Week 8 Preview

Welcome to the part of MLS season where we start getting midweek games. Some weeks we’ll get really interesting matchups that will make your Wednesday much better. Other weeks we’ll get… New England v. San Jose. Thankfully MLS makes up for it with some really interesting games this weekend, including the two remaining unbeaten teams facing off against each other. So without further ado, MLS Week 8…

Best game of the week: FC Dallas v. Sporting Kansas City – Saturday, April 22, 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

This one is obvious. FC Dallas and Sporting KC are the only remaining unbeaten teams in MLS. Everyone knew FC Dallas was going to be good and challenge for the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup, but fewer people knew what to expect out of SKC. These two teams have already faced each other once this year resulting in a 0-0 draw in Kansas City, but Dallas was preparing for a Champions League matchup that week so they sat most of their starters and parked the bus for the whole match. Beating the Timbers in Portland shows they are a serious contender in the West. Sporting KC also has the #1 defense in MLS, having allowed just two goals all season. FC Dallas has a pretty stout defense, too, having yet to allow more than one goal this season. This has all the makings of a great showdown. Don’t miss it.

Worst game of the week: Philadelphia Union v. Montreal Impact – Saturday, April 22, 1:00PM ET, MLS Live

Have you heard of a powerhouse matchup? Think of that. Now imagine the exact opposite of it. That’s pretty much what we have here. Philadelphia is still winless, sitting at the bottom of MLS with two points. Montreal isn’t much better, having won just a single game (last week against Atlanta United) and sitting in tenth place in the Eastern Conference. Granted, Piatti was out for a few weeks for Montreal and the immediately won upon his return, but is that sustainable? Don’t get me wrong, Piatti is a fantastic player. But Montreal seems to have some issues this year, and I’m not sure one player can turn them around by himself.

The rest:

Wednesday, April 19

New England Revolution v. San Jose Earthquakes – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

So you get home from work, and you’re trying to figure out what to do on a Wednesday night. Then you remember there’s a midweek MLS game! Yes! What a great way to break up the monotony of the week. You check the schedule and, oh, it’s the Revs and the Earthquakes. Not ideal. Okay, it’s soccer though. Wait, what? It’s the only game today and it’s not on national TV? That’s… frustrating. Honestly this one made a strong case for worst game of the week. New England and San Jose are lucky Philly is so bad. But a single Wednesday night game that’s not on national TV? Not great. As far as the game itself goes, both of these teams have been so inconsistent that it could wind up being game-of-the-year or it could be a terrible 0-0 draw. Both teams would like to get the full three points though to get things moving in the right direction.

Friday, April 21

Toronto FC v. Chicago Fire – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

Think back to the end of the 2016 season. Toronto FC just lost MLS Cup on a thrilling shootout. After the game I tell you that Toronto and Chicago are playing on April 21, 2017. One team is third in the Eastern Conference and the other is ninth. You obviously say the Fire are in third and TFC are in ninth, right? Oh. Well, here we are. Chicago had a stellar offseason and further improved with the Schweinsteiger addition. Toronto FC pretty much kept the same roster but just hasn’t found their stride yet. Giovinco only has one goal through six games. TFC as a team has only scored seven goals total. It’s certainly not panic time yet, and if I were a betting man I’d say Toronto will be just fine when it’s all said and done. A win against Chicago would certainly help, though.

Saturday, April 22

Houston Dynamo v. San Jose Earthquakes – 4:00PM ET, UniMás, facebook.com

Earthquakes v. Earthquakes. Kind of. Back in 2005 the then San Jose Earthquakes moved to Houston and became Houston 1836 for about half a second before they became the Houston Dynamo. In 2008, the Earthquakes lived once again as an expansion side. I already mentioned earlier that San Jose has been inconsistent this year. To be more specific I guess you could say they’ve been consistently inconsistent, having won two, then lost two, then drawing two. Houston has been inconsistent as well. At times, the Dynamo have looked like they’re among the best in MLS with the resurrection of Cubo Torres. They’ve also drawn Minnesota at home. This matchup may end up being important for a Western Conference playoff spot later in the year, though. I could easily see both of these teams fighting for the #6 spot come season’s end.

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

Portland fans are going to be mad after last week’s home loss to Sporting KC. Well, Portland fans are always mad, but they’ll be especially mad after a home loss. As much as Timbers fans won’t want to admit it, Sporting KC simply outplayed the Timbers from the first whistle. There’s no reason to overreact in the Rose City, though. The Timbers are a good team, and they still sit atop the West with 13 points. North of the border, Vancouver may have finally found their footing. They started off slow while they were still in Champions League play, but they’ve won two of their last three MLS matchups. Fredy Montero had a brace last week and will need to reproduce that form if the Whitecaps want to win in Portland. Vancouver can do it, I’m just not sure they will.

