By Kyle McCarthy
Considering all of the talking points in Toronto FC's 2-1 win over Philadelphia last night, the Forecast can't help but offer a few brief notes before delving into the Week 4 slate.
Philadelphia deserved at least one point: The Union offered more to the match than TFC did, particularly when the sides played 11-v-11 during the first half. When Philly obtains the ball, they pose a threat because the midfielders combine well and Roger Torres offers plenty of creativity in the final third. They just couldn't find a way onto the ball consistently when reduced to ten men.
As the captain of a young side, Danny Califf needs to cut out the tomfoolery: The former U.S. centerback makes too many rash decisions inside his defensive third – witness his dreadful backpass and his subsequent forearm shiver to Julian de Guzman to earn a red card late in the first half – and often gets punished for them.
It's probably time for Peter Nowak to start considering a goalkeeping change: Mistakes are part and parcel for a young goalkeeper, but Chris Seitz has made three significant gaffes in the past two weeks and the pattern simply can't continue. Seitz's two mistakes at BMO Field – fumbling home a rather tame Dwayne De Rosario free kick and hauling down O'Brian White to concede the decisive penalty kick – handed TFC two goals it wouldn't have procured otherwise.
TFC looked organized defensively for the first time this season: The Reds were all over the shop in their opening two defeats, but they defended as if they had a common idea about how to proceed against the Union. For a Toronto FC back four, that counts as a step forward.
Mo Johnston needs to go shopping for more fullbacks in the summer: Maxim Usanov looked the better of the two flank defenders, but that probably isn't a good sign when Philly left back Jordan Harvey eluded the Russian on the Union's goal and Preki decided to pull him off at halftime. Raivis Hscanovics raised significant questions about his future at this level after a second consecutive poor performance and deserved a red card for his ridiculous challenge on Cristian Arrieta in the attacking third early in the first half.
While TFC may have secured all three points, the performance didn't deserve them: TFC submitted a terrible first-half performance devoid of cadence in midfield and incisiveness up front, but recovered enough in the second half to grab the result. As Preki told reporters after the game, TFC may have won on Thursday night, but the Reds are far away from where they need to be right now.
Last week: 2/8 (25%)
For the season: 5/18 (28%)
Kansas City @ Seattle – 3:00p.m. – Goal.com Preview
Kansas City travels to Qwest Field in a match that should provide a glimpse into whether the Wizards are a team that can compete over the long haul. Kansas City constructed its tactical approach – a rather direct 4-3-3 with an emphasis on high pressure – to suit the narrow confines of CommunityAmerica Ballpark in its first two matches. Those tactics may not translate well to the wider, faster track in Seattle, especially with Sounders FC's preference to play with plenty of width through the midfield. Wizards fullbacks Roger Espinoza and Michael Harrington must assume responsibility for corralling Freddie Ljungberg and Steve Zakuani on the flanks, though it's not unreasonable for Kei Kamara and Ryan Smith to drop a bit more deeply to make it five men through the middle and provide additional defensive support. Seattle often struggles to break down resolute teams at home and the Wizards haven't conceded yet this season, but Kansas City's transition to the larger surface should give Seattle a chance to grab all three points.
Prediction: Seattle win.
Chivas USA @ Houston – 4:00p.m. (Telefutura) – Goal.com Preview
No club is looking forward to the Dynamo's new stadium more than Chivas USA. The Red-and-White has never won in Houston and hasn't scored at Robertson since July 8, 2006. In addition to the venue-specific woes, Chivas USA hasn't defeated the Dynamo in the past nine regular season meetings. As he attempts to reverse the trend, Red-and-White boss Martin Vasquez told a group of coaches this week that he plans to deploy his side in a 4-5-1 formation at the weekend, according to ESPN Los Angeles. Stifling the game probably represents Chivas USA's best chance to emerge with a result with Houston struggling to find healthy bodies in attack. Brian Ching (left hamstring strain), Luis Angel Landin (suspended) and Cam Weaver (right knee strain) are all sidelined, so Brian Mullan could partner Dominic Oduro to form the makeshift front two. Selection problems or not, the Dynamo should find a way to collect all three points.
Prediction: Houston win.
