Week 21 Preview

Well it’s been quite the week in in MLS already. We’ve seen a record trade between Sporting KC and Orlando City for striker Dom Dwyer. Rumors about Cyle Larin’s future are circulating. Questions remain about who SKC will bring in to replace Dom. All this excitement and we haven’t even played a game yet. Oh, and the USMNT takes on Jamaica in the Gold Cup final Wednesday night, too. Quite the week, isn’t it?
 
Best game of the week: Atlanta United FC v. Orlando City SC – Saturday, July 29, 4:30PM ET, FOX
 
It has to be, right? The fans for some reason have decided that they hate each other. Atlanta put up a billboard in Orlando last week mocking OCSC. Orlando fans promptly tore it down. OCSC supporters pulled the fire alarm in ATLUTD’s hotel the morning of last weekend’s game. Atlanta still won 1-0 on a rocket from Villalba, and ATLUTD had a little fun on Twitter with it.

Now these two teams face off for the second time in as many weeks, this time in Atlanta. Oh, and you may have heard that Orlando City acquired striker Dom Dwyer in an MLS record trade with Sporting KC. Orlando City sent a whopping $1.6 million in allocation money to SKC for Dom. That’s quite the sum for a striker who has five goals halfway through the year. Reports say that Dom will make his debut this weekend against Atlanta, and he may be needed as reports are linking OCSC’s star striker Cyle Larin with European clubs, including Turkish side Besiktas. If Larin does leave, Dom will need to step in quickly and perform better than he has with Sporting KC. If he can’t, well, the already loud #KreisOut calls will only get louder as Orlando continues to slip down the Eastern Conference table.
 
Worst game of the week: Minnesota United FC v. D.C. United – Saturday, July 29, 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Sorry Loons fans. The two worst teams in the league facing off against each other is going to be the worst game of the week by default. Neither team can stop a goal to save their lives. They are tied for the MLS worst goal differential at -20. They have nearly identical records, with Minnesota sitting at 5-12-4 (W-L-D) and D.C. at 5-13-3. MNUFC will probably win, though, because D.C. United is 2-9-1 on the road and have lost their last seven road matches. Based on these recent performances, I’m not sure D.C. has much of a chance for even a single point, let alone three.
 
The rest:
 
Wednesday, July 26

 
Philadelphia Union v. Columbus Crew SC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
A midweek game not on national TV without most of the stars on either side doesn’t add up to a very exciting match. It’s even worse when the game is between two mediocre to bad teams. These two teams just faced off on Saturday, and the Crew got the best of the Union in a 1-0 match. Philly could be without Fafa Picault and CJ Sapong once again, and they’ll definitely be without keeper Andre Blake who is playing in the Gold Cup final with Jamaica. Columbus will be missing Federico Higuain, who’s tied for the team lead in goals at nine. The Crew are currently on a mini-winning streak, having won their last two matches. They’ve also won three of their last four. A win against the Union will keep them above the red line and push them out of reach for Orlando City. Philly, well, they’re Philly. They sit ninth in the East and haven’t won since July 2.
 
Saturday, July 29
 
New England Revolution v. Philadelphia Union – 7:30PM, MLS Live
 
The only redeeming factor in this game is that it’s not a midweek game, Philly may get their injured stars back and it features an unhappy Kei Kamara. Maybe. Rumors are circulating that Sporting KC may be looking at bringing Kei back as a replacement for Dom. My guess is if that happens it won’t be before the weekend. But, if there are serious discussions about it, Kei may be forced to sit this one out. So, that’s something to pay attention to I guess. New England beat LA 4-3 last week at home. Strangely enough, Philadelphia’s defense is actually quite a bit better than the Galaxy’s, so this game might not be so high scoring. If the Revs are distracted by the Kei situation and CJ Sapong plays for Philadelphia, the Union have a decent shot at getting a result.
 
New York Red Bulls v. Montreal Impact – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
These two teams faced off once earlier in the year, with Montreal taking the match 1-0 at home. Unfortunately for Montreal, the Red Bulls are on quite the hot streak as of late. They haven’t lost an MLS match since June 24, and have outscored opponents 12-3 in their last four MLS games. Montreal lost 2-1 last week to FC Dallas thanks to two goals from Cristian Colman. But Montreal didn’t start Nacho Piatto, Patrice Bernier or Dominic Oduro. With those three back in the starting lineup, and with the way that Blerim Dzemaili has been playing since joining Montreal, the Impact may have a shot to earn a point. I wouldn’t put money on it, though. Red Bull Arena can be a tough place to go to and earn a result. Ask NYCFC.
 
FC Dallas v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
This isn’t going to be a fun trip for Vancouver. FC Dallas sits first in the Western Conference at 34 points, one point ahead of Sporting KC. But FC Dallas has only played 19 matches to SKC’s 21. Dallas has scored 32 times while only letting up 19 goals, good enough for a +13 goal differential, which is top three in MLS. Oddly enough, Vancouver was able to earn one of their three draws on the year when these two teams played each other just over a month ago. The obvious difference, though, was that game was in Vancouver. Dallas is 6-1-3 (W-L-D) at home this season, and their roster is far superior to that of the Whitecaps. Maxi Urruti has been one of the more underrated players in MLS this year, sitting on 11 goals and five assists. Dallas will also have Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges back from USMNT service. If they can work into the lineup, I don’t see how Vancouver comes out of this one with a result.
 
