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Friday MLS Forecast: Week 27

By Kyle McCarthy

MLS announced on Wednesday that it would take a two-week break to accommodate the group stages of the World Cup. In addition to the group-stage break, MLS isn't planning to schedule matches during the World Cup semifinals or finals.

The move drew universal praise from just about everyone in American soccer, as well it should have, but all of that backslapping seems to have missed the sacrifice MLS made to make it happen.

Although many lauded the move, the MLS accountants probably weren't among those applauding. In fact, those fellas likely weren't pleased to rule out two revenue-generating weekends during the middle of the season.

The blow to the bottom line isn't hard to follow from the decision to take a two-week break. Fewer weekend dates mean more mid-week games. More mid-week games inevitably lead to lower attendance figures. Lower gates decrease ticket and concession revenue. As a financial decision, stopping play for the World Cup is an absolute stinker.

If MLS continues down this righteous path towards international acceptance, this won't be the last of the financially poor decisions made to raise the league's pedigree while lowering its turnover. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement will almost assuredly include spending additional money on players and increasing the expenditures on some of the ancillary perks. Eliminating matches played on international dates will inevitably (and necessarily) occur at some point, forcing more matches into the midweek. Add in possible Designated Player revisions and we're talking about a pretty big splash of red ink.

The point, after all of that, is this: for all of its thriftiness, MLS has consistently shown its willingness to make decisions that hurt the bottom line if it will benefit the league in the long term. In the grand scheme of things, that willingness may be worth more plaudits than a two-week break to watch Japan play Slovakia.

MLS isn't the only entity worried about its bottom line. The Forecast wants to hit 50 percent for the season, but that looks increasingly unlikely given the performance in recent weeks. The rally, however, starts this week with an enticing Week 27 slate.

Last week: 3/7 (43%)
For the season: 72/158 (46%)

The Playoff Picture Heading Into Week 27

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

Eastern Conference
1. Columbus (11-4-9, 42 pts.)
2. Chicago (10-6-9, 39 pts.)
Western Conference
1. Houston (11-8-7, 40 pts.)
2. Los Angeles (9-5-11, 38 pts.)
Wild Cards
1. Seattle (9-6-10, 37 pts.)
T2. Colorado (10-8-6, 36 pts.)
T2. Chivas USA (11-9-3, 36 pts.)
T2. D.C. United (8-6-12, 36 pts.)
==
Toronto FC (9-9-7, 34 pts.)
Real Salt Lake (9-9-7, 34 pts.)
New England (9-8-6, 33 pts.)
FC Dallas (7-11-6, 27 pts.)
Kansas City (7-11-6, 27 pts.)
San Jose (5-12-5, 20 pts.)
New York (4-17-4, 16 pts.)

Friday

New England @ New York – 7:30p.m.  


Juan Pablo Angel | Influential Red Bulls striker continues to battle an ankle injury

The visitors are chasing history and searching for three points in their last trip to Giants Stadium. With a win or draw, New England will establish a new record for consecutive matches unbeaten against one team; New York hasn't emerged victorious in the series since Sept. 17, 2005, a run of 12 straight games (7-0-5). Considering the Revs were on the other end of the previous historical beatdown (San Jose went 9-0-3 against New England from 2001-2005), there will be plenty of reason to go in search of victory here. Edgaras Jankauskas and Wells Thompson (suspension) and Mauricio Castro (calf) won't be available to help in the quest, but Shalrie Joseph should be back to help bolster a midfield that didn't do nearly enough against Chivas USA. Even if Juan Pablo Angel (ankle) is fit enough to play a part and even though Carlos Johnson (suspended) won't play, the visitors should find a way to keep that streak (and their playoff hopes) alive.

Prediction: New England win.

Colorado @ San Jose – 11:00p.m. (ESPN)

This is the second back-to-back series in a row for the Rapids. The first two-legged tie with Toronto FC ended in a split decision after TFC won 3-2 in its home leg last Saturday. Rapids coach Gary Smith will hope for at least four of six points from this series against the bottomdwelling Quakes. San Jose dropped Fabio da Silva earlier this week, lost Darren Huckerby to almost certain retirement after hip surgery and ruled out Arturo Alvarez (hamstring), but the Quakes will have Bobby Convey and Shea Salinas available. Colorado continues to play without Pablo Mastroeni (third game of a three-game suspension) and Matt Pickens (knee), but Mehdi Ballouchy (personal reasons) and Scott Palguta (calf) could be fit enough to feature. San Jose is plenty rested after a 20-day layoff, but the Rapids have this one circled as the most winnable of the four away games they face in the last seven. Expect the Rapids to find a way to make the rusty Quakes concede the points.

Prediction: Colorado win.

