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Friday MLS Forecast: Week 26

By Kyle McCarthy

Move over, Missouri. The Kansas City Wizards, for the moment, are planning to stay in Kansas.

The Wizards had planned to build a soccer-specific stadium as part of The Trails project on the site of the former Bannister Mall in southeastern Kansas City, Mo. The economic downturn kept pushing the timeline back, so the Wizards switched gears. In a plan announced earlier this week, the Wizards will make use of the ample government funds available in Kansas to construct an 18,500-seat stadium a free kick or two away from their temporary home at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

Shifting the plans raised a series of questions for those with an interest in the project. How would the new, suburban home impact attendance? (Well, the Missouri location wasn't exactly downtown, so that could be a wash.) How will the spurned Missourians react? (They weren't happy, particularly when they learned Cerner Corp. – a large healthcare IT company run by a couple of members of OnGoal, the Wizards' investor/operator group – was planning to take a proposed office campus and a whole host of proposed jobs with them.) Are the Wizards pleased about the shift? (Anything to get out of CAB and increase the revenue streams.)

As a detached observer who visits the venue once or twice a year, the ol' Forecast isn't too bothered by those practical concerns. Instead, the Forecast has focused its attention on what it sees as the most important issue to arise from the stadium switch: What happens to Hillcrest Road?

For those who aren't familiar, Hillcrest Road is the uber-English name of the Wizards' official blog and the shorthand by which most Wizards fans referred to their new stadium. As the blog explains, the proposed Missouri stadium site is bordered by Hillcrest Road on one side, leading to perhaps the best nickname in MLS in the Forecast's estimation.

While Kansas may eventually land the Wizards' stadium because the unified government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. will throw a boatload of bond money at the situation, the Sunflower State just can't match Missouri in the naming arms race. The new site out by the Kansas Speedway is bordered by Nebraska Furniture Mart in a development called Village West, an area that doesn't lend to such a similarly stellar appellation unless someone can work cornhusker or ottoman into the new moniker.

With Hillcrest Road seemingly on the outs, that leads the Forecast to one final question: will the potential loss of a cool nickname derail the newly proposed stadium project? Probably not. After all, this is the same franchise that started out as the Wiz.

As the Forecast scours the Kansas City, Kan. and Wyandotte County bylaws to discern how to change the name of a street, it hopes to shake off a down week and return to form as the league returns to a full slate of games in Week 26.

Last week: 1/3 (33%)
For the season: 69/151 (46%)

The Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 26

(Note: End-of-season tiebreakers are not in play in this table.)

Eastern Conference
1. Columbus (10-4-9, 39 pts.)
2. Chicago (10-6-8, 38 pts.)
Western Conference
1. Houston (11-7-7, 40 pts.)
2. Los Angeles (9-4-11, 38 pts.)
Wild Cards
T1. Colorado (10-7-6, 36 pts.)
T1. D.C. United (8-5-12, 36 pts.)
2. Seattle (8-6-10, 34 pts.)
T4. New England (9-7-6, 33 pts.)
T4. Chivas USA (10-9-3, 33 pts.)
T4. Real Salt Lake (9-9-6, 33 pts.)
Toronto FC (8-9-7, 31 pts.)
FC Dallas (6-11-6, 24 pts.)
Kansas City (6-12-6, 24 pts.)
San Jose (5-12-5, 20 pts.)
New York (4-16-4, 16 pts.)


Colorado @ Toronto FC – 4:00p.m. (CBC)

Conor Casey | Former TFC striker will continue his Golden Boot chase at BMO Field after scoring against the Reds last weekend

Long time, no see. Colorado won the first leg of the home-and-home last Saturday on Conor Casey's 12th goal of the season. That game wasn't a neutral's delight with neither side really hitting full stride. The absences will likely ensure a similar outcome here. TFC isn't expected to have Carl Robinson (ankle) available, while Amadou Sanyang and Adrian Serioux are suspended after picking up red cards last weekend. Colorado is definitely without injured wingers Colin Clark (ACL tear) and Jamie Smith (knee) and suspended enforcer Pablo Mastroeni (the second of a three-match ban). They will also likely have to do without Cory Gibbs (thigh). Fortunately for the Rapids, stand-in central defensive duo Julien Baudet and Drew Moor excelled in Commerce City. This meeting should end more happily for TFC for two reasons: it's always difficult to beat the same team twice in two weeks and TFC absolutely has to have this game to keep their playoff hopes alive with trips to Los Angeles and Chicago over the next two weeks.

Prediction: Toronto FC win.

Seattle @ D.C. United – 7:30p.m.

Fortunately for D.C., many of its fans opted not to watch United toil to a 1-0 victory over Kansas City at R.F.K. Stadium. Though the performance left a lot to be desired, United did find a way to scrape out all three points due in large part to some profligate finishing by Davy Arnaud. Points are more important than performances at this stage in the season and that maxim may be necessary again with Seattle coming to town. Look for the Sounders to try to exploit Rodney Wallace's raw defensive qualities at left back should Tom Soehn opt to play him there again, though the suspended Freddie Ljungberg (caution accumulation) won't be able to help Sounders FC do that. Soehn, whatever he chooses to do, needs to start Ben Olsen to inject some urgency into the side, though United shouldn't need motivation after losing the Open Cup final to Seattle on the same ground on Sept. 2. Even if it doesn't hit peak form, United should find a way to extract some revenge and continue its playoff push against a Sounders FC side that struggles away from Qwest Field.

Prediction: D.C. United win.

Kansas City @ New York – 7:30p.m.

