Voices: Andrew Wiebe

Gut check time! Who has the most to prove in MLS Week 13?

Who’s got the most to prove in Week 13? That was the question my editors posed to me this week.

I came up with a mix of 10 clubs, players and managers. I’m sure you can come up with plenty more ahead of a weekend that’s opposite the schedule we’ve become accustomed to thanks to a packed midweek slate: light on Saturday and heavy on Sunday.

Enjoy Week 13!

WHEN: at Columbus Crew on Saturday, 3:30 pm ET
WATCH: UniMas, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: CLB +115, Tie +240, LAFC +220

“If it’s in my hands, for sure I will be here.”

Carlos Vela would like to stay in Los Angeles, that much we know. Whether LAFC and Vela will agree on a deal that suits both is still very much TBD.

I largely agree with David Gass’ take on Thursday’s Extratime. As long as the length of the deal isn’t prohibitive – say, through the end of the 2023 season – Vela staying in LA is beneficial to both sides. Vela’s side is self-explanatory: his family likes living in Los Angles, he likes playing for LAFC and everybody likes money. LAFC know they’re getting a player with the potential to be among the most influential attackers in the league, with an open DP spot to play with this summer and perhaps another should Brian Rodriguez be sold or loaned out in the next couple of transfer windows.

What’s a riskier bet? That Vela recaptures Best XI form or a summer signing is able to integrate immediately and do the same? The answer is moot, really. LAFC can safely make both bets.

What does Vela have to prove then? Namely, that he’s still capable of being a consistent game-changer.

His play hasn’t jumped off the screen since opening day – three goals in 59 minutes against a Colorado Rapids side distracted by Concacaf Champions League – and the underlying numbers back up the eye test. Take out that opening day flurry and Vela has just two goals (only one from open play) in 922 minutes. His 0.18 expected goals (excluding penalties) per 90 minutes is half his previous low mark with LAFC.

The good news is Vela’s chance creation numbers haven’t fallen off a cliff, but LAFC need him to be more goal dangerous. That’s got to be part of the math in negotiations. Can he do it? Certainly. Will he? Time to prove it. There’s a contract at stake.

WHEN: vs. New England Revolution on Saturday, 6 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: CIN +175, Tie +333, LAFC +140

Everybody loves an underdog!

Meanwhile, the Revs loved squashing FC Cincinnati’s US Open Cup hopes, and now New England have a chance to hand Pat Noonan’s team their fourth loss in six games at home.

For all the wonderful signs of progress in Cincinnati – Lucho Acosta’s absurd chance-creation numbers, Brandon Vazquez’s career year, more road wins (4) in seven games than in any of their previous MLS seasons – they’ve got to win at least half their home games to end above the playoff line. The Revs haven’t won away this year.

Are you a playoff hopeful or a playoff contender, FCC? Prove it!

WHEN: vs. Atlanta United on Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: FOX, FOX Deportes
BetMGM ODDS: NSH +100, Tie +225, ATL +270

Gary Smith called his boys out, and they responded Wednesday at home against CF Montréal. It was a win they needed to right the competitive ship against a red-hot opponent and wipe the slate clean from that disappointing loss in Houston.

Atlanta aren’t exactly flying, but they can hurt anyone in MLS. Luiz Araujo, Thiago Almada and Marcelino Moreno are special. This Nashville team, I’ve argued, has a chance to be special as well. Like, Supporters’ Shield special, especially given their home-heavy slate the rest of the way.

Incredibly, Nashville haven’t posted a better than .500 record at home in either of their first two seasons in MLS (4W-1L-5D in 2020, 8W-0L-9D in 2021). Now, at 2W-0L-1D so far this year at GEODIS Park, they’ve also lost just once in 30 games. That’s damn good. It’d be better if some of those 15 draws were wins. I sound like a broken record on that particular point.

