MLS Matchday 8 is upon us and the 2023 league table is taking shape.
Early performances – good and bad – have become trends, and urgency to avoid poor results is increasing with every passing day.
This weekend, numerous MLS clubs are in big spots at home. Whether it’s a chance to turn the season around, stop a slide or confirm positive momentum, here are four home clubs to focus on when tuning into Season Pass.
GAME: LA Galaxy vs. LAFC
WATCH: Apple TV - Free, FOX | Sunday, 4:30 pm ET
It’s crisis mode in Los Angeles, who are now winless after six matches (0W-3L-3D) and sit 13th in the Western Conference table. Last weekend was a new nadir for the group, a humbling 3-0 thrashing at Houston Dynamo FC rife with incomprehensible individual decisions that ensured they’d finished the match with just nine players.
Veteran defender Martín Cáceres picked up a second yellow card for touching the referee during a Video Review process for a PK-inducing foul he conceded. DP winger Douglas Costa – making just his second appearance of the season – then threw down Dynamo midfielder Brooklyn Raines in second-half stoppage time to pick up a straight red card.
Both players are suspended for this weekend, when high-flying rival LAFC come to town for another chapter of El Trafico. There’s a good chance the Black & Gold supporters’ are louder at Dignity Health Sports Park, too, given Galaxy supporters’ continued protest of the front office. These are, uh, less-than-ideal circumstances to be chasing your first win of the year.
LAFC’s season is the complete inverse of the Galaxy’s, making it all the more painful. After winning MLS Cup and the Supporters’ Shield last year, LAFC are undefeated in six MLS games (4W-0L-2D) and advanced to the semifinals of the Concacaf Champions League in emphatic fashion: a 6-0 aggregate win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC, the club that held the Galaxy to a 1-1 draw a month ago.
The Galaxy need to turn their season around and do it fast. It won’t be easy against LAFC, but a win here would serve as a major catalyst.
A sliver of good news? Star forward Chicharito made his 2023 debut last weekend and could be fit enough to start against LAFC. They need all the good vibes they can get.
GAME: Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders FC
WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 10:30 pm ET
Many of the words written about the Galaxy can apply to the Portland Timbers, right down to hosting a rival who are flying to start the season.
The Timbers welcome Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday night. Seattle, freshly in the Western Conference lead, are second in the (early) Supporters’ Shield standings and have a league-leading +12 goal differential. Portland are at the other end of the table, 12th in the West with one win in their seven matches (1W-4L-2D). That win came in their season opener against struggling Sporting Kansas City.
Injuries have quickly accumulated to become a crisis again:
Tuesday's news of Williamson’s injury was especially a gut punch for Giovanni Savarese’s team, which has talent when everyone’s around. Of course, they’ve only had fragments of the first-choice squad available this year.
Portland have won each of the last three meetings against the Sounders. They need that streak to continue on Saturday at Providence Park.
GAME: CF Montréal vs. D.C. United
WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
CF Montréal are in a tailspin this season. They’re last in the Eastern Conference standings (1W-5L-0D), and their lone win is the only game in which they’ve scored. Their 16 goals allowed and negative-13 goal differential are both worst in MLS.
Recently, forwards Romell Quioto (reportedly returned to Honduras for treatment) and Mason Toye (knee surgery; out 6-8 weeks) picked up injuries. This is following midfielders Samuel Piette (out 6-8 weeks) and Matko Miljevic (yet to make season debut) as key injuries. Piette is the team's captain.
On Wednesday, Montréal acquired midfielder Bryce Duke and forward Ariel Lassiter from Inter Miami CF in exchange for key defender Kamal Miller and $1.3 million in General Allocation Money (GAM). It’s a big haul for Duke and Lassiter, who will be tasked with jumpstarting a struggling attack. Duke in particular stands out, as he should slot straight into the lineup as the creator-in-chief.
Now for Saturday, MTL host D.C. United. It’s a big game to start picking up points against another team below the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line.
The positive view for Montréal? Only one of their six matches has been at home during the early days under head coach Hernan Losada. That’s the game they won. It’s difficult to pick up points on the road in MLS, particularly given the coaching change (Wilfried Nancy left in the winter for Columbus Crew) and how the squad lost a handful of crucial pieces.
There’s plenty of time for things to turn around. Perhaps this weekend at Stade Saputo?
GAME: St. Louis CITY SC vs. FC Cincinnati
WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
No matter what happens this weekend, St. Louis CITY SC have experienced a stellar start to life in MLS. Despite losing two games in a row (home to Minnesota and away to Seattle), the pressure they face is of a lesser order.
That’s what a record-setting 5W-0L-0D start can get you, the best-ever season-opening stretch for an expansion club. Still, Saturday night’s tilt at CITYPARK against FC Cincinnati is a big game and presents a chance for Bradley Carnell’s team to reassert themselves in the national conversation.
Cincy have 17 points after seven matches, currently atop the (early) Supporters’ Shield race and Eastern Conference. They are among the best teams in the league and have a similar high-pressing ethos as St. Louis. It should be a fun game.