Grab your favorite Dutch import beer in a green glass bottle, folks. It’s the wonderful time of the MLS season that happens twice every year… MLS Heineken Rivalry Week! This time around Rivalry Week is split into two segments: midweek and weekend matchups. We’ve got some age old rivalries to look forward to tonight, including the classic D.C. United v. Atlanta United FC matchup (one of my favorites!) and the Columbus Crew v. LA Galaxy. Okay, there are some real rivalries, like the Texas Derby and a Vancouver v. Seattle Cascadia matchup. All of this while teams in both conferences try to solidify their playoff positioning. Let’s get to it!
Best game of the midweek: FC Dallas v. Houston Dynamo – 8:00PM ET, UniMas, facebook.com
The Texan Derby is always a fun game, but it’s got a little extra something this time around. For the first time since Houston joined the West in 2014, both teams are fighting for a playoff spot. Not only are both teams likely to make the playoffs, either one could realistically still earn the top spot in the West! How serious is this game? Well, the bantz has been off the charts on social media. Dallas live-streamed melting orange ice on Facebook for almost four hours. I mean, this is serious, guys. Melting orange ice. The winner of the rivalry gets a literal cannon! But in all honesty, as fun as this game will be, it’s going to be a tough one for Houston. Houston is only 1-8-4 on the road this year, and FC Dallas is 6-2-4 at home. These two teams drew both times they met this year, once in Frisco and once in Houston, so a result isn’t out of the question for the Dynamo. FC Dallas’ form hasn’t been great either as of late. They’re on a four game winless streak where they drew at home to Colorado and lost to Vancouver, Philadelphia and Sporting KC. Kellyn Acosta hasn’t been in form since the Gold Cup, and FC Dallas’ offense has fallen off a cliff, scoring one goal in their last four games. If Houston can pull off the victory, they’ll at least temporarily be back on top of the West until Seattle plays.
Worst game of the week: – Portland Timbers v. Colorado Rapids – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
Look, this one is not going to be a good game. Colorado is one of only three teams in MLS that hasn’t won a single road game. They’re tied for last place in the West with Minnesota at 22 points, and they’re going to one of the most hostile environments in the entire league. Yes, the Rapids somehow won the first matchup 2-1 when the Timbers visited Colorado, but there’s simply no way they’ll replicate that success at Providence Park. The Rapids offense is terrible. Their defense is good, but they’re going against one of the most high-powered offenses in the entire league (only Chicago, NYCFC and TFC have more goals than Portland this year). Timbers fans should be feeling good about this one.
D.C. United v. Atlanta United FC, 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
I know. This very historic, storied rivalry seems like it would be quite the draw. Well, as it turns out, D.C. United is a bad soccer team this year, and Atlanta United is pretty good. Sure, ATLUTD ost 2-1 last time they played in D.C., but I don’t see that happening again this time around. Atlanta is a decent road team and are in the middle of a race for a playoff spot in the East. D.C. is bad even at home, and their new signings haven’t quite fully integrated into the lineup yet. ATLUTD is unbeaten in their last five games and has been in good form as of late. Sure, D.C. United won last week, but only thanks to one of the worst own goals we’ve seen in a long time by Jared Watts.
Before that 1-0 victory, D.C was winless in their previous nine matches. DCU’s offense is still bad, and ATLUTD have one of the more dynamic offenses in the league. I just don’t think this one will go well for D.C.
Columbus Crew SC v. Los Angeles Galaxy – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live
Okay, so maybe this isn’t a rivalry. And maybe LA is having one of their worst seasons in team history. But that doesn’t mean this game is meaningless. Columbus is in the midst of a playoff battle with Montreal and Atlanta hot on their heels. Every point earned from here on out is crucial if the Crew want to stay above the red line. Strangely enough, LA is better on the road than at home this year. The good news for Columbus, though, is the Galaxy haven’t won a game in eight MLS matches, with their last win coming on the road against Colorado on June 21. The Crew is also very strong at home at 8-3-1 on the year at MAPFRE. Honestly this one could go any which way and I wouldn’t be surprised, but if we’ve learned anything in MLS this year it’s don’t bet against the home team.
Toronto FC v. Philadelphia Union – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
I’m sorry, Philly fans. You’re going to have a rough night. Toronto FC is the undisputed best team in MLS this year. Sure, these two teams drew early in March when they played each other, but Toronto took a few weeks to get into gear and haven’t looked back since. Toronto is on a seven game unbeaten streak, Giovinco is still arguably the best player in the league, and TFC’s depth is unmatched. Victor Vazquez is making the Newcomer of the Year discussion somewhat competitive after it looked like Nemanja Nikolic had it on lock-down. Two weeks Philadelphia got hammered by Montreal 3-0, and it’s not going to get any easier this week for them. A 3-0 score line (or worse) wouldn’t surprise me.
Real Salt Lake v. San Jose Earthquakes – 10:00PM, MLS Live
Real Salt Lake was essentially eliminated from the playoffs earlier this year with their poor start, but the loss to Montreal on Saturday pretty much sealed their fate. San Jose has a tough uphill climb to get back above the red line, but it’s certainly not impossible. Dropping points against RSL would make it significantly harder, though. San Jose won 2-1 the first time these teams played this year on June 24 at Avaya Stadium, but San Jose is 2-9-1 on the road. Both of these teams have some of the worst goal differentials in MLS, but analytics show that RSL has been a bit unlucky. Salt Lake has scored 31 goals compared to 36.86 xG, and they’ve allowed 43 goals compared to 39.89 xGA. All that is to say don’t be surprised if RSL takes the full three points in this one.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC v. Seattle Sounders FC – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
The Cascadia Rivalry! This is the one we’ve been waiting for, right? Oh, it’s not? Poor Vancouver. They seem to be the red-headed step child of the pacific northwest. Nonetheless, this is still technically a rivalry. It’s a bit more interesting with Fredy Montero back in the mix, too. Seattle did lose 2-1 to Vancouver early this year, but that was before Seattle decided they should be good at soccer again. Seattle now sits atop the Western Conference and is fighting for a first round bye in the playoffs. The Sounders haven’t lost since June 28, and they’re currently on a three game win streak. Vancouver is trying to stay in that sixth place spot in the West, but they have two games in hand against San Jose who sits right behind them in seventh. While taking all three points against their rival would be ideal, even earning a single point against Seattle would go a long way to keep them above the red line.
Hot take of the week: Houston will earn a result in Frisco. I know, they’re terrible on the road. But FC Dallas’ form as of late has been so bad, and Houston have their first shot at the playoffs in years. I think Wilmer and Co. will find a way to at least earn a point tonight.
GIF of the week: Look how happy he is. Must be his first soccer match!