Tactical MLS Ties to Watch in World Cup Qualifiers This Week
The club and country connections are running deep this September, as national teams from around the globe are nearing their final matches in this round of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying.
As Major League Soccer remains the world’s most diverse professional sports league by birth country, MLS players are spanning the globe this international window to provide the emerging and consistent heroes that have earned 63 starts and 86 appearances through call-ups to countries in five of the six FIFA confederations, including the AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa) Concacaf (North and Central America and Caribbean), Conmebol (South America), and UEFA (Europe).
Looking ahead to the remaining matches on the international stage this week, below are the MLS connections, trends, storylines, and standout players to watch.
The Top-Ranked Revolution Are Running World Cup Qualifiers Too
The most dominant team in MLS this season is lending its leaders to global soccer, with stars showing up for three different national teams. New England Revolution striker and Designated Player Adam Buksa of Poland has scored four goals over the span of two games this window, and it’s only his second-ever national team call-up. Meanwhile, midfielder Tajon Buchanan earned a start and two appearances for Canada, and goalkeeper Matt Turner established himself as the U.S. Men’s National Team’s starter at that position for both games, having conceded only two goals over his last nine appearances.
Goalscoring Momentum Gained From MLS Products and Current Standouts
MLS players past and present are faithfully finding the back of the net in qualifying. Featured players to watch are New England’s Buksa, who netted a hat trick, that included two stoppage time goals against San Marino after scoring a goal in a 3-1 win over Albania. In addition, Toronto FC’s Yeferson Soteldo scored Venezuela’s lone goal in a 3-1 loss to Argentina, and former Orlando City SC forward Cyle Larin has twice scored Canada’s game-tying goals in Concacaf play – first converting a penalty kick against Honduras and then again against the USA off an assist from Vancouver Whitecaps FC homegrown Alphonso Davies, who now stars for Bayern Munich.
MLS Academy Products Shine for U.S. Men’s National Team
The U.S. Men’s National Team is ranked among the top 10 in the world right now, and as of late, it has featured breakout performances from the products of several MLS academies. Taking Sunday’s match against Canada as an example, it was Philadelphia Union Academy product and former first-team standout Brenden Aaronson (Red Bulls Salzberg, Bundesliga), who put away that opening goal after he won the ball to start an attack before finding New York Red Bull Academy product and former first-teamer Tyler Adams (Red Bull Leipzig). That play also saw a touch from Colorado Rapids midfielder and FC Dallas Academy product Kellyn Acosta, who could be one of the unsung heroes of the team this year, having started the last 18 consecutive matches for the USA, and becoming the only player to appear in all games since Dec. 9, 2020 vs. El Salvador, including Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup victories.
MLS Connections Are Captaining Across Concacaf
National teams in the Concacaf region have so far named five players with MLS ties to captain their squads. Houston Dynamo midfielder Boniek Garcia and center back Maynor Figueroa each earned the captain’s armband for Honduras, resulting in a total of two points secured from two different draws; Nashville SC midfielder Anibal Godoy led Panama to a scoreless tie against Costa Rica and then captained a decisive 3-0 victory over Jamaica, who had Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake leading the Reggae Boys as captain in both of their matches as well. The USMNT put New York Red Bulls Academy product and former first-team midfielder Tyler Adams (Red Bull Leipzig) at the helm of the Stars and Stripes for their 0-0 opening-match tie against El Salvador.
USMNT’s Lletget Harkens Back to His Own History
On the eve of the USMNT’s final match this window, LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget is firmly back in the fold, coming off a start and solid performance against Canada, as he prepares to face Honduras in a World Cup qualifying match for the first time since his breakout performance and an unfortunate campaign-ending foot injury against the same opponent the last time around. Rewinding back to March 25, 2017, Lletget was strong straight out the gates, scoring the game’s first goal in the fifth minute for what eventually became a 6-0 trouncing of Honduras. However, his qualifying opportunity was cut short just 13 minutes later due to a devastating foot injury. With his recent start last week, could he earn his first World Cup qualifying match start against Honduras on Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras (10:35 p.m. ET on Paramount+, Universo)?
Starting Trio of MLS Players Provide El Salvador’s Saving Grace
Earning two points on two scoreless ties, El Salvador’s three MLS players – Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC), Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC) and Darwin Ceren (Houston Dynamo FC) – have started both matches in preparation to face the 11 MLS players called-up for Canada for the match at BMO Field in Toronto on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET, Paramount+).
