As the 2016 MLS season rolls into Week 13, several teams will be in search of a win prior to the league’s upcoming international break.
The league’s two conference leaders will go at it on Saturday night, when the Philadelphia Union head west to face the league-leading Colorado Rapids. A key Western Conference matchup kicks off later that evening, as a depleted San Jose Earthquakes team looks to stay hot against FC Dallas.
The weekend kicks off with Sporting KC hosting D.C. United from Children’s Mercy Park, while key matchups on Saturday include the New York Red Bulls hosting Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact taking on the LA Galaxy.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s action:
SPORTING KC vs. D.C. UNITED (Friday, 7 p.m., UniMas)
After starting the season with four wins in their first five matches, Sporting KC has cooled off significantly.
In the team’s last nine matches, Sporting KC has come with three points just once, and now they’ll have to play without three key players including Matt Besler and Graham Zusi while away on U.S. Men’s National Team duty.
D.C.’s struggles have been well noted this season. After a complete performance and victory over rivals New York Red Bulls, Ben Olson’s side followed that up with a 1-0 loss on the road against the Philadelphia Union. It’s safe to say that both sides will be desperate for a victory heading into MLS’ upcoming break.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS vs. HOUSTON DYNAMO (Saturday, 5 p.m., MLS Live)
Saturday will be the first match where the Dynamo will play without head coach Owen Coyle, and the team’s nerves will surely be tested against a quality Whitecaps team.
The Dynamo, currently last in the Western Conference, have been wildly inconsistent in 2016. However, a lot of that can be chalked up to where they are playing. The Dynamo has yet to win a match on the road this season (0-6-0), and heading into a hostile BC Place won’t make matters any easier.
The Whitecaps were finally brought back down to earth against rivals Portland Timbers on Sunday, but the ailing Dynamo could be the perfect side to face off of a loss. In a congested West, the Whitecaps will be looking to pick up three points and establish themselves among the West’s elite heading into the international break.
NEW YORK RED BULLS vs. TORONTO FC (Saturday, 7 p.m., MLS Live)
By now everyone has likely seen the massacre that took place at Yankee Stadium last weekend.
While the Red Bulls can’t let their 7-0 thrashing of New York City FC define their season, they can certainly take massive positives into the future. Bradley Wright-Phillips arguably played his best game of the season, notching two goals and an assist. The striker’s confidence can be huge for the Red Bulls moving forward.
Already missing Jozy Altidore due to injury, Toronto FC will now have to deal with the absence of USMNT midfielder Michael Bradley. Italian sensation Sebastian Giovinco remains tied for the league lead in goals, and has the uncanny ability to take over a match in a heartbeat, but he’ll have to be special against a Red Bulls team that is starting to get organized again.
COLUMBUS CREW vs. REAL SALT LAKE (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
2016 has told two completely unexpected tales when it comes to these two clubs.
Real Salt Lake currently occupies a playoff spot in the West, while the MLS Cup runners’ up sit on 11 points in as many matches in the Eastern Conference. A perfect home record has lifted RSL this season, so Saturday’s trip to Columbus could prove to be a big statement for Jeff Cassar’s team.
Even prior to the trade that sent Kei Kamara to the Revolution, the Crew simply haven’t looked like themselves this season. One of the league’s highest scoring attacks in 2015, Greg Berhalter’s side has failed to replicate any such feat this year, notching just 12 goals, the third fewest in MLS.
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., MLS Live)
These are two of the most difficult clubs to assess this season, each after making the playoffs in 2015.
The Revolution boast just two wins in 2016 but their record is likely the least of their issues. The Revs lead the East in goals conceded (24), which includes allowing four goals in two of their last three outings.
Despite boasting attacking talents Charlie Davies, Juan Agudelo and now Kei Kamara, the Revs have struggled mightily in front of net. The Sounders, who have one of the league’s stingiest defenses, will prove to be a tough test.
Just as tough to gauge as the Revs, the Sounders have been just as inconsistent this year. The Sounders are still searching for their first road win of the season, and will now have to do it without attacking duo Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez.
