Week 22 Preview

The MLS All Star game has come and gone once again, and it was…interesting. We all had the game going to penalties, right? I know that’s what Real Madrid expected to happen. Anyways, now we turn our attention back to the hunt for MLS Cup. We’re entering the home stretch of the season, and there will be plenty of intrigue with playoff spots up for grabs in both conferences. Oh, and Video Assistant Referee (VAR) becomes a real thing this week, so get ready for angry fans who will now be mad at even more refs.
 
Best game of the week: New York City FC v. New York Red Bulls – Sunday, August 6, 6:00PM ET, Fox Sports 1
 
The two New York rivals face off once again in the Hudson River Derby. NYCFC and RBNY have actually played twice this year already: once in the U.S. Open Cup and once in MLS play. RBNY got the best of NYC in the Open Cup, but NYCFC won the MLS season matchup. In fact, it was the first ever win for NYCFC at Red Bull Arena. However, that was a very different RBNY team. The Red Bulls have found their form over the last month, winning their last four MLS matchups (and two Open Cup games). RBNY destroyed the Montreal Impact last week behind two Daniel Royer goals. Suddenly RBNY are only two points behind NYCFC with a game in hand. NYCFC also played a 4-0 game last week, but they were on the wrong end of the scoreline. Toronto FC took it to NYC at BMO Field thanks to goals from Giovinco (x2), Jozy and Raheem Edwards. NYC haven’t been in great form in recent weeks, but taking three points at home from a team hot on their heels in the East would be a huge win this late in the season.
 
Worst game of the week: D.C. United v. Toronto FC – Saturday, August 5, 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
What am I going to say about this game? Toronto FC is by far the best team in the league, and D.C. is the worst. Toronto has 43 points and has scored 41 goals with a goal differential of +19. DCU has a mere 18 points with 18 goals scored and a goal differential of -24. Sure, the game is in D.C., which in theory should give DCU an advantage, but D.C. is so bad and Toronto is so good that it really shouldn’t matter. D.C. lost last week in the third of four 4-0 games to Minnesota United FC, the worst team in the West. There have been rumors linking D.C. to a number of players, including Dutch midfielder Nigel de Jong. I’m not sure he would actually improve the team, although he’d certainly increase the number of cards for D.C. At this point, it’s only a matter of time before D.C. coach Ben Olsen is looking for another job.
 
The rest:
 
Saturday, August 5

 
Philadelphia Union v. FC Dallas – 7:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
How many of you had FC Dallas losing 4-0 at home to Vancouver? No one? Oh. Well, sometimes weird things happen in MLS, and that’s all that was. FC Dallas is still one of the best teams in MLS, and Vancouver is still a mediocre team. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas may bounce back in a big way this week. Philly themselves lost 3-0 last Saturday to the New England Revolution, but they didn’t have goalkeeper Andre Blake, who suffered an injury in the Gold Cup final. If Blake can return it’ll be a bit of a boost for a Philly team trying to claw their way into the sixth playoff spot in the East, but I’m still not sure it would be enough to beat Dallas, even at home. FC Dallas will be at full strength after a month of missing Hedges, Acosta and Jesse Gonzalez off and on due to the Gold Cup. The good thing for Dallas is they have two games in hand on Sporting KC and are only two points behind in the standings. A win over Philly combined with an SKC loss to Atlanta would propel FC Dallas to the top of the West and would put them in a great position to win home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
 
Montreal Impact v. Orlando City SC – 7:30PM ET, MLS Live

Montreal will be thrilled to go back home after the 4-0 drubbing they took at Red Bull Arena. Piatti didn’t start that game, and Blerim Dzemaili couldn’t keep up the form he’s had in weeks past. Orlando City fans got their first look at their new record signing Dom Dwyer, and the performance was underwhelming at best. Dwyer only had three days to train with the team before taking the field, but his partnership with Larin looked awkward at best. Dom isn’t used to playing in a two striker system, so it will take some getting used to for him before he really feels comfortable. These two teams faced off back in June, where they drew 3-3 in Orlando. OCSC didn’t have Larin for that game, though, who was serving his DUI suspension. I think a full-strength Orlando City side has an advantage over Montreal, but Orlando has been in poor form as of late, only winning one of their last eight MLS matchups.
 
Minnesota United FC v. Seattle Sounders FC – 8:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Loons rising! Minnesota had their biggest win of the year last week with their 4-0 win over D.C. United. Granted, DCU is the worst team in the league, but the Loons will take a win when they can get it. Unfortunately for MNUFC, Seattle has started to channel their late 2016 form again and has burst above the red line and currently sit in fourth in the West. The Sounders drew on the road to LA Galaxy last week in LA who were playing for new coach Sigi Schmid, but they’re unbeaten in their last seven MLS matches. The Sounders just signed 28-year-old Spanish attacker Victor Rodriquez, who comes from Spanish second division side Sporting Gijón. Rodriguez will bring some much-needed attacking support to a Sounders side who need a bit of an attacking presence since Jordan Morris is having a down year. He likely won’t start, but Rodriguez may come in as a sub in the second half to get his first MLS minutes.
 
