Philadelphia Union v Vancouver Whitecaps
Both sides got off the winning starts last week and both have a right to will good about their performances.
A home win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC was an emphatic one for Vancouver FC but this they have Saturday they are on the other side of the continent to play the Philadelphia Union.
Vancouver went into last week’s game with some injury problems to John Thorrington and Shea Salinas but neither has recovered and did not travel with the team.
Perhaps more worrying for the Whitecaps is the fact that they will have to field a new centre back combination with Jay Demerit and Michael Boxall both on international duty.
The Union had a very decent home record last season – away form was a different matter. No team in the Eastern Conference lost fewer (3) games at home than Philadelphia.
If Philadelphia are to improve and push for a play-off spot then they need to maintain last season’s strike rate – over to you Sebastien Le Toux – and significantly cut back on the goals against.
With that specific aim in mind the Union has 40 year old Colombian keeper Faryd Mondragon between the pipes after both Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton were allowed to leave after less than impressive showings last season.
The acquisition of the former Cologne and Galatasaray keeper is one of the most intriguing of this MLS season.
FC Dallas v San Jose Earthquakes
Dallas reached the MLS Championship match last season only to lose in extra time to Colorado Rapids. If they are to go one step further they will also have to negotiate a stiffer schedule given that they will also participating in CONCACAF Champions League as well.
Dax McCarty, Atiba Harris, Heath Pearce, Jeff Cunningham have all gone from last season’s side which means others will have to step up – who they will be we don’t know.
However, at this stage last season few could have anticipated the emergence of players such as David Ferreira, Brek Shea or Jackson either.
Kevin Hartman was the backbone of the side last season and he started this season the same way last weekend with several key saves that preserved a draw against the Chicago Fire.
Every season preview rightly noted the contribution of Chris Wondolowski to San Jose Earthquakes last season. Wondolowski emerged from almost goal-scoring obscurity to score a league best 18 goals.
Considering the Earthquakes only scored 34 in total the impact of a drop in Wondolowski’s production could be severe.
San Jose lost their opener to Real Salt Lake 1-0 at home in a downpour last weekend. Not a good result but far better than the year before when Real Salt Lake opened with a 3-0 win at San Jose.
Euro 2012 Qualifying
Wales v England, Group G
There is an obvious edge to this game given past history. However, even a Wales win would not miraculously put them back into contention in Group G.
With no points in three games this match about improving their overall position for future tournaments while pricking the English balloon on expectation at the same time.
England currently lies second to Montenegro by three points but the game on Saturday will be the one they have in hand. A win would put England top on goal difference while Montenegro does not play again until June when they are at home to Bulgaria.
With Gareth Bale out injured much of the attention has now been transferred to the midfield battle between Arsenal teammates Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere.
Some encouragement for Wales? This video is from 1980 when Wales beat England 4-1. Scoring England’s only goal was Paul Mariner.
England and Wales have only met twice since May 1984 and England has won both times.
Wales have lost their last four internationals, scoring just one goal in the process.
Norway v Denmark, Group H
The match has apparently been dubbed the “The Battle of the North” by Nordic media. Currently Norway is leading this group to the surprise of many.
The man leading the charge is Egil “Drillo” Olsen who is back as coach at age 68. Olsen has been a polarizing force with his views on how to play the game but few can argue with the results he achieved the first time around.
Under Olsen, Norway made to the finals of three major tournaments in the 90s which was an incredible achievement for a country with little footballing pedigree.
Going into this match both teams have injury concerns. Along with goalkeeper Jon Knudsen Norway will be without John Carew. Hannover striker Moa Abdellaoue is the likely replacement.
Denmark’s Nicholas Bendtner is a doubt while centre-back Simon Kjær is another problem for manager Morten Olsen.
USA v Argentina
The USA and Argentina both have regional tournaments coming this summer with the Gold Cup and the Copa America scheduled.
I understand that coaches and managers need games like this but I also think that the media and fans read far too much into the result of such matches.
It is as close to a certainty as you can find this weekend. Germany are 50/1 on (you put down $50 and you are right you get back $51) to beat Kazakhstan in Kaiserslautern.
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