Week 20 Preview: Weekend Edition

So how about those midweek matchups? They were… something. Sounders fans are happy I guess. RSL fans probably are feeling a mix of joy, anger and confusion. Earthquakes fans are embarrassed. The Galaxy are still terrible at home. The Houston v. Minnesota game was as bad as I thought it would be. Thankfully, we have a new round of games to look forward to!
 
Best game of the week: New York City FC v. Chicago Fire – Saturday, July 22, 2:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
What a week for NYCFC. Wednesday they face one of the two teams tied for the lead in the East, and now they have to face the other one. Granted, TFC was missing some players on international duty and Chicago will be missing midfielder Dax McCarty who is still with the USMNT for the Gold Cup, but this is nearly a full strength Chicago side. In order to keep pace with TFC, Chicago will need to earn at least a point on the road in New York. These two sides have yet to face off this year, but it will be something to see watching Golden Boot leader and Total MLS Midseason MVP Nemanja Nikolic go toe-to-toe with reigning MLS MVP David Villa. With a win, NYCFC will find themselves just one point off Chicago and two off TFC. This game has potentially huge consequences for Eastern Conference playoff seeding, and is a must watch if you’re an MLS fan.
 
Worst game of the week: D.C. United v. Houston Dynamo – Saturday, July 22, 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Houston is on the road. Do I really need to say more? I told you in my Midweek preview that their road match with Minnesota United would be awful. Well, a 0-0 draw that saw Houston throw away chance after chance (they had 19 shots!) lived up to that billing. The Dynamo now fall to an abysmal 0-7-3 (W-L-D) on the road. What have they done that shows that form won’t continue on Saturday in D.C.? Sure, DCU is one of the worst teams in MLS this year. They blew a 3-0 lead in Seattle on Wednesday and ended up losing 4-3. They have MLS lows 18 points and 17 goals scored. But, the Dynamo are so bad on the road that D.C. has a legitimate shot at winning. Whatever happens, though, it won’t be very good soccer.
 
The rest:
 
Friday, July 21
 
Orlando City SC v. Atlanta United FC – 7:00PM, ESPN
 
I’d like to give this game as little attention as possible. Both fan bases are becoming insufferable. Atlanta United fans are feeling self-righteous. They think they are the best organization in MLS. They have made fun of OCSC for 2.5 years of mediocrity. (Reminder: ATLUTD has existed for barely four months as a complete team.) ATLUTD already think Miguel Almiron is the best and most valuable player to ever come through MLS. Well, stats show his xG (expected goals) is only 4.18 compared to his actual tally of eight. His xA (expected assists) is only 4.07 compared to his actual tally of 6. In other words, he’s gotten lucky and he’s probably not the $20 million player they think he is, at least not yet. ATLUTD fans are so cocky they put up a smack-talk billboard in Orlando. That went over well. Then there’s Orlando City fans. Yes, the fans who published the personal contact information of referee Ted Unkel. Now they’ve torn down the previously mentioned billboard and are publishing information about ATLUTD’s hotel saying things like “make sure they feel welcome.” All this for a game that will probably be very inconsequential.
 
Saturday, July 22
 
Minnesota United FC v. New York Red Bulls – 4:00PM ET, ESPN
 
Our beloved Loons are in the midst of a rough patch. They haven’t won in their last four games and haven’t scored a goal in nearly three full matches. They only got off a measly four shots against Houston, and they were lucky to come out of that game with a single point thanks to Houston’s offensive incompetence. The Loons will still be without their best defender in Francisco Calvo, and that may be a problem this week after the offensive show that RBNY put on during their midweek matchup with San Jose. Their win boosted them above the red line into fifth place in the east, and their five goals cut their goal differential to -1. But, as bad as MNUFC’s defense is, I don’t expect the Red Bulls to put up another five goals against Minnesota. The Loons generally play decently well at home, and they’ll be looking to make up for their poor Wednesday performance.
 
Toronto FC v. Colorado Rapids – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Toronto FC may not be at quite full strength, but their performance on the road at NYCFC last week showed they have the depth to navigate the roster holes of MLS summers. Giovinco left the game on Wednesday early on with a lower back bruise, but he’s reportedly on the mend and will likely play on Saturday. Even without him, though, I think TFC should have no problem handling Colorado at home. The Rapids will be without their star keeper, Tim Howard. They have the second lowest number of goals scored in MLS at 19. The Rapids do not play well on the road, either, to put it mildly with a perfectly terrible 0-8-0 record. Toronto FC will get some reinforcements back, too, now that Canada has been knocked out of the Gold Cup. All that is to say this might be a long game for the Rapids.
 
Columbus Crew SC v. Philadelphia Union – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
The Crew and the Union face off for the first of back-to-back matchups in five days. Philadelphia is coming off a loss on the road to Montreal in which they could only muster a single goal. It doesn’t help the Union that Chris Pontius and Andre Blake are still out on international duty. Philly has consistently been a sub-par team all season long, never really managing to challenge for a playoff spot. Columbus, on the other hand, was playing as good as any team in the league to start the season but have fallen off a cliff in the last couple of months. The Crew now are one point behind Orlando and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the Eastern Conference playoffs. These next few games against the Union and RSL are a fantastic opportunity for the Crew to make up some ground and earn some big points against some poor teams before facing Chicago, Orlando FC Dallas and Sporting KC within five games of each other. The good news for Columbus is this game is at home and they really have no missing players due to international duty.
 
