The first full slate of matches in April for Major League Soccer presents a wide variety of intriguing storylines and matchups.
Most eyes will focus on the star-studded showdown at BMO Field between Atlanta United and Toronto FC, but if you dig deeper, there are plenty of other matches that could steal the headlines. FC Dallas and the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to bounce back from deflating CONCACAF Champions League defeats, while Real Salt Lake will play their first contest under new manager Mike Petke.
Here’s a look at all 11 matches being played in MLS this weekend:
Montreal Impact at LA Galaxy (Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
Friday night presents the perfect opportunity for the LA Galaxy to find their footing in the Curt Onalfo era. The Galaxy started their full complement of stars in Week 5 in Vancouver, but still came up short and left BC Place with a loss. The pressure is now on every player in the starting XI as the Galaxy look to avoid their third home defeat of 2017.
Montreal has experienced a decent amount of success against one of the league’s marquee franchises, with a 3-2 win last year at home and three draws in the previous four years against the then-Bruce Arena coached Galaxy. The Impact are one of three Eastern Conference teams that have played just one home game. Mauro Biello’s men will try to take advantage of the struggling Galaxy and pull out their third consecutive draw.
Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Midwest rivals of the Eastern Conference take to the field for the second time this season. The Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew played to a 1-1 draw in Week 1, but a lot has changed since the opener at Mapfre Stadium. Since then, the Fire have acquired Bastian Schweinsteiger, who slid right into the lineup a week ago and scored in a draw with the Impact.
As for the Crew, they are now on top of the Eastern Conference by way of a three-game winning streak. The team’s front six is playing as good as any unit in the league right now, with Artur and Wil Trapp working well side by side in defensive midfield and the front four creating plenty of chances. Kekuta Manneh could make his Crew debut on Saturday. It’s likely he comes off the bench to start with Justin Meram and Ethan Finlay in solid form, but he has a chance to force his way into Gregg Berhalter’s starting XI on a permanent basis.
Houston Dynamo at New England Revolution (Saturday, 2 p.m ET., MLS Live)
If you’re looking for a fun, attack-heavy Week 6 contest to watch, the clash at Gillette Stadium between the Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution might be your best option. Both teams possess talented attacking groups that have developed impressive chemistry and, on top of that, each of the last five meetings between the two teams has witnessed a minimum of two goals.
All eyes will be on Erick “Cubo” Torres, who is back in his old goal scoring form from the Chivas USA days. Wilmer Cabrera, who coaches Torres at Chivas, deserves a good amount of credit for inspiring the young Mexican forward once again. Lee Nguyen is New England’s leading scorer with three, including a late equalizer in Portland on Sunday, but as we all know the Revs can strike you from a few different angles when they’re clicking.
New York City FC at D.C. United (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, UniMas)
The collision of secondary I-95 rivals at RFK Stadium on Saturday could flip around the dynamic of the Eastern Conference table if D.C. United overpowers New York City FC. D.C. sits in ninth with four points, but it is only three back of three teams at seven points, one of which is NYCFC.
Bill Hamid came to the rescue in Week 5 for the Black and Red, who in all honesty should have lost to the Philadelphia Union, while NYCFC knocked off the San Jose Earthquakes at Yankee Stadium. Saturday will be just the second road trip of the season for Patrick Vieira’s side, who lost on its travels in Week 1 in Orlando.
Portland Timbers at Philadelphia Union (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
On paper, this match looks like it could be a slaughter in favor of the visiting team. The Timbers enters Talen Energy Stadium on top of the Western Conference and with two terrific in-form scorers in Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi, who have combined for nine goals in five matches. However, the Timbers displayed a fault in Week 5 when they failed to close out a game at home and settled for a draw with the Revs.
The Union were a bit unlucky last week, as they dominated the second half against D.C., but could not beat Bill Hamid more than once. C.J. Sapong is in great form for the Union, with three goals in four matches, but their key to success lies with how Alejandro Bedoya links up the midfield and starting forward from his No. 10 role.
