Photo by Jose L. Argueta/ISIphotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
For a D.C. United team that is an intriguing darkhorse contender in the wide-open Eastern Conference, Saturday's match at the Seattle Sounders could be a telling barometer of where the club stands.
This past weekend's 3-0 win at Chivas USA pushed United into tentative playoff position even though the team has played the fewest games in MLS. If D.C. puts in a good effort against a Sounders side that possesses the league's second-best record and has found success in all competitions this season, United could be one enticing team to watch as the playoffs draw near.
"As far as having quality throughout the field, I think Seattle, at this point, for my money is the best team in the league," said forward Josh Wolff, who scored in United's 2-1 win over Seattle in early May. "They've got an exceptional attacking crew, and their back line and keeper are extremely solid. We'll have our hands full all over the field. So you've got to start these games the right way and make sure you don't fall behind against a group like Seattle."
Added midfielder Austin da Luz: "Every game from here on out is huge for us. Seattle has been on good form of late, and they're coming off a pretty tough loss [to Real Salt Lake] on Saturday, so they're obviously going to be motivated."
Here are some more notes from around the Eastern Conference:
Chicago may have dropped its friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara by 1-0 score Wednesday, but coach Frank Klopas was pleased with the opportunity to step away from the league schedule and get some of the team's younger players valuable experience.
"For the young guys, it's great for them, for their experience, for their development and for their growth," Klopas said to ESPN Chicago. "It's a good opportunity for all the players to get in."
The Crew may have allowed an 87th-minute equalizer that allowed Houston to pick up a 2-2 draw on the road Wednesday, but coach Robert Warzycha was still pleased with the resultwhen considering his team played nearly the entire contest a man down because of Emmanuel Ekpo's 11th-minute red card.
Despite playing a man up for 79 minutes, Houston again failed to secure its first road win of the season, settling for a 2-2 draw against Columbus on Wednesday. Coach Dominic Kinnear thought his side should have had the chance to grab the winner on a late penalty kick when Crew defender Sebastian Miranda appeared to handle the ball in the box, but the referee waved play on.
"There were some questionable calls that went against us," Kinnear told MLSsoccer.com. "We fought back late to get back in the game, and then I thought there was an easy penalty at the end there, but the ref didn’t call it."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
Portland native Ryan Cochrane will play an MLS match in front of his hometown fansfor the first time Friday night when the Revolution visits the Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field.
"I always envisioned one day going back if the Timbers ever came into MLS," Cochrane told the Boston Globe. "I thought about going back and finishing off my career there. But it's not working out that way, so I'm excited to go up there and kind of give it to them a little bit."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Returning to action for the first time since July 9, New York striker Luke Rodgers played nine minutes off the bench during the Red Bulls' 1-1 draw against Vancouver on Saturday, and the Englishman could be poised to see more playing time this weekend against FC Dallas.
"I don't think Luke [will start]," coach Hans Backe said to the New York Post. "If I talk to our trainers, they will probably say take it easy with him. Perhaps he can raise his minutes to 30, perhaps 35."
Defender Joe Tait, a 21-year-old Englishman who rose through the college ranks and lower tiers of professional soccer to sign with the Union on Tuesday, is expected to provide quality depth to a Philadelphia side that before the acquisition only listed four natural defenders on its roster.
"He's a big boy who's good in the air and is vocal," Union centerback Danny Califf said to MLSsoccer.com. "He’s not afraid to organize in the back, which is really important. And he's got good feet."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
Kansas City's 3-0 win over Houston on Saturday temporarily vaulted the club into the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and midfielder Graham Zusi was quick to emphasize that the victory was particularly confidence-inducing because it came against a fellow conference playoff contender.
"That was a very big win for us, not only to get into a first-place spot, but to put a little more distance between us and Houston," Zusi said. "I thought we played very well, and it boosted our confidence going into the final push at the end of the season."
After Toronto's 4-0 Champions League loss at Mexico's Pumas UNAM on Wednesday, some thought the burden of traveling to Mexico City and dealing with the city's altitude may have been a factor in the MLS side's listless performance. But forward Peri Marosevic said his team just "didn't seem like we had it tonight."
"I can't say one thing," Marosevic told MLSsoccer.com. "Altitude or not, it's another obstacle that we have to overcome. I don't know. We can point fingers at a lot of things – travel, whatever it is –- but at the end of the day, it comes down to us on the pitch and how we perform."