An action-packed week for MLS continues on Saturday with another seven matches. All seven games carry a fair bit of intrigue, though the most fun game of the day could be going down at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Atlanta United have stumbled a bit lately, though their chances at nabbing a playoff spot in their expansion season remain very much alive. Houston, meanwhile, will be looking to win a road game for the first time this season. They’ve lost four straight away games to start 2017.
We have a lot to get to, so let’s jump right in with our picks and predictions for Saturday’s MLS slate.
The Impact were seconds away from picking up a point last week before Columbus’s Justin Meram broke their hearts with a game-winner in stoppage time. The defeat kept Montreal in the cellar of the Eastern Conference with just 10 points from their first 10 games, and it’s all the more maddening considering they jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on the Crew.
The Timbers came out of the gates guns-a-blazing but have fallen on more difficult times over the last few weeks. They were beaten two weeks ago by the Earthquakes and last week were held to a draw by Atlanta United. Fortunately, they should be more healthy this week. Darlington Nagbe should be back in the starting XI after missing the last two games thanks to an injury.
The Timbers are the better of the two teams in this one, but home field advantage has a way of leveling the playing field in this league. Portland has been better on the road than they were last season when they went winless away from Providence Park, and their 2-2-1 mark is one of the better away records in MLS. The Impact are a disappointing 1-2-1 at home so far.
The Impact are getting desperate for results, but they don’t really have the firepower to keep up with a full-strength Portland squad. Give us the Timbers.
The Fire made quick work of the Rapids on Wednesday night, disposing of Colorado 3-0 at Toyota Park. Chicago is one of the most improved clubs in the entire league, and the additions of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty, Juninho and Nemanja Nikolic have helped revamp the team completely. Nikolic scored twice against Colorado at midweek, bringing his total to a league-leading 10 goals through just 11 games.
DC United were humiliated last week by Philadelphia, 4-0. Things went south for DC after Luciano Acosta saw a straight red card early on, which means he’ll miss this week’s clash with the Fire due to suspension. His absence will be crucial for a United side that has had problems finding the back of the net all season long. DC’s nine goals this season are the second-fewest in MLS, ahead of only the Rapids.
It’s just tough to see where the production is going to come from for DC United right now. Chicago have been vulnerable on the road (0-3-2), but DC’s 2-3-1 mark at RFK Stadium so far this season doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence. Chicago is a strong moneyline bet at +230, but we could see a draw here thanks to their struggles defending on the road.
Here we have a matchup between a couple of middling Western Conference sides. Seattle haven’t been able to recapture last season’s MLS Cup-winning form, while Real Salt Lake have been something of a mess since the start of the year. RSL are currently ninth in the West on 11 points, while Seattle are 10th with 10 points.
Many thought the Sounders would turn the tide with a convincing win over the Galaxy in LA in late April, but they haven’t won another match since. They didn’t show much stomach for the fight the other night in Kansas City, either, where they were beaten easily, 3-0. The Sounders got off to a ragged start last year before making a late surge, but that’s obviously not something you can count on doing every year. They need to start getting results.
Real Salt Lake picked up a surprising win over NYCFC during the week, but it certainly wasn’t easy. However, they did get a boost with a pair of stalwart American internationals returning from injury. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando set a new MLS record for saves in a career, and Kyle Beckerman returned to reclaim his post as the team’s key defensive-minded midfielder. It was an excellent result, especially considering they fell into an early 0-1 hole.
Vegas isn’t buying RSL, though. They’re the biggest underdogs on the board this weekend, and probably with good reason. Salt Lake are just 1-4-1 away from Rio Tinto Stadium on the year. Seattle haven’t exactly crushed it at home (1-1-2), but they’ve played an awful lot of away games thus far. They could use a little home cookin’.
For as great as they are at home, the Dynamo just can’t seem to get it together on the road. The 2-0 defeat on Wednesday in Philadelphia was yet another example. They’re an unbeaten 6-0-1 at BBVA Compass Stadium, but a miserable 0-4-0 on the road. The goals have come in bunches, but that tends to matter less when you concede as often as Houston have been.
Atlanta United were a powerhouse early in the season, but they haven’t looked like the same team recently. They’ve dropped to ninth in the East with last weekend’s draw against Portland, and they haven’t really taken advantage of their huge home park advantage. United are just 2-2-3 at home so far in their first MLS campaign.
Though they’ve scuffled, this is a fine get-right spot for Atlanta. This game will be a fun clash of styles. The Dynamo do most of their damage on the counter, while ATL likes to keep possession and ping the ball around. Josef Martinez will likely miss another game with his injury, which has really hampered Atlanta’s high-flying attack.
United is the more well-rested side in this one, while the Dynamo may need to shuffle the XI after playing just three days ago. We like Atlanta here.
What’s gotten into the Union? After failing to win any of their first eight games this season, Philly has suddenly reeled off three consecutive wins over the Red Bulls, DC United and Dynamo. United may be nothing special, but spanking them 4-0 certainly raised plenty of eyebrows. They’ve suddenly climbed to within three points of the last playoff spot out East, which is certainly quite the shocking development given their lackluster start.
They have a great chance at making it four straight wins with a subpar Colorado Rapids side coming to town. The Rapids were blanked 3-0 by Chicago during the week and currently own the league’s worst record at 2-7-1. That includes a horrendous 0-5-0 mark away from Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. They’ve scored the fewest goals in MLS (8), which is a shame considering the defense hasn’t been awful. The 15 goals conceded by Colorado is far from the worst mark in MLS.
Perhaps more impressive than the nine goals they’ve scored in the last three games is the fact that the Union have kept three straight clean sheets. The Union’s run will come to a halt at some point, but it’s tough to imagine the Rapids being the team to make it happen.
Gerso was the story of the midweek, dumping a hat trick in the span of 13 minutes on the Sounders to give Sporting KC a much-needed home victory. SKC haven’t had any problems in games at Children’s Mercy Park so far this season (5-0-1), but they have struggled to maintain that form on the road, where they’re just 1-2-3. This week, they’ll head northwest to take on a Vancouver side that’s quietly in the playoff mix in the Western Conference.
It hasn’t been particularly pretty, but the Whitecaps have been able to avoid long poor streaks. They haven’t win or lost more than two games in a row all season long, which is typically a fine pace to land you a playoff spot. The Caps are also 3-1-1 in their last five games at home. We’ll see what kind of lineup KC puts out there after having played just three days ago. If a few of Sporting’s key cogs are relegated to reserve duty, Vancouver has a great chance at nabbing three points from the conference’s current top dogs.
This should be a low-scoring affair. KC have one of the stingiest defenses in the league, while Vancouver’s David Ousted might be the league’s best keeper so far this season.
These two clubs last met in mid-April at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. FCD appeared destined to collect all three points before San Jose’s Jahmir Hyka equalized with a strike on the last kick of the game to salvage one point for the home team. Now, the scene shifts to north Texas for a clash on Saturday evening.
That’s been something of a trend for the Quakes so far this season. They have rescued points in the late stages of three different games already this season, which has been instrumental in their rise to the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference. Obviously, it’ll behoove FC Dallas to give plenty of defensive effort over the course of the full 90 minutes if they are to see this one out.
San Jose dictated the tempo in the first meeting, though Dallas have enjoyed a strong home field advantage thus far in 2017. The Quakes generated plenty of chances in the first game, which isn’t something FCD does often. They’ve still allowed just six goals all season, which is the fewest in the league. The Earthquakes have scored just 13 themselves.
FCD will want some revenge. They continue their unbeaten run at Toyota Stadium by toppling the Earthquakes tonight.
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