MLS play resumes as PPL Park opens its doors
The Major League Soccer season resumes this week following a two-week break for the first round of the FIFA World Cup. The full schedule of matches this weekend is highlighted by the opening of PPL Park in Chester, PA where Philadelphia Union will host Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, June 27 (5 p.m. ET; ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes).
PPL Park is the ninth soccer-specific stadium in MLS and the second to open during the 2010 season as Red Bull Arena debuted earlier this year. Ten teams compete in stadiums built specifically for professional soccer; the Houston Dynamo and Kansas City Wizards have also finalized plans for soccer specific stadiums of their own.
In case you missed it
As the MLS season nears its halfway point, both conferences feature ties atop the standings. Real Salt Lake pulled even in the Western Conference with the LA Galaxy – despite a remarkable start – following a 1-0 win in their meeting in one of the final matches before the World Cup break. In the East, the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls are level with 21 points, one fewer than Real and the Galaxy.
A number of teams are riding hot – and cold – streaks coming out of the midseason break:
* Real Salt Lake: 7-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1)
* Toronto FC: 5-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2)
* Colorado Rapids: 4-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1)
* Chicago Fire: 4-game unbeaten streak (1-0-3)
* D.C. United: 3-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1)
* New York Red Bulls: 2-game winning streak
* Marco Pappa (CHI) & Fredy Montero (SEA): back-to-back games with goals
* Jamie Smith (COL) & Davy Arnaud (KC): back-to-back games with assists
* Nick Rimando (RSL): 228 consecutive shutout minutes
* Chivas USA: 5-game losing streak
* Houston Dynamo: 3-game losing streak
* Columbus Crew: 3-game winless streak (0-2-1)
* San Jose Earthquakes: 3-game winless streak (0-2-1)
“One lady came up to me, she was crying she was so happy we did this. (She said) ‘Oh, we’ve been waiting so long for a soccer team and now this, a stadium.’ It was pretty emotional.”
— Philadelphia Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz, to the Delaware County Daily Times, on the opening of PPL Park
“I think that’s the only kind of luck going for us at the moment, isn’t it? Rallie’s [Steve Ralston] dislocated his elbow and Khano Smith has done his ankle. It’s not exactly what we were looking for.”
— New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol, after more bad injury luck in the Cruzeiro friendly
“I’ve never been so nervous. Honestly. My wife turns to me and says, ‘That’s how I feel all the time.’ I guess because when you’re out there, you have sort of an input into it. But yeah, my nerves were going crazy frazzled. But I loved it. I loved every minute watching it. I was so happy to see us get a point.”
— Chicago Fire forward Brian McBride, on watching the U.S. World Cup team (against England)
“I think we’ve done well for ourselves. There were some practices during the preseason when we only had 12 guys out there. We didn’t know where we were going. A lot of people wrote us off. Now, we’re third in our conference, we advanced to the next round of CONCACAF.”
— Toronto FC midfielder Julian de Guzman, to the Toronto Sun
Previewing Week 13: June 25-27, 2010 (all times PT)
Friday, June 25
San Jose Earthquakes at Real Salt Lake, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* Real Salt Lake resume league play riding a seven-game undefeated streak, ending the Galaxy’s unbeaten run to start the season in a 1-0 victory on June 9.
* Following a four-game unbeaten streak, the Quakes staggered into their World Cup recess by taking just one point in a three-game stretch over eight days, ending with a 2-0 loss at FC Dallas.
* Both teams were in action during the break: Real Salt Lake earned a 2-0 victory in an international friendly against Costa Rica’s Puntarenas FC at Rio Tinto Stadium;the Earthquakes played Chivas USA to a scoreless draw in an exhibition match in Sacramento, winning 6-5 in a penalty shootout.
* The teams are playing for the third time this season. Real Salt Lake won 3-0 in the MLS season opener for both clubs on March 27 at Buck Shaw Stadium, and the Quakes advanced in a penalty kick shootout after a 3-3 draw in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game April 14.
Saturday, June 26
LA Galaxy at Toronto FC, 4:30 p.m. (FSC / FSE)
* In their final game before the break, the Galaxy saw their chance at history put to an end, when their 12-game undefeated streak to open the season stopped in a 1-0 loss at Real Salt Lake. The 12-game season-beginning run matched the league record set twice previously.
* The Galaxy took a lengthy break after that first loss of the season , yet they say the downtime will help.
* Toronto FC extended their unbeaten streak to five games in their final match before the World Cup break, a scoreless draw against Kansas City, but head coach Preki said he took the result as a loss.
* The teams are meeting for the second time in little more than a month. They played to a scoreless draw on May 15 at The Home Depot Center.