How about three points against a non-conference opponent but regional rival? That’d prove Nashville are turning their new home into a fortress that sends visitors home with nothing.

WHEN: at New York City FC on Sunday, 5 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: NYC -225, Tie +350, CHI +575

It’s been a rough month for Slonina. The errors against the Fire are self-evident, and it’s been trending that way for five games. The recently turned 18-year-old had just one negative goal prevented (xGA – GA) in his first seven games. He’s been negative in all of his last five (-3.56 goals prevented during that run). I don’t have to tell you that’s not good.

It’s also part of the course for a young goalkeeper. There will be ups and there will be downs.

I’m curious to see how Ezra Hendrickson handles it. Will he give Slonina a break at NYCFC, where the home team has a habit of making a goalkeeper’s day absolutely miserable? Or will the Fire manager let his teenage ‘keeper play through it?

WHEN: vs. New York Red Bulls on Sunday, 6 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: MIA +275, Tie +240, RBNY -110

Gut check time (again) for Inter Miami. They haven’t won in league play in a month. The Red Bulls are NOT who you want to see coming into your building. Is there life in this team or was that three-game win streak a mirage?

Adrian Heath
Coach · Minnesota United

WHEN: at FC Dallas on Sunday, 7 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: DAL -140, Tie +275, MIN +350

Heath railed against “stupid mistakes” against the Sounders. The Loons had to come back to get a 1-1 draw and a home point against the Galaxy despite putting up 2.7 xG. Disappointing week.

What do I see when I go game-by-game with Minnesota? They aren’t scoring nearly enough. They’re middle of the pack in xG (17.53 in 13 games) and even lower in goals actually scored (13, T-19th). To illustrate the point, here it is game-by-game: 1-1-1-1-1-0-3-3-0-0-1-1. It’s hard to win when there’s no margin for defensive error.

Both the strikers Heath wanted are sitting on the bench. He’s got to find a way to get more production out of whoever it is that plays in the three spots surrounding Emanuel Reynoso. The Loons’ season appears to depend on it.

WHEN: at San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, 7:30 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: SJ -135, Tie +275, SKC +340

They showed fight against Colorado. Too much, probably. So much that they’ll now miss Daniel Salloi and Andreu Fontas this weekend in San Jose, in addition to the long list of injury misses that have dogged Peter Vermes all season long.

One thing I know is that any Vermes-coached team is going to prize competitiveness, that 7-2 loss in Portland notwithstanding. They might have folded, but they absolutely responded midweek. I saw the veterans huddle after the Rapids match. Anybody with eyes could see the frustration boil over during that stoppage-time brouhaha.

Will the fight carry over with a light squad in NorCal? Everybody is going to have to contribute for Kansas City to dig themselves out of this hole.

WHEN: vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, 7:30 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: SJ -135, Tie +275, SKC +340

Sporting KC are coming to PayPal Park a little light on personnel. Meanwhile, the Quakes were in such a hole that their current run of form still leaves them below the playoff line in the Western Conference and just two points above the Spoon line.

Are the playoffs a realistic goal? I think so, but they’ve got to prove it at home against a short-handed opponent.

WHEN: vs. Orlando City SC on Sunday, 8 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: ATX +110, Tie +240, ORL +225

Hey, the Verde & Black are atop the standings! Who woulda thought? Not me!

Staying there is much harder than getting there. So can they stay there? Orlando have been Jeykll and Hyde this year. Some games they look like the worst team in MLS. Others, they look like they could win the East.

This is NOT a bonus game, just so you know Austin supporters. The Lions are just three points behind your pace. This is the toughest home match you’ve faced so far. Win or you’re liable to drop down the table.

Galaxy attackers not named Chicharito

WHEN: vs. Houston Dynamo FC on Sunday, 8 pm ET
BetMGM ODDS: LA -160, Tie +280, HOU +400

Broken record, man. No, Douglas Costa scoring from a free kick doesn’t count as sustainable improvement.