MLS Week 12: What to Watch For

C_0m13dXsAATJZm

By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoFive midweek games get Week 12 of Major League Soccer off to an early start. The jammed schedule will test the depth of nearly every team as the season progresses. Here’s what to watch for:

Can the Red Bulls Slow Down Toronto?

The Red Bulls (5-6-1, 16 points) and Toronto (7-1-4, 25) are moving in opposite directions ahead of Friday night’s game. New York has lost three in a row, including a home defeat (its first of the season) to the Galaxy on Sunday. TFC, meanwhile, has rocketed to the top of the standings with six straight wins. If Toronto can win at Red Bull Arena the club would tie the longest winning streak since MLS eliminated the shootout in 2000.

Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco is sidelined with a strained quad. Likewise, Nick Hagglund, who will be out for the season.

Expect Goals in Atlanta

The league’s two highest-scoring teams — Atlanta (2.1 goals per game) and Houston (2.0) — face off on Saturday. Cubo Torres of Houston (6-3-1, 19) leads the league with eight goals, though the Dynamo are not nearly as prolific away from home (2 goals in three games, all losses). Expansion Atlanta (3-4-3, 12) is winless in its last three and has only one victory in its last seven games after a fast start.

Struggling Seattle

The Sounders (2-4-4, 10) have won once in their last seven matches and the defending league champions are in ninth place the Western Conference. Kansas City is a tough place to play and Seattle faces a Sporting (5-2-4, 19) club that is unbeaten at home (4-0-1). Both teams head to Cascadia after the game on Wednesday — Seattle hosts Salt Lake on Saturday; SKC visits Vancouver.

Orlando Goes for Sweep of NYCFC

Orlando (6-3-1, 19) faces a daunting schedule. After last Saturday’s home game, the Lions travel cross-country to face San Jose (4-4-3, 15) on Wednesday, then return to Florida for Sunday’s game against NYCFC (5-3-2, 17). It will be the third meeting between Orlando and NYC; the Lions won the first two. Cyle Larin has scored nine goals in seven games against NYCFC, including three in the two games earlier this season.