MLS Weekend Preview
Miguel Almiron Is Making MLS Defenses Look Silly
June 01, 2017
THE HOUSTON DYNAMO'S high-powered attack just cannot be stopped—at least when it is playing at home.
Houston’s incredible run of form at BBVA Compass Stadium this year continued on Wednesday night with a 5-1 demolition of woeful Real Salt Lake. The recipe for success in the early Week 14 match was mostly the same as it has been in the Dynamo’s seven other home games this year: Let the three-headed monster of Erick Torres, Mauro Manotas, and Alberth Elis run amok up top—and include a dash of Alex.
The Dynamo has scored a whopping 24 goals in front of its fans en route to posting a 7-0-1 home record—good enough to lift the club into first place of the Western Conference. Houston's woeful record on the road may take away some shine from the dominance at home, but there is no denying that BBVA Compass Stadium is one of the tougher venues to play in right now (and it’s not even summer yet).
Columbus Crew SC also posted a lopsided victory against an overmatched foe from the Western Conference. Using its own set of lethal attackers, Crew SC triumphed 3-0 over the Seattle Sounders. Justin Meram and Federico Higuain led the way for Columbus once again, with each veteran scoring a goal and recording an assist.
Seattle was hindered by the early U.S. national team call-ups to Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, but the defeat underlined the Sounders’ ongoing issues. The reigning MLS Cup champion has now prevailed just twice in its last seven games, and the team’s defense is in need of a fix after conceding 14 times in that stretch.
Elsewhere on Wednesday night, New York City FC failed to hold onto a pair of leads in a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution at Yankee Stadium while Orlando City returned to its stingy ways at the back, registering a 2-0 shutout win over attack-deficient D.C. United.
You can't teach hustle. pic.twitter.com/o0MGHam1OI— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 1, 2017
All the aforementioned clubs will face short turnarounds, as the first round of June matches take place this weekend. That's good news for sides like Salt Lake that are trying to quickly forget the midweek results, but even better news for teams like Columbus that are aiming to build on them.
FINDING A CURE
As mentioned above, the Dynamo is currently sitting pretty atop the Western Conference thanks in large part to its strong home form. Houston, however, is a shell of itself when packing its bags and hitting the road.
Through six games away from BBVA Compass Stadium this year, the Dynamo is winless with a miserable 0-5-1 record. Further highlighting the ineptitude on the road is that Houston has scored just three (!!!) times in those games. It is beyond perplexing how the same team that is so lethal at home can look so different and docile when having to walk into enemy territory.
If there is a remedy to those road woes, it might be Sunday’s visit to Seattle. The Sounders will not only be missing key attacking players because of international duty, the team is also playing some bad soccer right now. The Cascadia outfit has been unable to consistently put together complete performances this year, with Wednesday’s poor showing in Columbus the latest setback. Just look at the defending in that one, and you will get an idea of how rough things are right now for the Sounders.
The Dynamo took a step in the right direction in its last road game by holding FC Dallas in a scoreless draw, but Houston could sure use a win in Seattle to put a halt to the recurring questions about its subpar play away from home.
EAST POWERS COLLIDE
The early game on Sunday will see Orlando City welcome the in-form Chicago Fire to town, and the match should tell us plenty about where the Lions really stand.
Orlando got back to what has made it successful to this point in 2017 by posting a 2-0 victory over D.C. United, but everyone knows just how awful Ben Olsen’s offensively challenged side is right now. The Fire, with MLS Golden Boot leader Nemanja Nikolic and star midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, should prove a better gauge as to whether Orlando is playing well or still stuck in a rut.
Chicago, however, has only won once on the road this season. That lone triumph away from home came, unsurprisingly and not coincidentally, against D.C. United. Has the Fire truly overcome its struggles on the road or was it merely another beneficiary of playing lowly D.C.? This showdown with Orlando City will provide a better answer.
STARS TO WATCH
If you are not too busy immersing yourself in all the postgame hoopla of the UEFA Champions League final on Saturday, you may want to check out the Vancouver Whitecaps’ meeting with Atlanta United—if only to watch Miguel Almiron do his thing.
Almiron is on a tear right now, having scored five goals in the expansion club’s last two matches. His game-changing performances, which saw him voted the MLS Player of Week in each of the past two weeks, have put Atlanta United back on track after a rough patch.
The Paraguayan Designated Player will attempt to keep it going when he leads his side north of the border for a battle with a Vancouver side that is foaming at the mouth after suffering a controversial and frustrating loss to D.C. United.
Another star you may also want to keep an eye on is Giovani dos Santos, and not just because he is playing D.C. (we’re really not trying to pick on Ben Olsen’s squad here). The LA Galaxy playmaker was red-hot in May, scoring five times and delivering one assist in his side’s four matches. He netted in every single one of those games, too, and it is certainly not by chance that LA has started to climb up the standings during his most productive spell of the campaign
FORGET ABOUT IT
Unless you are a Portland Timbers or San Jose Earthquakes fan, you will probably be better served doing something else with your Friday night than watching them play.
The Timbers and Earthquakes will clash in Portland in a showdown of reeling Western Conference clubs, but neither side has been playing quality soccer as of late. In fact, the Timbers are on a five-game winless skid while the Earthquakes have picked up just one victory in their last four outings. Go out, do something, see the world—just don't waste your time on this clunker.
MLS WEEK 14 SCHEDULE
Friday’s MLS Game
Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Saturday’s MLS Games
New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union
Sporting Kansas City vs. Minnesota United
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Atlanta United
D.C. United vs. LA Galaxy
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC
Montreal Impact vs. New York Red Bulls
FC Dallas vs. Real Salt Lake
Colorado Rapids vs. Columbus Crew SC
Sunday’s MLS Games
Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire
Seattle Sounders 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.