MLS Weekend Preview: 5 Games to Watch and Why

Juan Carlos Salas@juancsalasContributor IIIApril 4, 2012

MLS Weekend Preview: 5 Games to Watch and Why

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    Because no matches are being played on Easter Sunday, the fifth week of Major League Soccer begins midweek. But that doesn't mean there will be fewer matches, as nine games will be played from Wednesday through Thursday.

    Even though there has been many headlines that allowed us to whet our appetites for MLS soccer, the slight change of schedule made sure we could concentrate on what's coming up.

    Like I said, there are nine games to watch this week. Will all of them be great? Of course not, they rarely are.

    So here are the five matches I believe you should watch, and why they will be the talk of fans around the Easter Sunday dinner table. 

Montreal Impact @ Real Salt Lake

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    Montreal Impact @ Real Salt Lake
    Wednesday, April 4 - 9:00PM EDT

    On the surface, this game may not look so intriguing. However, both teams play twice this week, and Real Salt Lake will want to take the full three points against Montreal before they host Colorado on Saturday.

    Meanwhile, the Montreal Impact is is still looking for its first win in Major League Soccer. Even though it will be a daunting task for Montreal to beat RSL at Rio Tinto Stadium, we have already seen that it is not impossible.

    Last week, RSL came from behind to beat Portland 3-2 at JELD-WEN Field. So the team will return home with confidence, and will not want to repeat its poor home outing two weeks ago.

    Montreal gave the New York Red Bulls all it can handle, leading twice, but eventually succumbing to a 5-2 defeat. There are some bright spots on the offensive side for the Impact, but its defense is still lacking. If Montreal secures the back line, and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts plays to his potential, the Impact will make this game one to not miss.

    Key Players to Watch: MONTREAL: Davy Arnaud, Justin Mapp, Zarek Valentin. RSL: Alvaro Saborio, Kyle Beckerman, Jamison Olave.  

Toronto FC @ Montreal Impact

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    Toronto FC @ Montreal Impact
    Saturday, April 7 - 12:00PM EDT

    This will be fun a match to watch for several reasons. It will be the first time that Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact face each other in MLS play, both will be coming from mid-week games, and potentially both will be looking for its first win in the regular season.

    Toronto has a date with a destiny Wednesday night as it travels to Mexico for the second leg of the club's CONCACAF Champions' League match against Santos Laguna. It will be the single most important game in franchise history.

    Regardless the outcome, the team will need to quickly reset and prepare for its bout at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, which has already been seen as a very hostile environment.

    Even though Toronto has seen success in the CCL, it has not been the same in MLS. They dropped last week's game at home to the Columbus Crew. As mentioned previously, Montreal also comes into this game after losing against New York.

    Wednesday may be an important day for these two clubs, but the fireworks will fly Saturday when these two rivals face-off.

    Key Players to Watch: TORONTO FC: Milos Kocic, Danny Koevermans, Luis Silva. MONTREAL: Andrew Wenger, Lamar Neagle, Justin Braun.

Los Angeles Galaxy @ Sporting Kansas City

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    Los Angeles Galaxy @ Sporting Kansas City
    Saturday, April 7 - 4:00PM EDT
    ESPN/ESPN Deportes

    This match features two teams that are currently heading in opposite directions.

    Sporting Kansas City has a perfect record in the MLS (4-0) and has only allowed one goal in 360+ minutes of play.

    Then there's the LA Galaxy. The defending MLS Cup champions have three points in three games. They have also allowed seven goals—more than half of last season's total. 

    Sporting KC is working off its success from last season as defending regular season Eastern Conference champions. As for the LA Galaxy, no one really has a clue what's going on in that hot mess. 

    Los Angeles dropped its home opener against RSL, and after beating D.C. United, it seemed the ship was corrected. However, a 3-1 dismantling by the New England Revolution has Galaxy fans worried if this team can come even close to replicating its 2011 success.

    Kansas City is coming off a 1-0 victory over Chivas USA, and now Sporting's eyes are focused on the other LA club, whose defenses have been awful, to say the least.

    The biggest question in this game will be: What Galaxy team will arrive at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park?

    Key Players To Watch: SPORTING KC: C.J. Sapong, Graham Zusi, Seth Sinovic. LA GALAXY: AJ DeLaGarza, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane 

Vancouver Whitecaps @ San Jose Earthquakes

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    Vancouver Whitecaps @ San Jose Earthquakes
    Saturday, April 7 - 7:00PM EDT

    San Jose and Vancouver are currently in the top half of the Western Conference table, and it shouldn't be much of a surprise. Both came into the 2012 campaign with high hopes of competing for a playoff spot, and so far, they've both been up to the challenge.

    San Jose comes off a somewhat fortunate win at Seattle, squeaking by with a 1-0 margin via a questionable penalty kick. Nevertheless, the attacking combination of Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski have caused plenty of damage on defenses. 

    As strong as the Earthquakes are offensively, the Whitecaps are as strong defensively. The team's 0-0 draw with the Philadelphia Union last weekend added to Vancouver's shutout streak this season.

    In its four games so far, the Whitecaps haven't allowed a single goal. It's the work of defender Jay DeMerit and goalkeeper Joe Cannon that have helped the Canadian club become one of the stingiest in MLS.

    It will be exciting to see if Wondolowski and company can be the first to break down the mighty Whitecaps, or if it will Sebastien Le Toux that finds the back of the net against San Jose.

    Key Players to Watch: VANCOUVER: Joe Cannon, Jay DeMerit, Sebastien Le Toux. SAN JOSE: Sam Cronin, Shea Salina, Chris Wondolowski.

Seattle Sounders @ DC United

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    Seattle Sounders @ DC United
    Saturday, April 7 - 7:30PM EDT

    I previously said that D.C. United was a team about to explode any second. Even though I was a week behind, the team's 4-1 drubbing over FC Dallas proved my point.

    How the boys from the nation's capital manage visiting Seattle Sounders, who will want some retribution for its loss to San Jose, may become a defining moment in the United's 2012 campaign. 

    United's rookie Nick DeLeon was a big part of the team's victory last week, so look for him to get the starting spot once again. Maicon Santos looks to have regained form, and if newcomer Hamdi Salihi can notch his first MLS goal, D.C. United will be running on all cylinders—at least offensively.

    The back four is still a bit weak for D.C., and Seattle will want to take advantage of that with speed. We know that Fredy Montero and David Estrada have such speed, but the Sounders will also use the flanks with Alvaro Fernandez pushing forward. 

    This looks to be a well-balanced matchup, but it will also be tense. A small mistake may create an opportunity for the opposition to capture three points, or give up two.

    Key Players to Watch: SEATTLE: Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Patrick Ianni. DC UNITED: Danny Cruz, Hamdi Salihi, Nick DeLeon.


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