The Forecast previews the big clash Saturday night between Los Angeles and New York and surveys the rest of the weekend
The two conference leaders raise plenty of points worth discussing in the buildup to this glamorous affair. The Forecast breaks out the Friday Five to take a quick look at a few of them:
1. There is a modest amount of pressure on both teams to provide a showcase for the league: Los Angeles and New York sit comfortably alongside Real Salt Lake in the rather stratified upper crust of the league. With all of the stars on display in this anticipated clash and with the ESPN2 cameras beaming the game across the country, both sides need to produce a decent game to cement their places among the elite and show that MLS can offer up a good match under the bright spotlight.
2. Can Los Angeles mitigate New York's speed advantage?: Fast teams tend to give Los Angeles fits because they stretch the field and expose the Galaxy's general lack of pace. New York possesses plenty of quick players in the wide areas and up front. Los Angeles must do its best to set the tempo of the game – moderate at best – and take extra precautions to ensure the Red Bulls do not find much joy on the counter.
3. Is this the night Juan Pablo Ángel returns to form?: Ángel hasn't looked like himself since moving to southern California. Other Galaxy players have picked up the slack for Ángel's modest production (one goal and one assist in 520 minutes), but the former Red Bulls captain will want to bear some of the burden tomorrow night to show his former club that it made a mistake by cutting ties during the offseason.
4. Teemu Tainio's potential absence complicates New York's midfield balance: Tainio suffered a groin injury during Saturday's 1-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City to place his participation in doubt. The former Finnish international failed to join in with his teammates this week and trained off to the side on Thursday, but his status for tomorrow's match remains decidedly uncertain. New York coach Hans Backe could ask Mehdi Ballouchy (an idea floated by Backe himself on Thursday) or Carl Robinson to deputize if Tainio can't play, but the Red Bulls will miss his calm and composed passing at the bottom of their midfield diamond if he doesn't feature.
5. The cross-country road curse: No MLS team has managed to secure a victory this season after traveling across three time zones to play a road game, according Elias Sports Bureau's Peter Hirdt. In the previous 20 attempts, road teams have posted a 0-11-9 record with -19 goal differential (30 goals against, 11 goals for). Can New York break the hoodoo?
Last week: 5/9 (56%)
For the season: 20/58 (34%)
Philadelphia @ Portland – 10:30 p.m. ET (FOX Soccer) – Goal.com Preview
Can the Union's stout rearguard limit the Timbers' high-octane attack at JELD-WEN Field? It will have to adjust its usual approach to do so. Jordan Harvey will miss out through suspension after procuring a suspect red card in Saturday's victory over San Jose, but Philadelphia shouldn't miss too many steps at the back with either Gabriel or Michael Farfan set to deputize at left back. It may not matter in the end, though. Even if the Union cobbles together a good defensive effort, it likely won't prove enough to obtain a result in this intimidating environment.
Prediction: Portland win.
Chivas USA @ Real Salt Lake – 4:00 p.m. ET (Telefutura) – Goal.com Preview
This match represents a big test for both sides. Chivas USA enters this contest with a five-game unbeaten streak, but few observers remain convinced of the Red-and-White's credentials considering most of the results came against the likes of New England, Toronto FC and Vancouver. A victory over reeling Real Salt Lake would certainly boost Chivas USA's profile. As for the home side, RSL needs to send out a strong message regarding its own mentality in the wake of a difficult stretch last week. Bet on RSL to start a new home unbeaten run tomorrow afternoon.
Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.
Houston @ Toronto FC – 7:00 p.m. ET (GOL TV Canada) – Goal.com Preview
Houston has drawn all three of its away matches. Toronto FC has tied three of its five home encounters. It seems like the numbers are pointing in a particular direction here.
Seattle @ Columbus – 7:30 p.m. ET – Goal.com Preview
Sounders FC stumbled to a 2-1 defeat at D.C. United on Wednesday, but the late charge in that match could help Sigi Schmid's side as it continues its East Coast trek with a date at Crew Stadium. Mauro Rosales' hamstring injury, however, may limit the creativity at Schmid's disposal for this game against his resolute former club. In addition to the troubles facing Seattle as it attempts to figure out a way through the Crew back four, Sounders FC must also deal with battering ram Emilio Renteria up front. The signs don't bode particularly well for the visitors.
Prediction: Columbus win.
FC Dallas @ D.C. United – 7:30p.m. – Goal.com Preview
It will take some time for FCD to find its rhythm without David Ferreira in the fold. Eric Avila showed his quality in fits and starts in Sunday's 2-1 win over Los Angeles, but he must assume more responsibility ahead of this contest. If Avila can't pull the strings, FCD must use its blistering pace in the wide areas to run at a United side that does not possess a particularly strong pair of fullbacks given the injuries at that position in recent weeks. United, however, may now possess some confidence after holding off Seattle on Wednesday night and could push onward here if FCD here can't hit its top form.
Prediction: D.C. United win.
Colorado @ New England – 7:30 p.m. ET – Goal.com Preview
Hide the women and children: the meetings between these two sides always include a heavy dose of commitment and physicality. New England supplied neither of those traits in southern California last weekend, but the Revolution will look at this game as an opportunity to restore its confidence and renew its . After the debacle at Chivas USA, the Revs must take advantage of Colorado's midweek visit to Houston (a 2-1 victory aided by some Dynamo largesse) and the injury crisis ravaging through the Rapids' forward line – Omar Cummings (sprained ankle) is partnering Conor Casey (hamstring) in the training room these days – to snatch all three points.
Prediction: New England win.
Vancouver @ Chicago – 8:30 p.m. ET – Goal.com Preview
Chicago coach Carlos de los Cobos said he liked the contribution he received from the central midfield triangle of Corben Bone, Daniel Paladini and Gaston Puerari in Saturday's 1-1 draw with Houston and plans to keep the faith with the trio against the Whitecaps. If the Fire's central triangle can keep more of the ball, the move should pay off against a Vancouver side yet to pick up a point on the road.
Prediction: Chicago win.
New York @ Los Angeles – 11:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2) – Goal.com Preview
All eyes will inevitably focus on this marquee bi-coastal clash. The Forecast discussed the affair at length earlier in the column. Instead of belaboring the point and highlighting the problems road sides have faced in these sorts of clashes this year yet again, it's probably wise to just give the edge to the home side here.
Prediction: Los Angeles 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.