6 Bold Predictions for MLS Matches from August 8-10
Make no mistake about it, the major talking points heading into the latest weekend of play in Major League Soccer are focused solely on off-the-field news items.
Between Landon Donovan's retirement announcement, the details of the botched Mix Diskerud transfer to Columbus and Pep Guardiola's handshake denial at the MLS All-Star Game Wednesday night, fans of the league have plenty to talk about right now.
The list of watercooler topics could easily grow this weekend if some statements are made by certain teams.
Before the first ball is kicked this weekend at the StubHub Center, here are six bold predictions for the full slate of league matches to be played over the next three days.
San Jose Will Spoil the Landon Donovan Buzz
Landon Donovan and the LA Galaxy seem unstoppable at the moment, but if you were to ask the San Jose Earthquakes about their recent form, they may feel the same way.
San Jose has boosted itself out of the basement of the Western Conference with wins over Chicago and Seattle, and its attack has been reinvigorated by a change in style.
Chris Wondolowski has benefited from the switch to a 4-4-1-1 by manager Mark Watson, which has brought the attack to life.
While he may not have Yannick Djalo at his disposal Friday night, Watson will have new signing Matias Perez Garcia, who was cleared for action, per ESPN's Jeff Carlisle.
With an unknown quantity in Garcia possibly playing behind Wondolowski, the Galaxy back four could be caught off guard.
Jack McInerney Will Bag a Brace at PPL Park
After the first month of the season, Jack McInerney was in need of a change of scenery to kickstart his scoring abilities.
McInerney got that in the form of a trade from Philadelphia to Montreal on April 4, and four months later he will make his return to PPL Park Saturday night.
The forward, who recently turned 22, has scored on six occasions for the Impact in 2014, and he could easily add to that total against a Philadelphia back four that has weaknesses that can be exploited.
No matter who the Union have thrown in the back four this season, they have still made a mistake or two, especially right after scoring.
With motivation brewing high in McInerney, look for him to have a big game on his return visit to the park he called home for four full seasons.
Someone Will Actually Win the Game Between Chicago and New York
Entering Sunday's match at Toyota Park, the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls have combined for 23 draws.
The host Fire will enter the match in need of a full three points, which is something they have only done once since May 24.
During that same span, Frank Yallop's side have drawn seven games and have dropped down to ninth in the Eastern Conference.
The Red Bulls have picked up a single point from five of their last nine matches, but for them to stay above the battle for the fifth and final playoff spot, they must pick up more wins.
With both teams in need of a win, expect this clash to be an open one, but maybe not as open as the nine-goal thriller that the two sides played in at Red Bull Arena on May 10.
Vancouver Will Take Down Sporting Kansas City at Home
With seven wins and four losses in 11 road games, Peter Vermes' Sporting Kansas City side have proven why they are sitting atop the East right now.
That road record will be challenged at BC Place Saturday night against an electric Whitecaps side.
With a bevy of young attackers at manager Carl Robinson's disposal, Vancouver could unleash the surprise of the weekend with a big win over a Sporting side that is still rounding into playoff form.
Another factor that could motivate Vancouver this weekend is the fact that it hasn't won since July 5 against Seattle, and a win would help its cause in the race for fifth in the West with Colorado and Portland.
D.C. United Will Struggle with Real Salt Lake
D.C. United will head out to Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday night in search of making a statement against one of the most consistent sides in the league.
Beating Real Salt Lake at home is something only the Portland Timbers have accomplished in 2014, and that is a statistic that will remain unchanged after Saturday night.
The pace of Joao Plata and Javier Morales in attack will cause problems for the entire D.C. back four, which consists of a few veterans, and rookie Steve Birnbaum, who could be easily exploited by the diminutive Plata in the box.
The Black and Red will have plenty of concerns about Plata ruining their night since the Ecuadorian has scored in three of his last five games.
Houston Will Make the Clash in Seattle Closer Than the Experts Think
One of the under-the-radar results produced last week was the 1-0 victory by Houston over D.C.
No matter how fortunate the Dynamo were at the end of the match to score the winner, the key from that match was they didn't concede for the first time since May 17.
With confidence beginning to grow in the Houston camp, especially after the morale boost provided by the DaMarcus Beasley and Luis Garrido signings, the Dynamo could steal a point at CenturyLink Field Sunday night.
Seattle is not in the best form at the moment, and with the pressure growing by the second to turn everything around before it becomes 2013 all over again, the team is susceptible to a shock loss at home.
It is also worth noting this is usually the time of year where Dominic Kinnear tightens the screws and makes Houston a playoff contender as well.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.