MLS Game(s) of the Week: RSL vs Dynamo and Galaxy vs Chivas USABy: Rocky Cole | April 1st, 2010
There are two significant MLS games tonight on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. The first pits the defending MLS Champion Real Salt Lake against the always dangerous Houston Dynamo in its home stadium. Houston opened their season last weekend, with a 1-1 draw against fellow Texas team, FC Dallas. The second of tonight’s “MLS Game(s) of the Week” has the team Real defeated to win its first MLS title, the LA Galaxy, battling Chivas USA in Los Angeles, with the Galaxy wearing the mantle of home team at their shared stadium.
The games tonight will be significant for a couple of reasons. First, even though Real Salt Lake won the MLS Cup last season and began its 2010 title defense with a resounding 3-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes last Saturday night, not many soccer commentators have ranked Real at the top of the teams in the MLS Western Conference as the 2010 season begins. In fact, most “soccer pundits” have ranked the LA Galaxy, who also notched an opening 1-0 win at home against the New England Revolution, several places ahead of Real Salt Lake.
Granted, New England is probably a tougher team to play than San Jose, but Real showed confidence and solid play on both offense and defense when they opened last week. For those readers with keen memories, Real Salt Lake was horrid on the road at the start of last season, a monkey Real finally got off its back during the team’s playoff run. For Real to get a win on the road in its first 2010 game is a significant confidence boost. Playing Houston away with a quick turn around will be an early season test of Salt Lake’s mettle. If Salt Lake can go into the lions den of Houston and play with the same gritty determination they showed in taking the 2009 title, soccer writers and commentators may be compelled to revise their early season rankings.
LA will also be facing a test of sorts in taking on Chivas – “Super-Clasicos” are always tough, and by Landon Donovan’s own admission after the New England game, LA did not play all that well. Still, the Galaxy managed a win, and that is what champion quality teams do: They find a way to win even when they do not play at their best.
Chivas USA had a rough campaign last year and did not achieve the success they had hoped for. Add to that the departure of Preki for Toronto, and Chivas is likely not going to be in top form this early in the season. Chivas USA opened against the Colorado Rockies last week and fell 0-1. That said, when the Galaxy and Chivas play each other the game elevates into something special. Maybe it is not quite the same as when Everton plays Liverpool, but it is one of the best rivalries American soccer can offer.
One of the thing Real Salt Lake and the LA Galaxy have in common this year is that both teams worked very hard in the off-season to keep the core of their respective squads that achieved last year’s success together. By and large Jason Kreis and Bruce Arena were able to do this and to make specific acquisitions to fill gaps left by departing players. The short week for the four teams playing tonight will show where the top teams in the West might fall out this year. Seattle remains the wild-card, having had a good game at home last week against the newest team in MLS, the Philadelphia Union.
Look for a couple of barn-burner games tonight. Kick off for Real Salt Lake and Houston is at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time (6:00 p.m PST); Kick off for the LA Galaxy and Chivas FC game is 11:00 p.m. on the East Coast (8:00 p.m. PST). The games will be nationally televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.