MLS Week 23 Preview: Big Games Out West, More

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

by RYAN BRISTER

We have entered the final third of the Major League Soccer season, and the matches scheduled for this weekend hint at the heightened stakes. The biggest games of the weekend are out West, where teams at the top and teams in the playoff hunt are all pitted against each other.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Friday at 11 p.m. on Unimas

Unimas makes a rare trip north of the border to Vancouver for Friday night’s game against San Jose. Both teams enter the week on the outside of the playoff spots out West; the Whitecaps have two more points from two more games played. That makes this a six-pointer in the playoff race, and a game the hosts especially will feel they need to win.

DC United vs. Portland Timbers, Saturday at 7 p.m. 

Portland goes across the country to face DC. United is plodding along, winless in their last six, and lucky that teams in front of them aren’t pulling away with the playoff race. The Timbers are one of five teams in MLS who still haven’t won an away game this year. They are the only member of that group currently sitting in a playoff position.

New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact, Saturday at 7 p.m.

It’s a potentially pivotal match in the Eastern Conference between New York and Montreal. Both teams enter the week sitting on 33 points, but the Impact have a pair of games in hand. The won the first meeting of the year, which was at Olympic Stadium in Montreal. The Red Bulls are the walking wounded at the moment, without Dax McCarty, Connor Lade, Gideon Baah, and Damien Perrinelle.

Columbus Crew SC vs. New York City FC, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

NYCFC heads to Columbus, where the home team is in crisis. Crew SC did not play last week, which maybe gave them a chance for some soul-searching after ten MLS games without a win. Columbus has been especially frustrated by a series of draws at home, and NYCFC happens to have the best away record in MLS.

New England Revolution vs. Philadelphia Union, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Revs are riding high after their Tuesday night win in the Open Cup, but translating that into MLS success is another story. New England knocked the Union out of that tournament in penalties; in a regular season match in March Philly fared much better.

Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC, Saturday at 9 p.m.

Houston hosts Toronto on Saturday night. TFC has won four games in a row, but all of those were at home. A road game, even against lowly Houston, will be an interesting test of their mettle. Just how real are these Reds?

FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City, Saturday at 9 p.m.

Staying in Texas, Dallas and Kansas City have a meeting scheduled for the same time. These teams have already played twice this year, with each side winning at home. Dallas went 120 minutes in their U.S. Open Cup win on Wednesday, so Oscar Pareja has work to do to keep his side fresh.

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids, Saturday at 10:30 p.m.

Dallas’ opponent in that Open Cup match will host Colorado Saturday night in another clash of some of the West’s best teams. Bruce Arena did not field his best possible lineup for that Open Cup match, so the Galaxy might be a bit more rested. They’ll probably need that as they take on the Rapids. Colorado has taken four points from their two prior games against LA.

Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City SC, Sunday at 4 p.m. on Unimas

ESPN has the Spanish Supercopa, so their planned broadcast of Chicago and Orlando moves to Unimas on Sunday. In March, Chicago took a 1-1 draw from the Citrus Bowl. Home draws have become a theme in Orlando’s season, but their performance away from home has also been lacking.

Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake, Sunday at 7 p.m. on FS1

Seattle and Salt Lake are set for what could be a very interesting match in the West. Seattle is coming off a big win in Orlando last weekend, but they will need more performances like that if they are to make a run for the playoffs in the West. A home game like this, against a solid team like RSL, should give us a good idea where the new-look Sounders stand. Real has been one of the better teams in MLS away from home, but that isn’t saying too much.