Plenty of fireworks have come from MLS since the calendar flipped over to July.
Ninety-nine goals have been scored in 28 games with only eight clean sheets being recorded. The madness extended into Wednesday’s seven-game slate, with Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders both impressing out on the West Coast.
This weekend has the potential for even more fireworks as a rivalry beings in the Southeast and Eastern Conference supremacy is on the line in New York.
Here’s a preview of the weekend slate across MLS:
Atlanta United at Orlando City (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN)
What is expected to be a ferocious derby in the Southeast for years to come starts on Friday night at Orlando City Stadium. Brad Guzan is expected to make his Atlanta United debut after playing a few games during the Gold Cup knockout round and Josef Martinez is continuing to get healthier to spice up the Atlanta attack.
Orlando City will be without Cyle Larin, who joined the Canada Gold Cup squad for the quarterfinal loss to Jamaica on Thursday. With the star forward out, the pressure will be on Carlos Rivas, Kaka and Giles Barnes to create enough chances to threaten Guzan in his first game with the Atlanta back four in front of him.
Chicago Fire at New York City FC (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
Just a few days after one potential Eastern Conference playoff preview took place at Yankee Stadium, another one takes center stage for a Saturday matinee. Chicago comes in fresh with two of the best scorers in MLS in Nemanja Nikolic and David Accam, and the Fire will chomping at the bit to took advantage of a tired NYCFC defense.
NYCFC should have come away with three points against TFC on Wednesday, but they settled for a 2-2 draw. Many have been high on Alex Ring in central midfield and he’ll have quite the task on his hands dealing with the Chicago midfield, even if it is without Dax McCarty.
New York Red Bulls at Minnesota United (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
The New York Red Bulls carry a ton of momentum into their first trip up to Minnesota. The 5-1 trouncing of the San Jose Earthquakes was exactly what the doctor ordered for Jesse Marsch and co. A result would put them over the 30-point threshold and it would put more pressure on the teams beneath them in the Eastern Conference standings chasing the red line.
Minnesota will still be without Francisco Calvo, who would’ve had a great battle with Bradley Wright-Phillips if he wasn’t off on international duty. The Loons failed to take advantage of the Houston Dynamo’s absences on Wednesday in a scoreless draw, and there’s a chance they might take only one point or less away from this week.
Houston Dynamo at D.C. United (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
You might want to shield your eyes away from this contest. The Dynamo are one of the worst road team in MLS and it will be without its three best attackers and a key midfielder because of Gold Cup action. Going up against a frustrated D.C. team could be tough for the Dynamo, or it could be another scoreless draw like the one played between the two teams last year.
D.C. had one of the worst nights in franchise history on Wednesday as it lost a three-goal lead and lost to the Sounders. If anything, the Black and Red were able to score three goals in their last contest, but finding a way to respond after a midweek cross-country trip could be too much for them to handle.
Colorado Rapids at Toronto FC (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live, TSN1)
The Rapids are one of four teams without a road win this season and nothing leads us to believe they’ll change that on Saturday in Ontario. Pablo Mastroeni’s men have lost three of their last four games and face one of the most difficult home teams in the league at BMO Field.
Despite losing Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley to the Gold Cup knockout round, Toronto FC earned a draw at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday and the Reds are in good shape to take the full three points at home on Saturday. A win or draw could make Toronto the first team to hit the 40-point threshold depending on the result between Chicago and NYCFC.
Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Union are coming off a disappointing loss in Montreal on Wednesday and they’re still without Andre Blake, Chris Pontius and possibly Derrick Jones and Fafa Picault. They will have Alejandro Bedoya back in the lineup, but that doesn’t help the attacking concerns they have with the lack of productivity from Roland Alberg and Ilsinho.
The Crew have been inconsistent throughout the season as well, which has led to the team dropping below the red line. With two games in a row against the Union, the Crew have a perfect chance to bury one of their rivals for a playoff position.
FC Dallas at Montreal Impact (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live, TVAS)
FC Dallas have a chance to improve their road record and jump up to the top of the Western Conference with three points at Stade Saputo on Saturday. Oscar Pareja’s men are missing four key players, but none of them in attack. With Maxi Urruti, Roland Lamah and Michael Barrios still in the fold, they should have enough to get past the Impact.
The Impact got a win they needed badly over the Union a few days ago, but it’ll be tough going for the Impact on Saturday against one of the league’s best teams. Mauro Biello’s side is dealing with international absences and injuries of its own and if it somehow pulls it together to beat FC Dallas, it’ll be because of Blerim Dzemaili.
LA Galaxy at New England Revolution (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
Two of the most prestigious franchises in MLS meet at a point in time in which they both need some help. The Galaxy have been horrendous at home, but they’ve been able to put results together on the road. In order to have any chance at getting over the red line, the Galaxy need to improve on their 5-3-1 road record.
The Revs are stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference alongside D.C. United and the team is in need of victory to have a chance at contending. If there is any good news for the Revs, this is about the time of year where they get hot and make a late run at the postseason positions.
Sporting Kansas City at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
One of the fiercest rivalries in the league will sit on the backburner as the U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Costa Rica at the same time. Sporting Kansas City won the first meeting between the two sides back on April 29, but that was when Real Salt Lake was struggling mightily.
RSL have turned things around in their last few games, and they’ve been on fire in front of the net. If Mike Petke truly has reversed the course of the season, it will show in a contest against one of the best teams across MLS. However, the Claret and Cobalt will have to prove themselves without Kyle Beckerman, who will be serving a one-game red card suspension.
Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
The Timbers needs a positive response after losing to RSL on Wednesday night that extended its winless run to six games. In addition to being without David Guzman and Darlington Nagbe because of international duty, the Timbers will be without Fanendo Adi and Victor Arboleda due to red cards earned in the 4-1 loss to RSL.
On the other side, the Whitecaps haven’t been in the national spotlight much, but the Canadian side will get the chance to impress the continental audience on Sunday night. The Whitecaps haven’t been affected much by the Gold Cup and they’ve only lost once in their last six contests.
San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The San Jose Earthquakes received no favors from the schedule-makers this week. They got blown out at Red Bull Arena on Wednesday and have to fly straight to Seattle for a matchup to close out the weekend. The Quakes have been outscored, 9-3, in their last two league games.
The Sounders pulled off the best comeback in MLS history against D.C. in midweek and now there’s another opportunity to beat up on the tired Quakes and extend its unbeaten run to five games. A win combined with results elsewhere could boost the Sounders as high as third in the West.