One game into Week 4, and we are already off to an interesting start. The Whitecaps-Revolution match on Wednesday seemed to do a good job of encapsulating the so far wild nature of this season, as there were six cards, three ejections a penalty, a stoppage-time goal and a not-quite-deserved result for the Revs.
There are at least two matches this week that seem particularly interesting: Friday's FC Dallas-Rapids affair and Saturday's Union-Red Bulls match. The first is a rematch of last year's MLS Cup final, while the other is the latest installment of what many expect to be one of the next great rivalries. In both cases, we have one team off to a strong start and the other, who has been a bit frustrated.
FC Dallas Vs. Colorado Rapids, Friday, 9 p.m. (FSC)
As impressive as the Rapids' season-opening wins over the Timbers, Chivas USA and DC United may be, it is worth noting that none of those teams made the playoffs last year. But part of being a champion is beating the teams you play, and their +6 goal-difference has the look of a team trying to prove that their championship was deserved. The fact that they'll be without Conor Casey hardly even seems to matter as Caleb Folan looks like the real deal. As odd as it may seem, their first big test comes against a team that is winless through three matches. The Toros are better than their 0-2-1 record, but playing this is their third match at home and they need to start getting results. Pick: FC Dallas 2-1.
Seattle Sounders Vs. Chicago Fire, Saturday, 1 p.m.
Did anyone really think the Sounders would enter their fifth match of the season without win and likely without any Designated Players in the starting lineup? Yet here we are, the Sounders winless, cutting ties with one DP (Blaise Nkufo), another being nursed back to health (Fredy Montero) and a third apparently reduced to coming off the bench (Alvaro Fernandez). This was definitely not how they drew it up to start the year, but scorelines aside they have played reasonably well and they still have plenty of talent. The Fire, meanwhile, have looked strong in the early going despite a massive offseason overhaul. They probably won't be playing their much ballyhooed 3-5-2 and injuries have left them depleted for this match. The big question is whether the Uruguayan duo of Gaston Puerrari and Diego Chaves can continue to work their magic. Pick: Sounders 3-1.
Philadelphia Union Vs. New York Red Bulls, Saturday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
This was supposed to be one of MLS's big rivalries last year, but it didn't quite stick. With these two teams potentially being the top two in the Eastern Conference, maybe this will be the year it really catches. The Union are coming off their first loss of the season, on the road against the Galaxy, but even then they looked solid defensively. Carlos Valdes gives them some added grit on the backline and Faryd Mondragon seems to be as good as advertised. The Red Bulls have, so far, underperformed. Part of that is because they haven't had much opportunity to really gel, but no one doubts their talent. Dwayne De Rosario will probably make his starting debut after a full week of training with the team. Should be interesting. Pick: Red Bulls 2-1.
New England Revolution Vs. Real Salt Lake, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
It's hard to know what to make of the Revolution. They've been outplayed for large chunks of every match, their offense has not been impressive, their defense has failed to dominate and, yet, they are one of the five MLS teams currently without a loss. At some point, you figure something has to give. Both of these teams are coming off exhausting midweek games (the Revs needed a stoppage-time goal to tie nine-man Vancouver and RSL advanced to the CCL finals), which probably doesn't bode well for the quality of play. As good as RSL may be, it would hardly be surprising if they were at less than their best for this one. Pick: Tied 1-1.
DC United Vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Both of these seem to be underperforming in their own special way. DCU looked so strong in Week 1, but hasn't really built on that success and lost a bit of a stinker last week. The Galaxy were expected to be a Supporters' Shield contender, but have looked entirely unimpressive in each of their three matches. No one is saying these teams are incapable of turning it around, but this seems to be one of those games where we should learn something about both sides. Charlie Davies has declared himself "good to go" for the match and Bill Hamid made his season debut with a strong performance in the U.S. Open Cup so United is at least getting close to full strength. The Galaxy should also have nearly their full complement of players. Pick: Galaxy 1-0.
Chivas USA Vs. Columbus Crew, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.
At the start of the year, I really thought Robin Fraser had done an admirable job making this a respectable team. Maybe, expecting that turnaround to be evident this early in the season was expecting too much. The Goats took a step forward last week, but it was against a Toronto FC team that was starting three players who had been with the team for less than a week. The Crew, while still looking less-than-impressive, have at least managed to get results against some decent opponents. This could very well end up being the ugliest match of the day. Pick: Chivas 1-0.
San Jose Earthquakes Vs. Toronto FC, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.
The good news for Aron Winter is that the locker rooms at Buck Shaw Stadium are so small that reporters are never allowed inside. So, at least he won't have to fight that battle this week. On the field, though, the Reds are going to have their hands full. Despite lots of skepticism about their ability to repeat last year's performance, the Quakes have looked good in all of their matches. They very easily could have gotten a tie in Week 1 against RSL and maybe even deserved to win last week's match against the Sounders. They have a defense good enough that Ike Opara has been reduced to coming off the bench and their offense has looked potent despite missing Steven Lenhart, who has been upgraded to "questionable" this week. Pick: Earthquakes 3-1.
Houston Dynamo Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Sunday, 7 p.m. (Galavision)
In the last two weeks, the Dynamo have faced a hard-to-believe 48 shots. It's a credit to Tally Hall and his 14 saves that they have given up just two goals in those games and come away with a point in each. Now, they had back home nursing a host of injuries and facing a Whitecaps team that is equally short-handed. It's hard to project who's going to start, let alone what kind of game we can expect. The Whitecaps looked like a very different team in their one game away from Empire Field than they have in their other three. The Dynamo haven't looked particularly good in any of their games. Pick: Tied 1-1.