Saturday

Chivas USA @ Seattle – 3:00p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)


The Goats may have picked up all three points in a 2-0 victory over New England last Sunday, but that achievement probably wasn't as impressive as Seattle's 2-1 victory to end D.C. United's home-winning streak at R.F.K. Stadium. Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid will hope to use the pace displayed in that game to unsettle the revamped Chivas USA backline, which could be exposed in the middle with enough movement. Seattle hasn't fared well against Chivas USA this season as the Goats have won both previous meetings at the Home Depot Center. Neither side has any significant injury concerns, particularly after Zach Thornton came through New England's visit without aggravating his lingering calf concern. Freddie Ljungberg is also in line for a return after missing the trip to D.C. due to caution accumulation, but Carey Talley (red card) will miss out for the visitors through suspension. A victory could bring Seattle level on points with Western Conference leaders, so the home side should have plenty of reason to shake off its recent home pitfalls, secure all three points and extract some revenge for those two away losses.

Prediction
: Seattle win.


Jack Jewsbury | Unsung Wizards midfielder will miss match through suspension

FC Dallas @ Kansas City – 8:30p.m.

This has all of the markings of a trap game for the Hoops after a pulsating 6-3 win at Los Angeles last weekend. Traveling to Kansas City may just seal the deal for a FCD side that wasn't very good on the road (2-8-2 on the campaign) prior to the Home Depot Center thrashing. CommunityAmerica Ballpark is a bandbox, with the small surface compressing the teams and limiting the space Jeff Cunningham can exploit behind the Wizards defense. The lack of space places additional pressure on the aerial game, not a FCD strength in either box. Kansas City is also riding the momentum of picking up six points from nine on a three-game road swing last week, though the Wizards will have to continue that momentum without the suspended Jack Jewsbury (yellow card accumulation). If the Wizards can find a way to limit Cunningham and rectify a season's worth of poor home form (3-5-3) in one fell swoop, they may just be able to grab all three points here.

Prediction: Kansas City win.

Real Salt Lake @ Houston – 8:30p.m.

RSL needs all hands on deck ahead of this crucial trip to Houston. Javier Morales and Yura Movsisyan came on as substitutes in the 1-1 home draw with Chicago last weekend and could see increased playing time on this trip. Clint Mathis (ankle) is less certain to feature, while Tony Beltran (caution accumulation) will join Houston's Ricardo Clark (red card) on the sidelines. After a few injury- and suspension-ravaged weeks, RSL head coach Jason Kreis will need his side to come up trumps here to stay in the playoff hunt. Houston has struggled in recent weeks (2-5-3 in its last 10 games) and suffered a gut punch last Sunday after a ticky-tack penalty kick call in second-half stoppage time handed Columbus a 2-1 win at Crew Stadium. That loss – coupled with the midweek defeat to Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League – and RSL's poor road form (2-8-2) could  spark the Dynamo out of its recent doldrums.

Prediction: Houston win.


Landon Donovan | MLS MVP candidate could be in line for big game after FCD debacle

Toronto FC @ Los Angeles – 10:30p.m.

There usually isn't a good time for Toronto FC to travel westward, but this trip could prove particularly daunting. FCD tore through the Home Depot Center last weekend and stomped all over the Galaxy. Bruce Arena's men are far too organized and far too good to let one loss undo a season's worth of work even if unsung rookie fullback A.J. DeLaGarza (foot) isn't fit enough to play. This is exactly the type of game where a ticked off Landon Donovan steps up and ensures the Galaxy comes away with three points, so the Reds should be forewarned ahead of time. For a TFC side that doesn't travel well (2-6-4) and could miss Carl Robinson (ankle) and Adrian Serioux (hamstring), this is just about the worst road scenario. At least Julian de Guzman may have the chance to make his Reds debut. It could be the only silver lining in this one for TFC.

Prediction: Los Angeles win.

Sunday

Columbus @ Chicago – 3:00p.m. (Telefutura)

This is the second huge test in a row for the Crew, though Columbus could be hard pressed to repeat its 2-1 win over Houston with another victory at Toyota Park. When both teams are at full strength, the edge goes to Columbus. That isn't the case here with Chad Marshall (knee) out for Columbus and Chicago defenders Gonzalo Segares (knee) and Tim Ward (foot) still sidelined.  Even though Columbus sent a patchwork back four down to Costa Rica and emerged with a shutout and a first-ever victory by an American team on that terrible Saprissa turf, the Crew will miss Marshall (knee) desperately in this game. Marshall is the ideal option to step up and battle with Brian McBride. Without Marshall hounding him, McBride will dominate in the air, creating plenty of knockdowns for Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe to fire towards goal. Despite Marshall's absence, it's hard to go against the draw here with two draws already in books between these sides this season.

Prediction: Draw.

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.