Atlanta United at Toronto FC (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The sexy marquee clash of the weekend pits the upstart expansion side against the established star-studded squad ready to rule the East once again. Saturday will be a nice litmus test for Atlanta United, who survived their first big road test a week ago by earning a draw in Seattle. Josef Martinez is still unavailable for selection for Tata Martino’s men, but there’s still plenty of firepower to test the Reds back line early and often. Veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz and rookie Julian Gressel could be the keys to game as they’ll be tasked with silencing Toronto’s central midfield trio of Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio.
Toronto FC also played to a goalless draw last Friday, with its result coming against Sporting Kansas City. The 3-5-2 for the Reds will be tested by the versatility of the Atlanta attack, and as long as the back four can sustain the pressure, they’ll be in good hands. Alex Bono will replace the injured Clint Irwin in net, but there shouldn’t be too much concern in the ability of Bono, who played well in Irwin’s absence a year ago.
Minnesota United at FC Dallas (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
Congrats on your first win, Minnesota United. Your reward for getting on the board in the wins column is a trip to Toyota Stadium to face a FC Dallas side is ready to exorcise the demons from Tuesday’s heartbreaking defeat in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinal to Club Pachuca. Oh, and in order for the in-form Christian Ramirez to thrive, he’ll have to get through the standout center back pairing of Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman. But other than that, the Loons stand a decent chance.
Oscar Pareja’s men could either respond to Tuesday’s continental loss by taking all their anger out on Minnesota, or they could come out flat and give up an unexpected goal or two to the expansion side. A lot of people would put money on the former given the character of Pareja and the players on the field.
Vancouver Whitecaps at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Mike Petke era officially begins on Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium, as Real Salt Lake looks to break their league high 12-game winless run against the Whitecaps. The same problems that hurt the Claret and Cobalt in the first five weeks are still there. However, Joao Plata is expected to return to the lineup, and the club will get a boost from being at home and having a new boss in charge.
Just like FC Dallas, the Whitecaps could respond to its CONCACAF Champions League dismissal with one extreme or another. Something has to get figured out in the attack, as Fredy Montero has found his scoring boots yet and Brek Shea limped off early on Wednesday night. Defensive midfielder Matias Laba is the only Whitecaps player who has more than one goal. While it’s nice to see someone like Laba step up, it’s not a good sign for a team with so much attacking potential.
Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)
The Sounders are coming off a disappointing draw with Atlanta at home a week ago. There shouldn’t be too much concern about the Sounders with the arsenal of stars they have led by Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro. While all of the attention will be on the performances of the stars, keep an eye on Harry Shipp, who could be the key to unlocking the Earthquakes back line.
The Earthquakes took care of business at home, like any team wanting success in MLS should, in the opening two weeks, but regressed to the mean with a pair of road defeats. Saturday will provide a test for the revamped Quakes, and we should expect Dominic Kinnear to have them ready for the challenge.
New York Red Bulls at Orlando City (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN)
There are still a lot of questions out there regarding Jesse Marsch’s new 4-2-2-2 system, and that pressure comes with the territory of a competitive New York soccer market. The Red Bulls struggled on the road against Western Conference opposition in two of the last three weeks, but they also have the rare commodity of a road win under their belts from Week 1 in Atlanta. The team is still a work in progress, but expect Marsch to get his side to respond positively after receiving a thumping in Houston.
Orlando is coming off its first defeat of the season in Columbus, but the good news for the Lions is they’ve taken care of business so far at home. There’s still reason to worry in attack with finding a perfect supplement for Kaka’s production, but Jason Kreis has had a few weeks to work on that now, and the loan signing of Luis Gil should help ease the pressure of other in the final third.
Colorado Rapids at Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, FS1)
If you’re looking for attacking flair and all sorts of pretty soccer, you won’t be getting it on Sunday night at Sporting Park. The 90 minutes played between the Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City will be a grind-it-out chess match between two of the top managers in the league.
Colorado will be playing its first game without Sam Cronin and Marc Burch after they were shipped off to Minnesota in a trade at the end of last week. The Rapids, who had off in Week 5, have had plenty of time to work in training with their replacements, but applying to a game is a different animal. Sporting KC has played to three goalless draws in four matches, but they haven’t lost yet. Sunday could be the perfect stage for a breakout performance if there are holes in the Rapids from their recent departures.