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Friday MLS Forecast: Week Nineteen

By Kyle McCarthy

Reason number 4,697 why Seattle and D.C. are model franchises for MLS: the two teams are trying to make people care about the oft-ignored Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

It all started when U.S. Soccer chose R.F.K. Stadium (host of last year's final) as the venue for this year's finale over a competing bid from Seattle.

Seattle isn't happy about having to travel to D.C. in search of hardware, if general manager Adrian Hanauer's comments to the Seattle media (as relayed through the Tacoma News-Tribune) this week are any indication.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was frustrated and somewhat skeptical of the process,” Hanauer said. “I don’t think D.C. has played a game in the Open Cup on the road in two years. They had a road through all lower-division teams to get to the Open Cup Final. I’m not in the know … enough to be able to raise any real issues, but I’m frustrated and I wish U.S. Soccer would explain why one bid wins over another.”

Hanauer also wondered aloud how United could make money on the game and added that “[a] game in front of 10,000 fans at RFK (Stadium), I don’t believe is going to raise the profile as much as a game in front of a sold-out Qwest Field.”

It didn't take long for United president Kevin Payne to respond in an interview with The Washington Post and express his displeasure with those comments.

"I appreciate that Seattle's fans are great,” Payne said. “Our fans have been great for 14 seasons. It's really unseemly for Seattle to suddenly show up in MLS and everything should be handed to them. Their crowds are wonderful, we had a great time out there in Seattle [last month], but our crowds are pretty good too and we expect this year we will get far more people in the building than we did last year [8,200].”

(Side note: Don't let the fact that a neutral-site venue – one without turf (and a proposed 1:00p.m. match kickoff on a Tuesday) and one that doesn't allow United the chance to win two consecutive Open Cups without playing a road match – would be the best option here diminish the entertainment value provided by this little brouhaha.)

A little mud-slinging goes a long way in hyping a competition much in need of it. Keep up the good work, gentlemen.

The Forecast could throw a little mud of its own after a stellar week last week, but it will exercise restraint in order to ensure it won't lose out to a bid from Nome, Alaska for its Open Cup opener next year.

Last week: 4/5 (80%)
For the season: 50/110 (45%)


FC Dallas @ Real Salt Lake – 10:00p.m.

RSL may have lost 3-1 in Columbus last weekend, but it didn't play like a team that deserved such a heavy defeat. With Fabian Espindola back from suspension and Will Johnson back from Canadian national team duty, will Jason Kreis tinker with his team to accommodate the duo? If he does (and he almost certainly will for Johnson, at the very least) decide to alter his starting XI, watch out for the domino effects. Robbie Russell has played too well to sit on the bench, even if he has to displace someone at the back to stay on the field. As for the Hoops, they sat and watched last week after losing at Colorado on July 11. Perhaps the biggest selection poser for Schellas Hyndman comes in goal as Dario Sala declared his fitness ahead of this game. Sala might be the better keeper, but Ray Burse has probably done enough to keep the shirt for now. Atiba Harris could also be in line for his FCD debut against his old team. Chances are it won't be a successful reunion for Harris; RSL has won four of its past five home matches against FCD and desperately needs this one to keep pace with the playoff teams in the Western Conference.  

Prediction: Real Salt Lake win.


Chicago @ Seattle – 3:00p.m. (ESPN)

After ousting Houston in midweek to advance to the Open Cup final, Seattle faces another tough test with Chicago's Saturday afternoon visit to Qwest Field. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid left Freddie Ljungberg out of his side against the Dynamo (with the aid of the foreign player restrictions in the competition) in order to keep him fresh for this contest. The question is how many of his teammates will be at full fitness given the strenuous workout during the midweek; Schmid has made noises about selective squad rotation for this match. Chicago should have a rested playmaker of its own after Cuauhtemoc Blanco played the final half-an-hour – a crucial one, admittedly – in the Fire's 2-0 home win over San Jose last Saturday. Expect Blanco to get the start here. His contribution, as evidenced last weekend, is particularly vital to the Fire in the attacking third, especially with fellow veteran Brian McBride (shoulder) out of commission. Marco Pappa and Wilman Conde should also return to the starting XI after coming off the bench last week, but the Fire will have to compensate for Bakary Soumare's absence due to yellow card accumulation. These two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Chicago on May 2 with 10-man Seattle resolutely holding out for a point. The reverse scenario – Seattle carrying the play, Chicago holding on for the point – makes ample sense here.

Prediction: Draw.

Toronto @ Columbus – 7:30p.m.

This is a significant game that will decide who takes home the not-as-significant Trillium Cup. Two draws earlier this season showed there isn't much daylight between the two sides; second-place Columbus currently holds a one-point lead over fourth-place TFC in the ever-changing Eastern Conference playoff race. The Crew scored three times at home last weekend against Real Salt Lake with Jason Garey (two goals) and Steven Lenhart (one goal, one assist) ably deputizing for the injured Guillermo Barros Schelotto (hamstring) and Alejandro Moreno (groin). Garey and Lenhart will have to reproduce that performance against the Reds with the South American duo expected to miss out once again. TFC enters the match with some momentum after a win in San Jose and a home draw against Houston in its past two matches. As an added bonus, Reds interim boss Chris Cummins will be able to name an unchanged side for a third match running should Adrian Serioux (knee) prove himself fit enough to play, though that seems doubtful after he came off late in the first half last weekend. While TFC has more than enough to earn a point here (and did so already this season) and keep the gap between the two teams at one point, Columbus (and its bid for a solo MLS record of 19 consecutive matches unbeaten at home) is a decent shout to lift the Trillium Cup in style.

