Friday MLS Forecast: Week 21 - Bracing for the fallout

The Forecast contemplates the impact of Sporting Kansas City's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory over Seattle in midweek and flips through the rest of the weekend fixtures.
1. Sporting attempts to build on its Open Cup victory...: A title on home soil could certainly suffice as the high point for a campaign, but Peter Vermes' side will want to push onwards in its quest for postseason glory anyways. Wednesday night's victory over Sounders FC marked a first step toward goal. Now the onus falls on this youthful group to take the victory in stride and work even harder to make those postseason dreams come true. It isn't an easy brief to fulfill in light of the success already achieved.

2. ...while Seattle strives to use the defeat as further motivation: Circumstances – and the contentious decisions from Ricardo Salazar, of course – played a significant role in Sounders FC's defeat at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The lengthy affair could influence Sigi Schmid's team selection for a critical match at San Jose on Saturday night, but this group must use its Open Cup heartache to fuel its efforts to secure one of the top two spots in the Western Conference.

3. How long should a player sit for a headbutt?: After pondering the question this week, the MLS Disciplinary Committee decided to sit Montreal defender Nelson Rivas for three total games (one automatic, two additional) for his petulant strike against Philadelphia midfielder Antoine Hoppenot last weekend. The ban actually adhered to precedent after the three-match suspension handed to Real Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman for a similar offense last fall, but the sheer violence of Rivas' actions – though perhaps mitigated in part by Hoppenot's arm hook to prompt the melee – certainly could have prompted an additional game or two.

(Note: Though Rivas' treatment raised some eyebrows, the handling of two other incidents underscored the ongoing concerns about the consistency of the Disciplinary Committee's rulings: (1) the belated fine to San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski for his public comments about a dodgy call from the assistant referee in a 2-1 defeat at Vancouver in July in light of David Beckham's unpunished broadsides after the defeat in Seattle on Sunday and after pretty much every contentious decision that has gone against the Galaxy this season and (2) the staggering decision to overlook supplemental discipline for Victor Pálsson's nasty tackle on Boniek Garcia during Houston's 2-0 victory over New York last Friday.)

4. Troy Perkins, Donovan Ricketts now have a point to prove: The two veteran goalkeepers swapped addresses this week with Perkins assuming the number one shirt in Montréal and Ricketts now in Portland. In addition to the high-profile deal that basically proclaimed the Timbers' displeasure with his performance this season, Perkins found himself on the end of a rather harsh assessment from Timbers interim boss/technical director Gavin Wilkinson – "It's an upgrade," Wilkinson told the Oregonian. "Ricketts is a very good professional, a great person, and in my mind, a great goalkeeper." – on the way out of town. The upshot of the entire unseemly imbroglio: both men will have plenty of motivation to improve their spotty performances during the remainder of the season.

5. MLS makes sensible decision to postpone Columbus' match against Toronto FC: Crew midfielder Kirk Urso will be laid to rest in his native Illinois on Saturday afternoon. Those plans created logistical concerns for a group of coaches and players who were prepared to attend the funeral and play in the scheduled game against the Reds later that night. Instead of asking the Crew to charter a flight and play on short rest, MLS officials  – with TFC's consent – thankfully exercised some common sense and postponed the match to Aug. 22.

Last week: 4/8 (50%)
This season: 72/174 (41%)


Houston @ New York (8:00p.m., NBC Sports Network) match preview
Overview: A change in venue and an embarrassing defeat at BBVA Compass Stadium will inspire the Red Bulls to improve significantly for this tie. Dax McCarty's return from suspension should aid the efforts substantially, too.
Prediction: New York win.


Real Salt Lake @ Vancouver (7:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: These two sides met just a fortnight ago in Sandy under far different circumstances. Vancouver hasn't played a league match since that ill-fated affair unduly influenced by Jay DeMerit's hectic travel schedule. DeMerit will wish to atone for his errors on that night as the Whitecaps seek to close the eight-point gap between the two sides. One other note worth monitoring: Vancouver goalkeeper Brad Knighton will make his first MLS start for the Whitecaps in place of the suspended Joe Cannon.
Prediction: Vancouver win.

D.C. United @ Sporting Kansas City (8:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: Sporting cannot afford an Open Cup hangover with precious points at stake. United must do what Sporting does so well – keep the pressure and the tempo nice and high – to ensure it leaves LIVESTRONG Sporting Park with a share of the spoils.
Prediction: Draw.

Colorado @ FC Dallas (9:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: This affair represents the rubber match in a series that has seen both teams win away fixtures in somewhat surprising fashion. Colorado should hold some momentum coming into the match after snapping its six-match losing streak with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake, but FCD can lean on its decent road performance in a 1-1 draw at Portland to provide some impetus for its efforts.
Prediction: Draw.

Seattle @ San Jose (10:30p.m.) match preview
Overview: Frank Yallop and his players must have grinned a bit to see the energy exerted by Sounders FC in midweek. Sigi Schmid may keep the faith with some of his charges for this critical match, but he will likely freshen his starting XI up a bit as well. It will take more than a couple of pairs of fresh legs to find the necessary reserves of energy to cope with the combative Earthquakes on their home ground.
Prediction: San Jose win.


Chicago @ Philadelphia (7:00p.m., Galavision) match preview
Overview: Most of the attention falls on ex-Fire defender Bakary Soumare ahead of this affair. Soumare made his Union debut in a reserve league match at Montréal last weekend. This game may come a bit too soon for Soumare to feature in the starting XI, but his potential presence provides an interesting talking point nonetheless. Even if Soumare sits, Philadelphia should find a way to overcome Jack McInerney's one-match ban to secure the points against the Fire.
Prediction: Philadelphia win.

Montreal @ New England (7:00p.m.) match preview
Overview: Jerry Bengtson's expected return from his Olympic exploits will likely influence this match far more than Nelson Rivas' absence.
Prediction: New England win.

Los Angeles @ Chivas USA (11:00p.m., ESPN2/ESPN Deportes) match preview
Overview: The likely inclusion of Shalrie Joseph and Oswaldo Minda in central midfield makes the Red-and-White a more solid outfit, but it won't solve all of Robin Fraser's problems. The Red-and-White's continued dearth of goals – a likely issue even against a pliable Galaxy back four that could undergo some revisions with Todd Dunivant poised to return from a calf injury – might provide the biggest hindrance in this affair and in the quest for a playoff berth.
Prediction: Los Angeles win.

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