September 21, 2012
A look at the upcoming games
Sporting Kansas City (16-7-6, 54 pts) @ Montreal Impact (12-5-3, 39 pts), 12:00 pm CT (KSMO, TSN)
Sporting Kansas City picked up two points on Supporters’ Shield leaders San Jose with Wednesday’s emphatic 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls, and will try to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games on Saturday afternoon against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. Montreal, who are seven points down in the Eastern Conference playoff race after losing two straight, are led by Italian Marco Di Vaio, who has scored in his last four games. The teams have met twice before this season, and home field has been anything but an advantage – the hosts have lost by two goals on both occasions, and Sporting’s 3-1 win on July 4 was the last time Montreal dropped points at home, giving them a six-game active winning streak at their refurbished home. Sporting will be missing suspended midfielder Roger Espinoza, but remain formidable on offense with CJ Sapong – who has scored in his last two games after netting the game-winner against the Red Bulls at midweek – and Kei Kamara, who also scored against the Red Bulls and has already exceeded his previous career high with 11 goals this season. Graham Zusi has recorded assists in five of his last six games to retake the league lead with 14. Sporting has won three straight on the road, and has the league’s best away record at 8-4-2. Wednesday’s win was goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen’s 12th of the season, and he is just two wins shy of the league single-season record with 16. Montreal also has benefitted from solid goalkeeping of late, with midseason signing Troy Perkins keeping clean sheets in two of his first five games. Perkins will back up a makeshift backline including youngster Jeb Brovsky replacing the injured Nelson Rivas and still-healing Justin Mapp on the left flank.
NY Red Bulls (14-8-7, 49 pts)@ New England Revolution (7-15-7, 28 pts), 6:30 pm CT (MSG, CSNNE)
The New York Red Bulls wrap up a forgettable but busy week Saturday night against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium, where they have not posted a win in ten years. On Wednesday, the Red Bulls suffered their first loss of the season at Red Bull Arena, 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City, and lost reigning MLS Player of the Week Thierry Henry to a postmatch single-game suspension for an apparent head butt on KC’s Kei Kamara. Henry scored the only goal in the Red Bulls’ 1-0 home win over the Revolution on April 28, but was not expected to factor into Saturday’s match in any case because of the artificial surface at Gillette Stadium. The Revs fell out of the 2012 playoff hunt with last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to DC United, but can still play spoilers in the MLS East, where the top six teams are separated by only nine points. Jerry Bengtson and Lee Nguyen scored to lift the Revs over the Red Bulls 2-0 on July 8. Kelyn Rowe opened the scoring for New England against DC in the 29th minute last Saturday, the team’s league-leading 19th goal within the first half hour of a match – a source of concern for the Red Bulls, who have been prone to early lapses the past month, and surrendered both goals to Kansas City within the first 19 minutes of Wednesday’s match.
Portland Timbers (7-14-8, 29 pts) @ Real Salt Lake (14-11-4, 46 pts), 7:00 pm CT (NBCSN)
Real Salt Lake can clinch a playoff berth with a home win over the Portland Timbers on Saturday night. While the Timbers are still looking for their first road win of the season, they were no pushovers on Wednesday night at Buck Shaw Stadium, getting two goals from Danny Mwanga and holding on to a two-goal lead into the final ten minutes of what turned out to be a 2-2 draw with the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes. Third-string goalkeeper Joe Bendik came up big for Portland, making five saves as the Timbers were outshot 23-7. RSL snapped a four-game winless slide with a 1-0 victory on September 1, but have not played a league match since. They have beaten Portland twice this season, by a combined score of 6-2. Scoring leader Alvaro Saborio, who has four goals against the Timbers this season, is questionable for Saturday after injuring his shoulder in Tuesday’s CONCACAF Champion’s League win over Tauro FC.
Columbus Crew (13-10-6, 45 pts) @ Chicago Fire (15-8-5, 50 pts), 7:30 pm CT (FSO, NBC5.2)
The Columbus Crew flirted with playoff position in the MLS East on Wednesday night, when they edged Chivas USA 1-0 on Justin Meram’s 89th minute goal, but fell back into sixth place a day later, when DC United defeated Philadelphia. Regaining that ground will be a challenge on Saturday, when they face the streaking Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. The Fire have won six of their last seven, and have turned into comeback artists, rallying to snatch three of those wins. They are confident and seem to have found the right chemistry by adding Chris Rolfe, Alex, Sherjill MacDonald and Alvaro Fernandez to their lineup for the stretch run. MacDonald and Fernandez have both scored twice, and Alex netted the game-winner in last weekend’s 3-1 win over Montreal. And newly-signed Mexican international Guillermo Franco is waiting in the wings.
San Jose Earthquakes (17-6-6, 57 pts)@ Seattle Sounders FC (13-6-5, 48 pts), 9:30 pm CT (CSNCA, KONG)
Seattle Sounders FC need only a win or tie against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday to book passage to the MLS Cup playoffs. The teams boast the league’s two most explosive scoring tandems. MLS Golden Boot leader Chris Wondoloski , who scored twice in the closing minutes to salvage a 2-2 draw with Portland on Wednesday, and Alan Gordon have combined for 33 of the league-leading Earthquakes’ 60 goals. Seattle’s dynamic duo of Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero have 25 goals between them, including Montero’s 1-1 equalizer against those same Timbers last Saturday. However, Johnson is suspended for Saturday due to yellow card accumulation. San Jose has already won the season series against Sounders FC, 1-0 March 31 at CenturyLink Field and 2-1 on Steven Lenhart’s stoppage time goal at Buck Shaw Stadium on August 11.
Toronto FC (5-17-7, 22 pts) @ LA Galaxy (14-11-4, 46 pts), 9:30 pm CT (TSN, KDOC)
Toronto FC has not won a game since July 18, and their chances of snapping that streak against defending champions the LA Galaxy on Saturday took a hit on Friday, when it was revealed that forward Eric Hassli will miss the match with an ankle injury. The French striker has three goals and two assists in only six games for the Reds, and is the third Toronto DP, after Danny Koevermans and Torsten Frings, to be sidelined by injury. The Galaxy had a scoreless CONCACAF Champions League draw at the Puerto Rico Islanders at midweek, but left the core of their lineup at home and should be at full strength front to back for a match that could clinch them a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. Landon Donovan is expected to return after a hamstring injury, and a gimpy ankle is not expected to keep David Beckham out of the lineup. Forwards Robbie Keane and Mike Magee are well-rested, as are defenders Sean Franklin and Omar Gonzalez, and starting netminder Josh Saunders. Toronto is coming off a stultifying 1-1 draw with Philadelphia, while the Galaxy have strung together three straight 2-0 wins in league play, and have lost only one of their last eight (6-1-1).