Major League Soccer 2012, Week 1 Preview: Thank Heavens, The Preseason Is Over!

CARSON, CA - OCTOBER 01: David Beckham #23 of the Los Angeles Galaxy takes a direct free kick in the first half against Real Salt Lake during the MLS match at The Home Depot Center on October 1, 2011 in Carson, California. The Galaxy defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

After a long and sometimes painful offseason, MLS will finally get their 2012 season underway this weekend

It took long enough, but the preseason is done and MLS will finally play matches that matter. It is a glorious time in American soccer. Allocation order? Unimportant! Why is the SuperDraft so super? Ask me again in 10 months! How about promotion and relegation? Seriously, just don't eve ask that question ever again.

This week, we finally get to talk about forwards and goalkeeper, goals and saves, tactics and managers. And guess what? They actually matter! The preseason jog abouts are done. This stuff is for real, finally.

Colorado Rapids vs. Columbus Crew

Saturday, 6:00 pm ET, MLS Live

If this match was played last season or the year before it would be the number one match to avoid this weekend and without a doubt the worst way for MLS to start their new season. This season, it might still be that curse from the soccer gods, but there is a chance it isn't and that alone is reason for celebration. Gary Smith is gone and the Rapids have the chance to not be the worst, most boring, awful team in the world to watch. That chance is beautiful.

Pick: Rapids, 1-0

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Montreal Impact

Saturday, 6:00 pm ET, MLS Live

Whereas the Rapids and Crew have turned ugly soccer into wins, the Whitecaps turned attractive, attacking soccer into losses. Advantage Whitecaps. Oh, and this year they might be able to win too! No one is pegging Vancouver to win MLS Cup, but they have added Sebastien Le Toux and Darron Mattocks to the attack and Young-Pyo Lee at the back. If they only had one more central midfielder Vancouver would have a real squad. Bonus! This will be the Impact's first ever match and while they will not be very good, Jesse Marsch might put on a jersey at halftime and sub himself in with the way their midfield is shaping up so that's something to look forward to.

Pick: Whitecaps, 3-0

D.C. United vs. Sporting Kansas City

Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live

Expect to see Sporting in a 4-1-5 formation this weekend. They have all of the forwards and they will play all of the forwards. But seriously, DC better win before Andy Najar, Bill Hamid and Perry Kitchen all leave for Olympic qualifying duty. Ugh, why is Olympic soccer allowed to be a thing?

Picks: DC, 2-1

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake

Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live

Why these two teams are allowed to play not on national TV is not quite clear. They are two of the best teams in the league, they are tactically intriguing, they have plenty of star power, they play attractive soccer and they have a history of playing compelling matches. If you want to showcase the league, you do it with this match.

Instead, LA and Salt Lake will play in a rematch of last year's Western Conference final only on local TV, but that doesn't make things any less interesting. Jamison Olave and Nat Borchers are healthy, which is a major change from last year's final, but LA counters with the return of Edson Buddle and Marcelo Sarvas could make his Galaxy debut. In short, you should watch this match, even if MLS doesn't want you to.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution

Saturday, 10:30 pm ET, MLS Live

Pray to whoever it is that you pray to that these two teams are better than last year. Either that or that you don't have to watch this match. Pray hard.

Pick: San Jose, 2-1

FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls

Sunday, 3:00 pm ET, NBC Sports Network

A first round playoff exit made a lot of people forget that Dallas was pretty damn good last year, especially early on in the season. They struggled at the end, but that was when Brek Shea started trending downward so that's nothing to worry about. Well, except for Shea still struggled. Maybe Dallas is in trouble? And this being New York, of course they're in trouble, or will be in trouble. There's always some sort of trouble brewing with them.

Pick: Dallas, 2-1

Chivas USA vs. Houston Dynamo

Sunday, 7:00 pm ET, Galavision

The Dynamo get to start this season where they ended last season -- at the Home Depot Center. Luckily for them, they don't have to play the Galaxy this team, as they did in last year's MLS Cup final. Still, Chivas is primed for a major improvement this season and Sunday will be MLS's introduction to Miller Bolanos. You might want to take a look so you can say, "I knew about him before he was big time." He will be big time by the end of the year. Mark my words.

Pick: Draw, 1-1

Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union

Monday, 9:30 pm ET, ESPN2

Petr Nowak, sanity would like a word with you in his office. Exactly what the Union thought they were doing this offseason isn't exactly clear, but then again, it wasn't exactly clear what Nowak was thinking in last year's playoffs when Dominic Kinnear pencil whipped him so the Union's offseason shouldn't be a major surprise. Meanwhile, Portland might have a team to match their supporters. Only the disappointing Kenny Cooper is gone, while Kris Boyd leads a promising group of newcomers. This match also features an incredible manager scowl contest between Nowak and John Spencer. Drama!

Pick: Portland, 2-0

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