MLS Week 22: What to Watch For

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By RYAN BRISTER

MLS logoWeek 22 in Major League Soccer will be unlike any of the first 21 weeks … or years in league history. Enter VAR (video assistant referee). Before we go to the videotape, the game is still about the players on the field — at least for now.

VAR Arrives

Ready or not, here comes VAR. After months and years of testing, MLS will implement a video assistant referee system this weekend. No league has perfect referees, but the perception is that officiating in MLS in not on par with the top leagues in Europe. That’s debatable, and it is a perception. Let’s face it, officials are generally loathed all over the world. VAR is not a cure-all and it is not intended to be, though it will be used, initially, to overturn the most egregious mistakes (goal line calls, yellow/red card reviews, penalties, offside). Will that make the simplest game more complex? Stay tuned.

Sunday Morning Soccer

Record heat in the Pacific Northwest (temperatures in the 90s for the foreseeable future) has caused Sunday’s game between Portland (8-8-7, 31 points) and visiting Los Angeles (6-10-5, 23) to be rescheduled for 11 a.m. Pacific, a rare morning kickoff. The Galaxy are seven points out of a playoff spot as the week begins, and can’t afford to be caught sleeping against a potent Timbers attack. L.A. began the Sigi Schmid era with a scoreless draw at home, but has found more success on the road this year (1-6-4 at home; 5-4-1 on the road). Jonathan Dos Santos should be available for his Galaxy debut.

Red Bulls Seek Revenge

In late June, New York City FC (11-7-4, 37) went to Red Bull Arena and stifled the hosts in a 2-0 win, their first on the road against their cross-river rivals. The Red Bulls (11-8-2, 35) have not lost since, and have ramped up their offense. They have scored 15 goals during the league winning streak, including six by Daniel Royer. NYCFC has faced a tough stretch of games, winning once over the same span. Will this momentum allow the Red Bulls to return the favor?

Playoff Race Heat Up in the East

Right now, both Montreal (6-8-6, 24) and Orlando (8-8-6, 30) would miss the playoffs. The two sides face one another on Saturday night with a chance to help themselves. Both teams have been busy in the transfer market, looking for ways to build for the stretch run. Dom Dwyer has a bit more time to acclimate to his new team in Orlando, while the Impact signed Samuel Piette, a 22-year-old Quebec native who had been playing in Spain’s third tier.

Hot Teams in Kansas City

The week wraps up with an intriguing game between Kansas City (9-4-9, 36) and Atlanta (10-7-4, 34). Both sides are riding hot streaks into their first meeting; SKC hasn’t lost since May, while United has won four of their last five games. No away team has won in Kansas City (7-0-4) this year; this will be another big test for the young club. Atlanta took a hit in midweek when Greg Garza separated his shoulder early in the All-Star Game.