Previewing three big MLS matches this weekend

Written By Harrison Hamm on June 25, 2021

After a long international break, MLS returned this week with a large slate of games, and will continue this weekend with most clubs playing. There are still some players missing at the Euro 2020 and Copa America, and with so many games in a short stretch of time, there will be lots of squad rotation.

With a big schedule coming up this weekend, let’s preview a few of the games.

Sporting KC vs. LAFC (Saturday, 5:30pm ET, ESPN)

While LAFC haven’t hit anything close to the gear they’re capable of yet, this is a matchup of two top Western Conference teams. SKC, fresh off a comprehensive 3-1 defeat of the Colorado Rapids on Wednesday, is a solid possession team that is difficult to break down in midfield. The creativity of Gianluca Busio combined with the mobility and defense of their rotating cast of midfielders makes them a prototypical 4-3-3 team.

Sporting also have the requisite scoring in the front three. They don’t have Diego Rossi or Carlos Vela, but they do have striker Alan Pulido and a cast of wingers that are capable of putting the ball into the net, most notably the elite Johnny Russell. Even Daniel Salloi, who is known for being snake bitten in front of goal, potted a pair of goals against Colorado.

LAFC are still all the way down in eighth in the standings, but Carlos Vela is back and starting to regain his form. He scored for the first time this season on Wednesday in a 2-0 win over FC Dallas. LA has the personnel to get back to their elite level, but they still seem a little bit off — as though they are waiting to turn it on. They never turned it on last year. Now would be a good time.

Prediction: SKC win

NYCFC vs. D.C. United (Sunday, 6pm ET)

DCU don’t always play the most entertaining soccer, but they’ve found their way into seventh in the Eastern Conference (just a point behind NYCFC!) by beating bad teams. Of their past three games, two have been against Inter Miami and one was against CF Montreal. They beat Miami twice and drew 0-0 with Montreal. Other than that, they have two wins, a draw, and five losses on the season.

One of those wins was against the Chicago Fire, a team that has managed to score four goals total this season. The other happened to come against NYCFC, who have been playing well of late despite an exciting 3-2 loss to the New England Revolution last weekend. They beat Atlanta United on Wednesday and have generally generated good chances from their possession.

It’s a good bet that NYC will keep most of the ball against D.C. Then again, D.C. dominated the ball against Miami and then piled up 27 shots in that scoreless draw against Montreal (though a 45th-minute red card helped). A DCU team that wants to keep the ball a bit more could add some intrigue to this game.

Prediction: NYCFC win

Austin FC vs. Columbus Crew (Sunday, 8pm ET, FS1)

This is a long-awaited battle. If you’re not up to speed: the Crew were going to be relocated to Austin in 2017 by then-owner Anthony Precourt, which resulted in the Save the Crew movement to keep the team in Columbus. The fan-led movement culminated in Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam purchasing the team and keeping them in Columbus, with Precourt awarded a team in Austin, which became Austin FC. Needless to say, this is about as inevitable a rivalry as you’ll find.

Austin recently debuted their new stadium to great effect. The team, however, is not playing as well of late. They’re attempting to play a possession-based style under manager Josh Wolff (a former Crew assistant coach) and while there have been some good moments, they’ve struggled to generate much in attack. In their past six games, they’ve managed to score a grand total of one goal. But they drew 1-1 in that game, and also came up with two 0-0 draws in that span. They’re staying afloat, if only barely.

Columbus have been hit hard by injuries, which is part of the reason they’ve been inconsistent in the early going. Still, they’re solid defensively with good players all over the field.

Prediction: Columbus win

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