Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
New York Red Bulls' Dane Richards will want to build on his breakthrough game of 2012, when the speedy attacker accompanies Jamaica's contingent into Major League Soccer (MLS) action this weekend.
Richards, still goalless after six MLS games, got on the scoresheet in another fashion by supplying his first assist in New York's 2-2 draw with San Josť Earthquakes last weekend.
Fellow Reggae Boy Khari Stephenson also notched an assist against New York in North America's top football league.
Tomorrow, New York - with three wins, two losses and a draw for second place in the 10-team MLS Eastern Conference (EC) - tackle DC United in Washington.
Today, Stephenson and San Josť (4-1-1), second among nine clubs in the Western Conference (WC), host Real Salt Lake, the WC leader.
National striker Omar Cummings endured his second straight game without a goal as Colorado Rapids, 3-3 and slumped into sixth in the WC, were beaten 1-0 by Seattle Sounders last weekend. Colorado, also with Jamaica's Tyrone Marshall on the roster, host defending MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy today.
Francis could face scrutiny
Left fullback Shaun Francis could find his playing time under scrutiny. His Columbus Crew lost 1-0 to Philadelphia Union last weekend. Francis, who played all of the season's first five games, was substituted in the 73rd minute against Philadelphia as Columbus, now sixth in the EC, sought late game attacking punch.
Today, Columbus host Houston Dynamo, whose Reggae Boyz Jermaine Taylor and Je-Vaughn Watson have helped to 2-1-1 and fourth in the EC. Houston drew 1-1 with Chicago Fire on Sunday in a game Taylor and Watson started, but was cut short in the second half due to inclement weather. Taylor, selected to bolster injury-plagued Houston, earned his head coach's praise.
"The back four was pretty strong with Jermaine adding to the backline like he has before," Dominic Kinnear told MLS.com.
National utility player Lovel Palmer found himself a non-starter for Portland Timbers' for the first time in 2012 in last weekend's 3-1 loss to Los Angeles. Palmer was a second half substitute. Portland, mired in a five-game winless streak, host WC leader Sporting Kansas City today.
Need to Break from slump
Ryan Johnson will want to break out of a personal scoring and team losing slump with Toronto FC (TFC), pointless after five MLS games. Last weekend TFC were beaten 1-0 loss by Chivas USA, coached by Jamaica-born Robin Fraser.
Johnson came close to adding to his single MLS goal in 2012 as two efforts by the national striker were cleared off the goal line. TFC, outscored 10 goals to two and last in the EC, host Chicago today.
Fraser and Chivas, with impressive Jamaica-connected midfielder Ryan Smith and aiming for their third straight win, host Philadelphia today. Chivas are 3-3 and fifth in the WC.
"We've done some good things the last couple of weeks," Fraser told MLS.com.
Montreal Impact's defence, led by national players Donovan Ricketts and Shavar Thomas, was again breached late in the team's two most recent games, leaving the club eighth in the EC with a 1-5-2 record.
Goalkeeper Ricketts made crucial saves last weekend, but conceded a long-range shot in the 77th minute that tied the score, and was also beaten in the 88th minute as FC Dallas won 2-1. Ricketts was again beaten in a 1-1 draw with DC United on Wednesday. Montreal get a bye this weekend.
Meanwhile, it is still not clear when injured Jamaican rookie Darren Mattocks will play for slumping Vancouver Whitecaps, who lost 3-1 to Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday to drop to 2-2-2, seventh in the WC. They face FC Dallas today.