MLS Week 20 Preview: What to Watch For

Yankee-Stadium-NYCFC-HDR-2b

By RYAN BRISTER

MLS_logo.svgAfter a break for the group stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Major League Soccer resumes play on Wednesday night. A slew of players remain on international duty. Of note — the two New York area team — the Red Bulls and New York City FC — are playing on the same day/night and at the same time for probably the first time since City entered the league. What gives? So for the best of the rest, here’s what to watch for:

Battles Atop the Eastern Conference

NYCFC (10-6-3, 33 points) is third in the Eastern Conference, and this week faces the two conference leaders. Wednesday night’s game is the first time it will Toronto (11-3-5, 38) since a 7-0 aggregate beatdown in last year’s playoffs. The Pigeons then host Chicago (11-3-5, 38) on Saturday, hoping to slow down the Fire, which hasn’t lost since April 29. If NYCFC can win twice, it could end the week on top of the conference. NYCFC go back goalkeeper Sean Johnson from the Gold Cup but will miss Miguel Camargo and Rodney Wallace (who is injured and will not play for Costa Rica) while Toronto will be without Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, who are with the United States’ team.

First Meeting for Orlando and Atlanta

Orlando (8-7-5, 29) plays a fellow MLS team from the Southeast for the first time when it hosts Atlanta (9-7-3, 30) on Friday night. They have proved a lot of doubters wrong about soccer’s potential n the region. It’s a six-hour drive between the two cities, but a sizable contingent of United fans are expected to make the trip. They resume play separate by only a point in the Eastern Conference.

Union Looks to Make Up Ground

Philadelphia (6-7-5, 23) has a chance to move up in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Union play Montreal (5-6-6, 21) on Wednesday, then consecutive games, home and away, with sixth-place Columbus (9-10-1, 28). 

Challenging Travel Week for San Jose

The Earthquakes (7-7-5, 26) have road games on opposite coasts. First, is the midweek match against New York ((8-8-2, 26) at Red Bull Arena, then a game at Seattle (6-7-6, 24) on Sunday. That’s a big test for a team that is 2-6-1 on the road.

A Battle in the Northwest

Vancouver end their week with a game against Cascadia rivals Portland (7-7-6, 27). The Whitecaps have played fewer games than any MLS team, three fewer than the Timbers. They have a chance here to make up for a 2-1 April loss in Portland. It’s a two-game week for both sides, with Vancouver visiting Los Angeles (6-8-4, 22) and Portland playing Salt Lake (6-12-2, 20).