Frustration coursed through the Wizards during the second half of Wednesday night's loss in D.C. After a breakout offensive performance in New England on Saturday night, K.C. just couldn't buy a goal against United despite bossing the majority of the game. It might be time for interim boss Peter Vermes to give influential attacker Arnaud a break; he hasn't played well since returning from the Gold Cup and looks short of confidence. Zoltan would be on standby with Adam Cristman (illness) back in Kansas City as the Wizards finish up a three-game road trip. Vermes will have to make at least one change at the back with Matt Besler ruled out through suspension (caution accumulation) and one change to his second-half substitution patterns with Chance Myers (red card). Aaron Hohlbein looks like the choice to fill in for Besler at center back. As for New York, the Red Bulls carry a two-match winning streak into the game, but will once again have to shake off key injuries to keep that momentum going. Six regulars – including Juan Pablo Angel (ankle) and Albert Celades (calf) – are questionable, though interim coach Richie Williams will hope the recovering Kevin Goldthwaite (hernia) can step into central defense. In this clash of strugglers, there isn't much between the teams. K.C.'s first-half performance in D.C. and New York's propensity to disappoint sway the Forecast towards a shock win for the visitors.

Prediction: Kansas City win.

Chicago @ Real Salt Lake – 9:00p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)

Kyle Beckerman | RSL holding midfielder will miss Chicago's visit through suspension

These two teams last met on Aug. 1 in a match that followed the predicted script: Real Salt Lake submitted a plucky away showing, while Chicago performed just enough to get all three points at home. The script may have changed this week with the news that Chicago forward Brian McBride could play some role at the weekend for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in July. McBride is well ahead of schedule (he was expected to miss 3-4 months), so it'd be foolish to rush him into the lineup. The road-tested Fire (6-2-4, second in MLS) knows how to pick up results on the road even if McBride doesn't go and they'll face a weakened RSL team missing Kyle Beckerman (caution accumulation) and Ned Grabavoy (red card) through suspension. Given those absences and the likely shuffling around to accommodate them, RSL needs Javier Morales (ankle) to play if at all possible. Beckerman's bite will be sorely missed against a Chicago side with plenty of industry, so the onus will fall on the home side to maintain more of the ball. Without Morales, it simply won't happen. RSL's tenuous playoff fortunes require a victory here with trips to Houston and FC Dallas ahead over the next two weekends and its home form (7-1-4) indicates they may just get it, but the Forecast likes the road team with the influential Beckerman unavailable.

Prediction: Chicago win.

FC Dallas @ Los Angeles – 10:30p.m.

In order for Los Angeles to get the three points it wants out of this game, the Galaxy defense will have to do a better job closing down Jeff Cunningham and David Ferreira than United did in the 2-2 draw in Frisco last weekend. Ferreira has improved considerably since a slow start and links up well with the in-form Cunningham. No one has benefited from Kenny Cooper's departure more than Cunningham, now tied with Ante Razov for second on the all-time MLS scoring list (114 goals). Cooper's move to 1860 Munich has forced Schellas Hyndman to hand Cunningham top billing and Cunningham has repaid that confidence in recent weeks. FCD's lively front duo would have a better chance at snatching some points if the Hoops could field a healthy central defender or two; Kyle Davies (concussion) is a question mark, while Daniel Torres (suspension) certainly can't feature. Hyndman will have to hope Daniel Hernandez is fit enough step into the breach after he inked a deal this week. It may not help. Landon Donovan (and his merry supporting cast) feasts on defensive uneasiness, while the Galaxy's resolute shape should mitigate FCD's attacking thrust. Looks like a home banker.

Prediction: Los Angeles win.


New England @ Chivas USA – 3:00p.m. (Telefutura)

Matt Reis | Revs keeper is expected to return between the sticks after missing out through injury against Kansas City

As New England's official blog wrote earlier this week, this one is a “classic six-pointer with massive playoff implications.” Those same Revs would prefer to have Shalrie Joseph in the lineup to lead the charge, but he has to sit this one out through suspension after a dubious red card in last Saturday's 4-2 loss to Kansas City. Joseph's absence means Pat Phelan will have to step into midfield despite a fractured right wrist; Phelan and Jeff Larentowicz will have to mix it up with the Goats' combative midfield duo of Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura. While Chivas USA should have their first-choice midfield in tact, the Goats will be forced into changes up front (Maykel Galindo) and at the back (Marcelo Saragosa) through suspension. Preki will also hope Zach Thornton has recovered from his quad strain to supplant Lance Parker (also battling a quad strain) in between the sticks. New England won't have those goalkeeping problems with Matt Reis (contusion) expected to start after sitting last week. No matter who takes the field, this one should turn into a gritty midfield battle with few real chances for either side. Like most six-pointers, the safe money here is on the draw.

Prediction: Draw.

Houston @ Columbus – 5:00p.m.

The top dogs in the East host the Western Conference leaders in a top-of-the-table clash to close out the weekend. Could this be a MLS Cup preview? It won't be if Houston doesn't start to shake off its rather dour run of form (3-4-3 in its past ten) as of late. The Dynamo hasn't had much in the way of excess energy or offensive creativity in recent weeks, though the two-week break could help Luis Angel Landin settle into the side and rectify those issues. Losing Brad Davis (suspension) to an overbearing referee decision won't. Columbus lost 1-0 in New York last time out, a surprising result considering the Crew's torrid run (6-2-2 in its past ten games) through the summer. Both sides are healthy, so the neutrals should have a chance to see a showcase. If the previous meeting is any indication (1-1 draw on March 21), the showcase won't involve breathtaking and ambitious soccer. Expect a tight midfield battle with few clear cut chances either way. In those sorts of games, the odds favor the side with the home-field advantage (7-0-4 on the season and 20 in a row without defeat) and the better recent form.

Prediction: Columbus win.

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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