Here’s my quick thoughts on this weekend’s massive slate of games.
Match that should be the most entertaining – Houston-LA. This just has the look of an Western Conference playoff preview. Beckham or no Beckham, LA is still one of the best teams in the West and their 2-0 start is a sign of good things to come. Meanwhile in Houston, with Brian Ching’s injury, they’re left floundering for forward support in his wake. Joseph Ngwenya might be on his way back but I doubt it will be in time for Saturday. LA meanwhile will attempt to ride Edson Buddle for as long as his fragile confidence and gnat-like attention span will allow. Needless to say, I am quite down on Buddle. I can’t decide if he’s the Chris Webber or MLS or the Rasheed Wallace of MLS. Either way, it’s not a good thing.
Match that is the most intriguing – Philadelphia-DC United. There are lots of interesting plotlines here. It’s the Union’s home opener of course, with 30-40,000 expected at Lincoln Financial Field and over 1,000 of them expected to be DC United fans. It’s also Peter Novak’s first match against the team that he won a title with and it’s entirely winnable match for his team. DC’s attack has barely looked alive for the first two matches of the season. I’d look for Aussie striker Danny Allsopp to get his first start of the season in front of Moreno with Chris Pontius getting sat after his “couldn’t-hit-salt-in-the-ocean” performance against NE. If I’m Novak, I get my team to try and kick large chunks of out Moreno and United’s midfield and force the referee to stop us. This being MLS, the refs probably won’t stop them. Philly won’t get a better chance at win #1 until week eight (FCD), and I think they win an ugly tight one on Saturday.
Match that might make people never watch MLS again – Toronto-New England. Thanks to Mo Johnston, the Isiah Thomas of MLs, Toronto yet again has one of the strangest looking rosters with talented players in midfield (DeRosario, Cronin, De Guzman) passing to forwards who are either proven not to be good enough (Barrett), unproven and coming of a big injury (White) or unproven and an FCD castoff (Ibrahim). Meanwhile, don’t be fooled by NE’s unintentional rope-a-dope for 80 minutes last Saturday. The Revs’ attack looked utterly terrible for most of that match before a lolly-gagging Julius James and an absolute thunderbolt by Mansally saved the game for them. I wouldn’t expect a lot of goals from this match.
Question of the week: Just how much will Seattle miss Nate Jaqua? It’s a legitmate question with him now missing 4-6 weeks with abdominal surgery. With Le Toux gone in the expansion draft and Levesque very much the “very poor man’s Jaqua,” will Seattle lack a target presence? Assuming Pat Noonan has anything left in the tank, his acquisition will help fill the hole, but at only 6 feet tall, he won’t fill that hole completely.
Final rude question that will only go to make yet another fan base hate my guts: How much will Philadelphia’s fans live up to their reputation and misbehave on Saturday. As anyone who has ever experienced the joy that is a game surrounded by Phillies, Flyers or Eagles fans knows, Philadelphia sports fans are pretty much the closest thing American sports have ever had to compare to outright hooligans. When you combine Philly’s vast heritage of sporting misbehavior with the kind of “faux-hoolie wannabe chic” that has emerged in some of MLS’ newer markets, it will likely prove a combustable mix. Will merely wearing an opposition jersey make you a target for abuse or violence as it does at nearly any other Philly venue? Probably. Hell, I’ve even been abused for wearing Nationals gear at a meaningless Nats-Phils game at Citizens Bank back when the Phils weren’t that good. Why bother abusing Nats fans, really? We get it. Our team sucks. We don’t need to be yelled at.