Los Angeles FC and the Seattle Sounders opened their 2021 campaigns with impressive victories and will now renew their budding rivalry in an early-season clash of Western Conference powers.
MLS Week 2 has plenty of promising matchups, but the Sounders visit to LAFC is the headliner. It was the Sounders who eliminated LAFC from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and it is LAFC that enters the 2021 season as favorites to unseat the Sounders as Western Conference champions.
This weekend’s schedule also features Inter Miami’s trip up north to take on the Philadelphia Union. Miami suffered a season-opening loss to the LA Galaxy, and will be hoping to catch the Union shorthanded if Jim Curtin decides to rest some starters ahead of their important Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal against Atlanta United.
The Galaxy close out the week with a Sunday showdown with the New York Red Bulls. Greg Vanney has his team off to a winning start, and will look to reward Galaxy home fans with a win against a young and vulnerable Red Bulls team that is still evolving under head coach Gerhard Struber.
Here is a closer look at the MLS Week 2 matchups:
Sporting Kansas City vs. Orlando City
Alan Pulido and Johnny Russell are expected to be available for Sporting KC, though likely as substitutes much like last week, while goalkeeper Tim Melia is still sidelined. Look for Gianluca Busio and Khiry Shelton to step up if Pulido and Russell can’t start.
Can Sporting KC’s defense hold up against an Orlando City attack that should present a tougher challenge than the Red Bulls did? The Lions are sure to test the SKC defense, with Alexandre Pato a good candidate to open his MLS scoring account, but SKC takes the win at home.
Prediction: SPORTING KC 2, Orlando City 1
NYCFC vs. FC Cincinnati
The FC Cincinnati reboot enjoyed a promising start last week, but reality kicked in quickly as a 2-0 lead evaporated as Nashville SC exposed Cincy’s vulnerable defense.
New York City FC had its own issues in week one, dropping a surprise loss to D.C. United. Look for NYCFC to benefit from returning to the cozy conditions of the small field at Yankee Stadium, with Maxi Moralez pulling the strings on a comfortable win.
Prediction: NYCFC 3, FC Cincinnati 1
Nashville SC vs. CF Montreal
Which should we believe, that Montreal is as good its opening 4-2 win against Toronto FC suggests, or that Nashville’s struggles with FC Cincinnati are the sign of a vulnerable team? Don’t believe either just yet. Nashville thoroughly outplayed Cincy in the second half and did enough to win, while Montreal’s impressive opener came against a TFC side missing several key starters.
CFM relies on the counter, something Nashville doesn’t generally give up many of, and while FC Cincinnati did show some chinks in that defensive armor, look for Nashville SC to bounce-back with a convincing home win.
Prediction: NASHVILLE SC 2, CF Montreal 0
Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
Chris Armas couldn’t have been happy with TFC’s opening loss to Montreal, but he knows the amount of effort his short-handed squad put in to upset Club Leon in CCL. We should see a closer to full strength TFC squad on Saturday, though Alejandro Pozuelo is still unlikely to be ready.
The Whitecaps should some real promise in their opening win against the Portland Timbers, but it will be a trickier proposition against a rested TFC side.
Prediction: TFC 1, Whitecaps 0
San Jose Earthquakes vs. FC Dallas
The Earthquakes were outplayed by the Houston Dynamo yet still nearly came away with a result. Returning home, and playing in front of home fans, should provide Matias Almeyda’s men with a boost.
That said, look for FC Dallas to show well after its opening 0-0 draw with Colorado. Luchi Gonzalez should expect more from his attack, and wingers Freddy Vargas and Jader Obrien should have success against the Earthquakes’ fullbacks.
Prediction: Earthquakes 1, FC DALLAS 2
LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders
The Game of the Week could be missing the top star for each team, but there will still be plenty of firepower on display. The Sounders showed last week that they can be dangerous even without Nicolas Lodeiro, but Seattle will face a much tougher challenge from an LAFC side that boasts a stronger back four than Minnesota United.
If Carlos Vela is sidelined then this becomes a much tougher test for LAFC, especially if Diego Rossi is still unavailable. Bob Bradley said that Vela would probably be available. As for Rossi, his hamstring injury will likely rule him out.
