MLS Week 24: A Look Ahead

MLS Week 24: A Look Ahead

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MLS Week 24: A Look Ahead

Once you calm down from your Saturday morning Premier League buzz, you have time to take a nap and be refreshed for an important slate of Major League Soccer matches on Saturday night.

Seven of the eight matches on Saturday contain playoff implications, with the clash between San Jose and Colorado being the only meaningless game.

Sunday boasts a trio of contests, with Toronto FC’s potential surge up the Eastern Conference standings taking center stage in the afternoon before the Seattle Sounders look to inch closer to the red line in the nightcap.

Below is a look at the full 11-game slate in Week 24 across North America.

Game of the Week

Sporting Kansas City at LAFC (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Separation has been hard to come by for the teams underneath FC Dallas in the Western Conference standings.

Third-place Sporting Kansas City and fourth-place LAFC will try to open up space between the top three and the rest of the playoff contenders at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday night.

Both teams have unexpectedly struggled in recent matches, especially on the defensive front, which is unusual for sides managed by Peter Vermes and Bob Bradley.

With Mark-Anthony Kaye out, LAFC needs Benny Feilhaber and Aaron Kovar to run the show behind the talented group of attackers.

However, Sporting KC could take advantage of Kaye’s absence and use Ilie Sanchez and Roger Espinoza to dictate the pace of the contest.

Sporting KC could also see 16-year-old Gianluca Busio make a difference once again, as he turned in a Man of the Match performance in his first start in Week 23.

A draw doesn’t do much good in the playoff race for either side, so expect some sort of open contest in the first half before both managers make adjustments for the second 45.

Other Games to Watch

Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN+)

Philadelphia and New England will be quite familiar with each other by the end of August.

The Union and Revolution face each other twice in the next three weeks with major Eastern Conference playoff implications on the line.

Brad Friedel’s Revs are two points ahead of the Union in sixth place with 29 points, but a victory by Jim Curtin’s men could slide them as high as fifth if Montreal loses.

Each of the last five league meetings between the two sides featured a shutout, with the Union winning the season opener at home after Antonio Delamea was sent off in the first half.

Keep an eye on the Union’s fitness level over 90 minutes, as they experienced a long day of travel back from Portland on Sunday and played a U.S. Open Cup semifinal in the heat on Wednesday.

New York City FC at Toronto FC (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

Contrary to past takes, many of which came from this preview each week, Toronto FC is alive and kicking.

The Reds haven’t been overwhelmingly convincing in their chase of the sixth playoff spot in the East, but if we’re being honest, no one from fifth on down in the standings displayed enough gumption during TFC’s struggles to slam the door shut on the playoff race.

Enter Sunday’s clash with New York City FC, a match in which the Reds will know exactly what they have to do to keep pace with the rest of the teams fighting for the last two East playoff spots.

NYCFC won’t rollover with the Supporters’ Shield and top seed in the East still in sight, but Domenec Torrent’s side must keep the Reds on the back foot from the start in order to keep Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco at bay.

Containing Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez and Jonathan Osorio is a difficult task, especially at BMO Field, but NYCFC’s defensive midfield led by Alexander Ring is more than capable of the task.

FC Dallas at Seattle Sounders (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Much like Toronto, we were wrong to count out the Seattle Sounders given their propensity for second-half surges and the lack of true contenders in the Western Conference.

FC Dallas needs a win on Sunday as much as the Sounders do, as Oscar Pareja’s side looks to further open up a gap in the West and try to keep pace behind the top three teams in the East in the Supporters’ Shield race.

Brian Schmetzer’s side is one of the hottest teams in MLS with wins in its last four games, including a dramatic late win at TCF Bank Stadium over Minnesota United in Week 23.

FC Dallas enters off the opposite kind of result, as it dropped a disappointing home contest to San Jose a week ago.

The Rest

Houston Dynamo at Columbus Crew (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Whichever Houston players weren’t handed a red card last Saturday make the trip up to Columbus for a clash that should be won by the Columbus Crew.

The Dynamo are 1-5-4 on the road and will be playing without Alberth Elis, Alejandro Fuenmayor and Darwin Ceren.

The Crew got back on track in their last two games with a pair of 3-2 wins over Orlando and the New York Red Bulls.

Now the task at hand for Gregg Berhalter’s men is to keep their first clean sheet since May 27.

New York Red Bulls at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

The first two games in hand the Red Bulls have on Atlanta United appears on Saturday in the form of a winnable games against the struggling Chicago Fire.

Chris Armas’ team contains the second-best road record in the East at 5-4-1, and it has the center backs capable of silencing Nemanja Nikolic like the Union did on Wednesday night in the Open Cup semifinal.

In addition to being on a six-game losing streak in league play, the Fire cut ties with Kevin Ellis and Tony Tchani on Thursday, a puzzling move that made the squad weaker in a time where improvements are needed.

San Jose Earthquakes at Colorado Rapids (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Do you really want to read a preview of Saturday’s bottom-of-the-table clash at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park?

Neither do we, but it needs to be noted the Rapids have improved since Kellyn Acosta’s acquisition and the Quakes actually beat someone other than Minnesota United in Week 23.

Montreal Impact at Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Montreal was the busiest team on deadline day, but the pieces it brought don’t exactly scream to everyone it’ll be better on the field.

Micheal Azira provides more stability in midfield, but Quincy Amarikwa hasn’t been a consistent threat in quite some time and Bacary Sagna is a bit of a risk at 35.

Since most of the squads beneath them in the standings have games in hand, the Impact need to get to find a way to get a point out of Rio Tinto Stadium.

Real Salt Lake boasts the best home record in the West at 9-1-2 and a win could open up a serious divide between itself and the other contenders for sixth in the West.

Minnesota United at LA Galaxy (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Darwin Quintero? Yes please.

Two of the top in-season signings have left a distinct mark on their respective teams for the better, and it should make Saturday’s clash at StubHub Center intriguing, especially since the LA Galaxy and Minnesota United aren’t the best defensive sides.

Ibrahimovic has 10 goals since the start of June, including three multiple-goal performances, while Quintero has seven goals and six assists since the beginning of July.

Vancouver Whitecaps at Portland Timbers (Saturday, 11 p.m. ET, TSN, ESPN+) 

The late-night Cascadia Cup clash between Portland and Vancouver is vital for both sides.

The Timbers must improve on a half-decent showing in their win over the Union in Week 23, as they try keep pace with FC Dallas and possibly work their way into the Supporters’ Shield conversation.

Carl Robinson’s Whitecaps stole a point at Yankee Stadium in Week 23, and they’ll need to do the same at Providence Park to prevent the gap between themselves and RSL from growing even more.

Orlando City at D.C. United (Sunday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Orlando City’s first trip to Audi Field comes in the midst of one of the worst spells of form in recent MLS history.

The Lions have a golden opportunity to reverse their putrid form against the last-place side in the East, but don’t count out the Wayne Rooney-led Black and Red.

Ben Olsen’s men play their next four games at home, which could help a late surge out of last place.

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