MLS Week 3 preview, including Philadelphia, LA Galaxy, and NYCFC

Written By Harrison Hamm on May 1, 2021

After an exciting week of Concacaf Champions League action, which saw a mixed bag of results for MLS teams, Week 3 kicks off on Saturday. Let’s look at some of the most notable games.

Philadelphia Union vs. NYCFC (Saturday, 7pm ET)

Philadelphia +175 | Draw +245 | NYCFC +148

It’s hard to know what to make of NYCFC so far. In Week 1, they scored first and kept 62 percent possession but ultimately failed to break down D.C. United and lost 2-1. They rebounded with full force back home in Week 2 with a 5-0 demolition of FC Cincinnati, somehow scoring all five of their goals on set pieces.

The 5-0 win is great, but how likely is it that they’re going to dominate on set pieces like this all the time? It’s very possible that the five goal performance was a product of Cincinnati’s general incompetence than anything else. Still, if Jesus Medina and Valentin Castellanos are productive with the ball, NYC can be a threat.

The Union have played well, generally, and picked up a really nice 3-0 win over Atlanta United in leg 1 of their CCL fixture on Wednesday. Last week, though, they lost to the combined power of Miami’s Higuain brothers, struggling to get much going in the final third. They might rotate the squad on Saturday after playing a full strength XI against Atlanta.

Minnesota United vs. Austin FC (Saturday, 8pm ET)

Minnesota -120 | Draw +285 | Austin +280

Through two games, the perceptions of these two teams’ seasons is very different. Austin, an expansion team, has shown lots of promise, putting in a respectable performance in a road loss to LAFC in Week 1 before a very nice 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. They were without their top player, Tomas Pochettino, against Colorado, but it didn’t matter — they poured numbers into attack and beat a playoff contender on the road.

The Loons, meanwhile, have struggled defensively in the first two weeks, and are one of only two teams (alongside the Red Bulls) to have lost their first two games. It’s far from panic time in Minnesota, given some of the injuries they’ve had on the backline, but they haven’t gotten good performances from some stalwarts like Chase Gasper. They’ve also felt the loss of Kevin Molino, as the creativity in attack hasn’t been there.

I’d imagine Minnesota will be motivated, after they were clearly unhappy with Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa’s punting the ball into the Minnesota supporters section after RSL’s win last week. Austin, who will get Pochettino back, won’t be an easy opponent.

Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy (Sunday, 9pm ET, Fox Sports 1)

Sounders -167 | Draw +300 | LA Galaxy +440

This is probably the biggest game of the weekend, with Chicharito riding a hot streak — five goals in two games. None of those goals were penalties. He’s doing exactly what he’s done for most of his career, which is put together exquisite off-ball runs and seek out tap-ins in the six-yard box. That means it’s been a positive start overall for the Galaxy, with two wins and the most goals (six) in the league.

Of course, they’ve also given up four goals, and their wins did not come against particularly difficult competition. That changes on Sunday against the Sounders, who beat Minnesota 4-0 in Week 1 and then drew 1-1 against LAFC last week. Nicolas Lodeiro didn’t play in those first two games, but he is expected to be back on Sunday, most likely coming off the bench.

Seattle have been playing a three/five-at-the-back formation that will now have the opportunity to deal with Chicharito. The question is whether the Galaxy will be able to generate enough positive attacking possession to put their star in high-quality shot positions. Chicharito will make chances out of nothing; the Galaxy just have to get the ball into the right spots.

Also: The battle between young midfielders Josh Atencio and Adam Saldana will be interesting to watch. Atencio has been very good for the Sounders, and Saldana has proven a solid defensive presence at 19.

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