MLS Weekend Preview: 10 Players to Watch and Why

Juan Carlos Salas@juancsalasContributor IIIMarch 29, 2012

MLS Weekend Preview: 10 Players to Watch and Why

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    There were many great individual performances in Major League Soccer last weekend.

    Chris Wondolowski scored a brace for the San Jose Earthquakes over Toronto FC.

    Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry did the same for New York Red Bulls, each scoring two goals in a 4-1 thumping of Colorado

    But this weekend, there is a new crop of players to watch out for, including those U.S. national team players returning from Olympic qualifying.

Brek Shea: FC Dallas

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    As already mentioned, one of the interesting stories I will follow is how the members of the U.S. U-23 squad will react returning to their clubs after failing to qualify for the London Olympics.

    FC Dallas midfielder Brek Shea is one of those players.

    Many blame his bad decision for the Americans' elimination, as Shea failed to clear the ball in the waning moments against El Salvador that led to the tying goal.

    Even though I don't think FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman will start Shea against D.C. United, it will be interesting to see how he bounces back from such a tough disappointment.

Kenny Cooper: New York Red Bulls

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    Have the New York Red Bulls finally found their attacking tandem?

    Four goals against the Colorado Rapids is something that have made the New York faithful very optimistic.

    Eyes will now be on Kenny Cooper to see if he can continue his successes. Now more than ever, pressure will be on the 27-year-old to produce after it's been revealed that Juan Agudelo will be out for up to six weeks following knee surgery.

    New York hosts the Montreal Impact, so we shall see if Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry can slice and dice through a defense that has allowed five goals in three games.

Freddy Adu: Philadelphia Union

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    There are arguments whether Freddy Adu's inconsistent performance against El Salvador was due to his lack of skill, or bad placement on the field by Caleb Porter, the U.S. U-23 head coach.

    Regardless, Adu comes back to the Philadelphia Union earlier than anticipated, and will probably play against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

    Adu is a very emotional player. He thrives and shines off anger and frustration. He tweeted on Wednesday, "Focused and determined."

    Maybe it's an indication that Adu will take it upon himself to lift Philadelphia from a lackluster 0-3 start.

Sebastien Le Toux: Vancouver Whitecaps

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    Sebastien Le Toux will return to Philadelphia as a member of the Vancouver Whitecaps after the Union traded him in the offseason.

    The 28-year-old played in Philly for two seasons and scored 25 regular-season goals for the club, so I'm sure he would like a little payback.

    The Union haven't been the model example of defense, allowing six goals in three games. Expect Le Toux to work with Eric Hassli, and take advantage of any space Philadelphia might give up. 

Jamison Olave: Real Salt Lake

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    For me, Real Salt Lake traveling to play the Portland Timbers will be an exciting matchup, because I'm curious to see how Jamison Olave will handle Kris Boyd.

    Salt Lake got stung by Chivas USA last week, but head coach Jason Kreis will have his boys up and ready for the intimidating atmosphere of JELD-WEN Field.

    If Olave is able to contain Boyd, RSL might escape Portland with at lease a point. 

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado: Seattle Sounders

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    Another defender who will be in the spotlight will be Seattle Sounders' Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.

    Seattle hosts the San Jose Earthquakes and its hot forward Chris Wondolowski, who had two goals this past weekend.

    Hurtado will have to be in sync with his center-back Patrick Ianni in order to keep Wondolowski in check, and prevent him from breaking through the defense, like he is known to do.

    The home advantage of CenturyLink Field will be in favor of Hurtado and Co., but it only takes one little mistake by the defense for Wondolowski to be lethal.

Robbie Keane: Los Angeles Galaxy

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    Are the cartwheels and barrel rolls back in the City of Angels?

    Los Angeles Galaxy Irish forward Robbie Keane finally broke out of his funk two weeks ago after scoring twice against D.C. United.

    Now, LA hosts the New England Revolution. Though it was imperative that the Galaxy got two weeks off (the team played four games in two weeks), it begs the question whether the long break was helpful or not for Keane.

    The key for Irishman is to be assertive on the ball and not have so many touches inside the 18-yard box. 

    His two goals against D.C. came off a one-time right-footed shot from a cross, and a left-footed blast from about 15 yards. 

    Keane has to realize he doesn't have to walk into the goal with the ball.

Dominic Oduro: Chicago Fire

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    Flying underneath the radar of most MLS spectators is Dominic Oduro, who has been a stud for the Chicago Fire in this early 2012 campaign.

    He has scored in both of Chicago's games this season, but what's most impressive is his accuracy. Oduro has eight shots, of which six of them have been on frame. 

    One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the more looks at goal a striker has. the greater the possibility of him scoring. 

    Watch for Oduro to continue his streak, when the Fire travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids.

    The home team will have Jeff Larentowicz back, but will most likely be without the services of captain Pablo Mastroeni

Dan Kennedy: Chivas USA

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    Dan Kennedy's work between the pipes for Chivas USA finally came into fruition when the club upset Real Salt Lake 1-0 last week.

    Now the Rebaño Angelino will host Sporting Kansas City, who have the personnel to be a powerful offensive squad, but barely squeezed out a 2-1 win over FC Dallas last week.

    Can Kennedy carry over his great game against Real Salt Lake back home and deliver another shutout for Chivas? Or will his defense let him down?

Casey Townsend: Chivas USA

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    Yes, he is only a rookie. 

    Yes, it was only one goal, and first career goal to be exact.

    But Casey Townsend's goal over RSL has been the only goal for Chivas USA this season. The club has been offensively barren, with injuries to Juan Pablo Angel and Alejandro Moreno.

    It was also the way Townsend found the back of the net that was impressive—essentially heading the ball out of RSL's keeper Nick Rimando's hands, and toe-poking it to the back of the net as he was falling.

    It's obviously very early to say whether he is the answer for Chivas, or if he'll be another Justin Braun.

    For now, he's all the club has. And if Townsend can continue finding the back of the net, the Chivas faithful will be able to rest easy.