Week 5 of the MLS season is here, and we’re back to a full lineup of games after the international break. And thank God, because one can only take so much New England v. Minnesota. There are some really good games to keep an eye on this week, though. Let’s take a look.
Best game of the week: Seattle Sounders FC v. Atlanta United FC – Friday, March 31, 10:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1
This game absolutely fascinates me. Seattle looks to have found their form after a solid 3-1 victory over a very good RBNY team. On the other hand, ATLUTD have come out even faster and stronger than anyone could have imagined. Unfortunately, Atlanta will be without their DP Josef Martinez who is out 4-6 weeks due to a quad injury suffered during the international break. Will Atlanta be able to keep up their form even without their star striker?
Worst game of the week: Minnesota United FC v. Real Salt Lake – Saturday, April 1, 8:00PM, MLS Live
Okay, I promise I won’t list the MNUFC game as the worst game of the week *every* week. But I avoided it for the first few weeks of the season, so forgive me for doing it back-to-back weeks now. Let’s be honest, though. Minnesota looks like they’re on pace to be the worst team in MLS history. Today they made what seems like a desperation move sending Mohammed Saied and Josh Gatt to Colorado in exchange for Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. The 30 and 32-year-olds respectively won’t play tonight, but I’m also not sure how they fit into MNUFC’s future plans. RSL on the other hand just hired Mike Petke as the replacement for the fired Jeff Cassar. RSL earned a hard-fought point on the road last week against RBNY, but they seemed totally outmatched the entire game. Can Petke come in and right the ship?
Friday, March 31
Toronto FC v. Sporting Kansas City – 7:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
This is actually a very intriguing game. These two teams both have players coming back from USMNT duty, with Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore returning to TFC and Graham Zusi and Matt Besler going back to Sporting KC. Roger Espinoza also played two full matches for Honduras. Both SKC and TFC aren’t scoring goals quite at the clip they’d like. Giovinco hasn’t scored yet, but he’s been battling an injury. He even returned to Italy for treatment during the international break, so TFC is hoping he’ll be back to full fitness. Sporting KC is hoping to build off their two goal performance against San Jose, even if one of them was a fluke own goal from David Bingham. SKC will be without Benny Feilhaber, though, which is a significant blow to the attack. Peter Vermes will have to do some reshuffling to make up for Benny’s absence.
Saturday, April 1
New York City FC v. San Jose Earthquakes – 2:00PM ET, MLS Live
The Earthquakes started off much better than most people thought they would. They beat 2/3 of Canada during the first two weeks of the season before falling to Sporting KC 2-1. To be fair, San Jose almost found a way to come back and steal a point from Sporting KC were it not for last minute heroics by Tim Melia in stoppage time. NYCFC has four points through three matches, but this team still looks like an Eastern Conference powerhouse. They’ll be a tough matchup for San Jose, especially since the Earthquakes have to fly across the country to visit Yankee Stadium.
Chicago Fire v. Montreal Impact – 3:00PM ET, MLS Live
I don’t think I have to really build this one up, do I? Bastian Schweinsteiger is here, and the Chicago Fire are going to win the World Cup. Amazing, isn’t it? If you bet on that one preseason, you’re going to win a lot of money. In all seriousness, though, I’m really interested to see how the Fire use Basti. He’s a very similar player to both Dax McCarty and Juninho. So does that mean the Fire will play him as a CAM? That’s certainly not where Schweinsteiger normally plays, but this move clearly wasn’t made for soccer reasons. Montreal has struggled out of the gate and will be without their best player Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti, so this will be a tough one for the Impact.
Columbus Crew SC v. Orlando City SC – 4:00PM ET, UniMás, facebook.com
The obvious storyline going into this game is the Crew’s recent acquisition of striker Kekuta Manneh in their recent trade with the Whitecaps. Columbus sent Toni Tchani, some TAM and some GAM over to Vancouver in exchange for the 22-year-old. Between Manneh, Ola Kamara, Higuain and the rest of the attacking players on the Crew, Columbus is building a nice little offensive squad. Orlando City has their own star striker though, and his name is Canadian Messi. Actually, it’s Cyle Larin, but the #CanadianMessi movement is picking up steam. Get on it. This should be a fun game to watch, and I expect both sides to score some goals.
D.C. United v. Philadelphia Union – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
This game was in the running for worst game of the week, if I’m being honest. There’s just not that much intrigue in this game. D.C. has fallen flat and my not actually be a very good team, despite many picking them to be in the playoffs in the preseason. They’re winless through three games and will be desperately searching for three points to avoid full-blown panic mode among their fan base.
Houston Dynamo v. New York Red Bulls – 8:30PM, MLS Live
Houston came out hot to start the year, beating both Seattle and Columbus before falling to the Portland Timbers last week. The Dynamo may not be quite as good as they looked during the first two weeks of the season, but I’m not convinced this isn’t a playoff team. The Red Bulls will be a good test to see if the Dynamo of the first two weeks or last week is the real Houston team. RBNY are coming off a frustrating draw with RSL at home. They clearly dominated the match and had chances to score, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net. They’ll be looking to avenge that and put two or three at least in the net this week.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Los Angeles Galaxy – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
After the Manneh trade it looks like Vancouver may already be punting on 2017 and working toward building for the future. They’ve got one point through three games, which isn’t great in the very tough Western Conference. They got an absolute haul from Columbus, bringing in a combined $300,000 in TAM/GAM in addition to Tony Tchani. Clearly they’re saving money for something in the future. Maybe we’ll find out in the summer window? LA finally got a much-needed win over RSL in their last match, and another win over Vancouver will make all things feel right in LA once again. It looks like they’ll get Ashley Cole back from injury, which will bolster their defensive line. Realistically, LA should come out of this one with three points.
Sunday, April 2
Portland Timbers v. New England Revolution – 9:00PM ET, ESPN 2
I’ll admit, I was very tough on the Timbers in the preseason. I didn’t have faith that they adequately filled their defensive holes after Nat Borchers retired and Gbenga Arokoyo got hurt. But David Guzmán has come over from Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa, stepped into the CDM role and totally transformed this Timbers team. Portland looks about as good as any team in the league, despite a tough 3-2 loss to Columbus last week. This team still will likely look to bring in some defensive reinforcements, but they’ll certainly be a power house in the Western Conference all year. New England on the other hand? Well, they beat Minnesota United last week. That’s something, I guess. Okay, maybe not. But I don’t expect New England to put up five goals against the Timbers, and I don’t expect them to get a result.
FC Dallas v. Colorado Rapids – Postponed
I’ll admit, I’m a bit sad to see this one postponed. I wanted to see FC Dallas’ attack against that stout Rapids defense. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. At least not now. Colorado took full advantage of the unscheduled bye week by trading with MNUFC. It will be interesting how Mohammed Saied and Josh Gatt fit into their lineup going forward. With FC Dallas playing a midweek game against Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League, MLS postponed the match to allow them to focus solely on that matchup. They currently hold a 2-1 lead as they travel down to Mexico, but that away goal looms large. It’ll be a tough matchup for Dallas, but we’re pulling for them and hoping they do MLS proud.
Hot take of the week: Loons United. MNUFC will shock the world and get their first win against a struggling RSL team. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably not. But one can hope, right? Come on, Loons. We’re all pulling for you.
GIF of the week: I’m giving MNUFC their first win of the season! Congrats Loons. You just won GIF of the week thanks to the like six really excited fans who travelled to New England to support their club. Come on you Loons!