Skip to content

MLS Week 4 Preview: Toronto’s test at Real Salt Lake highlights nine-match weekend

Mar 28, 2014, 12:28 AM EST

Michael Bradley, right, and Jermain Defoe are two of the most expensive players in MLS history. They'll team up to help Toronto win it all in 2014 and beyond. AP

The fourth week of Major League Soccer’s 2014 season begins at on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern in Washington, D.C., with the week’s NBCSN game kicking off a nine-match slate that concludes Sunday in New York. Previewing a round headlined by feature battles in Utah and Seattle, here is our quick look at the coming weekend of MLS action.

Note: All rankings reflect PST’s weekly MLS Power Rankings.

NBCSN’s GAME OF THE WEEK
#19 D.C. United vs. #15 Chicago Fire (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern, NBCSN/NBC Live Extra)
Last week: D.C. lost at Toronto, 1-0; Chicago drew with New York, 1-1

Oh, D.C. United – where even the steps forward are relative ones. Ben Olsen’s team made strides between weeks one and three, but last week at BMO Field, they still looked a little too much like last year’s unfortunate record setter. But Chicago at home? It’s one of those “if we can’t win this one, we’re in real trouble” games.

While the Fire has a defense pairing (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Bakary Soumaré) that can handle U.S. international striker Eddie Johnson, is doesn’t have a midfield that’s going to blow through D.C.’s like Toronto’s Michael Bradley-Jonathan Orosio pair did last week. And until 2013 MVP Mike Magee rounds into form, Chicago’s relying on pure opportunism for goals.

In theory, the Fire can be had. Whether D.C. can do it will tell us a lot about their offseason makeover.


THE OTHER GAME YOU JUST CAN’T MISS
#2 Real Salt Lake vs. #1 Toronto FC (Saturday, 9:30 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: RSL drew with LA, 1-1; Toronto beat D.C. United, 1-0

With apologies to Seattle, here’s Ryan Nelsen’s first big test of the season. We saw the adjustments LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena made going into Rio Tinto, shifting from a flat 4-4-2 to a diamond midfield to go like-for-like against the Western Conference champions. We also know Ryan Nelsen is unlikely to change out his flat 4-4-2, given he used it against D.C.’s diamond last week.

Perhaps is won’t matter. Reds are comfortable playing without the ball and, thanks of Jermain Defoe, incredibly dangerous when breaking on opponents – an approach that could replicate the goal LA used to get a draw on Saturday. But is this team really good enough, drilled enough, to match up with RSL? Given Real Salt Lake will be missing Joao Plata, that may not be as tall a task as it was last week, but where LA’s familiarity was so important to their result in Sandy, Toronto will be making their first trip to Utah under Nelsen.

OKAY, SO THERE ARE THREE YOU CAN’T MISS
#7 Seattle Sounders vs. #3 Columbus Crew (Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: Seattle won in Montréal, 2-0; Columbus beat visiting Philadelphia, 2-1

This new look Columbus team on CenturyLink’s turf? This could be fun, but it could also be a problem for Gregg Berhalter if Seattle sticks with their 4-3-3, one which often saw wide attackers Lamar Neagle and Kenny Cooper play relatively narrow. If Seattle persists with that approach on Saturday, they should be able to press the back three the Crew use in possession; at least, they should be able to do so more effectively than the Union.

Seattle’s three-man midfield will also be able to devote somebody like Andy Rose (or, a healthy Brad Evans) to marking Columbus focal point Federico Higuaín as he roams around the middle. If the Sounders can use that and some pressure to can generate transition chances, they may be able to take advantage of a Crew central defense that had an up-and-down day against the Union.


BE AN MLS ULTZY AND EMBRACE
#16 New York Red Bulls vs. #14 Chivas USA (Sunday, 3:00 p.m. Eastern, UniMas)
Last week: New York drew at Chicago, 1-1; Chivas USA lost at Dallas, 3-1

New York hasn’t looked good in its first three games yet gets a golden chance to get their first win against the visiting Goats. While Chivas USA showed promise over their first two games, last week’s match in Dallas was a minor wake up call. Though its played better than New York over the season’s first three weeks, Chivas’s cross-country trip to a reigning Supporters’ Shield-winner that needs a victory sounds like a recipe for Red Bull success.


GAMES THAT SHOULD BE TELLING
#11 Colorado Rapids vs. #4 Sporting Kansas City (Saturday, 6:00 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: Colorado beat Portland, 2-0; Sporting down San Jose, 1-0

Two teams that have performed below their 2013 selves meet at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, with neither Colorado nor Sporting having scored from open play this season. The defending champions’ tallies have come from a corner and a penalty conversion, while the Rapids’ three goals have all come from the spot. Whichever team finds last season’s attack first will have the edge in Commerce City.

#12 Vancouver Whitecaps vs. #4 Houston Dynamo (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: Vancouver drew at New England, 0-0; Houston had the week off to enjoy its 2-0-0 start

Houston’s slow central defense will be tasked with containing Darron Mattocks, Russell Teibert and (later) Kekuta Manneh. Playing two in the middle, they’ll also need to match up against a trio of Nigel Reo-Coker, Matías Laba, and Pedro Morales. On the strangest surface in the league, one the Dynamo only visit once every two seasons, this looks like another potential home win for the Whitecaps. Houston’s main saving grace: They’ve had two weeks to prepare for this challenge.

