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. Tim Howard says Frank Lampard should leave Man City, start MLS season with NYCFC

    Dec 20, 2014, 10:54 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE

    Howard doesn’t think Lampard will start the MLS season with NYCFC, although he says he should.

  2. Report: Canadian international Doneil Henry to join West Ham United, pending work permit

    Dec 20, 2014, 9:51 PM EST

    Doneil Henry, Toronto FC (left) Doneil Henry, Toronto FC (left)

    Doneil Henry is reportedly close to joining West Ham, which is a surprise, to say the least.

  3. Brendan Rodgers will give Raheem Sterling a period of rest after Christmas

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:46 PM EST

    Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC Raheem Sterling, Liverpool FC

    After logging lots of miles the last 16 months, Raheem Sterling is going to get a short rest very soon.

  4. New York City FC now focusing on Queens, Brooklyn in search for stadium site

    Dec 20, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    Yankee Stadium Yankee Stadium

    NYCFC won’t be calling the Bronx home, but they’re still hopeful a deal can be done elsewhere in the city.

  5. Arsene Wenger says Arsenal could spend big in January, if the deals are right

    Dec 20, 2014, 7:13 PM EST

    Arsenal Training Session Arsenal Training Session

    Arsene Wenger says he’s not cheap, and that you should join him for a night out if you don’t believe him.

  6. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Barcelona keep Real Madrid close; Roma fall further behind Juventus

    Dec 20, 2014, 5:56 PM EST

    Luis Suarez, FC Barcelona Luis Suarez, FC Barcelona

    Barcelona are keeping things tight in Spain, while Roma are losing sight of Juventus once again.

  7. Real Madrid outclass San Lorenzo, win 2014 Club World Cup

    Dec 20, 2014, 4:33 PM EST

    Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final Real Madrid v San Lorenzo - FIFA Club World Cup Final

    Four trophies in one calendar year — it’s a good time to be Real Madrid.

  8. Stuttgarter Kickers forward scores match-winner wearing heart defibrillator (video)

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:42 PM EST

    mdzol.com mdzol.com

    After collapsing on the field in a game back in July 2013, Engelbrecht had undergone four heart surgeries to get back on the pitch.

  9. Premier League Sunday preview: Loaded morning sees Tyne-Wear Derby and Liverpool vs. Arsenal

    Dec 20, 2014, 3:16 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-SUNDERLAND-NEWCASTLE Getty Images

    Things are going to be extra intense all Sunday morning, so put on a pot of coffee and enjoy the rush.

  10. Bundesliga wrap: Robben keeps up Bayern’s history-making pace, BVB falls… again

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:25 PM EST

    1. FSV Mainz 05 v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Pep Guardiola’s side carries a gaudy plus-37 goal differential, is 9-0 at home and has five wins and three draws on the road.

  11. Roberto Martinez “very disappointed” as Everton’s inconsistency continues

    Dec 20, 2014, 2:15 PM EST

    Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his "transition period" seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.) Getty Images

    Martinez can’t put his finger on Everton’s struggles, but does think his side must defend better.

  12. Stoppage time goal decides inaugural Indian Super League title in front of nearly 37,000 in Mumbai

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:40 PM EST

    Closing Ceremony Of Indian Super League Football Tournament Getty Images

    Mumbai was the home of the title match, with Atletico de Kolkata knocking off the Kerala Blasters 1-0.

  13. Premier League roundup: Goals galore as Saints, Tottenham, QPR, Man City win

    Dec 20, 2014, 1:33 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-CRYSTAL PALACE

    Seven games took place in the PL on Saturday. Here’s videos, analysis, recaps and more.

  14. VIDEO — Christian Benteke turns Evans inside out to give Villa a 1-0 lead over Manchester United

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:45 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester United  - Premier League Getty Images

    Benteke dances for space before lashing a curler into the goal to give Villa a 1-0 lead. It’s one of those “Why we watch” goals.

  15. WATCH: Match of the Day – Recap Saturday’s madness in the Premier League

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:40 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Match of the Day begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch it live online, here.

  16. VIDEO: Tottenham Hotspur’s Erik Lamela scores stunning goal

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:34 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Watch Lamela scored a stunning strike to give Spurs another win.

  17. After “two points dropped” at Aston Villa, Wayne Rooney says media was driving title talk

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    United captain Wayne Rooney wasn’t interested in discussing his club’s failure to keep up with Manchester City.

  18. Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Burnley: Lamela’s stunner seals win for Spurs

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:13 PM EST

    Tottenham Hotspur v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs seal third-straight win in all competitions to move up to sixth.

  19. West Ham United 2-0 Leicester City: Carroll, Downing have Hammers blowing bubbles

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EST

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    The Foxes are six points back of safety and share the worst goal differential in England’s top flight (minus-14).

  20. Queens Park Rangers 3-2 West Bromwich Albion: Austin the hat trick hero

    Dec 20, 2014, 12:03 PM EST

    Queens Park Rangers v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    Incredible comeback from 2-0 down seals yet another home win for QPR.

Featured video

Man United thrash Liverpool