Week 9 Preview

Week 8 has come and gone, and it left us with only one undefeated team left in MLS in FC Dallas. You’d think that would be enough to say they're the best team in the league, but this year there are three or four teams who could make an argument for that title. Portland continues to play well, Sporting KC looks like they’re for real despite the tough loss to FC Dallas and Orlando City has surprised everyone outside of Orlando as they sit atop the Eastern Conference. Things are starting to get really fun in MLS. Let’s see what excitement we can look forward to this week…

Best game of the week: FC Dallas v. Portland Timbers – Saturday, April 29, 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

FC Dallas beat Sporting KC in a hard fought 1-0 victory in Frisco last week to become the lone unbeaten team in MLS. The Timbers are coming off an impressive win as well, defeating Cascadia rival Vancouver 2-1 at home last week. Despite not losing a game, Dallas still sits behind Portland in the Western Conference standings. I know, FC Dallas has two games in hand, but this game could have big consequences when it comes playoff time. Dallas and Portland only play twice this year, and when you’re battling for potential home field advantage in the playoffs both games are massively important. This one has all the makings of a fantastic showdown. Can Portland overcome the absence of their playmaker Diego Valeri (injury)?vIf you can watch this one, do it.

Worst game of the week: Los Angeles Galaxy v. Philadelphia Union – Saturday, April 29, 10:30PM ET, MLS Live

Poor Galaxy. They certainly didn’t expect this. They’re third worst in the league with a mere six points through seven games. I know they’ve had some injuries to deal with, but the Galaxy didn’t look right from the start. LA is struggling to score, which is a very unusual situation for a team that had Robbie Keane for six years in which he scored 83 goals. They currently sit in the bottom five of MLS in goals scored and are on pace for only 39 for the season after finishing fourth in the league last season with 54. I don’t want to say Onalfo’s job is in trouble after only seven games in charge, but LA fans are growing impatient quickly. Philly on the other hand, well, they’re Philly. They still haven’t won a game this year, and they have a -6 goal differential, good enough to be tied with D.C. United for 2nd worst in the league ahead of only MNUFC. Yikes.

The rest:

Friday, April 28

Toronto FC v. Houston Dynamo – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

Once again we have Toronto FC playing an interesting matchup on a Friday. This is the third Friday night game for TFC this season already, and they’ve all been fairly interesting so far. This one should be no different. Toronto FC has gotten off to a slow start, but a 3-1 victory against the Fire with a brace from MLS player-of-the-week Sebastian Giovinco could be just what they need to get back on track. Houston has been one of the best surprises of 2017 with their hot start to the year. They’re third in the Western Conference with 13 points thanks to their 4-1-2 record. Cubo Torres continues his resurgence tour, and he has an opportunity to add to his MLS leading seven goals with defender Drew Moor and keeper Clint Irwin out. This could be a fun Friday night shootout in Toronto.

Saturday, April 29

Montreal Impact v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 3:00PM ET, MLS Live

Both of these two teams have sort of been the ugly stepchildren of Canadian MLS soccer in recent years and somewhat deservedly so. Montreal overachieved last year to get to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to Toronto FC (of course). Vancouver has never made it to MLS Cup and has only won the Canadian Championship once (2015). Nonetheless, this is still a fun rivalry, especially when both teams have exciting offensive threats. Nacho Piatti is among the best #10s in the league and is Montreal’s only real hope at any sort of success this year. Fredy Montero has been good so far for the Whitecaps with four goals so far this season. More than likely, neither team will do much in MLS this season, so Canadian bragging rights is what’s at stake here.

Orlando City SC v. Colorado Rapids – 3:55PM ET, UniMás, facebook.com

Orlando City has become one of my absolute favorite teams to watch, especially when they’re at home. Cyle Larin (#CanadianMessi) is the best young striker in the league and is drawing interest from EPL and Bundesliga clubs. His six goals so far is good enough for second in MLS behind Cubo, and he’s absolutely an early season MVP contender. Colorado’s season has been about as opposite from OCSC as possible. Colorado can’t score goals and is dead last in the Western Conference with a measly four points. Keeper Tim Howard is serving the third game of his three game suspension stemming from an altercation with an SKC fan a few weeks back. After losing to MNUFC last week, Colorado looks to be spiraling fast. Orlando City is yet to lose a game at home in their new stadium, and I don’t see that changing this week.

