Ledes are overrated. Here’s your Week 32 Cheat Sheet!

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
If you can only watch one game this weekend…

WHEN: Saturday, 3:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: Univision, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: Seattle +100, Tie +250, Sporting +250

This matchup is always fun, plus there’s silverware at stake, just not for the teams involved. If Seattle don’t win, New England are Supporters’ Shield winners. More on that in a bit.

In the meantime, the big storyline here, outside playoff positioning and home-field advantage en route to MLS Cup, is the status of both clubs’ Designated Player No. 9s. Raul Ruidiaz is still in Peru rehabbing his hamstring, and Alan Pulido is making progress from knee surgery that figures to keep him out until at least the final gasps of the regular season.

Because I was curious, I pulled the Opta breakdown for both teams with and without Ruidiaz and Pulido this season. Here’s what I found…

Sounders with/without Ruidiaz
With Ruidiaz
Stat
Without Ruidiaz
25
Games
5
14
Wins
3
6
Draws
1
5
Losses
1
40
Goals for
10
1.6
Avg. goals for
2.0
22
Goals against
4
0.9
Avg. goals against
0.8
56.0%
Win percentage
60.0%
1.9
Points/game
2.0
Sporting KC with/without Pulido
With Pulido
Stat
Without Pulido
21
Games
8
12
Wins
3
5
Draws
2
4
Losses
3
38
Goals for
14
1.8
Avg. goals for
1.8
24
Goals against
9
1.1
Avg. goals against
1.1
57.1%
Win percentage
37.5%
2.0
Points/game
1.4

I should lead with the obvious: this is an imperfect way to measure the effects both players have on their respective teams. There’s a lot of context missing here. However, it does reflect what I think the results and the eye test suggest, which is that Seattle are a deeper team with a better defense, thus better able to weather the absence of their Best XI-level No. 9.

Time to put that theory to the test on Saturday to get Week 32 started.

LA Galaxy vs. FC Dallas
One of your final chances to watch Ricardo Pepi in MLS?

WHEN: Saturday, 10 pm ET
WATCH ON: Univision, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: LA -165, Tie +320, Dallas +360

You know I love a good MLS-branded hat!

On the flip side, the Galaxy were slumping hard for most of the late summer and early fall, but they’ve won two straight and have a home playoff game within reach! They’re worth watching again!

Austin FC vs. Houston Dynamo
Who will be the best of the worst in the West?

WHEN: Sunday, 5 pm ET
WATCH ON: ESPN, ESPN Deportes
BetMGM ODDS: Austin +110, Tie +260, Houston +21-

It’s been a tough season for the state of Texas (outside Ricardo Pepi), at least in MLS terms. The only teams in the Western Conference who have “e” next to their names hail from, you guessed it, Texas.

Shout out to El Paso Locomotive, who are carrying water for the whole state by leading the USL Championship’s Western Conference Mountain Division standings while beating up on their fellow Texas clubs (San Antonio FC, Austin Bold and RGV Toros). El Paso already locked up the USLC Copa Tejas with a 7-2-2 record and will take the 2021 Copa Tejas Shield as well on points per game.

In MLS, there are two Texas rivalry matches remaining this season, including this weekend’s national TV clash at Q2 Stadium on ESPN and Austin FC’s visit to FC Dallas next Saturday. Here’s where things currently stand:

  1. FC Dallas (2-1-2) – 8 points (first on third tiebreaker: goals scored)
  2. Houston Dynamo (2-1-2) – 8 points
  3. Austin FC (1-3-0) – 3 points

Austin FC don’t have much to play for other than pride and their jobs, but some expansion season bragging rights are still within reach. All they have to do is win twice in a week to get to nine points at the expense of their rivals and the mantle will be theirs.

If it sounds easy, it isn’t. Should Josh Wolff’s team pull it off, it’d be their first (and only) back-to-back wins since the second and third game of the season. Here’s hoping Austin and Houston channel the same energy as FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire FC from Wednesday night’s 4-3 thriller. Just because you can’t make the playoffs doesn’t mean you can’t entertain your supporters (and everybody who tunes in on ESPN)!

Orlando City SC vs. New England Revolution
Can Orlando City find another gear? Can the Revs make history?

