After a couple of days looking over the MLS Schedule here are my Top 6 matches of 2012:
OPENING DAY- Saturday, March 10
Los Angeles Galaxy v. Real Salt Lake
The best game of the opening round. The defending champions open their title defense with a rematch of last season’s Western Conference Final. Real Salt Lake is always a quality side, but all the questions will be about Los Angeles and their roster.
Will it include a certain Mr. Beckham? How will the Galaxy cope without Juninho in the holding midfield role? With Omar Gonzalez out with an ACL tear who will be the new commander of the defense? Also, what will Robbie Kean’s fitness level be like should he spend the winter on loan at Aston Villa? That's a lot of question marks if you ask me. Also keep in mind that the Galaxy will have its second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final coming up in midweek against Toronto FC.
SUNDAY, May 13
Philadelphia Union v. New York Red Bulls
Another installment of probably the most heated rivalry on the East Coast. We will know by then whether the Red Bulls expensively assembled squad finally has its stuff together, or if their 2011 blunders are to stay. We will also find out if Philadelphia continues to build on a successful sophomore season with their young, talented side and can count on more than just Sebastien Le Toux for all of their offense.
No matter the form of each team, these games are always close, always exciting, and always fought just as fiercely by the two sets of fans on the terraces as it is by the players on the field.
SATURDAY, September 15
Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers
By the time this installment of the Cascadia Cup rolls around, the playoff race will be heating up. After Portland failed to make the playoffs last year in their inaugural campaign, they will be hoping that at this point in the season they will be well positioned. Where as Seattle will EXPECT to be at the top of the table and possibly fighting for the Supporters Shield, but no matter where each team lies, the form book can be thrown out whenever there is a Northwest derby. Not to mention that this game will be televised nationally on NBC in front of a crazed fan base at Jeld-Wen Field. Trust me you do not want to miss this clash.
SATURDAY, July 7
Sporting KC v. Houston Dynamo
I am not picking this game just because it is a rematch of the Eastern Conference Final, but rather because it will just be a battle of two quality sides going at it. If Rookie of the Year CJ Sapong, Teal Bunbury, and Graham Zusi all maintain their form from last season, then Kansas City will have a strong and youthful backbone to their side. If Bobby Convey can rediscover his best form, then Sporting KC will be one of MLS’ top teams again in 2012. Put them against a fully recovered Brad Davis, All-Star goalkeeper Tally Hall and the promising Will Bruin, and you have the recipe for a highly technical, tactical and intriguing match up.
SATURDAY, May 26
Columbus Crew v. Chicago Fire
These two Midwestern clubs endured disappointing seasons in 2011 despite high expectations. Columbus finished 2-6-1 down the stretch to go from possibly winning the Eastern conference to barley sneaking into the playoffs before bowing out to the Colorado Rapids. Chicago, meanwhile, made a late charge up the table, but it was too little too late as they ended the season three points out of the last wildcard spot.
Despite the disappointment, both teams have shown their ability to play some top class soccer. This will be a match between a rough and tumble Crew side that must deal with the loss of Robbie Rogers to Leeds versus a Chicago Fire outfit that plays with a Latin flair. The torch of the Latin way will be carried by Mexican International Pavel Pardo who the Fire will look to as their creator in midfield. The contrast in styles should make for an entertaining affair.
OPENING DAY- Saturday, March 10
Vancouver Whitecaps v. Montreal Impact
Everyone is excited to see the expansion Montreal Impact. Onlookers will be interested to see how the Impact’s wheeling and dealing during the offseason, from the expansion draft to the SuperDraft, will pan out.
There will be no chance for the Impact to ease its way into the MLS, as their first match is a Canadian derby against Vancouver. The Whitecaps will be out to prove that their rookie season was one of growing pains and that they have no intention of being pushovers in their sophomore campaign.
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