New England Revolution v. D.C. United – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

This matchup is actually fairly similar to the Houston v. San Jose matchup. Both of these teams are a couple of mid-table clubs that will likely be fighting for a final playoff spot come season’s end. D.C. is still struggling to score, having been shut out in four of their six matches so far. New England has the ability to score with the likes of Kei Kamara, Lee Nguyen and Juan Agudelo up top, but they’ve also been shut out multiple times this year. Both teams will need to find a way to score and do so consistently if they have any realistic shot at making noise in the Eastern Conference later in the year.

New York Red Bulls v. Columbus Crew SC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

I’m actually really excited about this game. The Red Bulls won last week thanks to the goals of Bradley Wright-Phillips and Alex Muyl. RBNY has scored only five goals in 2017, though, and Jesse Marsch may need to switch up that strange 4-2-2-2 formation he’s got going to spark the offense. Columbus beat Toronto FC last week and remains the force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. Justin Meram and Ola Kamara both have four goals apiece and lead a very strong attack. I can only imagine what this team could do once they fully integrate former Whitecaps man Kekuta Manneh into the rotation.

Real Salt Lake v. Atlanta United FC – 9:30PM ET, MLS Live

Welcome to the Real Salt Lake of the Mike Petke era. Suddenly a team that under Jeff Cassar looked as bad as Philly now looks as good as anyone in the league. And don’t look now, but they’re in a playoff spot in the Western Conference. I know we’re like barely a month into the season and a lot will happen between now and the playoffs, but this team looked so bad to start the season that it’s a wonder they’re turning it around as quickly as they are. Atlanta United seems to be going the opposite direction, both on and off the field. ATLUTD is winless in their last three games, and the continued absence of Josef Martinez doesn’t help. If that’s not enough to frustrate fans, they got news this week that the opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium has been delayed by at least a month, forcing ATLUTD to reschedule at least three home matches, including what was supposed to be the first ever sporting event in the stadium at the team’s home opener on July 30. Fans aren’t happy, to say the least. No one wants a win to draw attention away from the stadium debacle more than the Atlanta United front office.

Sunday, April 23

New York City FC v. Orlando City SC – 1:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1

Did you know that Orlando City has earned more points against expansion partners NYCFC than any other opponent since joining MLS? Surprising, isn’t it? OCSC has a 4-1-2 record against NYC, good enough for 14 out of a possible 21 points despite NYCFC being the better team through their first two-plus years of existence. This year Orlando looks to be the better side, though. Orlando City remain unbeaten at home in their new stadium and currently sit second in the Eastern Conference behind Columbus. For that reason NYCFC will be glad to play this one at Yankee Stadium, where their lone win against the Lions occurred back in 2015.

LA Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders FC – 4:00PM ET, ESPN

Neither of these teams have started 2017 as they would have wanted, to say the least. They’re each coming off 2-1 road losses, LA at the hands of Orlando City and Seattle to rival Vancouver. Scoring goals has been surprisingly difficult for each team, with each averaging just 1.3 goals per game, which is perfectly mediocre. I have to give the edge to the LA Galaxy, though, if for no other reason than the game is in LA. Seattle have yet to win on the road in 2017, and I’m not sure they’ve shown me anything to expect that to change this week. LA added forward Jack McInerny this week to try to bolster their attack. I don’t know if Jack Mac will make it in the lineup after only a half week of training with the Galaxy, but the 24-year-old brings a surprising amount of experience with him in his seven year professional career, including 43 career goals.

Minnesota United FC v. Colorado Rapids – 6:00PM ET, MLS Live

Well this is unexpected. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would actually expect Minnesota to beat Colorado the way the season started. MLS has a funny way of surprising you, though. Despite being in the midst of a Supporters’ Shield fight in 2016, Colorado are back to their struggling ways as they sit at the bottom of the Western Conference with just four points. They’re once again without star keeper Tim Howard, who will be serving the second game of his three game suspension following some altercations with Sporting KC fans. Minnesota is coming off a road draw against the Dynamo and have scored two goals in four of their last five games. As anemic as Colorado’s offense looks, two goals should definitely be enough to win against the Rapids. Then again, as bad as MNUFC’s defense can look, Colorado may actually be able to score two goals. I still like the Loons at home in this one, though.

Hot take of the week: Minnesota United will not only win, they’ll get their first clean sheet as a club when they blank Colorado 2-0 at home. Their defense has struggled mightily so far, and reports are that the club’s first captain Vadim Demidov’s time with the club may be nearing an end in the coming months. I think Adrian Heath is starting to figure out what his best lineup is, and the Loons will come out of the weekend with their best MLS performance to date.

GIF of the week: Okay, there were a lot of great GIFs this week. The very prestigious Total MLS GIF of the week has to go to FC Dallas’ Cristian Colmán’s amazing “shot,” which shattered the TMLS retweet record. I’m sure that will make Colmán feel a bit better.

I’d be remiss not to mention this beauty, though. As you can see, Graham Zusi very intentionally pushes Ike Opara in front of Valeri’s shot. What quick thinking. What ingenuity. Truly genius.

Sporting KC thought it was pretty funny, too. And it seems Ike loved it.