D.C. United at Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* The Columbus Crew stumbled into the World Cup recess with two losses and a draw to end their eight-game unbeaten streak that started the season; the Crew conceded five goals in those three games after allowing just four total during the first eight.
* D.C. United took advantage of the World Cup break by facing the El Salvador national team, winning 1-0 on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. The lone goal came from Adam Cristman.
* The Crew also filled the weekend with an exhibition match, defeating the PDL Dayton Dutch Lions 3-0 on Saturday. Steven Lenhart, Jason Garey and Eddie Gaven scored for the Crew.
* During the break, United signed a second Designated Player, Montenegrin international midfielder Branko Boskovic. He will be available when the secondary transfer window opens July 15.
Colorado Rapids at Houston Dynamo, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* After heading into the break with three consecutive losses, the Houston Dynamo have a very busy stretch ahead, with three games in six-days: two league games against Colorado and Toronto FC (next Thursday) and a U.S. Open Cup third-round match on Tuesday.
* The Colorado Rapids came into the recess on a four-game undefeated run that included three consecutive 1-0 victories and ended with a 2-2 draw against Chicago on June 9.
* While the two goals allowed to the Fire marked just the second time Colorado had allowed two goals (coincidentally, both coming against Chicago), the Rapids say their success has been built on defense.
* The Dynamo took advantage of the World Cup break to play two friendlies, defeating El Salvador’s CD Aguila 4-0 last Saturday after a 2-1 win against the Laredo Heat of the PDL (fourth tier) on June 10.
New York Red Bulls at Kansas City Wizards, 5:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* The New York Red Bulls resume league play after back-to-back wins over a four-day stretch that put an end to a four-game losing streak.
* The Kansas City Wizards also went into the break on a good note, ending an eight-game losing skid with a 2-0 home victory against Philadelphia Union on June 10.
* The Red Bulls filled their off weekend with a friendly against Brazil’s Cruzeiro EC, losing 4-2 Friday evening at Red Bull Arena. Juan Pablo Angel and Conor Chinn scored for the Red Bulls.
* The Wizards have won the last three meetings between the clubs, including winning both games last season 1-0.
FC Dallas at Chivas USA, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* FC Dallas won for the third time this season in their last game before the World Cup break, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 at Pizza Hut Park on June 5. Youngster Brek Shea scored both goals against the Earthquakes.
* Chivas USA have lost five games in a row, including a 1-0 loss at the New York Red Bulls on June 5, their final match before the World Cup hiatus.
* Chivas USA beat FC Dallas 2-0 in both meetings a year ago.
* Two players who have played key roles for their clubs since being traded for each other meet again: Atiba Harris has started every game for FC Dallas and has two goals and an assist, while Marcelo Saragosa has started three consecutive matches and will likely take on added responsibility with the transfer of Sacha Kljestan; the two were involved in a July 2009 deal.
Sunday, June 27
Seattle Sounders FC at Philadelphia Union, 2 p.m. (ESPN2 / ESPN Deportes / ESPN 360.com)
* The teams opened the 2010 MLS season against each other on March 25 at Qwest Field. Brad Evans and Fredy Montero scored first-half goals in a 2-0 Sounders FC win in Union’s first match in club history.
* Playing at PPL Park on the Chester (Pa.) waterfront for the first time, Union have yet to lose in front of their home fans. In two home games played at Lincoln Financial Field – the home of the NFL Philadelphia Eagles – Union defeated D.C. United and played to a draw with FC Dallas.
* Sounders FC enjoyed a full nine days off following a disappointing 3-2 loss to D.C. United on June 10 at Qwest Field, where they were looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season.
* Union also took the entire recess off, following a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards on June 9.
Chicago Fire at New England Revolution, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick package)
* The Chicago Fire extended their unbeaten streak to four games in a 2-2 draw with Colorado on June 9. But it was the third draw in the run, as the Fire conceded a last-minute goal for the third time in that stretch. “We are not learning,” said Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos.
* The New England Revolution re-signed MLS Original Steve Ralston from USSF D-II AC St. Louis as the World Cup break began. Ralston, the all-time league leader in appearances (378) and minutes played, had joined his newly formed hometown club while coming off an offseason knee surgery.
* Ralston’s – and the Revolution’s – injury bug continued during a a friendly with Brazil’s Cruzeiro EC on June 13. Ralston suffered a dislocated elbow just seconds after coming on as a substitute.
* The Fire had a scheduled friendly against the USSF D-II NSC Minnesota Stars canceled. De los Cobos was hoping to use the exhibition as a chance to get a better look at a pair of trialists.
* It’s the first meeting of the season for the two rivals, who have also met each of the last five years in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Fire eliminated the Revolution for the second consecutive season last year in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.