Week 3 Preview

Two weeks down, thirty-something to go. We still have a lot to learn about most teams in MLS. Will Sporting KC ever score a goal? Will Minnesota United FC win a game? Will Houston go 34-0-0 while Cubo takes home the MVP trophy? All valid questions. But let’s take this one step at a time and look at what’s coming up in Week 3…

Best game of the week: Portland Timbers v. Houston Dynamo, Saturday March 18 – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live

Yeah, this is going to be a late one. West coast games are tough for anyone east of Salt Lake City to watch, but this one will be worth losing a couple hours of sleep over. Both Portland and Houston enter the game with two wins under their belts. Portland smashed expansion side MNUFC 5-1 and then grinded out a 1-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. Houston took out defending MLS champs Seattle Sounders FC then convincingly beat the Columbus Crew. Both games were in Houston, though, so traveling to Providence Park, one of the toughest places to play in MLS, will be a test of this Dynamo team. PTFC should be glad that Chara and Guzman weren’t suspended for this matchup, as they’ll both be needed to stop the Cubo revival tour. (Guzman is currently listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.)

Worst game of the week: Orlando City SC v. Philadelphia Union – Saturday, March 18, 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

There’s not much to say about this match other than it’s simply just not an appealing game to watch. Orlando City is still without Kaka and Philadelphia isn’t exactly the most exciting team to watch. We don’t know a lot about OCSC as they’ve only played one match since the New England Revolution were scared of cold and postponed last week’s matchup. On the other hand, Philly is both winless and undefeated. They’ve had a scoreless draw against a bad Whitecaps team and a 2-2 draw against TFC. This game will probably end in a lackluster 0-0 or 1-1 draw. #Doop.

The rest:

Saturday, March 18

New York City FC v. Montreal Impact – 2:00PM ET, MLS Live

This is actually a fairly intriguing Eastern Conference matchup and could potentially be a preview of the conference finals later this year if MTL start playing up to expectations. NYCFC’s lone loss came at the hands of Orlando City, but it was the inaugural match of OCSC’s gorgeous new stadium. Emotions were so high in that game I’m not sure we can really count that against NYCFC. Last week’s 4-0 drubbing of D.C. United is a much better example of what City is capable of. The Impact have gotten off to a slow start, losing to San Jose (who are probably better than people expected, FWIW) and drew against Seattle Sounders FC. Impact fans are going to start to get restless if Montreal doesn’t come away with three points very soon.

Atlanta United FC v. Chicago Fire – 4:00PM ET, UniMás, Facebook

The battle of the up-and-coming Eastern Conference powers. Maybe. The Fire were everyone’s offseason darling (myself included), and a solid 2-0 victory against a decent RSL team last week shows that this team might make some noise in the East. It’s probably still too early to draw any real conclusions about Atlanta United. They played well despite a late collapse against a very good RBNY team and then smashed fellow expansion side MNUFC 6-1 in a blizzard, which probably tells us more about Minnesota United than Atlanta. I expect this to be a fun game to watch with both teams scoring a couple of goals.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Toronto FC – 4:00PM ET, MLS Live

Normally this game would be a near definitive three points for TFC, but with Giovinco out due to a leg contusion suffered against Philadelphia things get a bit more interesting. Toronto is still a talented side without Seba, but you don’t lose the best player in MLS for two straight years without some drop off. The reigning Eastern Conference champions are struggling early and are looking for their first win of the season. Vancouver wasn’t nearly as highly touted as Toronto coming into the season, but the late signing of Fredy Montero did make things a bit more exciting. Montero hasn’t started yet, but don’t be surprised if he is in the starting XI against TFC. Vancouver could steal three points in this one, creating even more panic amongst Toronto FC fans.

D.C. United v. Columbus Crew SC – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live

While the Crew weren’t picked by most people to be a top team in the Eastern Conference this year, D.C. United was. Unfortunately for DCU, they’re carrying the banner for slow starting MLS teams in 2017. They’re not only winless, but they’ve yet to score a goal this season after a 0-0 draw with Sporting KC and a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of David Villa and NYCFC. The Crew have scored a few times, but they only have one point on the season as well. Both fan bases will desperately want three points out of this match, which means it will probably end in a draw and make everyone sad.

