The Seattle Sounders have flown out of the gate looking every bit like the best team in Major League Soccer to start the 2021 season, but this weekend will offer another major test for Brian Schmetzer’s men as they try to assert their status in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles FC visits CenturyLink Field on Sunday in an early-season rematch of the clash that played out to a 1-1 draw at Banc of California Stadium on April 24.
The Eastern Conference features a trio of enticing matchups, led by the Columbus Crew’s visit to New England in a rematch of last year’s East final. The Crew are looking to make up some ground after dropping early-season points as they juggled Concacaf Champions League, while the Revs look to build on their good start to the season.
The New York Red Bulls head to Philadelphia, where they will put their two-match winning streak on the line against the Union, who are coming off their first league win.
Here is a closer look at this weekend’s MLS matchups:
NYCFC vs. Toronto FC, 1p.m.
Injuries and Concacaf Champions League have made it a tough start to 2021 for Toronto FC, but a 2-0 midweek win against the Columbus Crew has restored some confidence in Chris Armas’ men.
They will need it against an NYCFC side that is tough at home, and is unbeaten in three straight after stumbling in its season opener. Valentin Castellanos and Jesus Medina will look to continue their good form against a TFC defense that has added Jamaican fullback Kemar Lawrence.
Prediction: NYCFC 2, TFC 1
LA Galaxy vs. Austin FC, 3:30 p.m.
Could the Galaxy be in for a letdown after last week’s emotional Derby win against LAFC? It’s possible, especially against an Austin FC side that has shown some very good promise in the early going.
Working against Austin is the absence of captain Alexander Ring, who is serving a red card suspension. Without Ring to help deal with the Galaxy’s veteran midfield, look for the home team to secure the three points.
Prediction: GALAXY 2, Austin FC 0
Atlanta United vs. CF Montreal, 7 p.m.
Is it time to start taking CF Montreal seriously? The band formerly known as the Impact sits in first place in the East heading into the weekend, but wins against a TFC B team and unconvincing Inter Miami shouldn’t be taken as clear proof that Montreal is a legitimate contender.
Winning in Atlanta, on the other hand, would solidify Montreal’s legitimacy, though securing that win won’t come easy. The energy of a large home crowd should give Gabriel Heinze’s men the push to show off their full quality in a big win.
Prediction: ATLANTA UNITED 3, CF Montreal 0.
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
The Red Bulls have quietly put together an impressive start to 2021 considering how many roster changes, and how many young players they have brought together. Gerhard Struber has the youngsters playing with confidence, and two straight home shutout wins have the building momentum.
A much tougher test awaits down I-95 South though, as the reigning Supporters’ Shield-winning Union seek their first home win of the season. An 0-2-1 mark at Subaru Park is unacceptable for a team that posted a perfect home record last season, but look for the Union to use their experience edge to halt the surging Red Bulls.
Prediction: UNION 2, Red Bulls 0.
Minnesota United vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m.
The Loons finally snapped their four-match losing streak with a midweek victory against Vancouver, but that 1-0 win doesn’t mean Minnesota’s defensive issues have been solved. It should give the backline some restored confidence though after a rough first month of the season.
FC Dallas has taken some time to find a rhythm, but Luchi Gonzalez’s revamped squad has four points from its past two matches. Last week’s derby day draw with Houston showed a team that still isn’t quite clicking in attack, and Dallas’ poor track record on the road makes a win in Minnesota feel like a long shot.
Prediction: MINNESOTA UNITED 3, FC Dallas 1 (BEST BET)
Colorado Rapids vs. Houston Dynamo, 9 p.m.
This matchup of Western Conference teams off to encouraging starts is an intriguing one because both the Rapids and Dynamo have shown glimpses of being legitimate this season.
Houston is the bigger early surprise of the two, though an improvement shouldn’t come as a surprise given the roster upgrades made in the offseason. The midweek win against Sporting KC was particularly impressive because of the shutout the Dynamo posted, but the match also marked Houston’s fourth straight scoring a single goal.
The Rapids have put together consecutive wins, including last week’s dramatic comeback triumph over Minnesota United, so Robin Fraser’s men should enter this one confident, while also enjoying an advantage of being rested against a Dynamo side that played on Wednesday.
