News Live Scores

Friday MLS Forecast: Week 24

By Kyle McCarthy

The war for CONCACAF supremacy between the United States and Mexico on the international level rages on endlessly with ebbs and flows switching the advantage between the two countries. On the club level, the competition is well and truly over.

As if the most deluded of MLS supporters needed a reminder of the MFL's dominance, Wednesday's CONCACAF Champions League provided yet another display of exactly how far MLS lags behind MFL.

Cruz Azul hung five on reigning MLS double winners Columbus in Mexico City. Toluca thumped D.C. United's predominantly reserve side 3-1 in a venue where no MLS team had won this season. One wonders if Houston will send a skeleton crew to Pachuca on Sept. 16 or whether United will send its youth team to Toluca on Oct. 20 given the recent results and MLS' dismal record (0-16-1) in Mexico over the years.

The reasons behind the disparity – small roster sizes and even smaller wage bills – aren't rocket science. Neither is the rather simple conclusion that MLS teams won't be able to compete with MFL teams until the rosters are expanded and the salary budget is raised considerably.

Until those disparities are eliminated or mitigated, it's tough to blame the MLS sides too much for their awful form against Mexican clubs. The lack of blame, however, doesn't erase the embarrassment to the players, fans and clubs involved. At least the results indicate when and where MLS sides can expect it.

The Forecast recovered from some embarrassment of its own in Week 22 by posting a respectable four-out-of-seven in Week 23. With another full slate ahead in Week 24,

Last week
: 4/7 (57%)
For the season: 66/141 (47%)

The Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 24
(Note: End-of-season tiebreakers are not in play in this table.)

Eastern Conference

1. Columbus (10-3-9, 39 pts.)
2. Chicago (10-5-8, 38 pts.)
Western Conference
1. Houston (11-6-7, 40 pts.)
2. Los Angeles (8-4-11, 35 pts.)
Wild Cards
1. Chivas USA (10-8-3, 33 pts.)
2. Seattle (8-6-9, 33 pts.)
T3. New England (8-6-6, 30 pts.)
T3. Colorado (8-7-6, 30 pts.)
==
T3. Toronto FC (8-8-6, 30 pts.)
T3. Real Salt Lake (8-9-6, 30 pts.)
D.C. United (6-5-11, 29 pts.)
FC Dallas (6-11-5, 23 pts.)
Kansas City (5-9-6, 21 pts.)
San Jose (5-11-5, 20 pts.)
New York (3-16-4, 13 pts.)

Saturday


Fredy Montero | Sounders FC's ten-goal man returns from suspension for key clash with Toronto FC

Toronto FC @ Seattle – 4:00p.m. (CBC)

Two teams in the midst of serious downturns in form clash in an important contest at Qwest Field. Seattle has won just one of its past six games, though it did notch a 1-1 draw in Houston on Sunday night. Fredy Montero is expected to return from a one-match ban in place of Roger Levesque. Freddie Ljungberg and Tyrone Marshall will have to stay out of the referee's book to avoid the one-match ban Toronto FC's Carl Robinson and Adrian Serioux are serving in this match due to yellow card accumulation. TFC could use two of its leaders with three of its next four on the road, especially after a timid and poor performance in a 2-0 loss at Chivas USA last Saturday. The Reds aren't nearly as formidable on the road (2-5-3) as Seattle is at home (6-2-4), but TFC's dodgy road form may not impact the result as much as the loss of key defensive cogs Robinson and Serioux. Expect a result similar to Seattle's 2-0 win at BMO Field on April 4

Prediction: Seattle win.

San Jose @ New England – 7:30p.m.

The surging Revs meet the fading Quakes in a tilt that could be affected by Tropical Storm Danny should the mercurial weather pattern pass through suburban Boston on Saturday evening. New England boosted its playoff hopes with a pair of wins last weekend (1-0 in Seattle on Thursday, 3-1 against Real Salt Lake on Saturday), while San Jose picked up just its fifth win of the season after Chris Wondolowski's injury-time goal handed them a 1-0 victory over Kansas City. Wondolowski could push for a start against the Revs with Cornell Glen (hamstring), though Ryan Johnson, a high school star in Melrose, Mass. and the Quakes' top scorer, is also pressing for a recall. Frank Yallop will also have to find a replacement for the suspended Jason Hernandez in central defense with Ramiro Corrales a possibility to earn the nod over the less-than-fully-fit Fabio da Silva. Revolution boss Steve Nicol will have a couple of selection posers – Kheli Dube's hat trick against RSL could keep him in the side even if Edgaras Jankauskas (adductor) is good to go, while Mauricio Castro could put Kenny Mansally's place under threat – to ponder, but his side's torrid recent form (4-2-1 in its past seven) should carry the day here regardless of his decisions.

Prediction: New England win.