FC Dallas v. New England Revolution – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

Dallas is coming off an exciting 2-1 home victory over Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League, so this game may actually be somewhat of a trap game for them. Dallas rested most of their starters last week against SKC and clearly played for the draw (despite Pareja’s objections to that assertion). Regardless, playing three games in a span of eight days is tough. What makes it more difficult is they’re playing a New England team coming off an artificial bye week after the Revs postponed their game against Orlando City due to weather. (Hopefully they watched the MNUFC game and were ashamed of themselves.) Could a rested Revs team pull off the upset? Maybe. Just maybe…

Sporting Kansas City v. San Jose Earthquakes – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live

Sporting KC is home for the second week in a row, which might actually not be a good thing for them. Teams generally bunker down and play for a draw when the visit Children’s Mercy Park, and that’s exactly what FC Dallas did last week. Sporting KC had the vast majority of possession, but they couldn’t get a quality shot off to save their life. And despite two clean sheets through two games, they still haven’t found the back of the net themselves. SKC fans are getting anxious. Meanwhile, San Jose is far better than anyone expected who’s not an Ultra with his shirt off. They have two-for-two on the season, having beaten two-thirds of Canada already in 2017. They also aren’t afraid of Children’s Mercy Park. KC fans surely won’t forget the 5-0 thrashing they gave Sporting KC in August 2015. This has the makings of an early make-or-break game for Sporting KC.

Colorado Rapids v. Minnesota United FC – 9:00PM ET, MLS Live

Okay, this game probably won’t be very close. Minnesota looked completely overwhelmed and outmatched in both of their games so far, losing by a combined 11-2, good enough for the worst start by any club in MLS’ brief history. Their attack looks lost outside of Kevin Molino (which is why Total MLS is starting the #FreeMolino movement) and their defense looks even worse. Over in the Rockies, Colorado suffered a tough 1-0 loss away to the Red Bulls due to an own goal despite a lights out performance by Tim Howard. The Rapids attack leaves something to be desired, but their defense is among the best in MLS. They should have no problem taking all three points at home against the Loons.

Real Salt Lake v. LA Galaxy – 9:30PM ET, MLS Live

Continuing the theme of underachieving teams who have started slow, we now turn our attention to Real Salt Lake. RSL is in the scoreless club along with Sporting KC, New England and D.C. United. Salt Lake lost in part due some terrible defensive mistakes against the Chicago Fire last week, something they absolutely cannot do against the Galaxy. Good news for RSL is LA’s DP defender and captain Jelle Van Damme is suspended for the match after earning two yellow cards for his “fouls” against Diego Chara and David Guzman. While the Galaxy will surely miss Van Damme, the rest of us are thankful for his sacrifice because it led to this tweet-of-the-year worthy video from the Galaxy social media team:

Sunday, March 19

Seattle Sounders FC v. New York Red Bulls – 7:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1

MLS Cup 2018 preview? Could be. Seattle may be looking for their first win of the season, but there’s no reason for panic to set in for Sounders FC fans. If anything can be learned from their late push last season leading into their MLS Cup winning post season run it’s that this team can turn it on and keep it on when it counts. That’s not to say three points wouldn’t be welcomed by the Seattle faithful, and this game has all the makings of a victory for the Sounders FC. Home opener, ring ceremony, celebrations galore. The Red Bulls are a very good side and are sitting pretty at 2-0-0 on the year, but playing at Century Link is a formidable challenge, and I’m not sure they’ll pull it off Sunday night.

Hot Take of the Week: A rested Revs team goes on the road and beats the best team in MLS. From an objective standpoint New England has no business beating—or even drawing with—FC Dallas in Dallas. But with Dallas on short rest and the Revs coming off the extended break, I think New England gets three points on the road.

GIF of the Week: Week 2 did not disappoint when it came to GIFs. This week it was much harder to choose my favorite, so allow me to begin with some honorable mentions:

The mesmerizing zen of Jesse Marsch

The most literal kid you’ll see on TV

The real hero of Minnesota

Robot Cubo

Each of those could have easily taken the top GIF spot during most weeks, but my Week 2 GIF of the week goes to the elderly gentleman enthusiastically lifting his walker above his head in pure celebratory bliss. Here’s to you, sir.