this weekend against the Goats, the 'Pids poor midfield play and anemic attack will become a liability and points will be dropped. Mastroeni's method for addressing this concern is by throwing every player he can onto the field, even Kamani Hill. However, unless Gabby Torres can rediscover some semblance of form the attacking woes look set to continue.
Chivas had a goalkeeper red-carded for the second successive week last week. When they do vacate the StubHub Center, LA Galaxy cleaning staff may find their locker room is stuffed with broken mirrors. Wilmer Cabrera can point to the absence of Dan Kennedy and Mauro Rosales contributing to last week’s hammering against Houston. We asked Alicia Ratterree how important the latter in particular is to Chivas’s hopes of taking anything from this, their final season:
At the moment, it appears both that the absence of Mauro Rosales was significant in their loss to Houston and that the team is struggling to emerge from the doldrums they have been almost continuously lodged in for the past several years. On one hand, Rosales has shown his quality throughout the season, and Chivas have been in games more often than not when he's been on the field. However, like with other talented players on this roster (namely, veterans Dan Kennedy and Oswaldo Minda) there appears to be fatal flaws on both sides of the ball for this team, and that makes their prospects at the moment pretty bleak, despite some genuinely good players taking the field. While the struggles of the defense aren't really a surprise at all, the fact that nobody has scored besides Erick "Cubo" Torres since the season opener means Chivas' attack is sputtering, despite upgrading the group in the offseason.
Frankly, spirits are dropping at an alarming rate, with supporters claiming players generally ignore them after games, and many fans taking to social media, claiming they are done with the club. It could be frustration boiling over, which isn't surprising when a perpetually-losing team gets blown out at home. But it could also signal that the final year under the Chivas USA name won't be the promising send-off most fans were hoping for.
New England vs Seattle
Sun 6pm, Gillette Stadium (CSN-NE / Q13 FOX)
How good is Lee Nguyen? There’s a fair sentiment among fans of the Revs midfielder that were he playing anywhere else than New England, we’d be talking a lot more about the player whose performances have driven his side to the middle of the Eastern conference playoff places. We asked Julie Kumour of the Midnight Riders whether we should get out of bed to watch him. Here’s what she said (synopsis:"yes"):
On Saturday, I took a screen shot of the Eastern Conference standings, because I knew the Revs’ top spot wouldn’t last long—getting six points from arguably the two most-feared teams in the East seemed impossible only four weeks ago. The Revs looked like their 2012 selves, opting to dribble the ball into the net over taking shots and with “Own Goal” tying Lee Nguyen for the club’s leading goal-scorer. In the time since, Lee Nguyen has been amazing, stealing the spotlight from Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe, taking penalties with deadly precision and creating chances for the forwards. He’s returned to form as the player the Whitecaps regret cutting. But the defense is arguably the strongest point this season, despite the absence of the reigning Defender of the Year, Jose Goncalves. Andrew Farrell slid into that center spot and, over beers later Saturday night, we supporters discussed (regrettably) which of those guys would lose his starting role when Goncalves returns—none of them deserve to be benched.
Of course, the headline for Sunday’s match is the return of Clint Dempsey to Gillette Stadium—where he spent three seasons with the Revs. Much like last week and Bradley, we hope Nguyen robs the in-form Dempsey of the headlines, and the defense shuts down the Sounders attack, leading to nine out of nine points in this rough patch for the Revs.
Meanwhile Seattle found a way to win again last week, having trailed Philadelphia at half-time at home. So is this the form of prospective champions grinding out results? Or are there still some missing parts before we start talking about a complete side? We asked Gorilla FC’s Sam Chesneau. Here’s what he chest-beated back:
This is a Sounders squad that has a style unlike anything I have seen in any of the previous 5 years of Sigi ball. During this eight game stretch, sans a dubious result against Columbus, there has been a supreme confidence displayed, and technical skill (Obafempsey) that has resulted in a lack of fear in getting a win despite whatever odds we happen to create for ourselves (4 of the 7 wins were coming from behind). I think though the defense can be shaky at times, they, especially one can argue defender of the year in thus far in Marshall, come up big when it counts. Teams have figured out how to play control the Sounders, but not for a full 90 minutes. The lack of depth at left back with a hurt Gonzalez & Remick makes for nervousness, but Brad Evans' return to health and his great versatility on the field (like playing left back after Remick got hurt against Philly) quells some temporary fears. There have been some concerns raised about Yedlin playing too far up, but it appears he has shown some great recovery of late with his speed. Would be nice to have some icing on the cake in the summer transfer, as has been alluded to by GM Hanauer, but it's hard to see how what we've seen from the Sounders thus far will cease. That being said, the same sentiments were had before last season's October free fall, so for now we're just going to try and enjoy the ride and hopefully not look back in the Supporters Shield race that we currently hold the lead in.
Houston vs Real Salt Lake
Sun 7pm, BBVA Compass Stadium (CSN-Hou + / CW30)
The only unbeaten team in the league (by the skin of their teeth), Real Salt Lake, land in Houston knowing they’re probably about to lose at least one of the architects of that run, goalkeeper Nick Rimando, and probably two, if Kyle Beckerman also makes Jurgen Klinsmann’s World Cup squad, while Houston will be crossing their fingers behind their backs when they wish captain Brad Davis luck in making the squad, given the recent “Brad Davis is injured” size hole in their ability to score a goal. Since Davis’s return Houston have hammered Chivas 4-1, and in midweek Davis served up another goal for Will Bruin as they beat Columbus. Suddenly, this game looks very intriguing.