MONTREAL IMPACT vs. LA GALAXY (Saturday, 8:00 p.m., MLS Live)
After missing last week’s match, which ended in a loss, against Orlando City, the Impact will likely have star striker Didier Drogba back in the lineup on Saturday.
A hot start for the Impact has been halted in recent weeks, with the Canadian side looking to end their six-match winless streak. With 11 goals combined between Drogba and Ignacio Piatti this season, the Galaxy backline will be given all that they can handle, but the Impact will have to find a way to keep their opponent away from goal without Laurent Ciman.
For most teams in MLS, the absences of Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Keane would put them at a major disadvantage. While it won’t be easy for the Galaxy to overcome, Bruce Arena does have the luxury of having various attacking options on the bench, including Emanuel Boateng and Sebastian Lletget. The Galaxy remain among the hottest teams in MLS, currently on a nine-game unbeaten run.
CHICAGO FIRE vs. PORTLAND TIMBERS ( Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MLS Live)
The good news for the Fire is that they picked up an important win last week against the Dynamo. The bad news is that the Timbers come to town this weekend.
The Fire’s record may be deceiving, with Veljko Paunovic’s club being involved in several close matches this season. In fact, the Fire have had just one game this season decided by more than one goal.
Paunovic and co. will be worried about one thing against the defending champions on Saturday: scoring goals. The Fire are last in MLS this season, netting just nine goals in 11 matches.
The Timbers are coming off of a huge win over the Whitecaps, but Caleb Porter’s side will have to make due without Darlington Nagbe and Jermaine Taylor. Three consecutive 2-1 defeats were halted by the team’s victory against the Whitecaps, but the Timbers must now capitalize on a struggling Fire team, especially with the Western Conference proving to be very competitive.
COLORADO RAPIDS vs. PHILADELPHIA UNION (Saturday, 9 p.m., MLS Live)
Arguably the matchup of the weekend, the two top sides in each conference will go at in the nightcap.
Is there any team hotter than the Rapids at the moment? Maybe the Galaxy, but it’s very close. Pablo Mastroeni’s side may not play the prettiest soccer, but they certainly know how to grind out results. Led by the least-forgiving backline in MLS, which has conceded just nine goals, the Rapids certainly have the tools remain contenders all season.
Just as much of a surprise as the Rapids have been, the Union are making similar waves in the East. While Jim Curtin’s team will be without goalkeeper Andre Blake during the international window, the Union are on an unbeaten run of their own, taking points in six consecutive games.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES vs. FC DALLAS (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. MLS LIVE)
This summer is going to hit the Earthquakes harder than any other team in MLS.
Five players will be absent for the Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium when the team takes on FC Dallas, including goalscoring extraordinaire Chris Wondolowski. The one saving grace for the home side will be their home field. The Earthquakes have yet to lose this season in front of their fans, boasting a 5-0-1 record in San Jose.
FC Dallas is riding hot with three straight wins, which doesn’t bode well for the depleted Earthquakes. In that span, Dallas has notched eight goals, including their most recently four-goal outburst against the Revolution. With three players having scored three goals or more this season, Dallas presents a matchup nightmare for any opponent.
NEW YORK CITY FC vs. ORLANDO CITY (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., ESPN)
If there’s any team in need of a win this weekend, it’s NYCFC.
After facing a 7-0 drubbing from the Red Bulls last Saturday, Patrick Vieira’s side must put the past behind them. Luckily for Vieira and co., NYCFC won’t be hit hard by the international schedule, with Ronald Matarrita the only starter that will be missing in action. The team will look to David Villa to put the spark back in the team’s offense, while the backline must contain Cyle Larin, which is no easy task.
For Orlando, Larin may have to shoulder a lot of the game’s workload in the attacking third. The Lions will be without Kaka, Darwin Ceren and Rafael Ramos, among others due to an assortment of call ups and injuries. Consecutive results against the Impact and Union will have Orlando confident, but a trip to Yankee Stadium won’t be an easy task.