Chicago @ D.C. United – 7:30p.m. – Goal.com Preview
United faces a defensive crisis heading into the contest with Dejan Jakovic (suspended) and Juan Manuel Pena (left hamstring strain) unavailable. With the usual starting central duo absent, Carey Talley should partner Julius James in the heart of the defense with Devon McTavish deployed at right back. In order to take advantage of a back four that hasn't played together frequently and a D.C. defense that has already shipped nine goals this season, Chicago will have to ensure Patrick Nyarko – assuming he shakes off a right ankle sprain to start – receives a steady supply of the ball to run at the United defenders relentlessly. Providing Brian McBride with ample service would aid the proceedings as well, particularly with James prone to make iffy challenges and decisions. Chicago, however, isn't the same team without Logan Pause (left knee sprain) and John Thorrington (left quadriceps strain) and could be exposed in midfield if United offers enough industry in the center of the park. All things considered, this looks like a game where United can grab its first point of the season.
FC Dallas @ New York – 7:30p.m. – Goal.com Preview
New York suffered its first setback in the Hans Backe era with last Saturday's meek 2-0 defeat at Chivas USA. The second cross-country flight in as many weeks certainly played a role in the loss, but the Red Bulls will have to improve substantially in order to obtain all three points against FCD. After giving away a pair of poor goals at the Home Depot Center, New York will need to cut out the sloppiness with Jeff Cunningham poised to expose any soft spots. The key for New York is dictating how and where this game will be played. The Red Bulls will need to press the initiative and force the Hoops to play more frequently in their own half of the field in order to control the match. Joel Lindpere's movement and work rate should allow him plenty of space to create, while Juan Pablo Angel may look at the FCD back four and see this as his potential breakout match after three indifferent performances to start the season. Expect the Red Bulls to bounce back from the Chivas USA defeat with three points here.
Prediction: New York win.
New England @ San Jose – 10:00p.m. – Goal.com Preview
Steve Nicol's side travels to Buck Shaw Stadium in search of a third straight win. The Revolution's momentum, however, may be tempered by Shalrie Joseph's absence with a right hip flexor strain. Without Joseph unavailable for the third time in four matches, the Revs will have to exhibit extra care on the ball in order to maintain some semblance of possession. A killer pass here or there may have an impact as the Earthquakes fielded both starting fullbacks and defensive midfielder Brandon McDonald in Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup play-in game defeat to Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks. Ramiro Corrales, in particular, will have to pick up the right spots tactically in order to mitigate Sainey Nyassi's presence on the right wing. New England won this fixture last season in a drab 1-0 affair to open the 2009 season, but San Jose should bring some confidence into the match after grabbing all three points in Chicago last weekend and should find a way to snatch a point.
Real Salt Lake @ Los Angeles – 10:30p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel) – Goal.com Preview
The onus falls on Real Salt Lake as the Claret-and-Cobalt travels to this MLS Cup rematch against in-form Los Angeles. In order breach the Galaxy defense for the first time this season, RSL will need Javier Morales to find a creative way to force Donovan Ricketts (three saves in three matches) into action. Relying on Morales could be difficult after the Argentine schemer underwent an MRI on Monday after coming out of last weekend's 2-2 home draw with Seattle with an adductor strain, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. With Morales listed as questionable and potentially hampered if he does play, Andy Williams bears more of the creative onus, particularly with Ned Grabavoy ruled out for four-to-six weeks with a right MCL sprain. RSL's job isn't done if it can find a way through the stingy Galaxy back four because it will also have to limit the in-form Edson Buddle (MLS-leading five goals) and quell Landon Donovan in order to emerge with points. Too many tasks for one night, it seems.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.
Toronto FC @ Colorado – 5:00p.m. – Goal.com Preview
The schedule makers didn't do the Reds any favors by sending them a mile high after Thursday night's 2-1 victory over Philadelphia. TFC simply doesn't have the strength in depth – or the strength in the starting XI, for that matter – to turn around and play two games in four days, particularly with the second match at altitude. Colorado should try and keep the tempo high to stretch out and tire the visitors, though the bread-and-butter approach of getting it wide and getting it into the penalty area should be more than enough to collect all three points. Even with the rigors of Tuesday's U.S. Open Cup play-in game victory in Kansas City in mind, the Rapids should emerge with a win here given TFC's quick turnaround and its indifferent performance on Thursday night.
Prediction: Colorado win.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page.