Houston Dynamo v. Portland Timbers – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Portland bounced back from their embarrassing 4-1 home loss against RSL to win on the road against Vancouver. What was most impressive was the Timbers essentially had none of their regular starters except Valeri and Blanco. If Portland can go on the road and win without Adi, Nagbe and Guzman as they did last week, they may have some fight in them left. They had been sliding down the Western Conference standings, but the win last week put them back into fourth place and four points clear of the red line. Houston easily took down D.C. United on the road to earn their first road win of the year. Unsurprisingly, it came against arguably the worst team in the league. The Dynamo will get Cubo Torres back, and he should slot right in since Mexico didn’t make the Gold Cup final. Houston has been tough to beat at home, so I don’t know if Portland can keep up their momentum when they visit BBVA Compass Stadium.
 
Sporting Kansas City v. Chicago Fire – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
The big storyline here is how will Sporting KC replace Dom Dwyer up top? Young DP Diego Rubio only has two MLS goals in 19 appearances, while Sporting KC’s other young striker Daniel Salloi only has one in eleven appearances. Sporting KC’s most experienced forward is Soony Saad, who only has eight goals in 68 games played. Latif Blessing had been playing on the wing in most of his appearances, but he will likely see more time up top at striker until Peter Vermes brings in another striker to replace Dom. Outside of the Dom trade, this is actually a fairly interesting game. Both Sporting KC and Chicago sit in second place in their respective conferences, with three points enough to potentially vault either into first place. It may be tough for SKC to earn all three even at home. Ike Opara won’t play due to his concussion, while Besler and Zusi may be limited having just returned from the USMNT. Chicago’s attack behind Nikolic and Accam is one of the best in the league, so SKC fans may need to settle for a draw in this one.
 
Real Salt Lake v. Columbus Crew SC – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Don’t look now, but RSL haven’t lost a game in their last three matches. They beat the LA Galaxy 6-2 on the road, then Portland 4-1 on the road, and they earned a 1-1 draw at home last week against Sporting KC. Suddenly a team that looked like it was among the worst in MLS is now only three points out of a playoff spot. Maybe someone should tell Mike Petke. For the sake of the referees, I hope there are no controversial calls that go against RSL in this game, or Petke might go full Hulk on PRO. Salt Lake has a big advantage going into this match being at home and playing a Crew team coming off a midweek matchup. If RSL can take all three points, they may just yet have a shot at the playoffs.
 
San Jose Earthquakes v. Colorado Rapids – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
San Jose has had a rough couple of weeks on the road. They got destroyed 5-1 on the road against the Red Bulls two weeks ago before taking a 3-0 beating at Seattle last week. The Chris Leitch era doesn’t seem to be getting off to quite the start Earthquakes fans had hoped after his first game in charge. The good news for San Jose is they’re at home for the next two weeks and have very winnable games against Colorado and Columbus. Last week the Rapids went on the road to Toronto and earned a surprising 1-1 draw thanks to Dominique Badji’s 76th minute equalizer. Logic dictates that if they can do that on the road against Toronto, they can do it against San Jose. But, the Rapids faced a shorthanded Toronto side without Jozy Altidore or Michael Bradley. Asking the Rapids to earn back-to-back road results may be too much of an ask.
 
LA Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders FC – 10:00PM ET, ESPN
 
**UPDATE**

Curt Onalfo has been fired by the LA Galaxy, per Kevin Baxter of the LA Times. Sigi Schmid, who previously coached the Galaxy from 1999-2004, will take over effective immediately.

The biggest storyline going into this game is the status of LA Galaxy coach Curt Onalfo. Reports have indicated that if LA loses this game, Onalfo’s time as head coach may be over. I know it’s only his first season in charge, but in some ways I’m surprised it’s taken LA this long to get to that point. LAFC is entering the league next year, and there’s real potential for them to steal a large number of fans away from the struggling Galaxy. LA’s home record has been the worst in MLS this year, and they’ve shown no indication that that will change. Sure, they just signed another DP in Jonathan Dos Santos, but does that really help the team? Is another midfielder going to make that much of a difference? I don’t think so. They needed a striker, and they couldn’t get one. Seattle is heating up as of late and is now above the red line in the Western Conference. They’ve won three in a row, and they have a great chance at making it four, even if their star man Clint Dempsey doesn’t play.
 
Sunday, July 30
 
Toronto FC v. New York City FC – 2:00PM ET, ESPN
 
Toronto should be glad this game is on Sunday, as it gives Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley an extra day to rest after playing in the Gold Cup final on Wednesday. This game could have huge consequences come playoff time. For most of the season thus far, Toronto FC had been sitting comfortably atop the Eastern Conference. After a surprising home draw against Colorado last week, their lead has shrunk to a mere two points ahead of Chicago and three ahead of NYCFC. That means if NYCFC can find a way to win on the road—a definite possibility when you have a player like David Villa—New York City could potentially be tied with Toronto FC atop the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings after Sunday. These two went head-to-head just two weeks ago in New York and drew 2-2. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another draw in this one. No matter what happens, though, we know these are two of the better teams in MLS and may very well be facing each other in the Eastern Conference finals.
 
Hot take of the week:

**UPDATE**

I was mostly right, and the game hasn't even happened yet!

Onalfo will be fired after LA loses to Seattle at home on Saturday night. He’s on the thinnest of thin ice, and a loss to the Sounders would bring the Galaxy’s home record to a horrendous 1-8-3 (W-L-D). For a club with as much history as the Galaxy, that’s unacceptable. LA can’t wait until the end of the year with LAFC coming into MLS next season. They’ll make the move now and hope to right the ship before the season ends.
 
GIF of the week: And now we take a live look at D.C. United fans.