Andrew Wiebe’s out again. I’m back in for your Weekend Cheat Sheet. I’m ecstatic. Why? Because no one cares how you got to the big leagues, just that you got there.
All that’s happening here is a bunch of international games have shaken the MLS snowglobe. And no one knows where all these now swirling variables are going to land.
How could you not watch?
WHEN: Friday, 7:30 pm ET
WATCH ON: ESPN+
BetMGM ODDS: Nashville +160, Draw +225, NYCFC +180
The tale of the tape for this one looks like a prizefight. Nashville are tied on points for the second spot in the East, NYCFC are one point behind them with a game in hand. NYCFC have the best goal differential in the conference, Nashville have the third-best. NYCFC have the best expected goal differential \in the league\, Nashville have the third-best.
The bottom line is that these are two of the best teams MLS has to offer, not just in the Eastern Conference. And both have a claim to the extremely arbitrary but still important title of second-best team in the East.
Both are also coming into this one relatively intact. Nashville are most hurt by the international break. Losing Walker Zimmerman, in particular, is a big blow. But Hany Mukhtar’s eight goals and eight assists are still there, as are CJ Sapong’s nine goals and three assists. And NYCFC will also be missing a crucial defender in James Sands. It all just about evens out in the end. Which means we’re going to see two of the best teams in the league go at it on mostly even footing. It’s an easy, easy choice for ESPN+ game of the week.
WHEN: Friday, 10:00 pm ET
WATCH ON: UniMas, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: LAFC +100, Draw +275, SKC +250
Ok, so, remember how NYCFC and Nashville were coming into this one relatively intact? Wellllllllllllll, LAFC are… not that. Not that at all. In fact, give me one second to count annnddddd yeah, 13 players are going to be missing for LAFC due to injury or international duty. Most importantly, one player will be missing due to “being Diego Rossi.”
I genuinely don’t know where LAFC go from here the rest of the way. They just lost the one guy who had been a consistent Best XI presence for this team in a year where they really, really need a guy who can offer a consistent Best XI presence. I understand that his contract was coming to a close and that this move to Europe had been long promised. But now what?
LAFC are already amid a six-team pileup in the West. They’re only three points but five teams away from sixth place in the conference standings. The only teams in the West with fewer points are Austin and Houston. And for a team that seems doomed to make at least two catastrophic defensive mistakes per game, losing the guy who could most consistently rescue them from that seems suboptimal.
In theory, new signing Cristian Arango could produce as a No. 9 and Brian Rodriguez and Carlos Vela could make up for Rossi’s absence with their own contributions. But we have no idea if Arango is the real thing and we’ve plenty of ideas about Rodriguez’s inconsistent MLS tenure and Vela’s ability to actually be healthy and on the field. If this team was already floundering despite having some of the expected goals numbers in the league, a future where those numbers drop and the defense stays the same isn’t great.
In the end, it may not matter. They may get thumped Friday by a Sporting Kansas City team that’s better than them even with or without an entire basketball team worth of players absent and then go on a run anyway. But it’s not hard to imagine how a point or three against all odds would give them a confidence boost. And whoo boy do they need a confidence boost or three (eight games winless is rough). Maybe it's the early beginnings of a new era. Or a stark reminder that the era they’re in is thudding to an end.
WHEN: Saturday, 8 pm ET
WATCH ON: UniMas, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: RSL +100, Draw +260, FCD +270
FC Dallas are right on the playoff line. Right in the middle of that six-team pile-up in the West where sixth place and 11th are separated by just three points. It just so happens that RSL are in there too. Which means that Saturday offers a potential six-point swing for one of these teams in the royal rumble of teams fighting for a chance at a playoff spot and a chance for something unexpected to happen at the end of the year.
The most plausible person to create opportunities here is Jesus Ferreira. Ferreira grabbed a brace against Austin last weekend and has four goals and four assists on the season. Both of those are tied for the team lead (non-Ricardo Pepi division). It’s going to take him or...literally anyone else stepping up to make something happen for Luchi Gang on Saturday.
They just need to survive this weekend and maybe the next. At least until the hype train pulls back into the station. If they can find a way to take down RSL and then San Jose – two teams in the West’s Sort of OK Six –and then add Pepi back into the mix, they’ll be in as good of a spot as anyone to make it to the top of the pile.
WHEN: Saturday, 10 pm ET
WATCH ON: UniMas, TUDN, Twitter
BetMGM ODDS: SJ +150, Draw +250, COL +175
The Quakes just spent two whole months not losing. The last time they didn’t take a point or three came on June 26 against the Galaxy. And wouldn’t you know it, they just closed out their second straight month of not losing by taking all three points against that same Galaxy team.
Which underscores a pretty important point about the Quakes’ 10-game streak: They’ve been playing legitimately good teams.
If they can make it through against a very good Colorado team, you have to wonder, will they ever lose again? Well, yes, they play Seattle, but their schedule the rest of the way becomes remarkably easy. That Seattle game is the only game against a team fifth or higher in the conference. Even if the streak does end Saturday, there’s no reason to think they couldn’t start another one immediately after.
They’re playing solid soccer right now. They’re playing practical soccer. And they’ve survived the most difficult and crucial stretch of their season completely unscathed. They’re in phenomenal position to make the playoffs no matter what happens against Colorado. If they pull off another result against one of the league’s best teams, they might just be the clear favorite to end up on top of the mess in the West.