MLS Week 11: What to Watch For

Michael Bradley Toronto FC Red Bulls Home Opener 1

By RYAN BRISTER

searchWeek 11 in Major League Soccer begins Wednesday night in a battle of Eastern Conference teams — Toronto and Columbus. The slate of games features three inter-conference matches on Sunday. Here’s what to watch for:

Toronto’s Depth Will Be Tested

Toronto (5-1-4, 19 points) will have played four games in 11 days by the end of Saturday’s match against Minnesota United (3-5-2, 11). TFC appears to have a side with the depth to weather a crowded schedule. It’s a testament to the club’s overall quality that Victor Vasquez, who is not a designated player, leads MLS with six assists. Sebastian Giovinco, who led the team in each of the last two years, has only one assist so far and yet the Reds are thriving. Giovinco was rested last Saturday in Seattle, and Vasquez and Jay Chapman filled his creative role.

Toronto expects to win against expansion Minnesota in a matinee at BMO Field; the bigger test is on Wednesday night game at Columbus. The Crew (5-4-1, 16) can leapfrog TFC and take first place in the conference with a win.

Atlanta Will Need Its Shinguards

No team in MLS has committed as many fouls (143) as the Timbers (5-3-2, 17). Portland’s record suggests its hasn’t hurt it too much. The Timbers have also yielded more goals (15) than all but three other sides, but also leads in goals scored (20). On Sunday, its aggressive brand of defense will face Atlanta (3-4-2, 11), one of the highest-scoring teams in the league (19 goals). Given the Timbers’ propensity to control possession, United will be seeking chances on the counter. The matchup to watch is Miguel Almíron’s ability to create chances against Diego Chara’s ability to shut down those opportunities — by any means necessary.

C.J. Sapong vs. Bill Hamid

MLS’s leading goalscorer will face one of its best goalkeepers when Philadelphia (1-4-4, 7) travels to face D.C. United (3-4-2, 11) on Saturday. After a second-half hat trick last week against the Red Bulls, C.J. Sapong has leapt to the top of the goalscoring charts with seven this season. Bill Hamid has been crucial for the limited success D.C. has enjoyed this year. In eight games, Hamid has faced more shots (50) — and made more saves (36) — than any other keeper.

Can the Galaxy Get It Right?

Los Angeles (2-5-2, 8) has gone four games without a win heading into its trip to Red Bull Arena on Sunday, and cracks are beginning to show. Coach Curt Onalfo subbed off captain Jelle Van Damme in the first half of a draw against Chicago, and the Galaxy managed a two-goal comeback without him. An MCL strain has sidelined Jermaine Jones for the next few weeks. The Red Bulls (5-5-1, 16), after winning three straight at home, have dropped two in a row (at Kansas City and at Orlando City) without scoring a goal. The match marks the start of another three-game home stand for New York.

NYCFC Attack vs. Dallas Defense

The weekend wraps up in Texas, where NYCFC (5-3-1, 16), winners of two straight, faces unbeaten Dallas (5-0-3, 18). New York has taken more shots on goal (56) than any other side, while Dallas has allowed has only allowed three goals in four games at home.