MLS Weekend Preview
With Copa America About to End, MLS Begins Again
June 25, 2016
FOLLOWING THE COPA AMERICA CENTENARIO break and after a slew of midweek games, Major League Soccer offers a full slate of games this weekend, including several crucial contests. The U.S. national team will take a two-month break after tonight's clash with Colombia, and most, if not all, MLS coaches will be fine with that.
Here's a preview of the weekend's most intriguing contests.
Game of the Week: Union vs. Whitecaps
There will be plenty at stake when the Philadelphia Union host the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday (7pm ET, MLS Live). After a disappointing loss to New York City FC last weekend, Philadelphia responded with a quality 4-3 win over Chicago on Wednesday.
Philadelpelphia's Roland Alberg was fantastic in that game, score a hat trick and then forcing an own-goal to secure the victory. The Union are still reeling from the loss of Vincent Nogueira, however, who left the team due to health reasons. Union coach Jim Curtin has his work cut off for him this season but so far he and his players have been up for the challenge.
The Union made a strong statement on Wednesday but Vancouver will provide a bigger challenge than Chicago. The Whitecaps have secured just one point in its last three games and could fall out of the Western Conference playoff picture with a loss.
From a neutral perspective, it should be a fun game since both teams are scoring a lot this year. Vancouver has 24 goals through 16 games while the Union have scored 27. From a U.S. national team perspective, the game will also feature two of the best young American defenders in the game: Philadelphia right back and rookie of the year candidate Keegan Rosenberry and Vancouver central defender Tim Parker.
FC Dallas sells Zendejas to Chivas
On Friday morning FC Dallas announced that it had sold homegrown product and U.S. U-20 midfielder Alejandro Zendejas to Chivas de Guadalajara of Liga MX for a reported fee of $500,000.
Zendejas, 18, has spent considerable time with U.S. youth national teams—including at the U-17 World Cup last fall. Of course, Chivas has a policy dating back to 1908 that its players can only play for Mexico internationally and Zendejas’ move to the club puts him at odds with this policy. By agreeing to the sale to Chivas, FC Dallas likely hurts the U.S. U-20 team. Zendejas had to agree to the sale but a young player’s priority at this stage of his career is to find a club that believes in him and where he can play. A $500,000 transfer fee is quite high for a very young player with limited first-team MLS minutes.
While this transaction may prove to hurt U.S. Soccer, it's great move for FC Dallas. Not only does the club pocket some cash money, it also showcases to the Mexican-American community that the team will not stand in the way of its young players moving to Liga MX if the right offer comes along. And it sends a positive message to players that signing with MLS is not a trap that prevents a move abroad.
Columbus Crew Need To Turn It Around
The Columbus Crew came into the season as a favorite to win the Eastern Conference and contend for MLS Cup. With July fast approaching, those predictions were way off as the club sits in ninth place in the 10-team conference. To make a playoff push, Gregg Berhalter's club needs to win games now.
Trading Kei Kamara was likely necessary to preserve locker room chemistry, but now with Federico Higuain out for a lengthy period due to hernia surgery, the team desperately needs players to step up offensively.
On Saturday the Crew hosts the New York Red Bulls (7:30pm MLS Live), which has played terrific defense the past two months. While the Red Bulls lost to Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Wednesday night, it did so with a reserve-filled lineup. Many of its top players—like Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan, Dax McCarty, and Bradley Wright-Phillips—are expected to start Saturday. Prior to the loss against Salt Lake, the Red Bulls had held opponents scoreless in four straight games.
The bottom line is that the Crew is desperate need of offensive firepower, and it's facing a strong team with a stingy defense.
Must win for Seattle?
While it's hard to label a June MLS game a “must win,” Seattle's clash with New York City FC on Saturday (5pm ET, MLS Live) comes pretty close. The Sounders have been abysmal this year, scoring just 13 times. And with Clint Dempsey away on international duty, the offense has been a complete mess.
The good news for Seattle, however, is that it has played just 14 games while most teams have played 16. That said, if Seattle won its two games in hand it would still be below the red line and miss the playoffs.
Seattle always enjoys a great homefield advantage and it is going to need that desperately on Saturday against Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, David Villa, and the rest of New York City FC.
Left for dead after a 7-0 humiliation last month, there are signs of life within the Bronx-based club. Patrick Vieria’s team is coming off an impressive 3-2 win over first place Philadelphia last week; Villa is leading the league in scoring; No. 1 draft pick Jack Harrison is healthy and playing well; Tommy McNamara has emerged as a quality player; and Lampard is actually starting games.
Even at home, Seattle will have to step it up to defeat NYCFC without Dempsey.
Seattle Sounders 1-2 New York City FC
D.C. United 0-1 New England Revolution
Philadelphia Union 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Montreal Impact 2-0 Sporting Kansas City
Columbus Crew 1-2 New York Red Bulls
Orlando City 2-2 Toronto FC
FC Dallas 2-1 Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes 0-1 LA Galaxy
Portland 1-1 Houston Dynamo