MLS Weekend Preview
Can the LA Galaxy Keep it Going Against Earthquakes?
May 26, 2017
THE FIRST OF TWO MLS-promoted Rivalry Weeks is not for another month, but you would be hard-pressed to guess that judging from the rivalry games that are on tap for this weekend.
Week 13 of the MLS campaign kicked off a day earlier than is customary, with a strong Thursday night tilt between FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire that proved once again that the Fire are for real. But the biggest matches take place on Saturday and Sunday in the Western Conference.
One of those showdowns will be the latest installment of the California Clasico, as the San Jose Earthquakes welcome the LA Galaxy to Avaya Stadium in Saturday’s nightcap. Both clubs are coming off one-goal victories in Week 12, but it was the Earthquakes that posted the more impressive win by becoming the first team to defeat FC Dallas this season. San Jose did so with a quality goal on the road, too.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy knocked off Minnesota United last weekend to continue its improved run of form. (When you're that far down, there's nowhere to go but up.) LA has now triumphed in back-to-back games away from home and is undefeated in four straight. Maybe just as importantly, Giovani dos Santos seems to be finding his rhythm and that should help lighten the attacking load that Romain Alessandrini has had to carry for much of the year.
The key player in this match, however, just might be Jelle Van Damme. The Galaxy centerback has responded well to his much-discussed early removal from the club’s May 6 draw against the Fire and if he can continue playing at the level he’s shown these last few weeks and keep Chris Wondolowski quiet, then LA stands a good chance of nabbing all three points.
Much earlier on Saturday, the season's first Cascadia Cup clash between the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers will take place at CenturyLink Field. While the Sounders grabbed a much-needed win this past weekend, both clubs will be eager to collect three points. Portland has lost its mojo from the beginning of the season and has failed to win in four consecutive matches, while Seattle has just one victory in its last five outings.
Both teams are lacking in the attacking department: Seattle has netted just five times in its last five fixtures and Portland has six in its last six, so whichever team can do a better job of getting the most of its talented attackers will likely prevail.
On Sunday, FC Dallas and the Houston Dynamo will lock horns in Week 13’s final match and the first edition of this year’s Texas Derby. Dallas will be playing on short rest after visiting Chicago on Thursday but should feel good about its chances given Houston’s continued Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. The Dynamo is winless on the road this year, going 0-5-0 and getting outscored 14-3. Four of those goals came in an ugly defeat to Atlanta United last week.
It may not be a rivalry game but Minnesota United’s Saturday affair against Orlando City will be intriguing because it will mark the first time Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath faces his former club.
Heath will not be the only former Lion involved, either. United playmaker Kevin Molino will lime up against Orlando for the first time since being traded to the Loons in January, and he could have a major impact on proceedings if he can capitalize on his familiarity with some of his old teammates.
What the expansion team absolutely needs, however, is for striker Christian Ramirez to stop putting the ball in the back of his own net. Ramirez has fumbled his way into scoring two own goals in as many games and last week’s was decisive in a one-goal loss to LA.
Either Ramirez needs to do a better job of concentrating on defending set pieces or Minnesota needs to leave him up the field on those plays, because that scoring streak simply cannot continue.
WHERE’S THE OFFENSE?
D.C. United is in a bad way right—a real bad way.
The club just finished up its recent homestand with three losses and zero goals scored. D.C., which has been shutout an incredible seven times in 11 games this year, is now at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. It is also tied with the Colorado Rapids for fewest goals in the league with nine.
Head coach Ben Olsen admitted after last week’s defeat to Chicago that reinforcements are needed this summer, and that is extremely unlikely to instill confidence in his attack ahead of a game against a Vancouver Whitecaps side that is coming off its best performance of the season in a 2-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Vancouver will be trying to replicate the attacking showing it put forth at home last Saturday, and will also be in good spirit after winning its Canadian Championship contest against the Montreal Impact on Tuesday. The Whitecaps should be well rested, too, after a reserve-filled lineup took care of business against the Impact.
There are not many compelling reasons to watch Saturday night’s contest between Real Salt Lake and the Philadelphia Union but there is one very intriguing storyline there that bears watching.
Salt Lake striker Yura Movisysan sounded off a bit this week about his displeasure with his lack of playing time under new head coach Mike Petke. Movsisyan has been limited to just 78 minutes in the club’s last three matches, and he is none too thrilled about this turn of events.
Petke responded to the Designated Player’s comments by saying that he laid out his expectations for individuals when he arrived, so it seems unlikely that Movsisyan will get the nod against the rising Union. Still, the veteran forward needs to make the most out of any opportunity he gets against Philadelphia. Not only because he has just four goals this season, but also because Real Salt Lake needs to climb up the Western Conference standings.
MLS WEEK 13 SCHEDULE
Friday’s MLS Game
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew SC
Saturday’s MLS Games
Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. D.C. United
New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution
Colorado Rapids vs. Sporting Kansas City
Minnesota United vs. Orlando City
Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union
San Jose Earthquakes vs. LA Galaxy
Sunday’s MLS Games
Atlanta United vs. New York City FC
FC Dallas vs. Houston Dynamo
Franco Panizo is a bilingual New York-based reporter who has covered the U.S. men's national team, MLS, and all levels of American soccer for nearly a decade. Follow him on Twitter.