MLS Weekend Preview: Charlie Davies relishes his renaissance in New England

New England forward Charlie Davies will hope to continue his good form with a goal or two against LA Galaxy on Sunday (live, 7:00p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go).

Stew Milne

The move to sign Charlie Davies felt like a flier at the close of the transfer window a couple of years ago.

New England coach Jay Heaps knew Davies from the time they spent together with the U.S. national team at the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup. He wanted to see whether Davies — in his current state and on his way out of European soccer for a second time — could still pose a threat in front of goal for the Revolution.

Davies made just four appearances as 2013 wound to a close. He spent most of his time adjusting to Heaps’ system and figuring out how to tailor his game to fit into this particular dynamic. He continued those strides even as he waded through frustrating setback after frustrating setback at the start of last season.

All of the energy and all of the time expended manifested at the tail end of last season. Davies functioned as a developing, promising conduit in the Revs’ incisive attack. He displayed his commitment to closing down opposing defenders and working earnestly off the ball to place himself in positions to combine. His work allowed him to command a regular place in the starting XI during the final throes of the campaign and start for the Revolution in MLS Cup.

It also provided him a platform to take the next step in 2015. Davies started the season on the bench in the wake of Juan Agudelo’s arrival, but he pried his way back into the lineup and entrenched himself with his production.

Davies’ output — including five goals and one assist in his 12 appearances — and his likely presence in the lineup for LA Galaxy’s visit on Sunday (live, 7:00p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go) reflects the work undertaken over the past few years. At this point, it’s clear that the move worked out for both sides as they continue to push forward together.

Sporting Kansas City — FC Dallas, Friday, 9:00p.m. ET (UniMas, Univision Deportes)

Sporting manager Peter Vermes must figure out how to blunt FCD’s work on the break to extend his side’s unbeaten run to six matches. The key here is that famous Sporting pressure. Vermes continues to tinker with it in a bid to preserve his players and protect a tattered back four. If Sporting can strike the right balance between exerting pressure and retaining their shape, then they might have to foothold necessary to cause the expected problems in possession. The potential inclusion of Graham Zusi (concussion) would help matters, particularly with Dom Dwyer (neck soreness) and Paulo Nagamura (back soreness) both likely to miss out.

Toronto FC — San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday, 5:00p.m. ET (TSN4, TSN5)

Concentration is crucial for TFC in the buildup to this affair. San Jose preys on teams that drop their levels for a sequence or two or switch off at inopportune moments. It only takes an instance for Chris Wondolowski to dole out the corresponding punishment. TFC must maintain their focus for the duration of the affair to translate their expected superiority in possession into three points.

Vancouver Whitecaps — Real Salt Lake, Saturday, 6:00p.m. ET (TSN1, TSN3)

RSL never quite found their stride against LA Galaxy in midweek, but the Claret-and-Cobalt at least boast more choices up front now with Sebastian Jaime and Joao Plata back in the fold. RSL coach Jeff Cassar opted for 4-2-3-1 in midweek. This challenge — particularly with the Whitecaps’ prowess on the break — might call for similar tactics to protect a back four stripped of linchpin Jamison Olave through suspension.

New York City FC — Houston Dynamo, Saturday, 7:00p.m. ET

The rot must stop at some point for NYCFC. This match against a composed Dynamo outfit supplies an opportunity to notch their first victory since March. The formula is simple: NYCFC requires more solidity from its defense and more thrust from their star players to end this tailspin. Anything less might pave the way for the Dynamo — complete with the in-form Giles Barnes leading the charge — to leave with a result.

D.C. United — Philadelphia Union, Saturday, 7:00p.m. ET

United coach Ben Olsen rested many of his regulars for the 1-0 defeat in Portland on Wednesday with this match and a busy schedule ahead. Even with the Union’s unexpected resurgence, it looks like a wise move. United struggled at PPL a fortnight ago. The home side will expect a more dogged display this time around to secure the points against an increasingly confident Union side.

Orlando City — Columbus Crew SC, Saturday, 7:30p.m. ET

Orlando City hopes to celebrate the announcement of private funding for the new, soccer-specific stadium in downtown Orlando with three points against Crew SC. Expect both teams to spend the majority of this affair fighting over possession. Both teams prefer to operate with the ball. Keep an eye when and where the ball is conceded: Orlando City flourishes when Kaka leads the break, while Crew SC poses a threat through its wide players even if Ethan Finlay isn’t fit enough to feature.

Chicago Fire — Montréal Impact, Saturday, 8:30p.m. ET (TVA Sports)

This trek to Bridgeview offers the Impact a chance to continue their resurgence after a pair of home victories. Montréal boasts the mobility and the incisiveness required to pose a threat to a Fire team often exposed in transition. Chicago must set out its stall carefully before looking to hit Montréal when it finally decides to commit numbers into the attacking half.

Colorado Rapids — Portland Timbers, Saturday. 9:00p.m. ET

After securing their first home win since July last weekend and succumbing in Seattle on Wednesday, the Rapids return to Commerce City in a bid to procure more points. Portland improved modestly to claim a 1-0 victory over a weakened D.C. United outfit in midweek. The Timbers must continue those strides to cope with a Rapids team still trying to figure out how to use recently acquired forwards Kevin Doyle and Luis Solignac effectively.

Seattle Sounders — New York Red Bulls, Sunday, 5:00p.m. ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)

Sounders FC enters this home affair after exercising dominion over the Rapids in a 1-0 victory in midweek. The return of Obafemi Martins increases the potency of the Sounders attack, but the focus here falls on the matchup in central midfield. New York must win the three-versus-two battle in that department in order to obtain the foothold necessary to depart with a point.

New England Revolution — LA Galaxy, Sunday, 7:00p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1, FOX Deportes)

Revolution coach Jay Heaps must cope without the suspended Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney for the Galaxy’s visit to Gillette Stadium. Look for the Revs to exploit the Galaxy’s tenuous left back situation — Baggio Husidic deputized there for the 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday — with overlapping runs from London Woodberry on the right. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena faces a choice on the recovering Robbie Keane as he selects his lineup after the Ireland captain played the second half in midweek.