MLS Week 5: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend
The battle between turf and the New York Red Bulls will be the story to watch in MLS Week 5, 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 5?
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
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 5.
Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, 3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 5 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC, 6 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Colorado Rapids, 6:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
D.C. United vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Houston Dynamo vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 3 p.m. ET, UniMas
The Story to Watch: New York's Depth
The New York Red Bulls are looking for the reset button entering Week 5. Not only is the club yet to secure its first victory of the 2014 season, but the injury bug has already begun to bite.
A mild hamstring strain will keep Tim Cahill from participating in this week's match with Montreal. He'll be joined by teammate Richard Eckersley after he suffered an ankle sprain in New York's 1-1 draw with Chivas USA last Sunday.
And then there's the turf.
This week's encounter with the Impact will take place on an artificial surface at the Olympic Stadium. If recent history is any indication, Cahill and Eckersley are expected to be joined by Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave.
According to Franco Panizo on MLS's official website, however, head coach Mike Petke isn't ready to definitively rule the duo out:
It's Tuesday of the week before the game, so I'm not going to make any bold statements yes or no. We traditionally know what goes on with these games. However, there's always that chance, there's always the situation that we have a conversation and decide that it's a go on this turf. I'm not ready to make any statement right now, but there's always a chance. Having said that, we have what I think is a deep roster. I have total confidence in whoever jumps in if [Henry and Olave] are not going to go. We've had success before in Montreal, and that's what we're looking to do this time.
New York's depth will surely be tested on the road this week, but so will the patience of the supporters should the club suffer yet another loss.
The Number to Watch: 26
The Colorado Rapids have scored five goals in 2014. Four of them have come via the penalty kick. Just to put that in perspective, Real Salt Lake led the league in penalty-kick goals in 2013.
They scored six all season.
Despite the fact that 58 percent of their 40 total shots have accurately hit their mark, the Rapids' form from the run of play is yet to streamline itself into productivity. Following their 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City in Week 4, forward Vicente Sanchez admitted to Chris Bianchi on MLS's official website that the club lacked the finishing touch:
I think we needed to convert better in the first half. We had a good first half with lots of chances, but we couldn't get the advantage. We lacked a little bit on the finishing end.
Defender Drew Moor added, "A couple other half-chances for us that if we put away, it might be a different story."
Finishing their chances will be crucial if Colorado hopes to secure a victory on the road this Saturday against the Whitecaps. The Rapids, however, will have to create them first. No club in MLS has fewer chances created this season than Colorado (26).
At some point, relying on officiating will run its course.
The Player to Watch: Michael Bradley
No player shined more Wednesday night than Michael Bradley. The 26-year-old scorched the midfield in the U.S. men's national team's 2-2 draw with Mexico, completing 56 of his 66 passes, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
According to Andrew Wiebe on MLS's official website, even Mexican coach Miguel Herrera took notice, claiming, "Bradley looked as if he was the best player in the world."
Obviously, Herrera was in a hyperbolic mood following the match. No player can be considered the best in the world after struggling to earn minutes for a European club that hasn't won a league title since 2001. Herrera, however, was right in complimenting Bradley. His performance in Phoenix, Ariz. was a cut above everyone else's.
The same can be said for his performance at the club level this season.
Entering Week 5, no player in MLS has more key passes than Bradley (15). His 16 tackles are second only to that of the Vancouver Whitecaps' Matias Laba. With numbers like those, Bradley is considered the measuring stick for all opponents, something Columbus Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter admitted to Andrew King on MLS's official website:
[Bradley] is the best midfielder in the league. We know going up against him, we're going to have to be concentrated, we're going to have to be aware, we're going to have to put him in uncomfortable positions. It's certainly a measuring stick for Will and Tony, and I'm excited to see how they're going to do.
Everyone, however, is more excited to see how Bradley is going to do in the sixth rendition of the Trillium Cup this Saturday.
The Club to Watch: The Portland Timbers
Not everything is well in "Portlandia."
After entering the season as one of the favorites to reach the MLS Cup final, the Portland Timbers have only managed two draws in four games this season and are still in search of victory No. 1.
A visit from their most hated rival—the Seattle Sounders—sets the stage for an intense showdown carrying a must-win narrative in Week 5. Growing angst will only boil over should the club fall to its neighbor to the North. And yet, despite a 0.5 points per game average this season, head coach Caleb Porter remains unfazed.
Dan Itel carried the quotes on MLS's official website:
It would be easy to get down and frustrated and start worrying, but we're not going to do that because we know we have a good team and we know what we're capable of. It seems like I keep saying that, but at the end of the day, if we weren't playing well I'd be worried. But we're playing well.
The numbers support Coach Porter's claims.
Though the Timbers are yet to record an assist this season, the club does rank fourth in the league with 40 total chances created. Even better, Portland's 58 shots are second only to the Montreal Impact. At some point, the numbers will have to be reflected in the win column.
For Portland's sake, it better come in Week 5.
The Match to Watch: Sporting Kansas City vs. Real Salt Lake
There’s no fabricated rivalry here.
There’s genuine hatred between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, but don’t take our word for it. Take the word of SKC striker Dom Dwyer, who was quoted by Andy Edwards as saying, "I hate them very much." Even Benny Feilhaber joined in on the fun, proclaiming, "They pride themselves on being the most possession-oriented team, but I don’t know if I buy into that."
You don’t have to buy into anything, Benny. The numbers say they are. No club in the Western Conference has held more possession of the ball this season than Real Salt Lake (53 percent), but I digress.
This blooming rivalry sprung with a preseason brawl in 2011 and has momentously carried itself into the 2014 season. Sporting have been the benefactors in recent history, winning three of four regular-season matches and lifting the MLS Cup in frigid temperatures last year.
According to Scott Pierce on MLS’s official website, this is the day Nat Borchers has been waiting for all offseason:
It seems like darn near every team we have some kind of rivalry with. But I'll be honest with you, we don't have rivalries with teams that aren't good. You're not going to hate a team that you're always beating...Getting bashed in the face with the ball when it's 12 degrees outside isn't fun. I can't wait to play these guys. I've been thinking about them all off-season.
Fortunately, there will be no subzero temperatures plaguing this MLS Cup rematch. A high of 62 degrees and a low of 43 degrees is forecasted for Kansas City on Saturday. Aesthetic soccer might actually be played.
The question is: Will the result be any different?
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. Follow @Mendez_FC