MLS preview: why the Hudson River Derby isn't this weekend's big game
Colorado and Dallas clash in game of the weekend
This is a real lip-smacker. Dallas have surged to 40 points, and stand clear at the top in the West. Colorado are on their tail, three points back but with three games in hand. Colorado are unbeaten in 14 games; Dallas have won four of the last five. Dallas score goals, and plenty of them; Colorado have the league’s best keeper and a superb defensive record, having conceded just 13 all season. Forget the derby in New York: this is the weekend’s biggest game.
It’s a difficult game to predict, not least because Dallas have the unfortunate ability to capitulate when things aren’t going well. Their home form is awesome, but all six of their defeats this season have come away from Toyota Stadium, and they haven’t managed a goal in any of them. When they’re good, they’re very good; when they’re bad, they’re horrible – the 5-0 recent thumping by Seattle a case in point.
But they come into this one after sneaking a 1-0 US Open Cup victory over their rivals Houston on Wednesday. Fabian Castillo followed up with a last-minute goal at BBVA Compass Stadium, and put Dallas into the last four.
Colorado, who didn’t play in the week, might offer a stylistic contrast from Dallas’s all-action style. In the absence of the influential Jermaine Jones, coach Pablo Mastroeni might be happy for his team to sit in, protect Tim Howard, and take their chances when they come.
“Possession can be your friend,” Mastroeni said in the week, “but it can also be your greatest enemy. As we’ve learned this year as well, some of our opponents’ best chances came from us turning the ball over in bad areas.”
The Hudson River derby, part three
Two weeks after New York City FC and the Red Bulls met in their second derby of the season, we’re at it again. The conference-topping NYC FC travel to Harrison for .
Don’t expect , though. The Red Bulls haven’t been in the best of form lately, and things came to a head with some choice words from their captain after their 2-2 draw against Philly last week. Dax McCarty slammed his team-mates for having “no spine”, and Sacha Kljestan said: “We played like boys, not men.”
Just in case his on-field tactics don’t work out, coach Jesse Marsch got the mind games in early, and encouraged Sunday’s referee to disregard any antics from NYC FC’s stars. “If [David Villa], Pirlo or Lampard get touched, they go down, they draw fouls, they draw yellow cards,” Marsch said. “It’s an epidemic across the league of these referees who just want to give the benefit of the doubt to star players. We’ll see who gets assigned to this game and we’ll see if he can handle the business.”
Vieira, on the other hand, has been relaxed in the build-up, and it’s easy to see why: his side have won five of the last six, and they’re three clear of Philly at the top of the East. Things seem to be coming together for the team: Frank Lampard has been among the goals, David Villa is as reliable as ever, and No1 draft pick Jack Harrison has brought energy and dynamism in midfield.
Lampard has been maligned, perhaps unfairly, for not playing enough since joining from Manchester City last year, but the former England star is in fine form. “I’m loving playing at the minute,” Lampard said. “Being injured is frustrating for anyone. I was particularly frustrated. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, and that’s contribute and score goals and help the team.”
Don’t bet against another goal on Sunday.
Orlando City’s new coach to watch the Lions
Orlando City have a new man at the helm. Jason Kreis, the former Real Salt Lake and NYC FC coach, earlier this week, and will watch from stands as the Lions aim to end their four-match winless run against Columbus. He takes over officially on Monday, so Bobby Murphy and Anthony Pulis will continue in the interim.
Kreis was unveiled at a press said he wasn’t concerned right now with results. He’s taking a longer-term view, and the message to fans was simple: don’t expect Orlando to win Cup any time soon. “The most immediate priority for me is an off the pitch issue,” Kreis said. “I need to get with the team and dictate to them and try to spell out clearly our vision for the club going forward, what it is going to mean to be an OCSC member, and ask the players if that’s what they want. If you want to be here it requires a certain amount of commitment and sacrifice, and, if you do not want to be here, we need to learn that quickly and move you on.”
Columbus, one place back of Orlando in ninth, have attempted to solve some of their defensive issues by signing Norwegian defender Nicolai Naess from Stabaek in Norway. The Crew have mined a rich seam in the Norwegian Tippeligaen – it’s where Steve Clark and Ola Kamara came from – but Naess won’t have completed his paperwork in time to feature against Orlando.
