Friday, June 15, 2012

MLS weekend preview

I don't normally do this, so don't get used to it, but I feel a weekend glance is necessary for a few reasons. For one, we haven't had MLS in two weeks and I'm starved for it. So I'm being a bit zealous with my interest this weekend since we have dormant story lines to pick up and debates to renew. As for the second bit, I'll be at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston on Saturday night to cover the Houston-Dallas derby. It happens to be ESPN's MLS game of the week and my sources (Twitter) tell me it's already sold out. I'll be blanketing the event for NSC, so hit me up on Twitter (@WillParchman) for live updates/photos/dumb jokes on Saturday and then hop on NSC afterward for analysis galore.

Let's get to it. A few yarns to untangle as we hop to another week.

It's green light time for John Hackworth


How does the newbie fare in his Philly debut on the PPL sidelines? Peter Nowak led the conversation when he slipped back through the velvet curtain this week, but what do we know about Hackworth? What approach does he take with a roster he presumably had little input in crafting? Hackworth does get to make his debut at home, but he has to face a DC team that's won four of five and leads the East. Rough entry point. Whether or not Hackworth had much of a say in Nowak's dealings, he knows the roster as well as anyone after having served as its youth development coordinator for the last two-plus years. The lack of expectation on Hackworth should work in his favor. Hackworth is a great unknown stepping into a dark chasm bereft of much talent, so the harsh glare from the Sons of Ben shouldn't blind him. Until Philly gets a competent striker, the team might accomplish the task for them.

Saputo's den gets a facelift


MLS' newest stadium, Saputo Stadium, is a go for this weekend, though it isn't really new. It's four years old, to be exact. But tell that to the Impact die-hards greeted by a couple thousand pounds of fresh steel. The once lower-tier stadium needed some modifications to meet MLS standards, namely an expansion from 13,034 seats to 20,341. There's a partial roof that covers about 7,000 seats and the Sounders will be the first team to play in it as an MLS venue. So there's that.

The Euro binge


We see a run on high performers every time an international tournament rolls in, and MLS is keenly aware of the developments in Poland and Ukraine. While I find it hard to believe that somebody like Wes Sneijder will make his way Stateside any time soon for anything other than Disney World or a good cheesesteak, there are a handful of realistic names circulating in MLS circles. Andriy Shevchenko has an American wife and has expressed interest. Even though he's 35 and has maybe a year or two left, he can join MLS immediately and proved with a brace in the Ukraine's opening win over Sweden that his legs (and his head) still have life. And inane commentary aside, Ballack is still a name in the running, though not in New York. You'd rather sign someone actually playing in the Euros rather than commentating on it, but beggars can't be choosers I suppose.

The spinning Galaxy


Bruce Arena bristling at a question from the media is another Tuesday afternoon at the HDC. So nobody in the know batted an eyelash when Arena recently swatted at a question about playoff math. Never mind that the Galaxy are an abysmal ninth in the West and have a defense leakier than an 80-year-old radiator. He'll have to do a lot of verbal jousting until LA reverses its tailspin, and this weekend is an interesting barometer. Landon Donovan returns from a fairly peppy spell with the USMNT, but LA is missing Robbie Keane, Mike Magee, Andrew Boyens, Adam Cristman and Leonardo for the Portland game this weekend. There have been six different central pairing combinations in 13 games from the defending champs, and none have been good. Getting three points at home against the similarly slow-starting Timbers is a must.

Game of the week: The Texas Derby


It helps to live in Texas to know exactly what fuels the all sport rivalry between Houston and Dallas. To get a sense, check out this MLS Rivalry Top 5 I did last summer. It's deep and can be pretty nasty. Even players who don't necessarily have those Texas ties buy into it. Like this.


- Will Parchman

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