MLS Week 17: What to Watch For

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By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoWeek 17 in Major League Soccer is a difficult one for managers. With Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup games in midweek, many teams playing Tuesday for July 4, and national teams prepping for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the schedule again will test teams’ depth. Only the Red Bulls and Seattle have the weekend off.

The California Clásico

On Wednesday night, San Jose (2-1 over Seattle) and Los Angeles (2-0 over Sacramento) to advance to face each other in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on July 10. On Saturday night, they will resume their longstanding rivalry in front of 50,000 fans at Stanford Stadium. The Earthquakes (6-6-5, 23 points) are above the Galaxy (6-6-4, 22) in the Western Conference. Los Angeles has been the league’s best road team this year (5-2-1), and in May it handed the Quakes their only home loss of the season.

A Premier Match Missing Some Pieces

The league’s best team so far in 2017 will head on the road to face the best team from 2016. Toronto (10-2-5, 35) and Dallas (6-3-7, 25) will be without players who are on international duty. Dallas will be minus Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges, who are with the U.S. team; while the Canadians Raheem Edwards, Jonathan Osorio and Tosaint Ricketts will be absent for TFC.

Showdown in the West

Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference face off on Saturday night. Despite both being near the top of the standings, neither has been playing well. The Timbers (7-7-4, 25) enter this weekend having won just two of their last 10 games. Sporting Kansas City (8-4-6, 30), Portland’s opponent, is unbeaten in its last four.

Columbus and Atlanta Battle in the East

The best Eastern Conference matchup of the week will be played in Columbus where the Crew (8-9-1, 25) host Atlanta (7-7-3, 24) with the teams separated by a single point. It’s the second game between these teams in just three weeks; Atlanta won, 3-1, on June 17.

Orlando Seeks Spark on Offense

Orlando City (7-6-5, 26) has been one of the league’s most inept teams on offense, averaging just 1.1 goals per game. But two things this week might help Jason Kreis’ side. First, Cyle Larin (8 goals) is eligible to play again after going through the league’s substance abuse program. Second, Orlando is facing an Real Salt Lake (5-11-2, 17) side currently on pace to challenge Chivas USA’s record for goals conceded. RSL has given up 37 goals in 18 games.