Prediction: Columbus win.

New England @ Houston – 8:30p.m.

“(Houston coach) Dominic (Kinnear) has a system,” New England captain Steve Ralston explained as he looked ahead to the weekend's task against a depleted Dynamo side. “Guys knows their roles. He doesn't ask them to do more than they are capable of. They go in and do their job. I think that's why they've been so successful. If a guy is out with an injury or away on national team duty, another guy steps on the field, he's ready to play and knows his job.”

In that way (and many others, it seems), these two teams are jarringly alike. Both sides will have to fill key holes again – Edgaras Jankauskas (hamstring) won't travel for the injury-plagued Revs while Houston is missing a raft of regulars  – but that won't matter. This one will be a tough, hard and physical contest. The match could hinge on what, if anything, the Revs can get out of Shalrie Joseph (knee). Joseph is expected to travel with the team to Houston despite missing training on Thursday. It's a delicate balance with the influential midfielder/target man; Revs boss Steve Nicol needs Joseph on the field, but wondered aloud this week whether he came back too quickly. Nicol also has to weigh what, if any, effect an appearance in Houston would do for Joseph's participation in the All-Star Game in the midweek. As Joseph showed in the second half of last Sunday's 2-0 win over Chivas USA, the Revs are a different team with a holding presence up top. With Joseph perhaps unlikely to play significant minutes, Houston should be able to find a way to break its three-match winless duck against the Revs at Robertson Stadium.

Prediction: Houston win.

Los Angeles @ Kansas City  – 9:00p.m. (ESPN2)

It hasn't been a good week for David Beckham. He confronted a Riot Squad member at halftime of a friendly on Sunday night and watched as he got pummeled in the American press this week for his actions. Now he has to go play in the bandbox known as CommunityAmerica Ballpark without Edson Buddle (toe) at his disposal. On the bright side for Beckham, L.A. has won four straight matches (Writer's Note: Didn't mean to undersell those Galaxians or ignore their 3-1 win over New York...carry on.) and currently sits third in the Western Conference. For the home side, Kansas City will have to deal without starting fullback Lance Watson (suspension) and with a pesky two-match scoreless streak in the league. It isn't a coincidence that the scoreless drought has coincided with Davy Arnaud's tour of duty with the U.S. national team. Given the Wizards' power outage, the Galaxy should be able to fly home with a point from a venue that really suits its style. Nil-nil wouldn't be a bad shout here, all things considered, but a draw looks likely even if goals are scored.

Prediction: Draw.

New York @ Colorado – 9:30p.m.

Only the diehards will choose to watch this one as these two strugglers meet in Commerce City. The Rapids have lost three of four and won't have Conor Casey (suspension) to provide a foil for Omar Cummings up front. Pat Noonan will likely get the nod despite failing to impress so far as a Rapid, though reports out of the Rockies suggest Facundo Diz could be in uniform and may see time off the bench. Gary Smith's starting XI shouldn't matter in this one with the down and out Red Bulls – winless in ten consecutive matches and winless in 23 straight (0-17-6) on the road – in town. One more match without a win would see the Red Bulls tie a team record set by the futile 1999 team for consecutive matches without a victory. The smart pick has New York matching that record with a fourth consecutive loss to Colorado in a high-scoring shootout – these two teams have combined for 14 goals in their past three meetings – in suburban Denver.

Prediction: Colorado win.

D.C. United @ San Jose – 10:30p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

The Quakes took what looks like to be a big step to clarifying their murky central midfield situation this week by signing El Salvador captain Ramon Sanchez. Even if Sanchez is mediocre at this level, he should be an upgrade on what the Quakes have in there right now. Unfortunately for Frank Yallop, Sanchez won't be available for this match as he awaits his international transfer certificate (ITC). With Ramiro Corrales (ankle) also questionable, the Quakes aren't particularly strong centrally, but that didn't show in a significantly improved performance in last Saturday's 2-0 loss in Chicago. Although the performance deserved more, the Quakes' achilles heel – conceding late goals (the Quakes have shipped eight in the last 15 minutes of a match this season, worst in MLS) – flared up again to deny the visitors a well-earned point. Things went far more smoothly in the District as United turned on the style in the second half against Colorado and notched a 3-1 win. Considering D.C.'s attacking firepower and the difference between these two teams in the standings, United probably should be favored to take all three points here. They aren't in this Forecast because one persuasive statistic points this match towards a draw: United hasn't won in Northern California since June 3, 1998, a stretch of nine matches.

Prediction: Draw.

Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and Contact him with your questions or comments at and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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