D.C. United @ Chicago – 8:30p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

United desperately needs a point or three from this game after a disappointing and rather unlucky 0-0 home draw with Los Angeles last Saturday. The problem for United comes from its form both on the whole in recent weeks and on the road during the entire campaign. United has won just once in its past eight league matches, a tally that equals its one win in 12 road contests this year. The task won't get appreciably easier against a Chicago side that stormed back to beat Colorado 3-2 at Toyota Park last Saturday. Even with Chicago's lofty perch (the Fire is just one point behind Columbus in the all-important race for top spot in the Eastern Conference) and its substantial momentum, the Fire has holes United can exploit. Chicago is starved for defenders (Dasan Robinson suspended, Bakary Soumare sold and a host of defenders injured) and hasn't found its home stride (4-3-4) this season. Unfortunately for United, the Fire's weaknesses likely won't be enough for United to contradict its current attacking form (five league matches without a goal from the run of play) or its season-long road slump (1-5-6) to escape with a point here.

Prediction
: Chicago win.

Real Salt Lake @ Kansas City – 8:30p.m.

If there was ever a game in which RSL could transfer its staggering home form somewhere outside Rio Tinto Stadium, it might be this one. Kansas City hasn't exactly hit a purple patch under interim boss Peter Vermes (two games, two losses) and all fingers must be pointed at a sputtering attack. The Wizards have mustered one goal in their past six matches in all competitions. Given K.C.'s woeful attack of late and RSL's inability to score on the road (six goals in 11 games) all season, goals will likely be at a premium. Perhaps RSL can carry over some of the momentum generated by Wednesday night's 4-0 thumping of Chivas USA will carry over, but it hasn't in the past and the most recent road performance in New England doesn't portend a turnaround in away form. Losing Will Johnson to suspension won't help RSL either. A low-scoring draw looks like a fair shout.

Prediction: Draw.

Chivas USA @ Los Angeles – 11:00p.m. (ESPN2)


Preki | Chivas USA manager will have to go back to drawing board for SuperClasico after the Red-and-White flamed out in Utah midweek

The Home Depot Center co-tenants will play out the third and final edition of the SuperClaisco on Saturday night. The edge so far goes to the Galaxy after Bruce Arena's men picked up a win (1-0 on July 11) and a draw (0-0 on April 11) in the first two clashes. The Galaxy also picked up four points and two shutouts last week with an impressive 2-0 win in Chicago on Wednesday followed by a rather more fortunate 0-0 draw in D.C. on Saturday. Arena will hope Edson Buddle (foot) and Alecko Eskandarian (broken nose) will be available to bolster his attacking options, while Chivas USA could have newly acquired central defender Yamith Cuesta in the squad after he arrived this week this week from Colombia. Chivas USA coach Preki may look to alter the five-man midfield he selected in the Goats' disjointed 4-0 loss at RSL on Wednesday night with a return to a 4-4-2 expected. Outside results, however, don't tend to have too much of an impact on this sort of rivalry match. Expected a gritty, tense affair with little room to breathe for either side.
 
Prediction: Draw.

Sunday

Houston @ Colorado – 3:00p.m. (Telefutura)

Fresh off a ridiculous and referee-marred 1-1 draw in Panama in CONCACAF Champions League play on Wednesday, Houston now has to travel to suburban Denver to play the Rapids at altitude. Colorado wins more often than not at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (6-2-3) and won't have to deal with the rigorous travel demands placed on the Dynamo this week. Then again, the Rapids do have to deal with the pressure of fighting for a playoff spot and the need to recover from the desperate collapse that turned a 2-0 lead in Chicago into a 3-2 loss last Saturday.  The good news for the Rapids: they've alternated between wins and losses for the past seven matches. The pattern calls for a win, something that the Dynamo's recent MLS form (two wins in the past eight) may allow.

Prediction: Colorado win.

Columbus @ New York – 6:00p.m.

“Columbus has been the best team in the league over the past couple of seasons,” New York interim coach Richie Williams said earlier this week in a phone interview. “They have good individual players and they play well as a team. They're the defending champions and they beat us in the final. We respect that they're a good team and they've done very well. At the end of the day, we respect that, but we're going to try to go out there and knock off the best team in the league. It's not going to be easy, but we have gotten results here at home, even last year against Columbus.”

If Williams can somehow engineer a second straight victory by knocking off the top dogs in the East, he may start to hear his named chanted by the Empire Supporters Club. As Williams said, it won't be easy. Key defensive cog Kevin Goldthwaite is suspended and the Crew will be up for it after getting thrashed 5-0 at Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League midweek. A similar result to that one shouldn't be expected here, but the visitors won't likely see their eight-match unbeaten run or four-match win streak blemished either. New York's hex over Columbus at Giants Stadium (6-0-1 in the past seven) may well be in danger, however.

Prediction: Columbus 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 by clicking here.

For more on Major League Soccer, visit Goal.com's MLS page.