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The Pitch (Matchday 32): Top Things to Watch in MLS This Week

Hudson River Derby & El Tráfico Battles in Push to the Playoffs

Derby Week

On Saturday afternoon the New York Red Bulls will face off against New York City FC in the Hudson River Derby (3:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass) and a victory by either team would help close the points gap for a coveted Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot. This will be the 27th overall meeting across all competitions between the Red Bulls and NYCFC, with the Red Bulls holding the advantage in the series with a 15-8-3 mark.

The Red Bulls, who have made a league-best 13 consecutive playoff appearances, are 2-0 against NYCFC this season, inclusive of both regular season and Leagues Cup matches, and hope to take a leap towards their 14thstraight postseason berth. . NYCFC will serve as hosts of this weekend’s match and are 3-1-4 at Yankee Stadium this season.

Out west, the Los Angeles Football Club and LA Galaxy will clash in El Tráfico at BMO Stadium on Saturday evening (10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass). A win by the Galaxy would move them up the ladder in their push to the playoffs, while a win by LAFC would end a three-game losing streak and strengthen their position near the top of the Western Conference. LAFC currently sits third in the conference standings and has already tallied 40 points this season. The LA Galaxy is 2-1 in meetings against LAFC this year, including a historic 2-1 victory in front of a record setting 82,110 fans at the Rose Bowl.

One thing is for certain, these derbies are guaranteed to be high energy with Audi MLS Cup Playoffs positioning and claims for bragging rights up for grabs.

Josef Martínez and Tata Martino Make Atlanta Homecoming

The Pitch Week 32_Martinez Homecoming

Two former Atlanta United legends will make their return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday (5 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass) – this time in Inter Miami CF’s pink and black. With Tata Martino leading Miami’s second-half resurgence and Josef Martínez back to his goal scoring ways, the duo aims to make their homecoming a memorable one.

Martínez’s career with Atlanta included one of the most dominant runs by a forward in MLS history – a stretch in which he became the face of the franchise. In 2018, the Venezuelan international earned the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi, Landon Donovan MLS MVP honors, and helped Atlanta win their first MLS Cup. Martínez has scored 53 regular season goals at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in his career, but he will step on the field in an opposing kit for the first time this Saturday.

The man in charge of Martínez with the Five Stripes was none other than current Inter Miami head coach Tata Martino. Historically, MLS expansion sides had struggled in their inaugural seasons, but Martino’s leadership made Atlanta an exception to the norm. The Argentine helped balance the star power on Atlanta’s roster with emerging young talent to create success – much like his first few months in charge of Miami.

As Miami continues their push for the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, Martínez and Martino will look to walk out of Mercedes-Benz Stadium like they did often for the Five Stripes – with three points.

Nancy Proving a Difference Maker in Columbus

Nancy Proving a Difference Maker

In his first season at the helm of the Crew, head coach Wilfried Nancy has been a catalyst of a resurgent season for a Columbus squad that remains in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Winners of three of their last four matches and currently sitting in fifth place in the East (45 points, 13-8-6), the Crew boast one of the league’s top offenses under Nancy’s direction, ranking second in the league with 54 goals scored – the club’s highest scoring total since 2015. Nancy, who guided CF Montréal to a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season, has established himself as one of the top coaches in MLS and can make league history with a strong finish to the 2023 season.

The Crew, who have lost just two regular-season matches since May 29, are 12 points away from their single-season high of 57 points set in 2008 with seven matches remaining in the 2023 season. If they reach that mark, Nancy will become the first coach in MLS history to lead two clubs to their respective team-best point totals in successive seasons, as he guided Montréal to a club-high 65 points (20-9-5) in 2022.

For more on Nancy and his first season in Columbus | Click Here

With history on the horizon, Nancy and the Crew will look to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference table as they travel to Exploria Stadium to take on Orlando City SC on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Season Pass).

End-of-Year Awards Watchlist: Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year


As clubs around MLS enter the home stretch and look to earn their spots in the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs, players are continuing to pad their 2023 year-end awards résumés with game-changing performances, including the standouts between the posts trying to stop the goals.

Below are five star players eligible to be nominated for Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year to keep an eye on throughout the remaining two months of the 2023 MLS regular season:

Andre Blake (PHI): The record-setting, three-time Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year is once again in the running for the award, averaging less than one goal against per game (0.98) for a fourth consecutive season.

Roman Bürki (STL): St. Louis CITY SC’s shot-stopper has seven clean sheets in his first MLS season and has, at times, single-handedly preserved wins for the Western Conference leaders with a league-leading 106 saves.

Roman Celentano (CIN): The 22-year-old 2022 SuperDraft selection has been a reliable presence between the posts for Supporters’ Shield-leading FC Cincinnati, recording a career-best and club-record 10 clean sheets on the season and is tied for the third- most in MLS. Celentano has also seen an uptick in his save percentage between 2022 and 2023, improving from 66.9% to 70.9% so far this season.

Steve Clark (HOU): Clark’s career-best 11 clean sheets in 2023 are tied for most in the league this season as the seasoned goalkeeper has been key to the Dynamo’s goals against record in 2023, which is tied for the fifth-lowest in MLS this season (31).

Stefan Frei (SEA): Frei’s 15-year career has yet to produce an Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honor but with 11 clean sheets for a Seattle Sounders FC side with the second-fewest goals allowed in MLS this season (29), Frei is on track to potentially add it to his trophy cabinet.

New York Red Bulls and Goalkeeper’s Family are Stokes Strong

Stokes Strong

New York Red Bulls II goalkeeper Aidan Stokes, a 15-year-old academy product signed to an MLS NEXT Pro contract this year with an MLS Homegrown deal coming in 2024, was at the team’s training facility when he received the devastating news that his 12-year-old sister Sofie was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then, the Red Bulls have wrapped their collective arms around the Stokes family, showing their support in many ways, including wearing Stokes Strong bracelets and t-shirts.

As part of September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, Aidan spoke about the journey his family is going through and how much his team’s support has meant to them – and reminding everyone to “cherish every moment you get with your family.”  **WATCH**