Even with a schedule of over 200 games, there are some that jump out at you as must watch games, These are the 11 games that Jeff Bradley from ESPN wants to see this season
11. Seattle Sounders FC vs. New York Red Bulls. Qwest Field, Thursday, March 19.
How can you not get excited about a First Kick game that is a curtain-raiser for an entire organization? Man, I remember like it was yesterday getting all jazzed up for the Miami Fusion’s first game (vs. D.C. United) and the Chicago Fire’s first game (against Miami). I vividly recall Real Salt Lake taking on the MetroStars in a monsoon in their first-ever game. The opener for Seattle promises to be a fun night for Kasey Keller and Co., and an interesting test for Juan Carlos Osorio’s Red Bulls, who enter the season with high goals and expectations after their run to the final a year ago. Expect a huge crowd, too.
10. Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew. Robertson Stadium, Saturday, March 21.
In my heart, I’m thinking that Houston believes it was the team that could’ve kept Columbus from raising the Cup last year, if it weren’t for their hiccup against the Red Bulls. To be fair, it was more than a hiccup. They lost 3-0 on their home field. Now, with that bitter memory on their mind, Dominic Kinnear and his crew will look to get back to the top of the MLS mountain once again. How better to prove your back than by taking down the defending champions right out of the gate?
9. Colorado Rapids vs. Kansas City Wizards. Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Saturday, March 28. –
Two teams — one from each conference — with a lot to prove in 2009. The Rapids need to show they’re a playoff team once again, while the Wizards need to prove they’re a team ready to take the next step up, to contender. These two teams split their two meetings a year ago, with both teams holding serve at home. Both games were tight, one-goal affairs. Add in a 2-2 draw in the U.S. Open Cup (a game won by K.C. on penalties) and you can see a couple of teams that match up very closely. This should be a good opening month match.
8. San Jose Earthquakes vs. Houston Dynamo. Buck Shaw Stadium, Saturday, March 28.
I still get a kick out of this rivalry. How could you not, given what went down, when the old Quakes became the new Dynamo and went out and won a couple of Cups. Frank Yallop will have a firm grasp on things in San Jose in Year Two, and the Quakes are going to challenge for a playoff spot for sure. Can they take down the Dynamo in this early-season match? On their homefield, with a whole lot of crazies screaming for them, for sure. What’s more, I expect this rivalry to be one of the big ones out West this year.
7. LA Galaxy vs. Chivas USA. The Home Depot Center, Saturday, April 11.
The SuperClasico belonged to the Galaxy a year ago, even though it was Chivas making the playoffs for a third consecutive year and LA missing for the third year in a row. With injuries and defections taking their toll on Preki’s squad, and Bruce Arena doing an Extreme Makeover of the Galaxy, there’s no telling what will happen this year. But for sheer color, drama and pageantry, this game is always a must-see match on the schedule.
6. Toronto FC vs. FC Dallas. BMO Field, Saturday, April 11.
Two teams who missed out on the playoffs a year ago who are expecting to dance into the postseason this year. For Toronto FC, it’s time. They were near-misses a year ago, but continue to make progress, both in the way they play and in their overall effectiveness. Plus, factor in the BMO Field advantage for this game. As for FCD, a good start is critical for Schellas Hyndman, after a winless October in 2008.
5. Chivas USA vs. Seattle Sounders FC. The Home Depot Center, Saturday, April 18. –
While Sounders FC are not the USL Sounders, it should be noted that there is a bit of history between Chivas USA and Seattle. Chivas USA went down to the USL Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup in each of the last two years. As well, the two clubs were involved in a couple of player transfers in recent years, most notably the move of Maykel Galindo from Seattle to Chivas USA a couple of seasons ago. In addition, Galindo, if healthy, will certainly want to make an impression on the team that represents the city where he found U.S. freedom.
4. Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution. Toyota Park, Saturday, May 9. –
For my money, the best rivalry in MLS right now. Not sure exactly how it evolved, probably back in the 2002 season when then-interim coach Steve Nicol’s club came back from the dead, beginning with a miracle win in Naperville. Last year, however, the rivalry took a turn for the weird, as Chicago took all three meetings, including 3-0 and 4-0 blowouts in the early part of the season, then eliminated New England in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 3-0 second-leg drubbing. That’s got to be sticking in the Revs’ mind.
3. New York Red Bulls vs. Houston Dynamo. Giants Stadium, Saturday, May 16.
OK, here we go. Grudge match in the Meadowlands. Not much needs to be said here, except that Houston’s still hurting from that 3-0 loss to the Red Bulls last October. It was perhaps the greatest playoff upset in league history, and it came out of nowhere. I think the scoreline was pretty deceiving as Houston got down 2-0 quick, spent much of the day pounding away to make it a one-goal game, only to see it get away late. That said, the Dynamo have probably been looking at the scoreline all winter.
2. New England Revolution vs. D.C. United. Gillette Stadium, Saturday, May 30.
One of my favorite traditional East Coast rivalries. The spin this year is: what direction are these two traditional powers going? While the Revs made the playoffs a year ago and D.C. did not, I’m not so sure these aren’t two teams going in the opposite direction. That is, I am expecting United to make a climb this year while New England remains a mystery to me. I hate to ever sell Steve Nicol short as his teams always seem to rise, but I can’t help but wonder if the Revs are going to be a scrambling outfit this year. This game will provide many insights into what lay ahead for both clubs.
1. Seattle Sounders FC vs. Columbus Crew. Qwest Field, Saturday, May 30. –
And who won’t be able to sink their teeth into this match? Sigi Schmid and his Sounders playing host to his old friends from Columbus. Will the Crew carry Sir Sigi’s ring out to the Pacific Northwest for a little pregame presentation? I doubt it. Will Robert Warzycha want to make a big impression on his former boss? Something tells me yes.
Do you agree with Jeff? What games are you looking forward to seeing this year?