MLS Week 4: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend
The state of D.C. United will be the story to watch in MLS Week 4, 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 4?
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 4.
D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire, 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact, 4 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City, 6 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas vs. Portland Timbers, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
New York Red Bulls vs. Chivas USA, 3 p.m. ET, MLS Live
The Story to Watch: The Same Old Story with D.C. United
We're just three weeks into the season, and D.C. United have more excuses than goals.
During the preseason, the same hackneyed rhetoric that plagues every camp was unleashed onto the media by head coach Ben Olsen, via Pablo Maurer on MLS's official website:
There is a lot to build on. Each time we get out there, we've grown and gotten better. It's just important for us as a staff to see that – and it's especially important for the players to see that we're moving in the right direction.
Then, competitive matches were actually played.
United sputtered in the season opener and fell 3-0 to the Columbus Crew. Fortunately, midfielder Nick DeLeon had the only possible explanation for the continuation of the club's impotence. Pablo Maurer carried the quotes on MLS's official website:
There was definitely a communication issue. It was just a miscommunication between Christian and I. They had a good one two and they capitalized it. It'll come along, though. It's just all of us getting on the same page.
Lest we forget the Crew also debuted a revamped back line of their own in Week 1. Surprisingly enough, communication didn't seem to be an issue for them en route to a clean sheet.
Then, another competitive match was played.
D.C. would falter again—this time as the visitors in Week 3. Though nobody blamed the sloppy conditions at BMO Field for the 1-0 loss to Toronto FC, it was a talking point for striker Eddie Johnson at Tuesday's training session, according to Pablo Maurer on MLS's official website:
The field was crap. Absolute crap...It was a big crowd, a loud crowd, a crowd that wanted to see some quality football. Being part of this league, and playing in some of the soccer-specific stadiums we play on, I can say that pitch was in very, very, very, very bad condition.
At least we know BMO Field and D.C. United have that in common.
Fast forward to today. A tweet from the club's official Twitter account shed light on the current mentality surrounding the club. "Some of [the players] are getting pissed off," coach Ben Olsen said. "And I'm pissed off," he added.
"That's a healthy thing."
It only took one month, but the same bombastic and vociferous Coach Olsen seen in the media during his abysmal 2013 season has returned. United have gone from a club "moving in the right direction" to...well, "pissed off." An optimistic offseason is transforming into yet another season of nightmares.
D.C. United are back where they spent all of 2013: Dead last.
A victory over the Chicago Fire is of the utmost importance if the club hopes to escape the unchanged narratives of the worst season in MLS history.
The Number to Watch: 71.4
At some point, you'd think the league would take notice.
As pointed out in the club's season preview, FC Dallas didn't score the most set-piece goals in 2013. That distinction belonged to Real Salt Lake (23). Dallas did, however, have the highest percentage of set-piece goals. A whopping 43.8 percent of the club's productivity came from dead-ball situations last season.
It's only Week 4, but that number has inflated to 71.4 percent.
Only two of FC Dallas' seven goals this year have come from the run of play. Their five set-piece goals eclipse the overall productivity of 13 MLS clubs. The opportunity is there for Dallas to claim more in Week 4.
Only the Sounders (57) have suffered more fouls than the Hoops this season (56). Dallas' opponent for the weekend—the Portland Timbers—have committed the seventh-most in the league (43).
There will be dead-ball opportunities.
The numbers say FC Dallas will capitalize on at least one.
The Player to Watch: Olmes Garcia
Injuries and uncertainty have plagued Real Salt Lake's preparation for Week 4.
Ahead of Saturday's showdown with Toronto FC, the search for Alvaro Saborio's partner remains the club's key priority. Joao Plata—who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3's draw with the Galaxy—tweeted that he will be out of action for three weeks. Possible replacements Robbie Findley (knee) and Devon Sandoval (foot) are still listed as out in the club's injury report.
Depth is running thin, and the only plausible option remains Olmes Garcia. The 21-year-old came on for Plata in the 28th minute of Saturday's draw, adding to his 25 league appearances. Garcia had modest productivity for the club in 2013, scoring five goals and contributing four assists.
According to Christopher Kamrani of the Salt Lake Tribune, his teammate Nat Borchers believes he has all the tools to succeed in 2014:
He's got everything. What you want to see from young players is to start to develop consistency and needing to stay healthy; if he does both of those things, he's going to be taking his game to whole new levels.
His first opportunity to reach those "new levels" will come at home in Week 4.
The Club to Watch: The New York Red Bulls
Give the New York Red Bulls credit. They're consistent...at starting the season deplorably.
The reigning Supporters' Shield champions have only managed two draws in their first three matches of 2014, suffering a minus-three goal differential in the process. Ironically enough, New York carried the same amount of points entering Week 4 in 2013. The club would then go on to suffer a 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact.
So even if the Red Bulls fall to Chivas USA on Sunday, the club is still on pace to match their Supporters' Shield campaign from 2013.
Make way for major trophy No. 2.
No, we're not buying it either.
For all this talk of "continuity" in the offseason, head coach Mike Petke is yet to name the same starting XI twice this season. If the Red Bulls have any chance of returning to glory in 2014, finding the best starting unit is a challenge Coach Petke must overcome. According to Franco Panizo on MLS's official website, it's one he's taking game-by-game:
It was a challenge last year, too. This year perhaps even more so. Every week someone's not going to be happy and someone is going to be happy, and that's the nature of the game. It's about hopefully that what we had last year—with such team camaraderie and everybody on the same page—we continue to have this year and they understand that they're going to have their moments, but in some moments they're not going to start. As long as they understand that and they know it's for the team and they buy into that, then it's better for us.
A victory would be better overall. They'll look to capture it against a revitalized Chivas USA in Week 4.
The Match to Watch: Seattle Sounders vs. Columbus Crew
A battle between MLS's elite will highlight this weekend's action.
The aesthetically revamped Crew are just one of three teams in the Eastern Conference to start the season unblemished. The club has successfully undressed its conference counterparts D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union by a combined score of 5-1 en route to its first-ever 2-0-0 start.
But the toughest test of the young season awaits Saturday night.
The mileage a trip to Seattle brings won't be the only thing weighing heavy on the Black and Gold. Even without the services of a suspended Clint Dempsey, the Sounders managed to capture six points of their own. Their latest victory—a 2-0 dispatching of the Montreal Impact—propelled the club to second in the Western Conference.
The test for Seattle, however, will be shutting down Columbus' intricate attack.
The Sounders may lead the league in total passes (1,313), but no club in MLS averages more passes per match than the Crew (480). No club is more accurate with said passes either (83 percent).
Couple the winning records and dynamism on the ball with star-studded power, and there's more than enough to make this matchup worthy of the MLS Stream of the Week.
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