WHEN: Sunday 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: FS1, FOX Deportes
BetMGM ODDS: Orlando +130, Tie +280, New England +165

How good are Orlando City? We ask ourselves that question every single week on Extratime. The answer, invariably, is “I’m not exactly sure” and “Not as good as they should be given the talent at hand.”

That’s not head coach Oscar Pareja’s fault, in my opinion. He’s dealt with a laundry list of key injuries all year, and Nani's second-half struggles to be a consistent game-changer have been well documented by Matt Doyle. And yet, Orlando could still finish second in the East! At some point, though, the Lions are what their record and results say they are. We are quickly closing in on that moment in time, and Pareja is finally getting some good breaks/timing when it comes to injuries.

Most importantly, Sebastian Mendez, perhaps the most underrated midfielder in the entire league, is back. It ought to surprise nobody that Orlando’s four-game unbeaten run, which would have reached five had they not missed a late PK in New England, came with the Ecuadorian international once again available for selection. He’s not the only big name back in the team, either.

Yes, Pato is finally playing soccer again and he’s the ultimate MLS mystery box. He could absolutely make the difference down the stretch or he could be a nothingburger. That’s Orlando City in a nutshell and mirrors their 1-1 draw with CF Montréal on Wednesday. During the first half, they were high-energy, incisive and looked like they were on their way to three points. During the second half, they looked uninspired and fortunate to hang on against a playoff rival.

So how good are Orlando City? We’re about to find out.

As for New England, Bruce Arena decided this week that the Supporters’ Shield matters! Or at least he decided to say that publicly, which I applaud because he manages a club that has but two trophies to show for their 26 years of existence (2007 USOC, 2008 SuperLiga)!

I get why Arena played down the Supporters’ Shield last week and shifted focus to MLS Cup. For him, winning a Shield is no big deal. Just compare the Revs’ history to Arena’s own trophy haul! He’s won five MLS Cups, three (soon to be four) Supporters’ Shields, a US Open Cup, Concacaf Champions’ Cup and Interamerican Cup. He’ll never win a SuperLiga, though, so there’s that.

New England’s Shield math is simple.

If the Sounders don’t win, the Revs will be Supporters’ Shield winners without kicking a ball. If Seattle beat Sporting KC and New England win in Orlando, the Revs are Supporters’ Shield winners. If the Revs win, they will tie 2019 LAFC for the most regular-season points in MLS history (72) with two games remaining to break the record, including a Decision Day home match against Inter Miami.

This continues to be helpful to me, thus I will continue sharing it with you until it is no longer relevant!

  • FORM: 3-2 W at DC, 6-0-2 in past eight games and one loss since July 7
  • POINTS RECORD: 69 points (72 is LAFC record) with three games remaining … 78 points max, 4/9 to set new record
  • PPG PACE: 2.23 ppg vs. 2.11 ppg for 2019 LAFC
  • REMAINING SCHEDULE: at ORL, vs. COL, vs. MIA
What to watch on MLS LIVE on ESPN+

Here are my ESPN+ Top Five Games ranking for Week 32, in order of playoff impact and entertainment value:

1. New York City FC vs. D.C. United (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET)

Both Eastern Conference clubs sit on 41 points. Right now, D.C. are IN and NYCFC are OUT of the playoff field. That could flip-flop at Yankee Stadium. Think both benches will be monitoring that Red Bulls result in Columbus live? I do.

2. Minnesota United vs. LAFC (Saturday, 8 pm ET)

Not quite a flip-flop game like #NYCvDC, but close to it. LAFC have to win to keep pace, and Minnesota could jump into a home playoff game if other results go their way. I will always watch Emanuel Reynoso, and Chicho Arango comes alive in the 18-yard box.

3. San Jose vs. Vancouver (Saturday, 10 pm ET)

This has “crazy game” written all over it. San Jose are in desperation mode and the Whitecaps are doing their best to turn this season into a fairytale.

4. Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 8 pm ET)

RSL dropped below the playoff line without playing a game on Wednesday night. This is absolutely a must-win for them, while the Fire have shown some life of late and will have a big crowd behind them!

5. Toronto FC vs. CF Montréal (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET)

These two old rivals could meet in a Canadian Championship final, but first TFC can play playoff spoiler and drop Montréal below the line.

Enjoy the weekend!