After a week with six-nil and four-nil upsets (destroying my pick record, might I add), the MLS Week 21 lineup has a hard act to follow.
But when you have a Texas derby and a clash of the titans, you can’t really complain. Sounders and USA Soccer columnist Brandon Rust will be my guest prognosticator today, eager to continue the thrashing against my picks.
The Game of Week 21 will be the latter of these two clashes, as the Chicago Fire (32 Pts/19 GP) travel to Robertson Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo (35 Pts/20 GP). While this is the second consecutive week I’m picking the Dynamo for the weekend showcase, there are too many reasons this pick is irresistible.
First, and most importantly, the Dynamo will be tired. This game will be their second in the week after playing in tonight’s road fixture against Dallas. With the strongest defense and the second-most potent offense in the league, perhaps the midweek fixture is the handicap the Fire need to steal three points.
Second, on a five game unbeaten streak, Chicago have been playing well without Captain America, Brian McBride. The man to thank for this unprecedented success is replacement Patrick Nyarko. His goal was the difference against Salt Lake, and he notched another in the Fire’s last victory over San Jose.
Many were expecting this team to crumble after the loss of their captain, but, like their arch-rivals Columbus, the Fire have rebounded quite well to show they are not just the sum of their parts.
Third, the incredible midfield battle. Cuauhtémoc Blanco and John Thorrington versus Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark. Star creators and enforcers duel again. I think that’s all that needs to be said here.
Finally, this is a must-win game for both teams. The Fire need to separate themselves from the maddening crowd below them and secure their playoff spot. The Dynamo need to stop a growing momentum of poor play at home to maintain their lead in the West.
Either way you look at it, this game will be amazing.
Result: Dynamo 2-2 Fire (Brandon says Fire, 1-0). Ultimately, the smart bet may be on the Fire to take advantage of a tired Dynamo, as Brandon says. But the Dynamo are too good, even after midweek fixtures, to pick against.
As for the Rest of Week 21’s Fixtures
Houston Dynamo (35 Pts/20 GP) at FC Dallas (20 Pts/19 GP)—This Texas Derby is ESPN’s Game of the Week, and for good reason. The Hoops of FCD are fresh and full of confidence from of a six-nil thrashing of Kansas City. They will hope to replicate their six-spot at home against Texas rival Houston. But the Dynamo are not Kansas City. They’re only the most dominant offense and defense in the league. And they’ll have their stars. And those stars will be fresh.
Result: FCD 2-3 Houston (Brandon says Draw, 2-2). As much as I want Dallas to pull the upset, picking against the Dynamo is like picking the Red Bulls to win anything. You just don’t do it.
Seattle Sounders FC (29 Pts/19 GP) at Real Salt Lake (23 Pts/19 GP)—After being embarrassed by San Jose, Sounders gaffer Sigi Schmid stated he prides himself on not letting his team lose two in a row (technically, they already did that after another four-nil loss to Barcelona). Tall order, considering the schizophrenic RSL has only dropped one match at home. And, as Brandon reminds me, Seattle only has one win on the road this year. But the Sounders need this game to get their season back on track. This game will ask and answer an important question: how does this upstart expansion team respond after a huge upset?
Result: Sounders 2-1 RSL. Time to throw the safe pick out the window. Two four-nil beatings should have properly shaken up the Emerald City boys. Time to take it out on some worthy competition.
Columbus Crew (33 Pts/20 GP) at San Jose Earthquakes (17 Pts/19 GP)—After three improbable wins in a row and a six-game unbeaten streak, the Columbus Crew is officially the hottest team in the league. But the Quakes, after destroying the Sounders at Buck Shaw Stadium, are looking to do the same against another heavy favorite.
Brandon says the win was a fluke. But I’m not so sure, seeing as the Quakes have played well against recent competition at home. But unlike the Sounders, the Crew can play without their star import. Result: Crew 3-2 Quakes (Brandon says Crew, 2-1)
Los Angeles Galaxy (28 Pts/19 GP) at New England Revolution (24 Pts/17 GP)—The Galaxy (Brandon’s “hottest team in the league”) will be brimming with confidence after their 1-2 defeat to Barcelona at the Rose Bowl. The Revolution have strung together a three-game unbeaten streak against quality competition (Chivas, Houston, Toronto). More importantly, they’ve regained their lost form. Expect Shalrie Joseph to throw David Beckham around in this one. Result: Revs 1-1 Galaxy (Brandon says Galaxy, 1-0)
Chivas USA (27 Pts/17 GP) at Colorado Rapids (27 Pts/19 GP)—After almost a month of inactivity, the Goats have had a lot of time to cool off their sagging momentum. That may be the difference as Preki’s boys face Colorado in a game that could surely decide the final Western Conference playoff spot. Result: Rapids 1-1 Chivas. (Brandon says Chivas rights the ship, 1-0)
Correct predictions receive two points, correct scores one point. If you would like to be a guest commentator, please let Matt Barger know through comment, PM, or Bulletin Board post.
Matt 8-11, 17 pts (Last week: 2-4, 4 pts)
Guest Prognosticators 10-9, 21 pts (Last week: 4-2, 8 pts)