Week 23 Preview

Man, what a week it’s been in MLS so far, and we haven’t even played a game yet! The transfer deadline has passed, and it lived up to the hype. D.C. United essentially blew up their roster and started over, the Crew added a third DP for the first time in their history, Minnesota brought Ethan Finlay “home,” and more. Teams still have time to add free agents before the roster freeze on September 15, but as we head into Week 23, most rosters look just about how they’ll look at season’s end. Now we get to watch all these exciting new players!

Best game of the week: Seattle Sounders FC v. Sporting Kansas City – Saturday, August 12, 4:00PM ET, MLS Live

This has turned into quite an important Western Conference matchup. Sporting KC currently sit atop the West at 37 points, but FIVE teams sit within striking distance at 34 points, and only six points separate the first and seventh place teams (all of whom have won nine games). With FC Dallas having two games in hand on both of these teams and playing the struggling Rapids at home this week, both SKC and Seattle will feel like they need to come away with the full three points from this matchup to keep pace with FCD. There were rumors all week of Sporting KC trying to reunite with forward Krisztian Nemeth to replace Dom Dwyer, but Nemeth went to New England and SKC stood pat. Seattle did make a couple of moves in the window, adding defender Kelvin Leerdam, forward Victor Rodriguez, midfielder Calum Mallace (amazing name) and bringing back forward Lamar Neagle, who may actually be the most important signing of the window for this year. Sporting KC beat Seattle 3-0 in Kansas City in May, but this is a much improved Sounders team from then. As much as they need the three points, this will be a tough game for SKC to win, and a draw may be best-case scenario for them.

Worst game of the week: Philadelphia Union v. Montreal Impact – Saturday, August 12, 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

Two bad teams who’s biggest move in the transfer window was adding a Chief Tattoo Officer (really Philly?) doesn’t exactly scream “must watch.” Montreal did actually add a few pieces in the transfer window, but none of them will be huge contributors this season. The Union and Impact sit in eighth and ninth in the Eastern Conference respectively, and although Philly is technically within striking distance of the red line, they didn’t exactly show much ambition during the window to make a playoff push. Philly will also still be without goalkeeper Andre Blake who is still dealing with a hand injury. At this point these two teams are just playing for bragging rights. These two sides drew 3-3 when they first played in April in Montreal, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another draw in this matchup.

The rest:

Saturday, August 12

Toronto FC v. Portland Timbers – 6:00PM ET, MLS Live

These two teams were relatively quiet during the transfer window comparatively speaking. It makes sense for Toronto FC, as they’ve been the best team in MLS this year hands down. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Portland brought in a couple defenders earlier in the window to try and shore up their defense, which has been their weakness this year, but other than that didn’t do much. Portland beat LA at home last week 3-1, but Toronto dismantled a very good NYCFC team 4-0 at home in their last MLS action on July 30. Portland’s road form hasn’t been great this year at 3-6-3 (W-L-D), and going on the road to BMO field isn’t going to be easy. The Timbers need to get a result if they want to stay in the midst of the Western Conference playoff hunt, while a win for Toronto would assure they stay ahead of the Fire in points per game.

D.C. United v. Real Salt Lake – 7:00PM, MLS Live

Well this game suddenly is a lot more interesting than it would’ve been a week ago. Neither team has a realistic shot at the playoffs, but the transfer window made this game worth watching. The new look D.C. United will have both Paul Arriola and Russel Canouse available to play, with Steven Goff reporting that Arriola will likely start. The USMNT winger could bring some much needed attacking support to D.C., who have the fewest number of goals scored in MLS. Arriola and D.C. will be facing one of the worst defenses in MLS in RSL, so there’s real potential to score some goals and reignite D.C. fans’ excitement. Salt Lake didn’t do much in the window other than bring in defender Marcelo Silva and send defender Aaron Maund to Vancouver. RSL have a very outside shot at trying to push for the sixth spot in the west, but at this point Mike Petke is essentially just evaluating the talent he has and working on a plan for the future.

Columbus Crew SC v. Chicago Fire – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

Columbus needed to make a move if they wanted to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, and they certainly did that. For the first time in club history, the Crew will have three DPs on the roster. The addition of Portuguese winger Pedro Santos will be a welcome sight for Crew fans. He’ll bring some creativity to the offense and will serve up fantastic balls to Ola Kamara from both set pieces and run of play. The Crew also parted ways with Ethan Finlay and Dilly Duka this window, but neither really played much of a role this season. Chicago did most of their work in the offseason and earlier this year, so they didn’t really need to make any moves. The Fire still sit second in the East, just three points behind Toronto with one game in hand. The Crew hosted the Fire in the first game of the season, a game that ended in a 1-1 draw, before visiting Toyota Park and falling 1-0. The Fire are a much better side now, and the Crew have fallen off, but the Fire’s road record is a paltry 2-5-4 (W-L-D). A win for Columbus would go a long way to keeping the Crew above the red line.

