After a packed midweek slate (13 games on Wednesday!), MLS will bulldoze forward with another large batch of games this weekend. Most will come on Sunday. Let’s take a look at some interesting games.
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew (Sunday, 7:30pm ET)
Columbus, a team that I’m often high on in this space, continues to look like the favorites to pick up the Supporters’ Shield in this weird amalgamation of a season. Part of the reason for their historic success — they have been insanely good defensively, with just five goals against in 13 games (everyone else has conceded double-digits) — has been a favorable schedule. They’ve had the pleasure of playing FC Cincinnati three times, the Chicago Fire twice, and the Red Bulls and Nashville SC once each.
But they also beat third-place Philadelphia 1-0 in early September, and picked up a 2-1 win over Minnesota United on Wednesday. They also have a draw against the Seattle Sounders from March, when they had to travel cross-country and play in front of the CenturyLink fans. (That feels like a decade ago.)
Toronto FC will be a big test. A win for the Crew would go a long way for their Shield hopes. TFC have Alejandro Pozuelo, who is the odds-on favorite to pick up the MVP this season. Toronto are tied with Philly and Orlando City on 25 points after a 1-0 midweek win over NYCFC, in which Pozuelo converted a 90th-minute penalty-kick to grab a dramatic win. With Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola up top, and Pozuelo behind them, TFC presents a nice challenge for the Crew’s dominant defense.
FC Dallas vs. Orlando City SC (Sunday, 8:30pm ET)
OCSC have been a nice story this season, from their success that their hometown bubble tournament to their sustained post-bubble success. They’re second behind the Crew in the East, and haven’t lost since an August 22 3-2 loss to Inter Miami. They’ve won three straight, most recently defeating Sporting KC 2-1.
Their collection of quality attackers is deeper than many expected. Nani has been locked in, with four goals and four assists in 10 regular season appearances, and a number of secondary players have proven effective. Daryl Dike and Tesho Akindele are forwards with diverse skillsets who have both been productive — Dike has 3g and 3a, providing Altidore-style passing, and Akindele has a pair of goals in under 500 minutes. Mauricio Pereyra might be their most important piece, providing high-quality playmaking. The speedy overlapping of Ruan from right back continues to be a nice feature.
Chris Mueller might be their most notable piece. He’s legitimately been one of the league’s most productive players this season, with 7g and 5a while appearing in all 13 regular season matches (starting nine). He can beat defenders off the dribble and has the composure to hit thoughtful crosses and through-balls after creating space. His knack for goals is also valuable.
FC Dallas has fought this season, and despite the absences of Paxton Pomykal (injured for the year), Reggie Cannon (transferred to Portugal), and Zdenek Ondrasek (transferred to the Czech Republic), they’re fourth in the Western Conference. They have enough talent and coaching to make things difficult for any team.
LAFC vs. San Jose Earthquakes (Sunday, 10:30pm ET)
Here we have potential for a major blowout. In midweek, LAFC torched the Vancouver Whitecaps to the tune of 6-0, continuing their trend of generally lopsided goal-fests. LA kept 65 percent possession, held Vancouver to zero shots on goal, and benefitted from two own goals. Diego Rossi added to his pursuit of the scoring title. They generally haven’t been themselves this season, but they do have a 4-2 win over Portland and a 5-1 win over this San Jose team.
The Earthquakes sit dead last and have been getting run off the field pretty consistently. In addition to the 5-1 loss against LAFC, they’ve lost 7-1 to the Sounders, 6-1 to the Timbers, and 5-0 to the Colorado Rapids, of all teams. They haven’t won since the MLS is Back group stage, when they flashed a mirage of competence amid their chaos.
San Jose can’t defend, and while LAFC isn’t quite the juggernaut they’ve been in the past, this should be a one-way scoring fest. This is MLS, though, so look out for an inexplicable 1-0 Quakes win.
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