New England DP Buksa Banking in Goals for Poland
New England Revolution striker Adam Buksa has 10 goals and two assists in MLS action, and he is not backing down on the world stage with the second-ranked team in Group I of UEFA qualifying. Heading into Poland’s last match of the window against group leaders England, Buksa has four goals over the span of the two games, as he is fresh off a second-half hat trick in a 7-1 thrashing of San Marino that featured two of his goals scored in stoppage time. In only his second call-up to the Poland national team, Buksa is certainly leaving a major impression, with a contributing tally that helped it to a plus-11 goal differential.
Poland will face England at home in Warsaw on Wednesday, Sept. 8 (2:45 p.m. ET, ESPN+) for a bit of revenge after falling 2-1 in their last match on March 31 for which Buksa was not rostered.
As he continues to make the most of this call-up, will a strong performance against England solidify his place on the national team and return a standout goalscorer to the top-ranked Revs for the final stretch of the regular season?
New England’s Matt Turner is Tried and True for Red, White, and Blue
With much discussion surrounding the starter in goal for the U.S. Men’s National Team, MLS All-Star and New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner could not be in truer form as the top-rated goalkeeper on the top-ranked team in MLS. He led the USMNT to a Concacaf Gold Cup win over Mexico, which was followed by five consecutive games in international play without conceding a goal, part of a 506-minute shutout streak.
With the match against Honduras rapidly approaching, Turner has earned starts in the last two matches for the USMNT, allowing only one goal, and making some pretty spectacular saves along the way.
Will the best goalkeeper on the best team in MLS remain the best player for the starting U.S. job against Honduras this week. The match kicks off from Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula on Wednesday night (10:30 p.m. ET | Universo, Paramount+).
MLS Academies Field North America’s Youth National Teams
A trio of homegrown players are making their international marks for Mexico youth national teams, as MLS continues to develop and influence the future of national teams in North America. The recent call-ups of San Jose Earthquakes 16-year-old goalkeeper Emi Ochoa to El Tri’s U-18 camp, as well as two Los Angeles Football Club 17-year-olds in center back Tony Leone and Christian Torres to Mexico’s U-20 camp, feature three players who have all spent time within both the United States and Mexico youth systems as they aim to determine which side to represent.
Ochoa remains on the brink of his professional debut for San Jose after signing as a Homegrown Player with the Earthquakes ahead of the 2020 campaign, to becoming the second-youngest player to sign a professional contract in MLS history. He joins the Mexico U-18 camp in Cork, Ireland from Aug. 31 to Sept. 9 although he has previously represented the United States at the U-14 and U-15 levels. The dual-national traveled to Ireland with the Mexican U-18s to participate in a pair of friendlies against Ireland’s U-17 side on Sept. 5 and Sept. 7, earning the starting nod in Sunday’s match which resulted in a 2-1 loss ahead of a second friendly on Tuesday.
LAFC’s Leone and Torres will partake in a Mexico U-20 camp in Alicante, Spain, for the first week of September. Leone – also in high anticipation of his first MLS appearance – was one of the first three players to join the first team from the LAFC Academy, where he knocked in eight goals in 23 matches for the U-14s. Earning call-ups for both the U.S. and Mexico youth squads, he has appeared 10 times for the U.S. U-15s, five for the Mexico U-15s, and three for the U.S. U-17s. Leone earned the start in Friday’s 5-1 loss to Spain in Alicante but was not in the starting lineup for Sunday’s exhibition. Meanwhile, his LAFC teammate Torres has the most MLS experience among the trio. The winger has scored one goal in nine appearances for LAFC, including an Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs start against Seattle Sounders FC. While he didn’t start in Friday’s friendly against Spain, Torres earned the nod on Sunday in a narrow 3-2 defeat to Spain in which the homegrown talent scored a goal to put El Tri ahead in the first half.
Ochoa will return to California before the Quakes travel to take on FC Dallas on Saturday, Sept. 11 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN +) in a match where both sides will look to inch closer to the playoff line. Leone and Torres return to LAFC ahead of Sunday’s matchup with Real Salt Lake (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) in another tightly contested Western Conference matchup.
Friday, September 10
Atlanta United vs. Orlando City SC, 7 p.m. (FS1)
- Atlanta United had their four-game winning run put to an end, falling 2-0 to Nashville SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in their last match on Aug. 28.
- Orlando City SC extended their undefeated streak to seven games with a third win in that time, defeating the Columbus Crew 3-2 at Exploria Stadium on Saturday evening. Daryl Dike scored his third goal of the season, then set up the game-winner from Junior Urso midway through the second half.
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, the first two coming at Exploria Stadium. Nani set up one goal then scored the 87th-minute game-winner, giving Orlando City the 3-2 win July 30; the teams also reached a goalless draw April 17.
