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Friday MLS Forecast: Week Eighteen

By Kyle McCarthy

Landon Donovan has a finely tuned sense of irony, if this week's events are any indication.

In a recent excerpt from Grant Wahl's new book, “The Beckham Experiment,” Donovan assailed David Beckham's professionalism in a variety of ways and noted the increased responsibility of being captain.

Then Donovan decided to attend the ESPYs on Wednesday night – the show is slated to air on Sunday night – to accept an award and then catch a red-eye flight to join up with his teammates before Los Angeles' 3-1 win over New York on Thursday night.

Donovan's travel schedule wasn't exactly the ideal buildup to the Galaxy's most scrutinized game so far this season, though the American international said the Galaxy had no problem with his travel plans.

“We felt collectively that being at the ESPYs was a big opportunity,” Donovan explained. “It's not often that soccer in the front of people's minds in this country, but right now, it seems to be. Not necessarily for the right reasons (during) the last couple of weeks, but people are talking about it and it's good. I thought it was important. Bruce (Arena, Galaxy manager) thought it was important. (AEG chief executive) Tim Leiweke thought it was important.”

The late arrival didn't impact Donovan's on-the-field performance. Donovan captained the side as per usual and notched a goal and an assist in a man-of-the-match display against the Red Bulls, snuffing out the potential controversy before it started by taking charge on the field.

“I'm in a place now where it doesn't matter when I arrive (or) that the preparation is ideal,” Donovan said. “I know I'm going to perform. I promised Bruce that and I think it worked out.”

In honor of Donovan's hurried and successful cross-country jaunt, the Forecast is going to hit each of the five games on tap this weekend hard and fast while hoping to improve on last week's mediocre showing.

Last week: 2/6 (33%)
For the season: 46/105 (44%)

Saturday

Houston @ Toronto FC – 1:00p.m. (ESPN2, CBC)


In this match of conference leaders, the midfield battle will be key. Brad Davis looked perhaps the best he ever has in a central midfield role in Houston's 2-1 loss in Seattle last weekend. Can he reproduce that form at BMO Field? As for the Reds, they got two goals from Chad Barrett and another from Pablo Vitti in a 3-1 win in San Jose. TFC will hope the previously goal-shy duo will kick on now to correlate its goal haul to its industry. Although Barrett and Vitti have perked up a bit, that might not be enough to compensate for TFC's occasionally spotty home form against a shorthanded Dynamo side bolstered by the return of central defensive duo Geoff Cameron and Bobby Boswell.

Prediction: Houston win.

Real Salt Lake @ Columbus – 8:00p.m.

The big question in this one is whether Guillermo Barros Schelotto's left hamstring is ready to go. All reports out of Columbus indicate that the Argentine playmaker won't be fit enough to feature. Since Pat Noonan is now in Colorado, how will the Crew compensate for that devastating loss with Emmanuel Ekpo also out through suspension? At least RSL – devoid of the suspended Fabian Espindola but bolstered by the newly acquired Pablo Campos – will give them a cushion to figure things out. RSL has issues on the road (1-5-2) and issues with a potentially moody Yura Movisysan still in tow after he was surprisingly denied an instant move to Denmark, so it'd be a surprise to see them get something at Crew Stadium.
 
Prediction: Columbus win.

Colorado @ D.C. United – 8:00p.m.

Colorado could hand a debut to French defender Julien Baudet with Ugo Ihemelu suspended. Baudet picked up a hamstring cramp in a scoreless midweek friendly against Club America, but is expected to feature. D.C. is one of the healthiest teams in the league and is coming off a bye week. Two other facts that lean this pick towards United: these two teams have split the season series in the past two (and four of the last five) years – Colorado won the first match on June 20 in Commerce City – and the Rapids haven't won at RFK Stadium in this century (last win: July 10, 1999).

Prediction: United win.

San Jose @ Chicago  – 8:30p.m.  

It can't get much worse than last Saturday's 3-1 home loss to Toronto FC if you're a Quakes fan. Frank Yallop responded to the loss by shipping Campos to RSL; that should open up a spot up top for Cornell Glen if he is fit enough to play from the start. Chicago fielded its top side in Wednesday's 2-1 SuperLiga semifinal win over New England, so there could be a bit of fatigue for elder statesmen Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Brian McBride. After that game, Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch said his team needed to start prioritizing substance over style in order to improve its home record (1-2-4). Style, substance or whatever else shouldn't matter here for the Fire.

Prediction
: Chicago win.

Sunday

Chivas USA @ New England – 6:00p.m.

If the Disabled List could play a match by itself, these two teams would be involved with New York waiting patiently for its chance to compete for a spot in the game. Steve Nicol's side put together its best display in quite some time in that SuperLiga semifinal loss to Chicago, but the final touch lacked just a bit. As Edgaras Jankauskas gets fitter, he should help polish off a few more of those opportunities. As for the Goats, they haven't won a match in any competition since June 6, a span of seven matches (0-6-1). That doesn't bode well for their chances against a Revs side that could welcome Shalrie Joseph back into its lineup.

Prediction: New England 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 MLSnet.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at kyle.mccarthy@goal.com and follow him on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/kylejmccarthy

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