Week 7 of the 2015 MLS season is upon us (actually, it kicked off Thursday night), and surprise surprise, the best matchups of the weekend lie out west in the wild, wild Western Conference. This weekend brings us a pair of matchups between teams could potentially meet one another in the conference finals, or each miss the playoffs altogether. Oh, MLS parity, you make predicting these games so difficult.
Predictions record through Week 6: 13-18 (It all started so well in Weeks 1 and 2)
If you’re to watch just five games this weekend — not that you’re limited to five, of course — might I recommend the following five:
Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 9:30 pm ET, MLS Live)
Right off the bat, RSL look to have the upper-hand in this one, as Pedro Morales is suspended for this kick to the…middle regions…of Adam Jahn last week. So, in a game where the ‘Caps would have actually had the kind of space in midfield and passing lanes on which Morales thrives — RSL, playing at home — they’ll be without their midfield maestro.
Speaking of maestros named Morales, is RSL’s Javier playing the best soccer of his MLS career? That’s a scary thought (for opposing teams), but he might just be. If not for his early season performances, RSL could be far adrift the West’s playoff places right now. That said, he’ll have his hands full in this one with Matias Laba and Russell Teibert staring him down.
Prediction: RSL 2-1 Whitecaps
LA Galaxy vs. Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live)
These aren’t three-years-younger you’s LA Galaxy and Sporting KC teams. No, neither side is a shoo-in for the playoffs this year, but they’re simultaneously not the worst bet in the world to make it to MLS Cup. They’re not bad teams, they’re just in transition.
The Galaxy can’t be a complete team, no matter how hard they try, until Steven Gerrard arrives in July. Until then, Juninho might have a different midfield partner every single week. That spells a weakness. Meanwhile, Sporting lost Ike Opara, their leading scorer and star defender, for quite a long time this week. Struggling to create chances + more defensive turnover + on the road = more trouble for SKC.
Prediction: Galaxy 2-0 Sporting KC
FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC (Saturday, 8:30 pm ET, MLS Live)
It’s astounding how much FCD rely on Mauro Diaz to bring the calm and stability to their entire team. Without the Argentine playmaker, simple things like not giving the ball away, building through the midfield and creating goal-scoring chances are next to impossible for them.
Unfortunately for them, it gets no better this week when the makeshift FCD midfield welcome Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou and Jonathan Osorio to town. Yeah, good luck not getting ripped to shreds on counter attacks starting in the middle third. Jozy Altidore will have more chances than he knows what to do with in this one. He’ll put at least two of them away.
Prediction: FCD 1-2 TFC
Columbus Crew SC vs. Orlando City SC (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)
While Crew SC haven’t exactly looked bad in any game this season, they’ve looked nowhere near as good as I know they can (and predicted they would). This is the week that they break out and blow somebody — an expansion team, granted — out of the water.
It’s taken Kei Kamara practically no time to find himself as a center forward once again, and the four-headed monster of Kamara, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay is just about in tune enough to put a crooked number on the scoreboard. I’m being conservative with my prediction of three goals, because it’s going to be more like four or five.
Prediction: Crew SC 3-1 Orlando City
New York Red Bulls vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Friday, 7 pm ET, UniMas)
On paper, it’s an easy Red Bulls win, but that’s the beauty of MLS — “supposed to be” and “should be” are your worst enemy. Matchup-wise, the ‘Quakes could give the Metro Bulls a difficult time on Friday night. Fatai Alashe is going to need some help in the heart of midfield, though, otherwise he’ll get overrun by a pair of U.S. internationals and Felipe.
Lloyd Sam is, again, the key for Jesse Marsch’s side. How he fares against Cordell Cato down the right wing and cutting in will tell us everything we need to know about in this one. OK, so maybe I have it down as an easy Red Bulls win, too, but don’t be shocked when this one comes back upside down as well.
Prediction: Red Bulls 2-0 ‘Quakes