The matchup to watch here will be Eddie Segura against Raul Ruidiaz. If Segura can win this battle of South American standouts, than LAFC can secure an important home win.
Prediction: LAFC 2, Sounders 0
Atlanta United vs. Chicago Fire
Atlanta United did well to earn a road point against Orlando City despite coming off a challenge Concacaf Champions League win against Alajuelense. Now rested and returning home, the Five Stripes should be a comfortable favorite.
So why can’t you rule out the Fire? Gabriel Heinze could be tempted to rest some Atlanta starters ahead of its CCL quarterfinal against the Philadelphia Union. The Fire also showed some real promise in its draw with New England. In the end, go with the home team, and look for Josef Martinez to score his first goal since his return from ACL surgery.
Prediction: ATLANTA UNITED 2, Fire 1
Minnesota United vs. Real Salt Lake
Losing to the Seattle Sounders is nothing to be ashamed of, but the way the Loons were battered had to leave Adrian Heath at least a bit concerned. The good news is reinforcements are on the way, and a return home should give Minnesota a boost.
The Loons are a bit vulnerable defensively due to injuries, but look for the Minnesota attack to kick into gear against a Real Salt Lake side playing its first match of the season, and a team that lacks many real dangerous attacking threats.
Prediction: *MINNESOTA UNITED 2, Real Salt Lake 0 (This week’s Best Bet)
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United
Hernan Losada’s debut as D.C. United head coach went about as well as he could have hoped, but a tougher challenge awaits in New England, where the Revs will be eager to rebound from a disappointing draw at Chicago.
New England did show good fight in battling back to earn the road point, but we didn’t see the Revs live up to their preseason expectations, Look for Bruce Arena to have them sharper and well-equipped to deal with D.C. United’s approach.
Prediction: REVOLUTION 3, D.C. United 1
Philadelphia Union vs. Inter Miami
The big question heading into this is one is whether Jim Curtin will make wholesale changes in order to rest players ahead of the midweek CCL quarterfinal against Atlanta United, or will Curtin decide to go after a vulnerable Inter Miami side in order to secure three early-season points?
The Union have quality depth, so Curtin can afford to sit some starters and still beat Miami. Starting centerbacks Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes should get the nod in order to deal with Gonzalo Higuain, while Jose Martinez will be called upon to contain Rodolfo Pizarro.
Prediction: UNION 2, Inter Miami 1
Colorado Rapids vs. Austin FC
The Rapids did well to post a shutout against FC Dallas despite missing Sam Vines and Lalas Abubakar, and the attack created plenty of chances only to be thwarted by a Player of the Week effort from Jimmy Maurer.
In Austin FC, Colorado will take on a expansion side with some good quality in midfield and attack, but one that has shown some vulnerability defensively. Look for the Rapids to capitalize on that on the way to a home win, with Michael Barrios playing a key role.
Prediction: RAPIDS 1, Austin FC 0.
Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo
The Dynamo were one of the more impressive teams in week one, but traveling to Portland to face the Timbers will be a much tougher proposition. The Timbers do have CCL quarterfinals against Club America on Wednesday, meaning Gio Savarese is sure to give some regulars a rest ahead of that extremely difficult challenge.
The key for the Timbers will be testing the Dynamo defense, which held up well last week, but still looks vulnerable. Felipe Mora will need to improve on last week’s showing against Vancouver to secure a home-opening win.
Prediction: TIMBERS 2, Dynamo 1
LA Galaxy vs. New York Red Bulls
Greg Vanney couldn’t have asked for a more perfect season opener, watching his team show heart in battling back for a road win, and having Javier Hernandez open his season with two goals. Now the Galaxy return home to face a young Red Bulls team still learning how to play together.
Sebastian Lletget’s suspension makes things more difficult for the Galaxy ,but should allow Sacha Kljestan a chance to step in and start and build on his good showing off the bench last week. The Red Bulls will look to shake off last week’s home loss to Sporting KC, but it may be too soon to see new acquisition Frankie Amaya feature in a starting role.
The Chicharito-Aaron Long battle will be a good one to watch, but even if Long holds his own, the Galaxy attack should find success.
Prediction: GALAXY 2, Red Bulls 1