- The teams met four times a season ago, and Orlando City came away with points from all four. Orlando City SC won for the first time in 10 meetings in all competitions between the clubs with a 3-1 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 29, then claimed a 4-1 win Oct. 28 at Exploria Stadium. In between, the teams played to a pair of draws, a 1-1 draw Sept. 5 at Exploria Stadium, and a goalless result Oct. 7 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
- In the first eight league meetings between the teams over three seasons, Atlanta United had not lost to their neighbor to the south, with six wins and two draws. The OCSC win in the first meeting last year snapped a five-game ATLUTD winning streak in the series.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. (TSN)
- Whitecaps FC won their fourth game in a row and extended their undefeated streak to 10 games, getting goals from Anibal Godoy and Deiber Caicedo for a 2-1 win against Austin FC at BC Place on Saturday afternoon. The four-game winning streak matches the longest in Vancouver’s MLS history, also set in 2015; the 10-game undefeated run is a club record.
- The Timbers won their second game on the trot, defeating Houston Dynamo FC at BBVA Stadium on Friday evening. Felipe Mora scored his ninth goal of the season, a second consecutive game with a goal and tied for 10th in the MLS Golden Boot standings, and Yimmi Chará added his third.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Lucas Cavallini scored the game’s only goal to give Whitecaps FC the win in the season opener for both teams, April 18 at Rio Tinto Stadium.
- The Whitecaps win in the first meeting snapped a three-game Timbers winning streak in the series, which followed a three-game Whitecaps FC winning streak, after the Timbers won the prior three matchups. Whitecaps FC have won eight times in 27 all-time MLS meetings between the teams, all coming in the past 19 meetings.
- The teams first met on May 16, 1975, in the old North American Soccer League, with the Timbers winning 2-0 at Empire Stadium in Vancouver. The teams have met 97 times in all, across a number of competitions – the Whitecaps hold a 41-38-18 advantage in the all-time record between the clubs. The teams met twice in the NASL playoffs, in 1978 and 1980, with each team advancing on one occasion.
Saturday, September 11
Colorado Rapids vs. LA Galaxy, 3:30 p.m. (Univision)
- The Rapids extended their undefeated streak to seven games with a fifth win in that time, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes by the game’s only goal at PayPal Park on Saturday evening. Dominique Badji scored the goal, his first since coming to the Rapids via trade from Nashville SC.
- The Galaxy put an end to a two-game losing skid in dramatic fashion, coming back for a late 3-3 draw with Los Angeles Football Club at Banc of California Stadium on Aug. 28. Dejan Joveljic scored a pair of goals – his first in MLS – then Kévin Cabral hit the 85th-minute equalizer.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Jonathan Lewis scored early and Andre Shinyashiki scored late as the Rapids took a 2-1 win Aug. 17 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
- The Rapids have come away with points in the last six meetings between the teams, with five victories, including four in a row. The Rapids’ victory in the first meeting in 2018, a 2-1 win on Aug. 4 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, snapped a four-game winless streak, and two-game losing streak, in league play in the series, their first vs. the Galaxy since March 12, 2016.
- The Rapids have won the last three meetings in Carson, snapping a six-game Galaxy undefeated streak there in the series, with two wins and four draws over the span.
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Minnesota United FC, 5 p.m.
- Sounders FC saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, falling 2-0 to the Portland Timbers at Lumen Field on Aug. 29.
- MNUFC extended their undefeated streak to three games following a pair of draws, defeating Houston Dynamo FC 2-1 at BBVA Stadium on Aug. 28. Adrien Hunou scored both Minnesota goals, his first two-goal game in MLS, now with four for the season.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season, each winning on their home ground. Raúl Ruidíaz scored a pair of goals and Fredy Montero scored a goal and added his assist in his return to the club, as Sounders FC took a 4-0 win in the season opener for both clubs, April 16 at Lumen Field; Robin Lod scored the game’s only goal as MNUFC took the win July 18 at Allianz Field.
- The Minnesota United win in the last meeting was their first in eight league meetings all-time with Sounders FC. Seattle won the first four meetings between the teams all-time, with an 11-3 advantage in goals, and has won all four matchups in Seattle.
- The teams also faced off last year in a dramatic Western Conference Final at Lumen Field. MNUFC held a 2-goal lead with a quarter-hour remaining, but Sounders FC stormed back with three goals, capped by a Gustav Svensson goal in stoppage time, for a 3-2 win and a place in 2020 MLS Cup.
New England Revolution vs. New York City FC, 7 p.m.
