Mike Petke - Real Salt Lake scarf - March 29, 2017

With no international break to work around and no CONCACAF Champions League games looming, all 22 MLS clubs will take the field this weekend, marking the first time since Week 3 that every team in the league will be in action in the same week. 


LA and Montreal got things started on Friday night, with the Galaxy getting back to their winning ways with a 2-0 home victory over the Impact. The rest of the league should provide us with some more clarity on Saturday and Sunday, with plenty of interesting storylines filling a jam-packed weekend.


Here are a few I’ll have my eye on:


Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC


Saturday, 2 pm ET | MLS LIVE


Fire star Bastian Schweinsteiger will draw the pregame headlines, but Justin Meram will likely command the most attention on the field on Saturday. The Columbus Crew SC attacker has been one of the early stars of the 2017 season, recording three goals and two assists in five games, with all three of his strikes coming in the last two weeks. He’ll team with Ola Kamara, Federico Higuain, Ethan Finlay and, potentially, the recently-acquired Kekuta Manneh to lead a potent Columbus attack that’s scored seven goals in their current three-game winning streak.


New England Revolution vs. Houston Dynamo


Saturday, 2 pm ET | MLS LIVE


After starting the season with consecutive losses at Colorado and at Dallas, New England have rebounded nicely in their last two games, smashing Minnesota 5-2 at home on March 25 before going to Portland and picking up a well-earned road point last Sunday.


They’ll return to Gillette Stadium this Saturday to take on the Dynamo, who – despite being without Honduran strikers Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis – rolled over the New York Red Bulls 4-1 on Saturday. They were led in that match by the resurgent Cubo Torres, who bagged a hat trick against the Red Bulls and will be looking to lead the 3-1-0 Dynamo to their first road points of the season this weekend.


D.C. United vs. New York City FC


Saturday, 4 pm ET | UniMás in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada, Facebook.com


After scoring their first goals and picking up their first win of the season in their 2-1 victory against Philadelphia last weekend, D.C. United will welcome New York City FC to RFK Stadium on Saturday. The Black-and-Red will no doubt have revenge on their minds. NYCFC smashed them 4-0 at Yankee Stadium in Week 2, with D.C. turning in a dreadful performance that they’ll be looking to make amends for on Saturday. Defeating New York, who topped San Jose 2-1 last weekend and have looked strong all year, will be a tough task, and a solid early litmus test for Ben Olsen’s group, who – last Saturday aside – have been disappointing in 2017.


Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers


Saturday, 7 pm ET | MLS LIVE


After starting the year 3-0-0 and generally looking like the class of the league, the Timbers have fallen back to earth a bit in their last two games, losing 3-2 at Columbus on March 25 before drawing New England 1-1 at home last Sunday. They’ll look to get back in the win column on Saturday at Philadelphia, who are still looking for their first victory of the year and are last in the East with a 0-2-2 record. There’s some pressure on head coach Jim Curtin to get a result this weekend, particularly at home, but the Timbers – though they’ve historically struggled on the road – won’t be an easy out.


Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United FC


Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | TSN4, TSN 5 in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US


One week after playing the Sounders to a scoreless draw in Seattle, Atlanta will continue their tour of 2016 MLS Cup finalists on Saturday, when they’ll take on Toronto FC at BMO Field. They, of course, will be without March MLS Player of the Month Josef Martinez due to a quad strain, but should have Miguel Almiron, Carlos Carmona and Kenwyne Jones available from the jump after all three started last week on the bench following their returns from international duty.


That trio will certainly help Atlanta, but this game just might be decided by how well center backs Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Michael Parkhurst handle TFC’s forward duo of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. The Atlanta defensive duo have been solid this year, with Gonzalez Pirez playing particularly well. Altidore is a handful, however, and Giovinco, who has yet to record a goal or assist this year, is due to breakout. Whether or not he does could go a long way towards determining Saturday’s contest.


FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United FC


Saturday, 8 pm ET | MLS LIVE


This has the makings of a classic trap game for FC Dallas, who are coming off of a heartbreaking defeat at Pachuca in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Tuesday. Minnesota, on the other hand, head into Saturday’s match on the back of their first-ever MLS win, a 4-2 home victory against Real Salt Lake last Saturday. If they can keep things together in defense, the Loons have the attack to do some damage at an FC Dallas side that are coming off of a physically and emotionally draining defeat.


Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps


Saturday, 9:30 pm ET | TSN 4, TSN5 in Canada, MLS LIVE


RSL may be reeling and seriously banged-up, but they’ll have a distinct advantage in the first game of new head coach Mike Petke’s tenure, as Vancouver, much like Dallas, will be coming off of a tough, emotional CCL semifinal match against Tigres on Wednesday. We’ll see whether or not Petke will use the same tactical setup as his predecessor Jeff Cassar, or if he’ll make any major formation or personnel changes following last week’s humbling 4-2 defeat at Minnesota.


San Jose Earthquakes vs. Seattle Sounders


Saturday, 10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE


After suffering a pair of road defeats their last two times out, San Jose will return home to Avaya Stadium – where they’re 2-0-0 this year – to host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday. It should be an interesting contest, as Seattle should have Clint Dempsey and Roman Torres available from the start after both began last weekend’s scoreless draw against Atlanta on the bench after logging serious minutes while on international duty. They’ll provide a stiff test for a San Jose team that isn’t quite a known quantity at this stage in the year.


Orlando City SC vs. New York Red Bulls


Sunday, 4 pm ET | ESPN in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada


New York began the year impressively enough, winning 2-1 at Atlanta in the opener before beating Colorado 1-0 at home in Week 2, but have struggled in recent weeks. The Red Bulls are winless in their last three, falling 3-1 at Seattle on March 19, playing to a scoreless draw at home against RSL on March 25 and getting handled 4-1 by Houston last Saturday. The 4-2-2-2 isn’t really clicking yet, and Orlando – who lost 2-0 at Columbus last weekend – have looked good at home this year, particularly when star striker Cyle Larin is on his game. If he can get on the board again on Sunday, the Lions will have a good shot at handing the Red Bulls their third defeat in four matches.


Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids


Sunday, 7 pm ET | FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada


Colorado’s long, three-week layoff will finally come to an end on Sunday, when they’ll make the manageable trip east to take on Sporting Kansas City. The Rapids haven’t played since March 18, but they have been busy, sending captain Sam Cronin and starting left back Marc Burch to Minnesota last week in exchange for midfielder Mohammed Saied and winger Josh Gatt.


Plenty of folks raised their eyebrows at the move, but Colorado are confident that offseason acquisition midfielder Bismark Adjei-Boateng will slot in to Cronin’s spot and improve the squad. He’ll likely have his first chance on Sunday against SKC, who have been excellent defensively but poor in the attack this year, posting three scoreless draws in their four matches. 

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