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MLS Look Ahead: Week Three

Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After two MLS teams engaged in some midweek CONCACAF Champions League action, every team returns to league play for week three this weekend.

The bulk of the action takes place on Saturday, kicking off in the afternoon at Yankee Stadium as New York City FC look to build on last week’s big win as they take on the Montreal Impact. Immediately following that match is a surprisingly compelling battle between Atlanta United and the Chicago Fire, while the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC face off in an all-Canadian affair.

The evening slate features several compelling match-ups, including the perfect Portland Timbers facing off against the also surprisingly perfect Houston Dynamo to close Saturday’s action. Slightly earlier, Orlando City and the New England Revolution play their second matches of the year after last week’s cancellation, against the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas respectively.

Also on Saturday, Minnesota United look to bounce back after two crushing defeats to start their MLS history when they take on the Colorado Rapids on the road. D.C. United and the Columbus Crew are also looking to rebound from big losses as they face off in the capital, while the San Jose Earthquakes also look to remain perfect after two impressive wins to start the season.

Sunday features just one match, but it’s a must-watch, as the reigning MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders take on the New York Red Bulls. The two teams have had wildly different fortunes thus far, with the Sounders managing just one point from their first two matches, while the Red Bulls have won both of their initial matches but have only scored one goal in the process.

Here’s a look at each of the 11 games taking place across MLS this weekend.

NEW YORK CITY FC VS. MONTREAL IMPACT (SATURDAY, 2 P.M. ET, MLS LIVE)

NYCFC produced just what the doctor ordered in week two in a 4-0 thrashing of D.C. United. After losing a match to Orlando City which they largely dominated, NYCFC exploded behind a David Villa brace en route to a big victory. Head coach Patrick Vieira will almost certainly trot out a very similar line-up, if not exactly the same, as the team enters the match with a clean bill of health aside from Mikey Lopez’s long-term injury.

The Impact, meanwhile, have gotten off to a slow start. After losing to the Earthquakes in the season opener, the Impact surrendered a 2-0 lead late to the Sounders as they dropped two points in disappointing fashion at home. Despite results, and being shut down by early Rookie of the Year contender Nick Lima, star forward Ignacio Piatti found the back of the net in week two, and could potentially break the Impact out of their funk in week three.

 

ATLANTA UNITED VS. CHICAGO FIRE (SATURDAY, 4 P.M., UNIMAS/FACEBOOK)

Atlanta United was the most impressive team in play last weekend, as their 6-1 drubbing of expansion siblings Minnesota United showed that they are indeed a force to be reckoned with. Matching up against the Chicago Fire, Atlanta will hope their South American stars such as Josef Martinez and Miguel Almiron can continue their hot start to the season and pick up their first points of the season at home.

The Chicago Fire battled the Columbus Crew to a draw in week one, and improved in week two by defeating Real Salt Lake 2-0 at home. Now the Fire go on the road again as they travel down south to take on Atlanta in an important Eastern Conference battle for two playoff hopefuls. Dax McCarty has been as good as advertised so far, while new DP forward Nemanja Nikolic got on the board in last week’s victory. Signs are good in Chicago for the first time in a while.

 

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS VS. TORONTO FC (SATURDAY, 4 P.M., MLS LIVE/TSN1)

The Vancouver Whitecaps will enter their third match of the year a bit more weary than their opponents after a 2-0 loss in the CCL semifinals to Tigres during the week. Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, they haven’t performed much better during the regular season so far, with a scoreless draw against the Union to open the year and then a devastating 3-2 loss to the Quakes after leading 2-0 early on. Adding to their woes is the absence of goalkeeper David Ousted after being sent off last weekend for a trip on a Chris Wondolowski breakaway.

Toronto FC haven’t had an ideal start to their campaign either, with a pair of draws in Salt Lake City and Philadelphia to earn two points from their first two matches. Unfortunately for the Reds, they’ll be handicapped as well, as star forward Sebastian Giovinco will miss Saturday’s match with a leg contusion suffered late in the draw against the Union.