#8 FC Dallas vs. #13 Portland Timbers (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: Dallas posted a 3-1 win over visiting Chivas USA; Portland lost in Colorado, 2-0

Óscar Pareja saw Adam Moffat and Andrew Jacobson leave last week’s win with injuries, a midfield problem compounded by Hendry Thomas’s stoppage time red card. Against one of the most possession-sensitive teams in the league, FCD may be hamstrung in the middle, making it all the more important Mauro Díaz finds a way to deal with the foul machine that is Diego Chara. Portland will be without Donovan Ricketts, suspended for two games after last week’s red card. Fabian Castillo’s stomach will be thankful for that.


GAMES THAT WILL ALSO HAPPEN
#5 Philadelphia vs. #18 Montréal (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: Philadelphia lost in Columbus, 2-1; Montréal fell at home to Seattle, 2-0

Nothing we’ve seen over the first three weeks says Montréal will mount much of a challenge. Then again, we didn’t see the suspended Marco Di Vaio over the first three weeks. Against defenders Amobi Okugo and Aaron Wheeler, Di Vaio’s presence will put pressure on the Union’s midfield to cut off access from Montréal’s Hernan Bernardello and Patrice Bernier. If they don’t limit that supply, the Impact could snare its first points of the season.

#10 San Jose vs. #17 New England Revolution (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. Eastern)
Last week: San Jose lost at Sporting, 1-0; New England drew at home with Vancouver, 0-0

A team that hasn’t scored all season flying cross-country to try to beat Víctor Bernárdez and Clarence Goodson? Good luck with that. Sure, it could happen, but given what we’ve seen from San Jose through four tough games — matches against RSL, Toluca (twice), and Sporting in which the team has emerged with only a -1 goal difference — a No. 10 ranking seems low. San Jose, probably better than that evaluation hints, should win this one.

Latest Posts
  1. David Moyes earns first win as Real Sociedad manager

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:10 PM EST

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Elche FC - La Liga Getty Images

    A Carlos Vela hat trick helped the ex-Manchester United manager earn his first win in La Liga.

  2. Falcao and Rojo ready to return for United against Hull City

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:15 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-WEST BROM-MAN UTD Getty Images

    Loius van Gaal’s side received a huge boost with the news of the return of injured stars Radamel Falcao and Maros Rojo.

  3. Red Bulls’ season could rest on the shoulders of Tim Cahill

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:05 PM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    With Bradley Wright-Phillips out due to yellow card accumulation, it could be up to Tim Cahill to produce for New York.

  4. Real Madrid release statement criticizing Platini’s comments

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:10 PM EST

    FBL-EURO-2016-POR-ARM Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo’s club was upset after the UEFA president said he believed a world champion should win the Ballon d’Or.

  5. Can Thibaut Courtois surpass Manuel Neuer as the world’s best?

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:04 PM EST

    Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    According to Gary Neville, there may soon be a changing of the guards for best goalkeeper in the world.

  6. Arsene Wenger: Gunners to buy during transfer window

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:13 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-MAN UTD Getty Images

    No team has been hit harder by injuries than Arsenal, who will look to bolster their squad during the January transfer window.

  7. UEFA schedules disciplinary hearing after pitch invasions at Spurs match

    Nov 28, 2014, 5:20 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-PARTIZAN Getty Images

    Tottenham’s Europa League match against Partizan Belgrade was briefly suspended after multiple fans stormed the pitch.

  8. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Chelsea

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    FC Schalke 04 v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Sunderland face a daunting task as they host a Chelsea side that hasn’t lost since a friendly on August 3rd.

  9. Geoff Cameron talks Thanksgiving, Stoke City vs. Liverpool and more

    Nov 28, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    Cameron talks turkey, playing at one of his favorite stadiums, sickness bugs and more in his first piece for PST.

  10. Liverpool’s Rodgers calls himself the bettor’s choice to get fired

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:13 PM EST

    Bulgaria Soccer Champions League AP

    It’s no surprise that the Liverpool manager is feeling the heat after the Reds 12th place start.

  11. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Manchester United, Chelsea, QPR

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Rooney bagged what turned out to be the game-winner as United go fourth. Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out this weekend.

  12. VIDEO: Seattle Sounders supporters, culture getting just recognition

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:20 PM EST

    MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

    It’s a vibrant and informative take on the big following in Seattle, one that even Sounders haters can respect for its size, dedication and creativity.

  13. Top Five storylines for Week 13 of the Premier League

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:35 PM EST

    Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Top Four and Bottom Three match-ups take the battle for Premier League places to a different level this weekend.

  14. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 13

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 13.

  15. Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Hull City

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EST

    Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Hull City is looking for a historic win when they visit surging Manchester United on Saturday.

  16. Sure there’s “interest throughout Europe”, but where is the best spot for Jozy Altidore?

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:01 AM EST

    Altidore Getty Images

    We pick three clubs in three countries that could be a landing spot for the out-of-favor Sunderland striker in the January transfer window.

  17. Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:10 AM EST

    West Bromwich Albion's Reid shouts at Arsenal's Cazorla during their English Premier League soccer match in London Reuters

    The Baggies are coming off losses to Chelsea and Newcastle, and are four points back of eighth place Arsenal. The NBCSN match kicks at 745am ET.

  18. Pick just three?!? FIFPro World XI midfielder shortlist is Juve-heavy, really good

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:37 AM EST

    FC Internazionale Milano v Juventus - Serie A Getty Images

    Spain (4) and Germany (3) are the only nations with multiple members.

  19. Roy Keane’s time with Aston Villa has come to an end

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:35 AM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s legendary midfielder will stay in his assistant coach role for Ireland, spend more time with his family.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday