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Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin O'Callaghan

Eoin has worked in sports broadcasting in Ireland as a researcher, reporter, presenter and producer. He is currently a soccer reporter/anchor with the Fox Soccer Report


5 Things To Watch For In MLS This Weekend

Written by on March 16, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Posted in Chicago Fire, FC Dallas, Los Angeles Galaxy, New York RB, Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Vancouver Whitecaps

 Can LA Keep Their Tradition Going?

If the LA Galaxy lose to DC United on Sunday, it will be the first time since their debut season back in 2001 that their first two league games ended in defeats. So, if you’re Bruce Arena you’re worried, right? Not really.

Traditionally, LA are slow starters. Last term, they won once from their opening three, the last  game of which was that thumping 4-1 loss to Real Salt Lake. From their first six fixtures, they racked up five goals. But there are other issues to contend with ahead of this weekend, namely the defeat to Toronto. It’s a fickle game.

In the first leg, the Galaxy came back from a 2-0 deficit at BMO Field receiving plenty of plaudits for their never-say-die spirit – a true sign of champions. When they lose 2-1 in the reverse fixture, the multitude of over-the-top adjectives that followed were nothing short of ridiculous.

Analysis paralysis. They played well and created chances. Inexperience at the back perhaps cost them though it’s fair to expect such a glittering array of attacking talent to finish off the opportunities that came their way. Ominously for the rest, the Galaxy continue to create. They won’t always have such an off day.

 Will Toronto’s Feel-Good Factor Last Beyond Saturday?

 Toronto FC find themselves in a strange place as they prepare for a trip to Seattle. A sense of optimism seemed to pour from players and fans in the aftermath of Wednesday’s win. Could it be that the Winter project is finally starting to click?

Or did TFC simply take advantage of their 6-day break between games? Sure, the victory provides momentum. The team has made history, becoming the first Canadian side to ever reach the final four of the Concacaf Champions League.

Ryan Johnson has continued where he left off last season – scoring and setting up goals. But LA were presented with numerous opportunities. The gamble in playing 3 centre-backs is a lack of protection in wide positions & through simple balls over the top.

Toronto’s non-existent offside trap almost conceded on at least three separate occasions. With Seattle’s ability to unlock defences and their abundance of diminutive game-changers, it will be interesting to see if TFC’s defensive positioning has been worked on. If not, they could come crashing back to reality.

 New York Need A New Attitude

 Thierry Henry’s forthrightness was refreshing to hear after the Red Bulls’ 2-1 opening weekend loss to Dallas. The Frenchman bemoaning the fact that the circumstances behind the defeat were all too familiar. He also expressed frustration at having to drop deep and try to orchestrate opportunities for himself – a sign his team-mates struggle with believing in a pre-arranged game-plan.

To Henry’s credit, he teed up Kenny Cooper quite wonderfully after quarter-backing close to the half-way line. But it was a struggle elsewhere. Markus Holgersson and Stephen Keel looked incredibly ropey at times – their decision-making costing NY both goals.

Dane Richards lasted just over half an hour while Lindpere was also brought off. With lots of pressure on a young goalkeeper too, there seems to be a weak foundation at New York.

As always, there’s an enormous burden on Henry to continuously deliver. But he can’t do it every week. The wide-men may have just had a bad day in Frisco, so too Juan Agudelo. For Hans Backe’s sake, let’s hope that’s all it was.      

 Can The Impressive Debutants Shine Again?

 It took Kris Boyd considerably longer to find a first MLS goal of the season than it did Sebastien Le Toux though both strikes showcased exactly the danger they bring to their respective sides.

Boyd nonchalantly glanced home a Khalif Alhassan cross to put the Timbers 2-1 up at home to Philly last weekend. Later on, he powered another header towards goal only to see it cleared off the line. With Alhassan looking lively on the right – lots of urgency and trickery – Boyd knows he’ll get quality crosses to feed off.

In Jack Jewsbury, Portland also possess someone who can whip in dangerous set-pieces (last term a perfect example of just how lucrative that can be). But Boyd’s presence is also unsettling. He attracts defenders which opens up space in other key areas.

Up against Jair Benitez and Ugo Ihemelu this weekend, Boyd should find the going tougher but don’t be surprised to see his name on the score-sheet once again.

For Le Toux meanwhile, the assignment is simple – push his team to their first ever MLS win on the road. 12 defeats from 17 away games last year. Just 11 goals scored and 31 conceded.

But Martin Rennie’s tenure in charge began encouragingly against Montreal. The defence had plenty of protection with Jun Marques Davidson and Gershon Koffie impressing as a deep-lying midfield duo.

Both Young Pyo Lee and Alain Rochat gave the side another attacking element but the real game-changer was the side’s recruit from Philly. Le Toux has always had a gift for making intelligent, well-timed runs and with Eric Hassli able to lead the line well with a sharp touch and a keen ability to hold off defenders, Le Toux seems to have a perfect foil up top.

With a visit to Chivas set for Saturday, it will be interesting to see how Vancouver line up. Rennie deployed a 4-2-3-1 against the Impact, on paper at least though Le Toux was asked to roam. With Camilo or Chiumiento set to drop to the bench, perhaps this will be a tighter, rigid Whitecaps performance. Against a team who only conceded 17 times at home last term, the visitors will be happy with an ugly three points. So, maybe it’s a game set for Hassli to get off the mark rather than Le Toux adding to his dream start.

 Emotion Says: ‘The New Boys Must Win’. 

 The stage is set for Montreal to rack up a first win of the season. Close to 60,000 fans will be at the Olympic Stadium for Saturday’s clash with Chicago. They’ve just signed Bernardo Corradi. The Fire head into the game cold having not featured in the opening weekend. Jesse Marsch facing a side with whom he won three MLS Cups as a player. But that’s emotion.

Let’s talk logic. The performance against Vancouver was lacking in verve and energy. The Impact were ponderous, their decision-making not sharp enough. The second goal they conceded was a perfect example. Justin Mapp in a good position, 35 yards out, looking for a pass. Josh Gardner getting forward from left-back was out wide, in space. Mapp dwelt too long, Hassli made the steal and six passes later, Vancouver were 2-0 up.

Higher up the pitch, there needed to be more anticipation, players on their toes, looking to make angles. In transition, the Impact were frenzied. On the back-foot, unsure of positioning and whether or not to go with runners. But for long periods, they were in the game. And certain problems are sometimes only rectified with experience.

The double-threat Chicago possess is Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko – the latter scored just once last term but racked up 6 assists and developed a fruitful partnership with the lightning-fast Oduro. Allowing either player freedom to create and penetrate will lead to problems for Montreal. They need to be a collective unit when defending and avoid the basic errors that cropped up last weekend.

Get a solid foundation in place and allow the likes of Sanna Nyassi time to get on the ball. In front of their own fans, they also need to take some risks. A crowd feeds off positive energy on the pitch, usually because their team is creating chances. If Montreal can’t do that, the home advantage won’t lead to much. 

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4 responses to “5 Things To Watch For In MLS This Weekend”

  1. tim villarreal says:

    i really thing LA will struggle defensively without Omar G…that Meyers just won’t do…

  2. Jeepers says:

    Nice article, Eoin. Phila Union supporter here, and when I found out Portland had signed Boyd, I was excited for them. Of course he would be the one to score against us….my money is on Boyd netting at least 15 this season. What do you think he’ll put up?!/@jeepsLFC

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    Boyd is definitely a formidable presence who can poach. But having dipped in form upon leaving Rangers, what would it say about the MLS (and its defenders), should Boyd hit 15-20 for a few seasons?

  4. Al Harris says:

    That MLS defenders are just as bad as SPL defenders? Although at least they probably get their paychecks on time so that’s likely a plus.

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