“I think Nicolai, for such a young age, has played a number of top-flight games in Norway,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said. “Being 23, we see a lot of potential in him. He’s not afraid to put his body in front of the ball and opponents. He plays with a lot of passion and a lot of effort while still being a skilled defender.”
An upgrade at centre-back was needed ever since Gaston Sauro sustained a knee injury in late May, but with Columbus riding a seven-game winless streak, more acquisitions are probably needed, particularly in attack. The Crew have won just three of 19 league games this season, and as we enter the second half of the season, the comments on their report card are clear: must do better.
Montreal look to get going at home against Philadelphia
It was big news in Quebec: Real Madrid were in town to train with the Impact. There were hugs between Zinedine Zidane and Didier Drogba, and the hope for Montreal is that some of Real’s stardust will rub off on a talented team that’s hit the skids in recent weeks.
“For the it means a lot that Real Madrid are training here, given the history of the club,” Drogba said. “It’s important to see how such a major team go about their work. Real Madrid is a really great club and an extremely prestigious one. It’s an honour to have them here.”
The Impact have gone off the boil after a good start to the season that saw them pick up four wins from the first six. Since then, they’ve managed just two wins from 13, which isn’t good enough for a team containing the quality of Drogba, Igancio Piatti, Dominic Oduro and Lucas Ontivero. Drogba’s form, though solid, has dipped from the earlier heights, and the team seems to be treading water just now. It’s imperative they do more at Stade Saputo.
“In the second half [of the season] we need to improve our home record, without question,” coach Mauro Biello said. “We have to be much better and maximize our points. If we can do that and continue the form we’ve had on the road, we’ll be contending with the top teams in the East.”
They take on a team that, alas, won’t be going to a third straight US Open Cup final. Fabian Herbers tied things up for Philly at the end of 90 minutes against New England Revolution on Wednesday, and after a goalless 30 minutes of extra time, it went to penalties. Andre Blake couldn’t repeat his heroics from earlier in the game, though, and when Brad Knighton stopped Sebastian Le Toux and CJ Sapong, the Revs went through to the semi-finals.
Coach Jim Curtin had only praise for Blake, named an All-Star earlier this week. “I don’t like when he makes saves, to be honest, because I feel there’s things we can do to prevent [the shots],” Curtin said. “At the same time, when we do get broken down, he’s there to bail us out. He’s playing in top form. There’s no surprise that he is an All-Star this year and will be starting against Arsenal.”
Real Salt Lake take on San Jose after historic clash against Inter
Fans of MLS may have perturbed to hear that RSL had pulled, and later reinstated, who was felt to be insufficiently positive about the team, but we got back to football matters on Tuesday when RSL entertained Inter in a mid-season friendly in Utah.
The game created a little piece of history: it was the first time Salt Lake have faced a European club at the Rio Tinto Stadium, and just the third time overall. Stevan Jovetic’s audacious last-minute backheel gave Inter a 2-1 win, but the game, which featured a number of Inter’s top stars, including Samir Handanovic, Miranda and Mauro Icardi, was notable for the performance of RSL’s youngsters, many of whom were called up from the USL affiliate Monarchs, and the eye-catching display of Jordan Allen, who opened the scoring in the first half.
“When he plays that position he does things differently than our other No10s,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said of the homegrown star. “We’re able to get in behind a little bit more and cause the defense some problems. Jordan is learning the things that he is able to be successful with. Now he’s able to play quicker. He’s learning really fast and I think his ceiling is really high and he’s getting better and better.”
In spite of some exciting attacking talent, RSL have cooled off just recently, and have just one win in seven. A gap is beginning to open up between them and the top three. “Right now, it’s a busy time of the year,” Cassar said. “It’s a time where we need to get results and get points and put ourselves in a position for the playoffs. I fully believe that if we take care of that, the other things will fall into line.”
The up-and-down Quakes are 6-7-6 this season, which is classic mid-table form, but such is the depth of quality in the Western Conference, they find themselves down in eighth, just two places off the bottom. And the evidence for Friday night’s televised clash points to a home win: the Quakes haven’t won away all season, and RSL are unbeaten at home.
Last week San Jose got their first win since June 25, a fiery 2-1 victory against Toronto, and coach Dominic Kinnear reckons that might kickstart their season. “Things were against us throughout the evening, but the attitude was fantastic,” Kinnear said. “This is the type of game that could certainly be a turning point.” The dubious red cards shown to Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero in the TFC were reported this week to have been rescinded, although we’re still waiting on official confirmation from the league.