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Five-a-side: the questions I want answered today in Major League Soccer

Chris Wondolowski;  Marvin Chavez;  Steven Lenhart; Victor Bernardez

San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski, second from right celebrates with teamamtes Marvin Chavez, left,, Steven Lenhart, second from left, and Victor Bernardez after scoring against Toronto FC during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, March 24, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)


1. Who will be the league’s leading scorer by 9 p.m. tonight?

Red Bulls striker and early league MVP leader Thierry Henry is dominating league headlines lately. He leads MLS in goals – but not by much. Teammate Kenny Cooper and San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski are both on his French heels with six. And all three prolific goal-getters are at Red Bull Arena today.

This will be the toughest test in a month for New York. Not to nitpick at the commanding run Hans Backe’s side has fashioned, but the competition hasn’t been all that. (Credit to New York for not just winning against the laggards but rather crushing them like bugs over the last three weeks.) San Jose’s defense this year, boosted by new center back Victor Bernardez, has allowed just two goals in five games. Plus, Jon Busch is playing well in goal; I thought Busch might have been Major League’s Soccer’s best in the net in 2011, but his team’s failure to find the playoffs directed much of the “Best Goalkeeper” talk elsewhere. So, this is a worthy test for the Red Bulls.

2. Who can keep the momentum, Dallas or Montreal?

The expansion Impact probably won’t have many chances to assemble streaks this year, so they have to spring lively when opportunity presents. Jesse Marsch’s club claimed its initial victory last week. But that was at home, against a Toronto team that looks completely lost. So, traveling into Texas is a different matter. Especially as Schellas Hyndman’s team would like to put together a little streak of its own, building on last week’s stoppage-time win over New England. Creativity is lacking for FC Dallas at the moment, and one blogger wonders (rightly) if Brek Shea should see more of the ball?

3. How will the high-tension affair in Seattle go?

Steve Zakuani will not be on the field, but Colorado winger Brian Mullan will. (Here’s a quick catch-up on the history between these two.) Amid the theater of it all is an fascinating contrast between the 4-3-3 Oscar Pareja is refining in Colorado against Seattle’s 4-4-2. Who will get the tactics right? Or more accurately, who will be forced by the game’s dynamics to adjust to the other? My guess: the visitors will acquiesce tactically, and the 4-3-3 will look more like a 4-5-1 when Colorado loses the ball, with Mullan dropping especially deep to defend along the Rapids’ right side.

Seattle’s lineup is closer to full health than Colorado’s, especially with former U.S. international Eddie Johnson possibly getting back into Sigi Schmid’s lineup. Plus, Martin Rivero and Jaime Castillon, new to Colorado and currently the forward end of Pareja’s central midfield “V,” might not be intimidated by the CenturyLink crowd – but they may not be totally comfortable with the artificial turf, either.

4. Can Philadelphia hold fast?

For perhaps the first time in (the brief) club history, there’s genuine fan discord around PPL Park. Grumbling at the Sebastien Le Toux trade in the winter was just that and not much more in the end. But if Peter Nowak can’t turn up one win from three home matches (the Union have a draw and a loss so far), that famous Philly fan ire will surely get cranked up to 11. The Union had a week off to adjust the lineup and tactics, possibly getting Freddy Adu on the field for some much needed creativity. Columbus cannot be confident following last week’s capitulation against New York and now facing a well-rested and riled Union in a nationally televised contest (3:30 p.m., NBC Sports Network).

5. Real Salt Lake or Sporting Kansas City?

We’ve written so much already about this clash of 15-point teams, each heading up their respective conference. So, my only question now is this: Will my prediction of a 1-1 draw hold up?