Chicago Fire v. New England Revolution – 8:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
Chicago and New England face off for the second time this season, with the Fire getting the best of New England in a 3-0 win back in April. The Fire have only continued to get better since then, with Nikolic leading the Golden Boot race and David Accam having an MVP worthy year. Unfortunately, there may be trouble in paradise as reports indicate David Accam has demanded a transfer. Accam is reportedly unhappy with Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic, and his exclusion from the MLS All Star team was supposedly the last straw. Accam came in as a late sub last week against Sporting KC and scored a goal, so he’s still a difference maker for the team as long as he’s on the roster. New England is on a mini two game win streak having beaten LA and Philadelphia the last two weeks. The Revs have a bit of uncertainty as well, with Kei Kamara voicing discontent, which is becoming a pattern for Kamara at every stop in his career. New England have been a mediocre at best mid-table team all year, and Chicago is one of the best teams in the league. I don’t see a way that the Revs get points on the road in this one.
 
Colorado Rapids v. Vancouver Whitecaps FC – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
Colorado’s last win came at home on July 1 against the Houston Dynamo. Since then the Rapids are winless in three games, having lost two of them. Colorado still can’t really score goals, only finding the net 20 times through 20 games this season. They sit dead last in the West with 20 points, as well. Vancouver had a huge 4-0 win on the road against FC Dallas last week to keep them in sixth place in the Western Conference. The Whitecaps will need to earn points each week if they want to stay above the red line with San Jose right on their heels. The Rapids and Whitecaps played much earlier in the season in Vancouver, which the Whitecaps won 1-0 on the road. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Whitecaps win this second matchup as well.
 
Real Salt Lake v. Houston Dynamo – 10:00PM ET, MLS Live
 
If I would have told you earlier in the year that Real Salt Lake had an outside shot at making the playoffs, you would have looked at me like I was crazy. Well, RSL coach Mike Petke has rejuvenated this RSL side and has them playing their best soccer of the whole year. RSL is unbeaten in their last four matchups, beating LA and Portland and drawing with Sporting KC and Columbus. Strangely enough, their two wins were on the road and the draws were at home. They have a good shot at winning this week at home, though, as Houston is one of the worst road teams in the league. The Dynamo started off the year as hot as any team in MLS, but Cubo Torres has come back to earth, as have the Dynamo. Houston still sits third in the West, but a mere four points separate the third through seventh place teams in the West. The Dynamo’s next five games are all against teams fighting for playoff spots in the West, so every point they can get will matter in the hunt for the playoffs.
 
San Jose Earthquakes v. Columbus Crew SC – 10:30PM ET, MLS Live
 
Both these teams enter this matchup in desperate need of three points. San Jose is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs sitting two points behind Vancouver having played two more games. Columbus has slowly slid down the Eastern Conference table but have held steady around sixth place. The Crew will have to fight off a rejuvenated Orlando City team, who is hot on their heels in seventh place and will be confident with newly acquired striker Dom Dwyer. San Jose definitely has the advantage playing at home, and the Crew may be slightly distracted after news that 32-year-old attacking midfielder Federico Higuain has said that he wants to leave the Crew after this year. If San Jose can win at home, it’ll go a long way to catching Vancouver in the playoff hunt.
 
Sunday, August 6
 
Portland Timbers v. LA Galaxy – 4:00PM ET, ESPN
 
LA may not be as good this year as they have been in years past, but they’re still the Galaxy. There’s a renewed interest in LA this year after they fired head coach Curt Onalfo and hired former Sounders man Sigi Schmid. Sigi definitely knows the Timbers well, which makes this game even more exciting than a normal Timbers v. Galaxy match. A win for the Timbers will guarantee they stay above the red line for another week, whereas a win for the Galaxy could boost them up a spot from ninth to eighth in the West. Portland drew 2-2 with Houston last week in a frustrating game for Timbers fans, who thought they were robbed by PRO on an offside call that nullified the go-ahead goal (they weren’t). The Galaxy lost 1-0 to Portland on the road in the second week of the season, but since then LA has gone on to have the best road record in MLS. Providence Park is not an easy place to play, but the Galaxy’s road form this year will give them confidence that they can go into Portland and get a result.
 
Sporting Kansas City v. Atlanta United FC – 7:30PM ET, Fox Sports 1
 
Were it not for the Hudson River Derby, this would be the game of the week. Sporting KC and Atlanta United face off for the first time, and this game will likely feature a number of goals. Teams often come in to Children’s Mercy Park, sit back and play for the draw. Something tells me that’s not what ATLUTD will do. Even though the stats show that Atlanta is outperforming their expected goals scored (they’ve scored 40 compared to their xG of 26.42), they still have one of the most exciting attacks in MLS. Unfortunately, that attack will be slightly hampered without Josef Martinez, who is out with a foot injury, but ATL will still come out attacking early. Sporting KC are putting a 20 game home unbeaten streak on the line as they head into their second game without Dom Dwyer, but they looked just fine without him last week as they beat the Chicago Fire 3-2. Sporting KC’s offense looked more free-flowing and creative without having to worry about working the ball into Dom, and if they can keep that up they may actually be better offensively than they were with Dwyer up top. Sporting KC has the definite advantage playing a home, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Atlanta came in and won. This one will be a fun game to watch.
 
Hot take of the week: Minnesota United will get a result at home against Seattle. The Sounders have been playing fantastic soccer as of late, but the Loons are a decent team at home and will be riding high after their 4-0 win against D.C. United.
 
GIF of the week: It’s okay, Pirlo. I’d hide behind the wall for a Giovinco penalty kick, too.