Montreal Impact v. FC Dallas – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
Swiss DP Blerim Dzemaili continues to impress for Montreal. He made his debut for the impact in mid-May, and since then he’s already become the team’s leader in assists and their third leading goal scorer. He earned his fourth goal of the year in the 51st minute against Philadelphia, which was ultimately the winner on Wednesday. The Impact didn’t even have Piatti in that game due to injury. When’s the last time Montreal could perform well without depending on Nacho? Unfortunately for Montreal this game against FC Dallas will be a bit harder. Dallas still has missing pieces with Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges and Jesse Gonzalez out with the USMNT, but Oscar Pareja has built a team that can deal with absent starters. Dallas hasn’t lost since June 10 when they were on the road against Portland. Maxi Urruti is having a fantastic year with 11 goals and four assists so far this year. Even on the road, Dallas will likely be too much for Montreal to handle.
 
New England Revolution v. LA Galaxy – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
First things first, Kei is mad at MLS and rightfully so. He was fined $1,250 for wearing a specific type of socks and took to Twitter to make his frustration known. I have to say, he makes some very compelling points. Your move, MLS.

Back to the game. LA weirdly has to be thrilled to be going on the road. They are abysmal at home. They’ve won only one game all year at the StubHub Center, which means they’ve earned their other five wins on the road. After the embarrassing goalless performance against Vancouver, LA really needs to turn things around if there’s any hope of saving coach Curt Onalfo’s job. The good news for LA is that New England hasn’t won an MLS match since June 3 when they somehow beat Toronto FC 3-0. Can New England break their four-game MLS losing streak? LA is in such disarray, and I think New England will take advantage of it.
 
Real Salt Lake v. Sporting Kansas City – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
RSL and SKC has turned into a very interesting rivalry since 2013. There always seems to be drama and cards aplenty. Unfortunately for fans who love the entertainment these games provide, Kyle Beckerman will miss the matchup due to his red card he received against Portland. The good news for RSL fans is Wednesday’s game may have been their best performance of the year. Honestly, who expected RSL to go into Portland and win 4-1? The bad news (in addition to the loss of Beckerman) is DP Yura Movsisyan may be on the way out, with his rumored landing spot being SK Slavia Prague. Granted, the club was able to do just fine against Portland without the injured Yura, so this may not have too much of an impact on RSL’s form.
 
Sporting KC’s last MLS action was a frustrating 1-1 home draw against the Philadelphia Union. SKC was on the losing end of a controversial penalty call that ultimately cost them the full three points. But, Dom Dwyer has returned from his Gold Cup duty and will provide offensive reinforcements. Sporting fans will hope he can channel his USMNT form and bring some goals he’s had trouble finding in the first half of the season. Ike Opara’s scary injury from Sporting’s 3-0 Open Cup win against Dallas is the most devastating blow for Kansas City. He was playing the best soccer of his career, and his injury will likely force Kevin Ellis to step into the back line while Matt Besler is still out on international duty. If Ellis can handle filling in for Ike and Dom can get hot, Sporting KC has a chance to earn a result on the road.
 
Sunday, July 23
 
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Portland Timbers – 6:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
 
This Cascadia rivalry isn’t quite as popular as Portland v. Seattle, to say the least. Nonetheless, it is technically a rivalry, and anything can happen in rivalries. Nagbe will be the biggest missing piece for Portland, while Vancouver are without starting CB Kendall Waston. Whitecaps fans will be happy to get their star teenager Alphonso Davies back from his time with the Canadian national team. The first time these two teams faced each other this year in April, Portland took the full three points at home in a 2-1 victory. Normally I’d say Vancouver has the edge in this one due to home field advantage, but without Waston along the back line I don’t know how well Vancouver will be able to contain Portland’s offense. Yes, the Timbers were embarrassed by a bad RSL side on Wednesday at home, but I actually think that will motivate them even more in this game and come out firing on all cylinders.
 
Seattle Sounders FC v. San Jose Earthquakes – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
Talk about two very different games. Seattle went down 3-0 to the worst team in MLS only to storm back, score four unanswered goals in 27 minutes and win 4-3 in front of their home crowd at Century Link. San Jose fell behind in the 38th minute on their road trip to Red Bull Arena and never got things back on track. The lone bright spot I guess for San Jose was their new signing, Vako. He scored the team’s only goal (albeit in the 88th minute with the game all but sealed), and both head coach Chris Leitch and forward Chris Wondolowski had positive things to say about the newest Earthquake. The Sounders were glad to have midfielder Cristian Roldan back from the USMNT, especially since he scored the go-ahead goal in the 78th minute of their remarkable comeback victory. Unfortunately, Seattle will have to face the Earthquakes without Nicolas Lodeiro, who will be serving a red card suspension. Strangely, I feel like this game could be set up for a shock upset, with San Jose looking to make up for their midweek performance and Seattle still distracted from their historic comeback.
 
Hot take of the week: San Jose will beat Seattle on the road. The Sounders are already without Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris. Now, they’ll have to manage without Lodeiro who’s on a red card. Yes, the Earthquakes were horrible last week, but let’s be honest… Seattle’s defense wasn’t much better. The Earthquakes will bounce back hard and take out Seattle at Century Link.
 
GIF of the week: Due to technical difficulties, we had no midweek GIFs. So instead, here’s Patrick Vieira staring into your soul.