- The Revolution rebounded for a ninth win in the last 11 games, defeating the Philadelphia Union by the game’s lone goal at Subaru Park on Friday evening. Matt Polster scored the New England goal, his second of the season, matching his single-season career-high in his sixth MLS campaign.
- NYCFC dropped a second decision in three games, falling 3-1 to Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium on Friday evening. Valentin Castellanos scored the NYCFC goal, his fifth in the last four games and 11th of the season, tied for fifth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, each winning one in NYCFC home games. Carles Gil set up a pair of goals as the Revolution took a 3-2 win at Red Bull Arena on June 19. Then on Aug. 28, Valentin Castellanos scored both NYCFC goals for a 2-0 win at Yankee Stadium.
- The teams met three times a season ago, evenly splitting their season series. NYCFC claimed a 2-0 win behind two second-half goals at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 2; then on Oct. 11, Teal Bunbury scored early and Lee Nguyen late as the Revolution took a 2-1 win at Yankee Stadium. The teams also reached a goalless draw on Sept. 19 in Foxborough.
- The NYCFC win in the first meeting last year ended a four-game undefeated streak for the Revs in the series in Foxborough. NYCFC has won four of the eight meetings all-time in the Bronx.
New York Red Bulls vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m.
- The Red Bulls weren’t able to build upon a first victory in eight matches, dropping a decision by the game’s lone goal to Chicago Fire FC at Red Bull Arena on Aug. 28.
- D.C. United snapped a three-game losing slide in impressive fashion, rolling to a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 28. Ola Kamara converted a penalty kick for his 12th goal of the season – now tied for second place in the MLS Golden Boot standings – and Yordy Reyna and Ramón Ábila also added goals.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Ola Kamara scored the game’s only goal in the 27th minute for a D.C. United win July 25 at Audi Field.
- United have won two of the last three games in the series, which came after a 10-game Red Bulls undefeated streak in the series, United’s last previous win coming on May 13, 2016 at RFK Stadium. United won the last meeting at Red Bull Arena, a 1-0 win last Sept. 2 with the goal by Erik Sorga the latest in MLS history the game’s only goal was scored, ending a 10-game Red Bulls undefeated streak in regular season matches at Red Bull Arena, their first win in Harrison since 2011. The Red Bulls have won three of the five meetings all-time at Audi Field.
- The teams have met 98 times in all competitions over the years – the most of any two clubs in MLS history. New York has won 36 and United have won 45, including a 7-4-2 record in the postseason. They play for the Atlantic Cup, awarded to the winner of the season series by supporters’ groups from both clubs.
CF Montreal vs. Nashville SC, 8 p.m. (TVA Sports; TSN)
- CF Montréal extended their undefeated streak to four games with a second win in that time, defeating Toronto FC 3-1 at Stade Saputo on Aug. 28. Samuel Piette scored his first goal of the season, and Joaquin Torres and Romell Quioto each added their third of the year.
- Nashville SC won their second game in a row and third in the last four matches, defeating New York City FC at Nissan Stadium on Friday evening. Hany Mukhtar netted a pair of goals, his third multiple-goal game this season, now with 10 goals for the season, tied for seventh place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
- The teams are meeting for the third time this season, reaching a pair of draws at Nissan Stadium. Mason Toye and Zachary Brault-Guillard scored in the first half for CF Montréal, but Jhonder Cadíz and Hany Muhktar hit home after the break, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw April 24. Then on June 26, Kiki Struna gave CFMTL the lead, but Adu Danladi netted the equalizer in stoppage time, leaving the teams in a 1-1 result on July 25.
- The teams met once in Nashville SC’s inaugural season. Randall Leal scored the game’s only goal after 33 minutes to lead Nashville SC to the victory last Oct. 27 at Red Bull Arena.
FC Cincinnati vs. Toronto FC, 8 p.m. (TSN)
- FC Cincinnati saw their losing slide continued, dropping a decision by the game’s only goal to Inter Miami CF at TQL Stadium on Saturday evening.
- TFC saw their losing skid extended, dropping a 3-1 decision to CF Montréal at Stade Saputo on Aug. 28. Ifunanyachi Achara scored his first goal of the season, making his sixth appearance of the year.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Allan Cruz and Luciano Acosta scored goals to lead FC Cincinnati to a 2-0 win June 26 at Exploria Stadium in Orlando.
- Toronto FC won the first three meetings between the teams. In FC Cincinnati’s inaugural season, TFC took a 2-1 win July 27 at BMO Field, then got goals from five different players in rolling to a 5-1 victory Sept. 7 at Nippert Stadium. A season ago. Patrick Mullins scored the game’s only goal in the 28th minute as TFC took the victory Oct. 11 at Nippert Stadium.
