MLS week 19 preview: Lampard arrives in NY, more

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

For many Major League Soccer teams, Week 19 was the first time in a while that they’ve had full weeks of rest heading into their respective weekend match. Still, teams won’t quite be at full strength. 45 players are unavailable to their MLS teams this week as the CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage continues. The week is highlighted by a pair of significant clashes in New York.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Houston Dynamo, 11 p.m. Friday on Unimas

Dominic Kinnear hosts his old club for the first time since rejoining San Jose. Earlier this season, the Quakes won 1-0 in Houston.  Gold Cup absentees include Chris Wondolowski, Cordell Cato, and Giles Barnes, but not Brad Davis. Confusingly, after leaving USMNT camp with injury, Davis played last week for the Dynamo and is expected to play again. A win for San Jose would, briefly at least, lift them above Kansas City for the final playoff spot in the West.

New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution, 7 p.m. Saturday

The Revolution offered a unique season ticket package to their fans this year. In addition to tickets for all home games, fans were provided with a ticket and transportation to their game at Red Bull Arena. That should mean for a large contingent of traveling fans, if not as large as for last year’s Eastern Conference Championship. The Revs need all the support they can get right now; they are in the midst of a prolonged freefall. Despite their loss last week in Columbus, the Red Bulls have more to be happy about from their recent performances. They’ll be looking to avenge both last year’s result and a feisty 2-1 loss earlier this season.

Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers, 7 p.m. Saturday

No team in MLS is as hot as the Portland Timbers, who have six wins in their last seven matches. On Saturday, they take their form east to Philadelphia. The Union have shown signs of breaking out of their early-season malaise, but only briefly. Even if they manage to slow down the Timbers, they’ll still be looking up at the playoff places.

Orlando City vs. FC Dallas, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Dallas will make their first trip to Florida since the team was named the Burn. The Hoops’ season so far has been hit and miss; when they are on their game, with Mauro Diaz and Fabian Castillo wreaking havoc, they can be among the league’s best, but consistency is a problem. Orlando will have to make do without Kaka for the first time; he was suspended last week for a stomp that might have been a step in Salt Lake.

Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew, 8 p.m. Saturday

Montreal’s only road win of this year or last came earlier this season in Columbus. That should give them confidence as they turn to hosting the Crew. Columbus has scored more goals than any team in the Eastern Conference, but a goal differential of +1 and a 6-6-6 record suggest that they haven’t exactly been soaring. Just one point separates the Crew, in second, from the Red Bulls, in sixth.

Chicago Fire vs. Seattle Sounders, 8:30 p.m. Saturday

Seattle’s list of absentees seems to keep growing. Obafemi Martins is still hurt, Clint Dempsey and Marco Pappa are with their national teams, and Stefan Frei is “touch and go” for the game in Chicago with a shoulder injury suffered last week. The Fire certainly won’t mind, and can probably use the help to beat a team that is normally one of the league’s best.

Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. Saturday

The second match of this year’s Rocky Mountain Cup switches the venue to Colorado, where the Rapids are coming off a rare win. Those of you who remember the first match between these teams might wish you didn’t; it was a dull scoreless draw defined by a late missed penalty. I sincerely hope things will be better this time around, but these teams are near the bottom of the West for a reason.

New York City FC vs. Toronto FC, 3 p.m. on ESPN

After almost a year of waiting, and more than a little controversy, Frank Lampard will make his first appearance for New York City FC on Sunday. Lampard is hurt and will not play in what would have been his Bronx debut. Attempting to spoil the party will be Toronto, who have had their pace slowed up of late. A few weeks ago in Toronto, NYCFC was able to grab a 2-0 victory in a physical game. If they can repeat the feat, against a Reds side lacking Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, the two teams will be level on points. TFC has played two fewer games.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City, 9 p.m. 

For the first time this season, a Sunday game that isn’t nationally televised, at least in the U.S. Canadians will be able to watch the Whitecaps host Sporting KC. SKC’s point total would be good for second in the East, but they are clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot out West at the moment. Vancouver has done well at home this season, and will appreciate that it is not a trip to Colorado.

  • Johnny Feelgood

    Im getting emotional *sniff* …can’t wait to have a warm beer, chips and tell 9/11 jokes.

  • Smith

    It would be funny, if all the drama & all the intrigue & all the build up…if Lampard gets subbed out with a groin injury in his first game.