Seattle hosts Kansas City in the premier match of tonight’s MLS half-dozen; thumb-nail sketches of the set (with games ranked in the order of wow-factor, best ones first):
- Sporting Kansas City at Seattle:
We all realize the Kansas City of the last six weeks was not the Kansas City of the first six weeks. Still, for a Sounders side battling a six-game winless streak, the high-pressure outfit from Livestrong Sporting Park is hardly a team they’d like to face. But there it is for Seattle, which gets critical defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso back for tonight’s test at CenturyLink Field.
Alonso, a quick-footed exercise in ball-winning determination, leads MLS in tackles. He is also the Sounders’ top midfield passer, with 546 completed and an 81.1 passing percentage.
- New York at Vancouver:
Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez are out for New York, and so is the team’s top center back, Wilman Conde. Manager Hans Backe has preferred to be cautions with Conde, who is just back from injury and probably not excited about the artificial turf of BC Place. So the Red Bulls will be defensive, look to nick the Whitecaps on counters and bide their time for this weekend’s big home match against MLS East rival D.C. United.
The Whitecaps have won two in a row and are undefeated in their last four.
- Los Angeles at Real Salt Lake:
A year ago, this would have been a premier MLS matchup, bathed in marquee lights and given the extra PR treatment from league HQ. This year? RSL is pulling its weight, but the champs have been shockingly poor. The Galaxy does, at least, have a little spindly sprout of momentum from a weekend win over Portland. No offense to anyone, but facing Portland at home is hardly the same as facing RSL at Rio Tinto.
RSL’s Kyle Beckerman, having his best season among a whole bunch of them, against Juninho and David Beckham (pictured) right in the center of the park, is the matchup to monitor in this one.
- Toronto at Houston:
Toronto’s season has officially become an exercise in the surreal. A historically pitiful losing streak to begin 2012, a coaching change that could indicate a shift in essential personnel and tactical philosophy (yes, again), and now an embarrassing trio of player arrests for late-night nonsense has spun this one into theater. So, good luck at BBVA Compass Stadium, where Houston is 3-0-1 this year.
- San Jose at Colorado:
The quirky scheduling of domestic soccer required San Jose to play two matches in three nights (one in league play, one in Open Cup competition) in late May – and then take a three week break. Naturally. So, suffice to say the Earthquakes are rested, and they’ve got three players back from injury and international duty who will add spice to the mix: leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, important center back Victor Bernardez and midfielder Shea Salinas.
- Montreal at Chivas USA:
If I devoted enough time for a PhD dissertation on the matter, I don’t think I could explain how Chivas has a very fashionable 3-1-2 record on the road and yet an implausible 1-6-1 mark at home. Their next chance to improve on that oddest of statistical oddities is tonight against expansion Montreal, whose record is exactly the reverse, 3-1-2 at home, 1-6-1 on the road.