MLS: 10 Key Matchups to Watch This Weekend
Football is winding down in England, Spain and Germany, but Major League Soccer is just hitting its stride. For all you Europhiles in the States, it's time to get wrapped up in the local version of the game.
We've got Lee Nguyen facing the team that cut him earlier this season, Rafa Marquez trying to keep hold of his demons, and a game that might benefit from the institution of a mercy rule.
Here are 10 key matchups to watch this weekend in MLS.
Houston Dynamo vs. Opening Night Jitters
Houston Dynamo haven't won in their last five games and they face DC United on Saturday.
Those factors could combine to make the opening of Houston's new BBVA Compass Stadium go as badly as when my high school booked the defending state champions for our homecoming game.
Although there will probably be fewer corsages and tear-shaped streaks in the women's make-up, expect an opening night loss to put a damper on the celebration of MLS' newest venue.
Chivas USA vs. the Mercy Rule
Here's the set-up, San Jose scores more than anyone else in MLS while Chivas sits at the bottom of the goals scored chart. Chivas travels to San Jose to play on Sunday.
What I'm getting at is that with his team posing little threat going forward, Chivas' keeper Dan Kennedy will spend the evening trying to keep Chris Wondolowski from putting the Golden Boot race to bed for good.
Lee Nguyen vs. the Team That Said He Wasn't Good Enough
In the bigger picture, New England could use a win after having lost four of their last five games.
But the more intriguing matchup in Saturday's showdown with the Vancouver Whitecaps is Lee Nguyen versus the manager who said he wasn't good enough just two months ago.
Nguyen's release by Vancouver in March was one of the more surprising personnel decisions of the season in MLS. He's since played in every game for the Revolution.
Nguyen will be intent on showing Whitecaps' manager Martin Rennie just what a mistake he made.
Toronto FC vs. the World
Toronto's eight game losing streak is the worst start to an MLS season in history.
They don't even play this weekend, but I thought their record breaking futility deserved special mention.
The odd thing is Toronto have won a couple games recently. Just not in a competition anyone cares about. Over the past two Wednesday, they beat Montreal across two legs to advance in the Canadian Championship.
Now if someone could just tell me what the Canadian Championship is. Anyone?
Rafa Marquez vs. His Demons
Rafa Marquez will be back in the lineup for New York Red Bulls on Sunday for the first time since being suspended for his indecent assault on San Jose midfielder Shea Salinas.
If the Mexican is going to revive his reputation, he's going to have to play clean (or at least cleanish) and produce something on the field. Those are two things that he's so far failed miserably to do during his time with New York.
If he gets through the game against Philadelphia without hurting anyone it'll be a good start.
Sporting Kansas City vs. the Skids
What's the exact losing streak that qualifies for "hitting the skids" to apply? It's probably more than Sporting Kansas City's current two games. But it's not too much more.
Fortunately, SKC gave themselves plenty of cushion at the top of the Eastern Conference with the seven games they won to open the season, but the team need to break out of their funk in Chicago on Saturday.
Three losses in a row would start to seem pretty skid-like to me.
Real Salt Lake vs. the Hottest Team in the League
Mark this game on your calendar. Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake on Saturday. It should be the best thing going on this weekend in MLS.
Real Salt Lake lead the West, Seattle are on a five game winning streak (the longest current streak in MLS) and Fredy Montero is in a scoring groove.
The game, the environment in Seattle and the timing all add up to mouth-watering stuff for fans. An absolute must see.
LA Galaxy vs. Continued Sucking
Nearly a third of the season is gone and the LA Galaxy absolutely suck. There's no more refined way to put it. The league's glamour franchise is rolling around in the muck at the bottom of the Western Conference with the likes of Chivas and Portland.
If this were England, Bruce Arena might have been fired by now.
The Galaxy go to Montreal on Saturday to take on an Impact squad that's only lost once in their last five MLS games. Good luck with that Bruce.
Columbus Crew and FC Dallas vs. Winning
Neither Columbus nor Dallas have won in their last five games. If this were any other sport, something would have to give when the two teams meet on Saturday.
But in soccer, we can always come away with a poorly played draw.
Columbus can't score and Dallas can't defend. Both sets of fans will hate this, but I'm pulling for the 0-0 draw as neither team even remotely deserves three points on recent evidence.
Thierry Henry vs. Obscurity
Most of the time, watching New York without Thierry Henry is like getting a tooth pulled without Novocaine.
But the Red Bulls have won two in a row without the best player in MLS and show no signs of slowing down.
If they beat Philadelphia on Sunday (and really, who has their money on the Union?), the Frenchman might have to start throwing darts at the youth team to keep his name in front of the fans.