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

Both of these teams were involved in deadline deals, with the Red Bulls bringing in former Crew midfielder Dilly Duka and Orlando acquiring midfielder Dillon Powers from the Rapids in exchange for Luis Gil and allocation money. Orlando also added Peruvian midfielder Yoshimar Yotún as a DP one week before the deadline. Yoshi can play attacking midfielder, but he’s also played left back, which is where Orlando might need him this year. After a relatively slow start, the Red Bulls have worked their way back up to fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Orlando City have slowly and steadily fallen down the standings and now sit on the outside looking in at seventh. Orlando won the first matchup in March 1-0, but the Red Bulls

FC Dallas v. Colorado Rapids – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

FC Dallas are very good at soccer. The Colorado Rapids aren’t so much. FC Dallas is very good at home at 6-2-3 (W-L-D). Colorado is very bad on the road at 0-8-1. Dallas improved their midfield by signing Venezuelan midfielder Luis Gonzalez, who scored 17 goals in 45 appearances for his previous club Monagas. The Rapids did acquire Luis Gil and some allocation funds, but that’s pretty much it. When these two teams played the first time around in June, FC Dallas won pretty easily in a 3-1 game on the road. This one may be even worse for the Rapids.

New England Revolution v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live

The big storyline going into this game is the New England Revolution’s shock deadline move to acquire former Sporting KC forward Krisztian Nemeth. The 28-year-old Hungarian was heavily linked to a move back to MLS, but most assumed if it worked out he would land back in Kansas City. It became clear as the deadline approached that a reunion with SKC was not meant to be, but New England was able to get a deal done by sending $400k in allocation money to Columbus. It’s a strange move for the Revs, who already have a crowded front line but desperately need defensive help. Vancouver brought in a couple reinforcements, including defender Aaron Maund from RSL and Egyptian midfielder Aly Ghazal. The Whitecaps are fighting to get above the red line in the West, where they sit in seventh place with 31 points, one point behind San Jose. The Revs have been very good at home, but Vancouver is overall a better team and has a decent road record at 4-5-2 (W-L-D), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Whitecaps earn a result.

Houston Dynamo v. San Jose Earthquakes – 9:00PM ET, MLS Live

These two clubs who are kinda the same club but still two different clubs face off for the second time this season. The Dynamo won the first matchup at BBVA Compass Stadium 2-0 back in April, and they will host the earthquakes once again on Saturday. Good thing for Houston fans, because despite sitting second in the Western Conference, Houston has only won one game on the road all year. They have yet to lose a game at home. I don’t see that changing this week, either, as San Jose will have to Houston after playing 120 minutes plus penalties in their Wednesday night Open Cup matchup against Sporting Kansas City. Granted, many of the Earthquakes regulars didn’t start, but the travel will take a toll nonetheless. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch is who will be in the net for San Jose. Backup keeper Andrew Tarbell put on a show against Sporting KC on Wednesday and David Bingham has been shaky at best for the Quakes. It might be time for a new #1 for Leitch’s Earthquakes.

LA Galaxy v. New York City FC – 11:00PM ET, ESPN2

Woof, sorry NYCFC fans. You’re going to be up late. At least it’s a Saturday night game. The good news is you’re playing an LA Galaxy team that has the worst home record in MLS at 1-6-4 (W-L-D) and has a very poor defense. There’s not a whole lot for LA to play for other than pride at this point, but NYCFC certainly could use the points. They are third in the Eastern conference, one point behind Chicago through one more game played. The race for #2 could be the difference between playing in the knockout round or going straight to the conference semi-finals in the playoffs. NYCFC were quiet in the transfer window, mostly because they already have a pretty complete team. LA Galaxy added Jonathan do Santos, but he doesn’t really solve any of the LA Galaxy’s problems. It may be a late one, but it’ll probably be worth it for NYC fans to stay up and watch their team get three points.

Hot take of the week: Nemeth and New England won’t work. He doesn’t solve their problems, and his brief tenure in MLS has been romanticized a bit since he left. He hasn’t played a competitive match since March 2, and he didn’t exactly light it up in Qatar. The Revs spent far too much on him, and Sporting KC may have dodged a bullet.

GIF of the week: Feeling down? Have a talk with Jesse Marsch.