 

D.C. UNITED VS. COLUMBUS CREW (SATURDAY, 7 P.M., MLS LIVE)

D.C. United came out of week two as one of the biggest losers of the weekend. After a scoreless draw to open the season at home, a 4-0 drubbing was not what Ben Olsen had in mind for the second match of the year. Unfortunately for DCU, the status of star midfielder Luciano Acosta remains up in the air as he looks to return from an ankle injury that held him out of last week’s loss.

The Columbus Crew have had a similar start to the year, matching DCU’s draw and loss to sit at a single point earned through two matches. The Crew face even more severe injury woes than the hosts, however, as midfielder Dilly Duka will be out with a calf contusion, while defender Waylon Francis is questionable to return from his right shoulder surgery and midfielder Abuchi Obinwa is questionable after suffering a left thigh strain. Also concerning is the absence of Jonathan Mensah, as he picked up a red card last week against the Houston Dynamo.

 

ORLANDO CITY VS. PHILADELPHIA UNION (SATURDAY, 7:30 P.M., MLS LIVE)

Orlando City is one of just two teams who have yet to play a second game, as their match against the New England Revolution was cancelled last weekend due to weather conditions. Therefore the team will unexpectedly play their second match at home, where they found themselves victorious in week one over NYCFC. With an extra week of rest, Jason Kreis’ team will look to come out fresh, even without star midfielder Kaka who remains out with his hamstring injury.

The Union enter week three with the exact same record and scorelines in their first two matches as last week’s opponent, Toronto FC. Two draws leaves the Union with an unsatisfactory start to the season as they look to repeat their playoff appearance from 2016. The Union have a laundry list of injuries, as both Joshua Yaro and Maurice Edu remain out, while Charlie Davies, Ilsinho, and Ken Tribbett are all questionable. The good news is that forward Jay Simpson appears to be okay and available after suffering a rib injury that forced him off late last weekend.

 

FC DALLAS VS. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (SATURDAY, 8 P.M. ET, MLS LIVE)

FC Dallas have started the year largely on schedule to begin their Supporters’ Shield title defense. After an opening week win against the LA Galaxy and a week two draw with a rotated line-up against Sporting KC, FCD hosted Pachuca in midweek CCL play and took a 2-1 advantage in their semifinal match. While a little tired, Dallas will be riding the high of that midweek win, as well as the red-hot early season form of midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who’s free-kick goal sealed the 2-1 victory.

The New England Revolution are the second team to have only played a single match after last week’s cancellation. This week the Revs go on the road to the warmer realm of Texas, as they hope to correct from their season-opening loss to the Colorado Rapids. They’ll have to do so without midfielder Zachary Herivaux and goalkeeper Brad Knighton, as both will be out, as well as potentially midfielder Lee Nguyen who is recovering from an ankle contusion.

 

SPORTING KANSAS CITY VS. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (SATURDAY, 8:30 P.M. ET, MLS LIVE)

Sporting Kansas City have had an odd start to the season, with two scoreless draws leaving a lot to be desired as the team largely looked superior in each of their first two matches of the year without results to show for it. Forward Cameron Iwasa and defender Erik Palmer-Brown are both questionable this week, as SKC hopes to continue their defensive record, while opening things up on the offensive end.

The Earthquakes have been one of the stories of the early season. After a strong 1-0 victory to open the year against the Montreal Impact, the Quakes came back from two down to defeat the Whitecaps in week two. Rookie Nick Lima has been central to the team’s success, shutting down Ignacio Piatti in week one, while scoring his first career goal in week two, thrusting him to the forefront of early Rookie of the Year discussions. They Quakes will have to cope with some injuries however, as defender Marvell Wynne will be out indefinitely with a heart abnormality and midfielder Marc Pelosi will be out with a left knee injury. Defender Harold Cummings is questionable as he returns from a sports hernia.

