MLS Week 3: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend

Eduardo Mendez@@Mendez_FCCorrespondent IIMarch 20, 2014

MLS Week 3: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend

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    John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

    The state of the New England Revolution will be the story to watch in MLS Week 3, but what additional storylines will complete your weekend preview?

    In the coming slides, a majority of the nine matches scheduled for this week will be covered in great detail. Each match selected will be dissected from a unique angle to intensify your viewing pleasure.

    So, what exactly warrants your attention in Week 3?

    Read on to find out.

     

    Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to Squawka. All data collected is licensed from Opta Sports.

Complete Schedule and Guide

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    John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

    Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 3.

     

    Saturday

    New England Revolution vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Montreal Impact vs. Seattle Sounders, 4 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes

    Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network

    Toronto FC vs. D.C. United, 4:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Colorado Rapids vs. Portland Timbers, 6 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union, 6 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live

    Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8:30 p.m. ET

     

    Sunday

    Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls. 3 p.m. ET, MLS Live

The Story to Watch: The State of the New England Revolution

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    Winslow Townson/Getty Images

    The darlings of MLS are in dire straits. 

    After a successful season that saw the Revolution push the eventual MLS Cup champions to extra time, expectations were raised for 2014. For some—and by some we mean Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl—this was said to be the year the club finally hoisted the MLS Cup.

    Two weeks into the season, New England is quickly realizing championships aren't won on paper.

    A 4-0 blowout at the hands of the Houston Dynamo in Week 1 was followed by a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union in Week 2. Forget the first victory of 2014...the Revolution are in search of their first goal of 2014.

    Not lost in the two debilitating losses is the absence of Jose Goncalves. The reigning MLS Defender of the Year did win 71 percent of his duels in the club's Week 1 defeat, but even that number misleads his performance. Looking out of sorts, Goncalves failed to properly clear the ball in each of Will Bruin's two goals in the first half. 

    The 28-year-old didn't even dress for Week 2.

    Public discontent with his contract during the offseason, coupled with his desire to return to Europe, has finally reared its ugly head. Head coach Jay Heaps, however, was none too revealing when pressed about Goncalves' absence following the loss to the Union. In an interview with Craig Forde, a diplomatic tone left more questions than answers (h/t to MLS's official website).

    "Our focus is to put the best players on the field to win this match," Heaps said. "We wanted to put the guys in a position to win the game, and that's what we did."

    Except...his men didn't win the game.

    The Revolution will have to be in a better "position" if they hope to climb out of the cellar in Week 3.

The Number to Watch: 21

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The Los Angeles Galaxy created 21 scoring chances in their Week 1 loss to Real Salt Lake. Despite only boasting one 90 minute performance, those 21 chances are the fourth highest total in MLS entering Week 3.

    Twenty-one chances but zero goals.

    According to Scott French on MLS's official website, striker Robbie Keane believes it was a litany of chances in the first half that ultimately decided the contest:

    Missed opportunities in the first half certainly cost us the game. There's no question about that. I think the chances that we had could have killed the game of, but we didn't and we let them back into the game.

    Fast forward two weeks.

    The Galaxy return to league competition with an immediate opportunity to exact revenge. A visit to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, will serve as the backdrop. 

    The mission: Finish the job they couldn't in Week 1.

The Player to Watch: Jermain Defoe

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    So much for tempered expectations.

    Unlike Clint Dempsey—who has collected $5 million to deliver just two goals in 11 appearances—striker Jermain Defoe has immediately paid dividends for Toronto FC. It took all of 17 minutes for the 31-year-old to open his MLS account. Not seven minutes later, he would complete his brace.

    Two goals in 24 minutes, not 774.

    In an interview with Mark Zwolinski of the Toronto Star, Defoe attributes his scorching start to a habit of focus and professional confidence:

    They're different goals. I seem to be making a habit of it, though. I've always been so focused on my debuts that I've been lucky enough to score in every debut. You can sort of...not relax a bit, but go into the next game confident. I'm sure, or I hope, that if the chance comes, I'll be able to get another goal.

    Fortunately for Defoe, another debut of sorts is on the horizon for Week 3. His home debut in front of a rejuvenated crowd awaits in Toronto.

    If Defoe is true to form, he'll add another to the scoring sheet.

The Club to Watch: The Columbus Crew

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    It didn't take him long, but head coach Gregg Berhalter has transformed the Columbus Crew.

    After taking the helm in the offseason, Coach Berhalter—like most new head coaches—vowed to play the beautiful game. Despite his defensive expertise, attacking football would remain his priority. Another empty promise, however, wasn't delivered at the podium that afternoon.

    The Crew delivered an aesthetic performance for the ages in their season opener against D.C. United. A total of 504 passes were delivered with 85 percent accuracy en route to a 3-0 victory. It was a punctuating performance that put the rest of the Eastern Conference on notice.

    This is a different Columbus Crew, one veteran Josh Williams has never seen, according to Simon Borg on MLS's official website:

    It's nothing I've ever seen before. The detail in it is something that strikes me. It was a little shocking at first, and I think it caught everybody off guard a little bit because they're used to other things. But it's something that we like...[Berhalter] wants to play an attacking style of soccer and you can see we're creating opportunities.

    Columbus created seven in Week 1 to be exact. Three finished behind United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.

    They'll look to continue to create more when the Union visit Columbus Crew Stadium in Week 3.

The Match to Watch: Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose Earthquakes

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    Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    It's the battle of the downtrodden. 

    Both Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes were eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday. For SKC, it was a 5-1 thumping delivered by Cruz Azul that sent the reigning MLS Cup champions home. San Jose suffered a more heartbreaking exit.

    Despite finishing deadlocked with Mexican outfit Toluca after 210 minutes, the Quakes fell 5-4 on penalty kicks. 

    Rebounding and returning to league form remains a priority for both clubs in Week 3. All-important victory No. 1 has yet to be captured by either side. It will be needed to rid the sour taste of midweek defeat, but who will earn it when the final whistle blows?

     

    Eduardo Mendez is a Bleacher Report Featured Columnist and analyst for Opta Sports. Follow him on Twitter for more insight on a variety of sports topics.