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

The Crew started the season hot at 3-1, but they’ve fallen off a bit going 1-2 in their last three games. (They still haven’t had a draw all season.) They also have a weird thing going on with Kekuta Manneh, who they acquired from Vancouver. He has yet to see the field for the Crew and tweeted “#RockBottom” earlier in the week before quickly deleting it and chalking it up to an intense workout. I’m not so sure. NYCFC continues to underachieve as they sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They lost to Orlando City last week as they’re prone to do, but a win this week could vault them up right into the upper third of the East and bring them level with the Crew. This is an important early season Eastern Conference matchup.

New York Red Bulls v. Chicago Fire – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

The biggest storyline of this matchup is the return of Dax McCarty to New York. RBNY sent their former Captain to the Fire for a boatload of GAM, $400,000 to be exact. The Red Bulls are coming off back-to-back 2-0 wins against Eastern Conference opponents. It seems the Red Bulls may finally be turning into the team most expected them to be. The Fire lost a rough game to TFC last week 3-1, the first loss of the Bastian Schweinsteiger era. Chicago have won huge this season, but they’ve also lost huge. It seems there’s really no middle ground for the Fire. A surging RBNY team will certainly pose a challenge, but the Fire have perhaps the best midfield in MLS. This will be a fun game.

Minnesota United FC v. San Jose Earthquakes – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

LOOOOOOOOOOOOONS! Yes, we here at Total MLS are unabashedly biased toward the Loons of Minnesota. And you all should be, too. Don’t look now, but the Loons are 2-2-1 with a +1 goal differential since taking Demidov out of the lineup. (Thanks to Matthew Doyle for that stat.) And guess who’s one point off a playoff spot? That’s right, MNUFC. And while the Loons are surging, the Earthquakes are falling apart. They won their first two games but are now on a six game winless streak. David Bingham looks shaky at best in goal, and Wondo’s age is really starting to show. I think that streak continues this week. There’s no stopping MNUFC. #LoonsRising 

Sporting Kansas City v. Real Salt Lake – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live

This matchup has turned into one of the most intense rivalries in MLS over the past few years. To put it simply, these two teams just don’t like each other. There are many reasons why (which we talked about a while back in our top five MLS rivalries piece from last year), but games between SKC and RSL are always entertaining. SKC is coming off their first loss of the year at FC Dallas, but despite their success, they have plenty of problems to solve. Sporting KC has had an incredibly hard time finding the back of the net this year, scoring only six goals all season long. Amazingly, though, they’ve allowed only three goals. Real Salt Lake has turned things around a bit under new coach Mike Petke, but they took a step back last week against Atlanta United. RSL’s defense has been porous at times this year, giving up twelve goals to date. Sporting will more than likely score, and I think they’ll get the home victory.

Seattle Sounders FC v. New England Revolution – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live

Seattle and New England have been strikingly similar in 2017. Both of these teams have the ability to score lots of goals in a very short time period. Neither of them has been able to do it consistently this year. They are both mid-table teams with nine points apiece. They’ve both scored eleven goals for the year. Seattle’s defense has been a bit better, giving up only eight goals to New England’s eleven. Nonetheless, it’s fair to say that these teams so far haven’t had the seasons they were hoping for. So what will be the difference in this game? Home field advantage. Seattle has one of the best environments in the league at Century Link Field, and New England has yet to win a road game this year. This one should go the Sounders way.

Sunday, April 30

Atlanta United FC v. D.C. United – 3:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1

In the lone Sunday game this week, it’s a battle of the Uniteds. A struggling D.C. United side travels to the ATL to face an Atlanta United team who is coming off their first win since Josef Martinez went down. ATLUTD’s young DP Miguel Almirón is really starting to find himself and is turning into one of the best young players in MLS. He has two goals and four assists through his first seven games in the league. Not bad. Like the Revs, D.C. United hasn’t won a road game on the year. Unlike the Revs, D.C. can’t score goals. They’ve netted six times this year while giving up twelve. That’s not good. It doesn’t look good for D.C. United in the dirty south.

Hot take of the week: The Loons aren’t just going to win. They’re going to win BIGLY. MNUFC is going to match their season high of four goals and only give up one. Watch out for the Loons. They’re rising.

GIF of the week: So I thought the GIF of the week was going to Wondo’s midweek swing and miss.

But then something amazing happened. MNUFC was about to kick off against Colorado and the camera cut to the crowd. What we saw next was truly incredible. Two MNUFC fans had loon hats. No, not a regular hat that had MNUFC’s logo. LITERALLY GIANT HATS SHAPED LIKE BIRDS. I have so many questions, but the most important is where did they get those and how can I buy one?