Armchair Analyst: On the radar for Week 4 of the MLS season

You may have noticed the disappearance of our Pick ‘Em feature this year. Judging by the comments on this week’s Q&A, that has several of you folks in quite a state. So I will be the hero you deserve and bring Pick ‘Em back in this particular column.

Every Friday, come here to see my picks (I may get one of the other folks on staff to add theirs in the comments section), and I invite you to add yours as well. This is obviously much less formal than we’ve gone in the past, but since we’re among friends here I think that’s actually for the best.

Those who followed along with Pick ‘Em of seasons past know that I always choose nothing but home team victories for about the first six weeks of the season. And so, here’s where we are right now:

I’m picking all home team wins (duh) again this week. Here’s a brief look at Saturday’s three games:

Stressed Out

I picked the New England Revolution to win the Supporters’ Shield, and after three games I’m starting to regret that choice. The Revs have yet to win, have hit more posts than anybody in the league, have looked extremely vulnerable on the right side of their defense, and are heading into Saturday’s game at NYCFC (3 pm ET; MLS LIVE) without their best player, Lee Nguyen.

Things are not looking good for that particular prediction.

But the season’s still young, and we’ve seen bad starts turn into gold-plated finishes in the past. Last year’s Shield-winning Red Bulls were 4-5-5 through their first 14 games before finding the right mix, and I’m sure Jay Heaps is very well aware of that fact. Let’s also remember that, under Heaps, the Revs have a penchant for stringing together long winning streaks, and climbing the standings in the process.

It’ll be interesting to see if they can manage it on the road this weekend. New England are among the league leaders in possessions per game (as are NYCFC), and so the small field at Yankee Stadium will suit them. They’ll miss Nguyen, but at the same time his absence allows Heaps to try Kelyn Rowe in the middle, or perhaps go with something of a classic 4-4-2 with Juan Agudelo paired up top alongside a field-stretching Teal Bunbury.

I’ll also be watching: Kwadwo Poku, maybe?

Award Tour

I’ve said repeatedly that FC Dallas fans should be upset if their team doesn’t take home at least one trophy this season. It can be the Shield, it can be MLS Cup, it can be the US Open Cup — doesn’t really matter. One of those has to be in Frisco, because this team is too talented to fall short.

It’s been so far, so good in two home games (wins over Philadelphia and Montreal), and indescribably awful in their one road game (a 5-0 loss at Houston). Let’s relive the glory:

They’re back on the road again, this time paying a visit to D.C. United on Saturday (5:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE). The miscue above is an example of poor communication between a ‘keeper and a central defender, and while that isn’t emblematic of any larger issues with Dallas, it is a slight worry since FCD have so many players (including starting GK Jesse Gonzalez) away on international duty this weekend. There will be a lot of regulars who are elsewhere.

That bodes well for the hosts, who are expert at pouncing on mistakes.

I’ll also be watching: D.C.’s wide play, specifically when Chris Rolfe pinches inside and Taylor Kemp overlaps. This has been their most consistent way of generating chances, but it also leaves them exposed on the counter. Michael Barrios could feast.

Push It Along

Are you not entertained, Dynamo fans? Does this not please you?

Houston have become the must-watch package this season, playing a frenetic, helter-skelter style that often lacks for aesthetics but has delivered plenty of thrills and goals. They have that 5-0 win over Dallas, and they have a 3-3 draw against New England in Week 1, and last week they put together a certifiably insane 4-3 loss at the Red Bulls. It’s been a wild ride and we’re not even at the end of the first month of the season.

The Dynamo are an old-fashioned team of counterpunchers and runners, relying upon midfield turnovers to generate chances. And they don’t really bother much with possession:

You almost never see a team complete roughly the same percentage of passes in the final third as they do overall, and yet there the Dynamo are. It’s truly bizarre, though it’s proved to be a good way of punishing teams who are poor in transition defense.

That has to concern Carl Robinson and the Whitecaps, who host Houston on Saturday night (10 pm ET; TSN in Canada | MLS LIVE in the US). Robinson actually switched his side to a 4-4-2 in last week’s win at Seattle, and the idea was to stay deep and compact in order to prevent the run-out opportunities that had caused a pair of losses in the season’s first two weeks.

I’ll also be watching: Kekuta Manneh has been a non-factor in 202 minutes thus far for the ‘Caps. The leaky Houston defense could provide the right tonic.

One more thing:

Happy weekending, everybody.

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