MLS is back! It’s been 84 days since we last watched competitive MLS soccer when Seattle beat Toronto FC in an MLS Cup shootout. Today begins a new era in MLS as expansion side Minnesota United FC travels to Portland to take on the Timbers. Every week we’ll break down all the games, telling you which one you can’t miss, which one you probably should miss and give you an exclusive Total MLS hot take of the week. Let the season begin!
Best game of the week: Atlanta United FC v. New York Red Bulls, Sunday March 5 – 7:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
After all the offseason hype we’ll finally get to see Atlanta United FC in a real game. ATL hasn’t been shy about spending … a lot. With DPs Miguel Almirón, Hector Villalba and Josef Martinez leading their attack, Atlanta’s offense looks to be lethal on paper. But, RBNY have their own goal scoring threat in Bradley Wright-Phillips and are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls will be a fantastic litmus for Atlanta right out of the gate. Welcome to MLS, ATLUTD.
Worst game of the week: Colorado Rapids v. New England Revolution – Saturday, March 4, 6:00PM ET, MLS Live
You could objectively make the case that PTFC v. MNUFC is the worst game, but I’m not going to be that mean to Minnesota right off the bat. Colorado was one of the biggest surprises of the 2016 season, sticking around in the Supporters’ Shield race until the last week of the season. On the other side, New England looks to be in a bit of disarray. They’re sort of the forgotten team in MLS, especially by their own ownership who seem more focused on winning Super Bowls with the Patriots. Expectations aren’t high this year for the Revs. A result at Colorado would give fans a sliver of hope, but it’s more likely that Rapids gets a clean sheet and handle the Revs easily at home.
Friday, March 3
Portland Timbers v. Minnesota United FC – 9:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
This game wouldn’t actually be very interesting if it were any other week. But, it’s the first taste of meaningful MLS action we’ve had in months and it’s the debut appearance of expansion side MNUFC. Smart money is on PDX to win at home, but I know many MLS fans who are hoping Minnesota can shock the Timbers and pull off the upset.
Saturday, March 4
Columbus Crew SC v. Chicago Fire –2:00PM ET, MLS Live
While I personally think Columbus will be one of the worst teams in MLS this year, I’m really curious to watch the Fire. Chicago had what many consider the best offseason in MLS with the addition of striker Nemanja Nikolic, MLS veteran midfielders Dax McCarty and Juninho and keeper Jorge Brava. This team may have been the bottom feeders of MLS last year, but I think they’ll be a fun team to watch this year with a shot at making the playoffs.
LA Galaxy v. FC Dallas – 4:00PM ET, Univision
I don’t really have to say much to sell this matchup. FC Dallas won both the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup last year, and their roster is arguably better this year. LA Galaxy lost Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard and Landon Donovan (again), but the addition of DP winger Romain Alessandrini will be a great complement to Gio Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes. Both LA and FCD will be among the best in the Western Conference when it’s all said and done.
Real Salt Lake v. Toronto FC – 4:30PM ET, MLS Live
Toronto FC had its fair share of drama in the offseason with Giovinco to China rumors swirling. With that behind them, the defending Eastern Conference champions are the trendy pick to win MLS Cup in 2017, and they’ll face a strong RSL team in Week 1. For Salt Lake, the big question is will head coach Jeff Cassar keep his job for the whole season? Defeating TFC to start the season would go a long way toward earning him some good will among fans.
D.C. United v. Sporting KC – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
D.C. United and Sporting KC are two of the most historic teams in MLS. It’s always fun when they play, and this game should be no different. DCU and SKC are dead even when it comes to all-time regular season results at 20-20-12, with the home team generally taking the full three points. Despite this, SKC feels confident with their new and improved, younger and faster roster. D.C. looks to build on a successful 2016, but the potential absence of Luciano Acosta after a training injury could hurt D.C.’s chances on Saturday.
Houston Dynamo v. Seattle Sounders FC – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
This is actually one of the more intriguing matchups of the week. Obviously Seattle is coming off their first ever MLS Cup win, and expectations are they’ll be right back in the hunt this year. Clint Dempsey will likely make his long-awaited return to the lineup after missing the second half of last season with heart problems. Houston, on the other hand, was worst in the West and better only than Chicago in all of MLS. The Dynamo revamped their squad in the offseason with additions of Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, AJ DeLaGarza and more. They may even be a potential playoff contender. What’s maybe most intriguing will be how Cubo Torres performs. If the preseason is any indication, it may be a bounce back year for the DP.
San Jose Earthquakes v. Montreal Impact – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
The Earthquakes underwent an entire front office restructuring in the offseason, which means it’s probably a make or break year for coach Dom Kinnear. In the waning years of Wondolowski’s prolific career, Earthquakes fans are hoping to recapture some of their 2012 magic and squeak into the playoffs. Montreal is coming off one of their best seasons in MLS and has championship aspirations. Drogba may be gone, but Nacho Piatti and Matteo Mancosu will more than make up for any goals lost.
Sunday, March 5
Orlando City SC v. New York City FC – 5:00PM ET, ESPN
Orlando opens their brand new stadium in front of a national TV audience. On the field, the Lions shocked MLS when they traded Brek Shea to Vancouver for Jamaican forward Giles Barnes. Barnes and 2015 Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin (aka Canadian Messi) will be a fearsome duo with Kaka feeding them from the midfield, but that’s about where the positives end for OCSC. NYCFC lost legend Frank Lampard to retirement, but he didn’t add much to the squad anyways. But reigning MVP David Villa and new DP signing Maxi Moralez will be a force to be reckoned with. Sean Johnson should be a definite upgrade at keeper. City should win this one and start their march toward a potential Supporters’ Shield or MLS Cup.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Philadelphia Union – Sunday, March 5, 9:30PM ET, MLS Live
Vancouver is an intriguing team to watch this season. The addition of former Sounders man Fredy Montero is sure to bring some attacking prowess to the team. It will be interesting to watch how Brek Shea fits into the squad, whom Vancouver acquired in MLS’ biggest offseason trade when they shipped Giles Barnes to Orlando City. Philadelphia started strong in 2016 but regressed as the season went on. Philly has playoff aspirations again this year, and getting points on the road will be key to getting back.
Hot Take of theWeek
Minnesota United FC will fly in the face of all the critics, come out strong and get a result at Portland. I don’t know if they’ll be able to pull off the upset victory on the road (although everyone outside of Portland would love to see it), but don’t be surprised if MNUFC come away with a point.