Thursday, April 27, 2017

Major League Soccer Week 8.5 / 9: A Glance Ahead

Say, anyone else see that they played the CONCACAF Champions League final. A Mexican club won. No way…

I tried the tweet-storm thing for these previews and, personally, I think they don’t suit me. I’m a long-form kind of guy, even as I’m aspiring to be shorter. Also, I spent so much fucking time trying to squeeze my thoughts into 140 characters. As criminal as foot-binding for a guy like me (if without the vile societal/gender hierarchies of oppression. Just reaching for a dramatic metaphor…putting it down now. Backing away…stupid, stupid, stupid!).

At any rate, moving on to preview MLS Week 8.5/9 (nope, not yet “real” Week 9; still only seven teams have played eight games (also, we are the Portland Timbers, we come from the future (as in we’re one of the seven teams)). The approach here is supposed to be brief and casual – I don’t actually want go that far beyond 140 characters on these, I just wanted a little more room to breathe for bad jokes. I will say one thing, as I read’s Power Rankings, or even just stray notes among the various editions of this week’s editions of The Kick Off, I kept bumping into a thought that drives me fucking crazy – talking up a team’s accomplishments without any reference to who they played. For instance, sure, it’s neat that Minnesota United FC picked up its first clean sheet, but, guys, they earned that against the Colorado Rapids and at home. That matters, almost as much as the clean-sheet itself. The same goes for the Houston Dynamo blanking the San Jose Earthquakes: Wilmer Cabrera’s defensive adjustment may or may not work out, but the ‘Quakes are bad this season on offense, so…

If you want me impressed, let’s talk Orlando City SC giving New York City FC a good Bronx cheer.

Anyway, I’ll mostly rely on the league's injury report for this stuff – though somebody needs to wake up the damn intern, because he/she is leaving a lot of names hanging without status, e.g., Alex Crognale for Columbus? And I’ll get better about reading news. Promise. Even though that’ll probably start and end with The KickOff. Speaking of injuries…

FC Dallas v. Portland Timbers
Yes, this was always gonna be hard. It sounds like Portland will dodge the bullet that is Mauro Diaz’s inevitable (and, on past record, inevitably brief) return, but Dallas stuffed a lot of horses into their stable. Does Portland have a chance – and without Diego Valeri? Sure, it’ll just be harder. Someone singled out Carlos Grueza (ball-winning) and Michael Barrios (attacking from width) for praise (might have been Oscar Pareja), and that seems fair. Watch out for Maxi Urruti sniffing after the ball – though I think David Guzman handles pressure as anyone – and, I dunno, maybe try to pull Walker Zimmerman and Matt Hedges out of the center, or maybe have Fanendo Adi occupy one of them long enough, and we’ll see what happens. Yeah, I hope Diaz isn’t back yet…anyway, should be a good game. Might even be a fun one. Uh, anything else? Oh, I don’t think much of Portland’s chances on crosses, not with Zimmerman and his weird faces back there. Set-pieces will suck to defend for the same reason. OK, that’s it. On to the shorter ones…

Toronto FC v Houston Dynamo
This one feels like a nice opportunity for TFC to keep rolling. The Dynamo aren’t bad, or anything, but they are a notch below TFC top to bottom – and they’re on the road for this one. If Houston has an obvious opportunity, it’s sending their Flying Hondurans (any of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Mauro Manotas) behind the three in TFC’s (still make-shift) back 3.

Montreal Impact v. Vancouver Whitecaps
First, Ignacio Piatti. I’m going to start every preview note on Montreal with that because…I mean, the guy just keeps doing it (last week’s first against the Philadelphia Union was nuts…and against the Union). I’d actually like to see Vancouver try the same middle-of-midfield they ran against Portland (Tchani, Laba and Jacobson), because I think it’d trouble Montreal’s geezers a little more.

Orlando City SC v. Colorado Rapids
Because I put the Rapids’ chances of scoring against this Orlando team real, real low, this one feels like another potential step toward the resuscitation of Jason Kreis’ reputation. And Colorado’s defense is worse this year than last. Fully expecting five straight home wins for Orlando.

Columbus Crew SC v. New York City FC
Now, here's your vehicle for intrigue this weekend: two teams that managed little mini-rolls in the early part of 2017, but that both lost last weekend. It was worse for the Crew, though, and the omens ain’t good: both Alex Crognale and Artur played a role in that revival and I think they’re both out. NYCFC looks to have the better chances of bouncing back – but missing Roland Matarrita won’t help.

New York Red Bulls v. Chicago Fire
I’ve decided to watch just one game besides the Timbers every week* - and this one feels like the winner. New York looked like themselves last week for the first time in 2017, so the biggest question is whether they can carry that forward. Chicago should handle their press all right, though, and they should feel good about a draw…though I bet Dax McCarty would kill for the win.

Minnesota United FC v. San Jose Earthquakes
This feels like a stiffer test for the Loons than last week; a win, especially with a shut-out, would force a re-shuffle about where Minnesota fits in the grand scheme. The ‘Quakes feel stronger than the Rapids right now – and I’m guessing they could frustrate Minnesota if they take a lead – but I think they’ll struggle to do even that against rebuilt/reorganized Minnesota. Somewhere in there is why this has good potential to be boring.

Sporting Kansas City v. Real Salt Lake
If SKC can’t score in this one, that’s bad. I mean RSL can barely even field a defense at this point, at least not without a janitor suiting up, so this offers SKC a great chance to work out some attacking kinks. To give RSL a little credit, I think they’re now on their best formation, but scoring on SKC presents a damned tall challenge for what’s still a patchwork attack.

Seattle Sounders v. New England Revolution
This feels like Seattle’s game to win, honestly, even as that’s informed at least in part by recency bias – specifically last weekend’s results for both. Personally, though, I read those games as each team reverting to something closer to actual form. Anything less than three for Seattle would be the more interesting result.

Los Angeles Galaxy v. Philadelphia Union
First, ha ha ha ha ha ha! HA ha ha ha ha! This week’s toilet bowl. If LA can’t win this one – no, WIN(!!) this one - the clouds over that franchise darken to the point where it might be time to Do Something. As for Philly…pulling for you guys!

Atlanta United FC v. DC United
I rate this one second on level of intrigue. The best news for DC is that, as Sebastian LeToux goes down, Patrick Mullins rises again. Also, they should get a little boost from scoring the last two goals last weekend – #joemomentum (that’s two levels of “old” on that joke – boom!). As for Atlanta, it feels like just keeping doing what they’re doing until it stops working. I feel good about it working this week, too.

OK, that’s it. I’ll cut way down on the preamble next time, try to get this under two pages, maybe get more stuff on Portland, maybe post it a day earlier, etc. To pick up that asterisk…

* My current plan is to drop all the general MLS Week in Review stuff into the same post as the report for the non-Timbers game I watch, and to shorten that quite a bit. If you know me, however, you know how long my plans last. Also, I got plans this weekend, so I’ll be lagging a bit. See ya when I see  ya.

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