 

COLORADO RAPIDS VS. MINNESOTA UNITED (SATURDAY, 9 P.M., MLS LIVE)

The Colorado Rapids won their first match in what is becoming traditional fashion for them, securing a 1-0 victory at home over the Revolution, while losing the second in odd fashion. The Rapids suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of an own goal last week at Red Bull Arena, but they’ll hope to bounce back against heavily struggling Minnesota United. The Rapids will have to overcome some defensive changes, as Defender of the Year candidate Axel Sjoberg will miss 1-2 months after going through hamstring surgery.

Minnesota United has been as bad as many feared through the first two matches of their inaugural campaign, scoring only two goals and allowing a stunning 11 en route to two big defeats. The Loons have a lot to figure out defensively, and may have to do it without goalkeeper John Alvbage, who was forced out with a knee laceration late in last week’s drubbing. No team before had surrendered 5+ goals in two consecutive matches, can the Loons avoid the dubious distinction of three straight?

 

REAL SALT LAKE VS. LA GALAXY (SATURDAY, 9:30 P.M. ET, MLS LIVE)

Real Salt Lake have had a concerning start to the season as well, though their struggles come at the other end of the field. While the defense has seemed solid so far, the offense has failed to score through two matches against Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire. Joao Plata, Yura Movsisyan, and new DP Albert Rusnak need to figure things out quickly, and the struggling Galaxy may provide an ideal opponent to do so. However, RSL must also overcome a slew of injuries, particularly at centerback. Defenders Justen Glad, Chris Schuler, and Aaron Maund will all miss this weekend’s match, and Plata is also questionable after suffering a hip contusion.

The LA Galaxy have also suffered a concerning start to the season. Despite the favorable nature of two matches at home to begin the year, the Galaxy have dropped both to FC Dallas and the Portland Timbers, as their offense has struggled to get off the ground and their defense hasn’t been good enough to compensate. They’ll now have to deal with the absence of captain Jelle Van Damme after last week’s red card, and no amount of spicy memes can change that.

 

PORTLAND TIMBERS VS. HOUSTON DYNAMO (SATURDAY, 10:30 P.M. ET, MLS LIVE)

Talk about a surprising must-watch match. The Portland Timbers aren’t so shocking, the 2015 MLS Cup champions were a popular pick to bounce back this year after a disappointing 2016. So far, the Timbers have lived up to expectations, defeating Minnesota United 5-1 in the MLS season opener followed by a 1-0 defeat of the Galaxy on the road, something the Timbers hadn’t done since mid-2015. New acquisition Sebastian Blanco has been as good as advertised, while star midfielder Diego Valeri has continued his usual stellar form.

The Houston Dynamo, meanwhile, have surprised just about everyone. After shocking the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders to open the season, the Dynamo defeated the Crew in week two with a 3-1 scoreline. Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres has returned to the Dynamo an entirely different player, while Romell Quioto has also been stellar. Midfielder Alex has performed strongly as well, racking up three assists early this season. Do the Dynamo have another shock victory in them this weekend?

SEATTLE SOUNDERS VS. NEW YORK RED BULLS (SUNDAY, 7 P.M. ET, FOX SPORTS 1)

Finally, the Seattle Sounders close the weekend unexpectedly seeking their first win of the year in their third match. After the surprising season-opening defeat to the Dynamo, the Sounders battled from behind against the Impact to secure their first point of the season. Still, it isn’t the start that Brian Schmetzer dreamed of, and now the Sounders will look to turn that around in their home-opener. The Sounders will be without MLS Cup hero Roman Torres, however, as he’ll be suspended after a disciplinary committee decision.

The New York Red Bulls have had an odd start to the year as well. Despite coming away with two victories, there is an air of dissatisfaction around the team’s performances in their first two matches. Each of their wins has come via own-goal, while the Red Bulls themselves have scored just once via Daniel Royer. While the win against the Rapids was deserved given the run of play, they Red Bulls will feel lucky to have returned from Atlanta with three points. Something about the two 4-4-2 attack just isn’t clicking yet, and Jesse Marsch will hope to figure it out this week in Seattle.

 

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