Major League Soccer
Petke Takes the Helm and Bradley Faces Tough Test
April 07, 2017
A NEW ERA is about to begin at Real Salt Lake, and Mike Petke will be the author of it.
After being named head coach of RSL last week, Petke will lead the club into battle for the first time on Saturday in a Week 6 home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Petke is aiming to make a strong first impression to his new set of supporters at Rio Tinto Stadium, and he will have a good chance to do so given that the Whitecaps will be on short rest following its participation (and subsequent elimination) in the CONCACAF Champions League.
FC Dallas is the other team facing a quick turnaround, as it too took part in the regional tournament during the week. Like Vancouver, Dallas was bounced out of the competition at the hands of a Mexican outfit, so Oscar Pareja’s men will be eager to rebound in their home game against expansion side Minnesota United.
There are no byes in Week 6, meaning there is a full slate of matches to consider. One of the more intriguing affairs is star-studded Toronto FC welcoming Atlanta United to BMO Field for the first time, but one that will likely be worth skipping is Sunday’s night cap between offensively challenged duo Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids.
Here’s a closer look at Week 6 of the MLS season.
There is always plenty of intrigue when a head coach is about to debut for his new club, especially if that head coach is the fiery Petke.
Two years after last coaching in the league, Petke will make his return to the MLS sidelines on Saturday when he leads Real Salt Lake into battle in front of its rowdy crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium. Petke will have a glorious chance to impress in his first match in charge, as RSL is taking on a Vancouver Whitecaps team that is on short rest and low in morale following Wednesday’s disappointing defeat to Tigres UANL in the CONCACAF Champions League.
While a match-up of two teams near the bottom of the Western Conference might not normally be must-see TV, this one is because it will provide a glimpse of what Petke has in mind for RSL both in terms of tactical setup and personnel. Petke said he does not think the roster needs to be blown up, but what changes he does make as he attempts to reestablish Rio Tinto as a fortress will be intriguing to see.
Before Petke attempts to start his RSL tenure with a win, two exciting Eastern Conference teams will meet at BMO Field when Toronto FC hosts Atlanta United. There will be plenty of quality on the field even with Atlanta striker Josef Martinez ruled out through injury, as the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore will attempt to outgun expansion bright spots Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba.
Toronto FC is still finding its legs in 2017, but ousting an Atlanta United side that has scored an impressive 11 goals thus far would make quite the statement. It might also be just what TFC needs to start racking up victories that would move it up the table.
If you're one of seven or eight people in America who watch every MLS game, more power to you. For the rest of us who want to separate the signal from the noise, here are some suggestions for your weekend watching.
The final game in Week 6 takes place at Children’s Mercy Park, and the encounter between the visiting Colorado Rapids and Sporting Kansas City has defensive duel written all over it. The two sides have so far combined for just five goals scored and four allowed, so this figures to a be anything but a thriller despite players like Dom Dwyer and Shkelzen Gashi likely being on the field.
Another tilt out West that seems likely to produce some yawns: the Los Angeles Galaxy-Montreal Impact match on Friday night. Both sides are in 10th place in their respective conferences, and have played some subpar soccer during these opening weeks of the season. As if that was not enough, the reported injury absence of Impact playmaker Ignacio Piatti further removes luster from this meeting at StubHub Center.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Michael Bradley—who has been drawing a lot of criticism for his uneven performances with the U.S. national team—has quite the task on his hands this weekend.
Not only is Bradley going to have to try and help Giovinco and Altidore create chances in Toronto FC’s final third, but the U.S. national team captain will also have to deal with limiting the crafty Miguel Almiron. The star Atlanta United attacker proved to be a handful during the first month of the season, and he is sure to challenge Bradley in more ways than one on Saturday.
If Bradley can at least contain Almiron, then Toronto FC should have a good shot at picking up maximum points. If the American midfielder does not, then TFC could be in for a long day and more criticism will surely be directed Bradley’s way.
WALK THE WALK?
If you absolutely have to watch LA-Montreal, do it for no other reason than to see how Jermaine Jones fares. Jones sounded off a bit about the constant criticism he receives in an interview with ESPNFC this week, and he will surely be motivated to back up his confident comments with a strong outing in the Galaxy midfield.
Let’s just go out on a limb now and say that U.S. head coach Bruce Arena and fellow national team players will probably be keeping close tabs on this one. Probably.
MLS WEEK 6 SCHEDULE
Friday’s MLS Games
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Montreal Impact
Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC
New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo
D.C. United vs. New York City FC
Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers
Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United
FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders
Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls
Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids