The sixth week of the Major League Soccer season features some good intra-conference match-ups as well as one high-profile battle between powers from the West and East.
The Seattle Sounders are the hottest team in MLS, and will put their current run on the line against an Atlanta United side that should be able to provide a good test for the Western Conference leaders.
The marquee match-up in the Eastern Conference features the Columbus Crew’s visit to New York City FC. The reigning MLS Cup champions are off to a slow start in MLS play, with just one win in their first five league matches, and finding a second won’t be easy at Yankee Stadium.
In the West, the LA Galaxy put their surprisingly strong start on the line against the Portland Timbers, with a visit to Providence Park as Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez looks to maintain his torrid early-season scoring pace.
Here is a closer look at this weekend’s MLS action:
CF Montreal vs. FC Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
CF Montreal is one of the surprises of the early season, with an improving defense and dangerous counterattack. Last week’s loss to Atlanta United was disappointing, but Wilfried Nancy’s side showed some good things, especially defensively.
FC Cincinnati endured a disappointing opening of its new stadium last week, but the hope will be that newly-acquired defender Geoff Cameron will start to settle in after his recent arrival to stabilize a weak back-line. Montreal will put that Cincy defense to the test though, and it is tough to see Cincinnati passing it.
Prediction: IMPACT 2, FC Cincinnati 0
Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy, 3:30 p.m.
The LA Galaxy are enjoying life under new coach Greg Vanney, with four wins from five matches and with an in-form Javier Hernandez. The Galaxy’s improving defense has been arguably the most promising aspect of the team’s turnaround though, and will ultimately determine of the Galaxy are a serious contender.
The Timbers will put that Galaxy defense to the test though, and last week’s win at San Jose should have Gio Savarese’s men feeling very confident, especially at home against a Galaxy team that has yet to post a convincing road win in the early part of 2021.
Prediction: TIMBERS 2, Galaxy 1.
Chicago Fire vs. Inter Miami, 6pm
Chicago Fire coach Raphael Wicky has to be feeling the heat given his Fire are one of just two winless teams in MLS at the moment (Cincinnati being the other). The Fire had a tough early-season schedule, but last week’s loss to a weak D.C. United side had to set off some alarm bells for Fire owners who already suffered through last season’s rebuild.
Inter Miami is one of the league’s more enigmatic teams, capable of playing some of the most beautiful soccer in the league, but also capable of some brutal stretches of play. Will Inter show up to play against a Fire side that will be desperate for a win? Based on last week’s stirring comeback win at FC Cincinnati, there’s reason to believe Miami can do it.
Prediction: Fire 1, INTER MIAMI 3
Orlando City vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m.
Call this the Exploria Stadium ‘derby’, as Orlando City takes on the TFC side that has been borrowing its stadium during this season’s pandemic-limited schedule. The Lions are one of just three undefeated teams, but it has been far from a dominant start for Oscar Pareja’s men, who have been stronger defensively than offensively.
Can the Orlando City attack find success against a Toronto FC side that has recently added Jamaican fullback Kemar Lawrence? After allowing multi-goal games in its first three league matches, TFC has tightened up defensively in recent weeks. The real question for Chris Armas’ side is whether TFC can generate chances against a stingy Lions defense that has allowed just two goals in five matches? We’ll say no, not this week.
Prediction: ORLANDO CITY 1, Toronto FC 0
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
What is going on with the Columbus Crew attack? Caleb Porter’s men have been shut out in four of five league matches this season, and the CCL hangover excuse is starting to ring hollow. This showdown in Yankee Stadium will go a long way toward telling us how concerned Crew supporters should be.
NYCFC hasn’t been lighting up the scoreboard either, at least not like it has in recent years, but Ronny Deila’s side is always tough at home, and an in-form Jesus Medina and Valentin Castellanos should give the Crew defense trouble in a big home win.
Prediction: NYCFC 2, Crew 1.
FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake, 8 p.m.
FC Dallas has been one of the most disappointing teams of the early MLS season, with its lone win coming against a mostly reserve Portland Timbers side. Luchi Gonzalez revamped his roster with pieces that suggested the team would be upgraded, but it has been a slow evolution for the makeover.
Could this be the week that revamped FC Dallas lineup comes together? Some of the air has come out of the RSL ballon after a promising 2-0 start, and Freddy Juarez’s men aren’t exactly known as road warriors.
Prediction: FC DALLAS 2, RSL 0
New England Revolution vs. NY Red Bulls, 8 p.m.
The Revolution are off to a strong start to the season, and sit in first place in the East, but Bruce Arena won’t be letting his team get too comfortable, especially against a young and precocious Red Bulls side. Gerhard Struber has his team showing some good signs early in the campaign, though the Red Bulls inexperience could show against a veteran Revs side.
The big issue for the Red Bulls is the recent loss to injury of USMNT defender Aaron Long. It is easy to overlook just how much Long’s presence did for the Red Bulls, and the Revs attack will be sure to capitalize on the void left by his injury.
Prediction: REVOLUTION 3, Red Bulls 0. (Best Bet)
Houston Dynamo vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 9 p.m.
The Dynamo have been another one of the pleasant surprises of 2021, and Tab Ramos’ men have been particularly tough at home. Their improved defense should be the key in fending off a game, but limited Whitecaps side.
Prediction: DYNAMO 2, Whitecaps 1.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting KC, 10 p.m.
The Earthquakes are very much a feast-or-famine side, one capable of tearing apart a strong opponent, but also capable of falling flat against an underdog. Sporting KC should help bring the best out of Matias Almeyda’s men, so look for Cade Cowell and the Earthquakes to step up with a strong showing at home.
Prediction: EARTHQUAKES 2, Sporting KC 0
LAFC vs. Colorado Rapids, 10:30 p.m.
How is LAFC in last place in the Western Conference? Carlos Vela’s injury is only part of the answer, as several disappointing results have come due to incomplete performances by a team still very capable of dominating for stretches.
The Rapids, on the other hand, have had a very promising start to the season, and have scored six goals in their past two matches? Those big wins came at home though, and they won’t have the altitude edge as they try to catch an LAFC side desperate to start climbing up the table.
Prediction: LAFC 3, Rapids 0.
Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United, 4:30 p.m.
Eastern Conference teams don’t generally do well making the trip to Cascadia, and as much as Atlanta United has the talent to push Seattle, the Sounders are playing just too well to see them slowing down on Sunday.
They key will be how Atlanta United deals with Seattle’s wingbacks, with Alex Roldan and Brad Smith tearing apart opponents with regularity. Gabriel Heinze will surely game plan to try and neutralize that threat, but he also has to figure out a way to generate chances against a stingy and in-form Sounders defense.
Prediction: SOUNDERS 2, Atlanta United 0
D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union
D.C. United was left frustrated by Orlando City’s defensive approach in last week’s 1-0 loss, but Hernan Losada won’t have to worry about the Union going that route, which isn’t necessarily a good thing for DCU.
The Union showed their veteran savvy in last week’s win against the young Red Bulls, but Jim Curtin will want to see more out of his attack than he has in recent weeks, and an improved performance should come against D.C. United.
Prediction: D.C. United 1, UNION 2.
Nasvhille SC. vs. Austin FC
Three straight shutouts should have Gary Smith happy about his defensive improving after some shaky early matches, but the Nashville SC attack has gone relatively quiet, which is part of the reason the second-year side has just one win this season despite being undefeated.
Austin FC has endured back-to-back losses, and Josh Wolff’s side isn’t likely to snap that streak against a Nashville side that has found a groove defensively, and one that is tough to beat at home.
Prediction: NASHVILLE SC 2, Austin FC 0.