Inter Miami CF vs. Columbus Crew SC, 8 p.m.
- Inter Miami extended their undefeated streak to four games with a third win in that time, defeating FC Cincinnati by the game’s only goal at TQL Stadium on Saturday evening. Brek Shea scored his second goal of the season in the 90th minute for the Inter Miami game-winner.
- The Crew weren’t able to make it consecutive wins, dropping a 3-2 decision to Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium on Saturday evening. Miguel Berry scored his fourth goal of the season, his third in the last two games.
- The teams are meeting for the first time in their histories. They are scheduled to face off Saturday, Oct. 16 at Lower.com Field.
FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8:30 p.m.
- FC Dallas had their brief two-game undefeated run snapped, falling 3-2 to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday evening. Jesús Ferreira scored his fifth goal of the season, his third in the last two games, and Franco Jara netted his fourth of the year.
- The Quakes saw their 10-game undefeated streak put to an end, a first defeat since the end of June, falling by the game’s only goal to the Colorado Rapids at PayPal Park on Saturday evening.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season. The Quakes took a 3-1 win April 24 at PayPal Park, behind goals from Oswaldo Alanis, Cristian Espinoza and Cade Cowell. The teams were meeting for the first time since 2019, when they played to a pair of draws, a goalless result on April 27 at Toyota Stadium, and a 2-2 tie June 8 in San Jose.
- The Quakes now have a seven-game undefeated streak alive in the series, since 2017, with four wins and three draws over that span. They have come away with points on their last four trips to Frisco, FCD’s last home win in the series coming in 2015.
- The Quakes have gained results in their last four home meetings in the series; their 4-3 win Aug. 29, 2018 was their first at home vs. FC Dallas since 2014, and their first ever vs. FCD at PayPal Park. FCD had come away with points on their previous five trips to northern California, with two wins and three draws.
Houston Dynamo FC vs. Austin FC, 8:30 p.m.
- Dynamo FC had their record winless run extended, falling 2-0 to the Portland Timbers at BBVA Stadium on Friday evening.
- Austin FC fell for a second game in a row, dropping a 2-1 decision to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place on Saturday afternoon. Sebastian Driussi scored his second goal, both coming in the last three games.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season and in their histories. Tomás Pochettino scored a pair of goals and Cecilio Dominguez added the third as ATXFC took a 3-2 win Aug. 4 at Q2 Stadium.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.
- Sporting saw their six-game undefeated run come to an end, falling 4-0 to Los Angeles Football Club at Banc of California Stadium on Friday evening.
- The Fire won a third game in their last five outings, defeating the New York Red Bulls by the game’s only goal at Red Bull Arena on Aug. 28. Robert Beric netted his third goal of the season for the Fire tally.
- The teams met twice a season ago. Winston Reid netted the game’s only goal in the 67th minute, his first in MLS, giving Sporting the win Oct. 7 at Children’s Mercy Park; the teams then reached a 2-2 draw Oct. 17 at Soldier Field, as Djordje Mihailovic hit for the equalizer deep into stoppage time for the Fire.
- The draw ended a four-game winning streak for Sporting in the series, over the last previous seasons. Sporting have won the last five meetings between the teams in KC, the Fire’s last win there coming in 2012 (seven meetings since).
- Sporting won 4-3 in 2018 in the last meeting in Bridgeview, snapping a three-game Fire home winning streak in the series.
Sunday, September 12
Los Angeles Football Club vs. Real Salt Lake, 10:30 p.m.
- LAFC snapped an eight-game winless skein in impressive fashion, rolling to a 4-0 win against Sporting Kansas City at Banc of California Stadium on Friday evening. Mamadou Fall scored the first two goals of his MLS career, and Cristian Arango and Eduard Atuesta each added their second of the season.
- Real Salt Lake put an end to a quick two-game skid, defeating FC Dallas 3-2 at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday evening. Albert Rusnák scored his sixth goal of the season, his third in the last six games, and also added his fifth assist of the year.
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season, and LAFC have won both. José Cifuentes scored the game’s only goal July 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium; two weeks later at Banc of California Stadium, Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela each scored in a 2-1 LAFC victory.
- LAFC have won the last three meetings between the teams. A year ago, the teams split their two encounters, both played at Rio Tinto Stadium. Damir Kreilach, Justin Meram and Albert Rusnák all scored as Real took a 3-0 win on Sept. 9, their first win in five meetings in the series in league play. LAFC then took a 3-1 win on Oct. 4.
- The teams also met in the Knockout Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs in 2018, with Real pulling off an upset with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium. The teams met in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup in 2019, LAFC taking a 3-2 win in Sandy.