MLS: This Weekend’s Delight

Inspired perhaps by what feels like the end of the summer doldrums, the yen to talk about the upcoming games has hit. Yep, the must mean the playoff stretch has arrived.

Then again, perhaps it’s the particular match-ups on offer that signal an entertaining, as well as edifying, weekend ahead. MLSnet.com doesn’t yet have previews posted for all the match-ups – I’ll add those later – but here’s what I’m seeing in the near-future.

To begin with the only game that fails to titillate, it’s hard to get excited about the Los Angeles Galaxy versus Real Salt Lake; call it the Limping Whelp Bowl. I can’t even get up for the possibility of RSL pounding on the Galaxy, not with Frank Yallop at something close to the breaking point…that’s like prying at the fingers of a man hanging from a cliff. (And, for the record, I’m with Luis Bueno in thinking Alexi Lalas should be the man to swing; and I’d double-down on that if Robbie Findley is the man who scores the winner.)

OK, after that, it’s all pretty intriguing.

The Chicago Fire versus Red Bull New York carries the potential for a leap-frog changing of the guard; what better way could Chicago assert its superiority over New York than by beating them at home? And I still think they’ll do it with New York’s defense playing like it is. I think, worst-case (for them), Chicago walks out with a draw…and that’d just keep us all guessing a while longer.

Minus the intra-conference angle, Sunday’s game pitting the Columbus Crew against the Colorado Rapids has the same kind of potential. Columbus halted perceptions of a slide with last week’s draw at Houston, but only just; this team needs to get its groove back, especially with Colorado, who no doubt wants to substantiate rumors of their rise, heading in the other direction. And both teams can feel Chicago’s breath on their shoulders. I’m not fool enough to predict this one – too many things in flux – but a draw wouldn’t surprise me here.

Turning to another inter-conference game, the mere six points that separate them in the standings doesn’t speak to the perceptual gap I see between the Kansas City Wizards and the Houston Dynamo. This game comes at a good time for the Dynamo; when you’re struggling to score, what beats a home game against MLS’s most generous defense? (OK, maybe Toronto stands a little lower in terms of goals-per-game average…yup, assuming I did it right, that’s 1.56 goals-per-game for KC versus TFC’s 1.59. Still…) No questions, however, loom over Houston’s defensive record – only Chivas comes close – and with KC’s struggles to score against RSL just a few days old, it’s hard not to like Houston here. And what would that mean for the Wizards? Full-blown panic seems a real possibility.

One more inter-conference tilt to go – and it’s a doozy: DC United at FC Dallas, two contenders with toes touching and fists flying. Juan Toja could be back for FCD (though, for the record, I hope they rest him one more) and Denilson could make an appearance as well. On the other side, DC brings it’s Clockwork, um, Black road-show to Frisco. No way am I going to make a call here…should be a very tasty game, though.

That’s all of ’em…and I hope to catch all of two, if not three (hey, it’s a long weekend) – my poor kids. Looking back up that list of games, though, that’s a lot of worlds a-birthin’. For example, DC could look ominously unstoppable by Sunday morning, both KC and Red Bull could look out of it, Columbus could dip its toe back into the thick of it, etc. etc.

My beer and pretzels are ready; I only need to pick up charcoal for the grill and sedate the kids!

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