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MLS Western Conference Week 10: The Cascadia Cup Commences

Eric Hassli scored on another amazing volley against Toronto FC last night, somewhat reminiscent of the Goal of the Year candidate he scored last year against the Seattle Sounders.
Eric Hassli scored on another amazing volley against Toronto FC last night, somewhat reminiscent of the Goal of the Year candidate he scored last year against the Seattle Sounders.

The 2012 Cascadia Cup competition begins this weekend with a very different set of expectations than were present a year ago. Seattle and Vancouver have two of the best defenses in the Western Conference right now, Seattle having allowed only four goals so far. Vancouver barely eke out the rest of the pack with 11 goals allowed, albeit in fewer matches than San Jose and RSL.

Offensively, though, both teams have been a mixed bag. Vancouver has been inconsistent, going for long scoreless stretches, while winning more than their fair share of one-goal games. Seattle, meanwhile, got three amazing goals from David Estrada in their opener but have lost their rhythm ever since. Saturday's derby at BC Place will be interesting, to say the least.

The Portland Timbers have the significant home advantage in this year's competition, but they also have the advantage of a Cascadia schedule weighed heavily toward the end of the season. Right now Timbers can be thankful for that happenstance, avoiding their fiercest rivals during a phase of the season in which they've struggled to figure things out.

Portland starts its own Cascadia campaign at home a week from Saturday; perhaps a fired-up Cascadia Cup atmosphere will help the team find their footing.

The Western Conference Weekly follows the jump.

Seattle Sounders

Last week: 1-0 loss vs Salt Lake

As expected, the Sounders couldn't get it together against RSL, failing to put even a single shot on the frame, and ending their winning streak. Fatigue played a role, certainly, the game coming on the end of a two week stretch during which they played five matches.

But also concerning for Sounders fans is that Seattle's attack, much like Portland's, depends greatly on their wings, with Osvaldo Alonso and rookie Andy Rose playing a primarily defensive game in the middle of the pitch. The result against the likes of Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave was 29 open play crosses and five off-target headers.

Seattle will hope to regain their stamina as they travel to Vancouver for the first Cascadia Cup match of the season. (Come on, draw!)

Week 11 projection: 1-1 draw at Vancouver; 1-0 win vs Columbus

San Jose Earthquakes

Last week: 1-1 draw vs Chivas

The Quakes were unlucky to concede a goal in the fourth minute against Chivas, enabling Chivas to focus on defending for the remainder of the game. San Jose finally broke through for the draw in the 88th minute, but Quake fans should be disappointed to concede points at home against one of the Western Conference's weakest teams. Possibly just as concerning is that they haven't earned a clean sheet since March.

Week 11 projection: 2-1 win vs Columbus; 2-2 draw at Los Angeles

Real Salt Lake

Last week: 1-0 win at Seattle

RSL finished a difficult stretch of their schedule with a 1-0 win over the Sounders in Seattle. As we have mentioned in previous Western Conference Weeklies, RSL have passed the depth and versatility test with flying colors. Their solid defensive presence + counter attacking style make a winning strategy in MLS, as they have established themselves as a team that does just enough to win.

This tough stretch now over, they'll have the benefit of a long rest, playing just a single game in the next 30 days. A well-earned respite.

Week 11 projection: bye

Vancouver Whitecaps

Last week: 4-1 loss at New England

The overlapping MLS and Canadian Championship schedules appears to be catching up to Vancouver, as they hemorrhaged goals against New England with key players like Camilo Sanvezzo, Jay DeMerit, and Martin Bonjour all resting.

After drawing against Toronto in the first leg of the Championship on a wicked stoppage time volley from Eric Hassli, they'll have to pull it all back together against Seattle, with half a mind on next Wednesday's second leg. And Toronto doesn't have anything else to play for at this point. (Still, come on, draw!!)

Week 11 projection: 1-1 draw vs Seattle

Colorado Rapids

Last week: 2-0 loss at DC

We've mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again: Colorado is playing without Marvell Wynne and Omar Cummings, and it hurts. The injury to Cummings has led to the premature insertion of Conor Casey into the starting lineup, and it will be a while before he is pulling his weight.

Meanwhile, Rapids fans lament the quickness with which MLS referees call fouls against Casey, in spite of his relative ineffectiveness on the field. What can they do but wait until after the Euro break and hope Casey's up to speed (as it were) and Cummings is back from his injury? When that happens, we will need to reassess the Colorado Rapids.

Week 11 projection: 2-0 loss vs Kansas

LA Galaxy

Last week: 1-1 draw at Montreal

The Galaxy continued their incompetence in front of 60,000 in Montreal before traveling to the White House to get made fun of for being old. Ouch. Their last three matches before the Euro break will feature a significantly retooled Chivas squad, followed by San Jose and Houston. I would be very surprised if they got more than three points out of those three matches.

Week 11 projection: 2-1 loss at Chivas; 2-2 draw vs San Jose

Chivas USA

Last week: 1-1 at San Jose

Chivas made two pretty significant trades today, sending Michael Lahoud and Heath Pearce away in exchange for Danny Califf and Juan Agudelo. While I'm not sure I'd love Califf taking Pearce's place in the lineup, especially after losing David Junior Lopes earlier in the season, Juan Agudelo will fill a huge need in the Chivas attack. Enough, even, to propel Chivas to their first win of the season at (sort of) home (against the team that shares their home stadium).

Week 11 projection: 2-1 win vs Los Angeles; 2-0 loss at New York

FC Dallas

Last week: 2-1 loss at Columbus

It's bad enough that Dallas hasn't won a game in a month; now they'll have to play their next three games without the one guy who has created anything special on the attack this season, Brek Shea. The reputation for cynical play they've built all season is now paying dividends in the form of three red cards and four suspensions in their last two matches.

Meanwhile, the defense that should have been one of the best in the league, judging by its parts, has given up more goals than any team except TFC. Schellas Hyndman may want to start yelling a little.

Week 11 projection: 1-0 loss vs Philadelphia; 3-0 loss at Chicago