Prediction: RAPIDS 2, Dynamo 1.
Real Salt Lake vs. Nashville SC. 9:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake was feeling pretty good about the start to 2021 before a late collapse cost it a 2-1 loss to San Jose last week, but another home game gives Freddy Juarez’s men a chance to rebound.
Unfortunately, that rebound will have to come against a Nashville SC side brimming with confidence following an impressive win against New England. Gary Smith’s men posted a shutout and put together their first complete match of the season. Can they carry that over to Utah?
Prediction: RSL 1, NASHVILLE SC 2
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m.
When the Earthquakes and Timbers play it is rarely a boring event, and this should be no different as both teams come off losses to Seattle.
The Earthquakes saw their three-match winning streak snapped by the Sounders, but Matias Almeyda’s squad stood toe-to-toe with the top team in the league.
The Timbers can say the same thing, but enter this one with a much stronger sense of urgency due to having just one win in their first four league matches. That disappointing start is due at least in part to injuries and Concacaf Champions League commitments, but Gio Savarese’s men have to know there are no more excuses now.
Prediction: Earthquakes 1, Timbers 1
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 2 p.m.
Two teams off to inconsistent starts square off at Children’s Mercy Park, with Sporting KC the favorites despite a midweek loss to Houston that raised more questions than it answered. Peter Vermes’ men have struggled to find the stingy defensive level we have grown accustomed to seeing, while the attack has been up and down.
Vancouver has been just as inconsistent, and the Whitecaps attack has been shut out in two of their past three matches. Chances won’t be easy to come by in KC.
Prediction: SPORTING KC 2, Whitecaps 0
FC Cincinnati vs. Inter Miami, 4 p.m.
These two Eastern Conference teams came into the season with high expectations, and neither has lived up to them. Cincinnati’s recent addition of Geoff Cameron should help a defense that was in dire need of a centerback upgrade.
As for Miami, the talent is there, but the Herons have struggled under new head coach Phil Neville. The English coach couldn’t ask for a better slump-buster than a trip to Cincinnati though, and Gonzalo Higuain should have plenty of chances to help snap Miami’s funk.
Prediction: FC Cincinnati 0, INTER MIAMI 2
New England Revolution vs. Columbus Crew, 6 p.m.
The Revs have MLS Cup aspirations, and their strong start to 2021 shows that there is some reason to believe it can happen, but a loss to Nashville SC followed by a midweek draw against the Union has Bruce Arena’s side looking a bit less imposing.
The Crew have had a rough start to the season, and have been shut out in three of their first four MLS matches. Sure, the Concacaf Champions League duties have played a part in the struggles, but Caleb Porter knows his team should be performing at a better level. Finding that acceptable level on the road against New England won’t be easy though, especially with Carles Gil playing at a very high level.
Prediction: REVOLUTION 2, Crew 1.
D.C. United vs. Orlando City, 8 p.m.
D.C. United snapped a three-match losing streak with a home win against the Fire, giving Hernan Losada’s men some sorely-needed reason for optimism. A much tougher test awaits on Sunday though, with Orlando City entering with an unbeaten record despite having played a tough early schedule.
The D.C. defense has shown an ability to frustrate opponents, but will struggle to contain Nani, who has been one of the league’s best players in the first month of the seaason.
Prediction: D.C. United 0, ORLANDO CITY 2.
Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC, 9:30 p.m.
The best game of the weekend is the last one, and LAFC will be eager to stop Seattle’s dominant start to the season.
The Sounders will be without injured goalkeeper Stefan Frei, though the news that his injury will keep him out weeks, and not months, is encouraging news. Nicolas Lodeiro’s continued issues with a knee injury leave the Uruguayan playmaker’s availability in question.
LAFC knows about missing its star playmaker, with Carlos Vela potentially returning to action, though he is unlikely to start on Sunday. LAFC will look to shake off the disappointment of last week’s derby defeat against the Galaxy, and Bob Bradley will surely have hammered home the point that LAFC is very tough to beat when it avoids the kind of self-inflicted mistakes it made in the Galaxy loss.
Prediction: SOUNDERS 2, LAFC 2
What do you think of the MLS Week Five Schedule? Which match are you most looking forward to?
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