Voices: Sam Jones

What to watch for: MLS Week 17 brings jam-packed Wednesday slate

This is one of those nights. One of those nights where you look at the person next to you, whether you love them or have just met, look them directly in the eyes, connect with them on a human level for maybe the first or last time, and you say, “Thank goodness for the Watchgridometer.”

I count 12 games tonight that all start somewhere between 7 pm ET and 10:30 pm ET. There has never been a better or more necessary time for the Watchgridometer to rise up and, without bias or mistake, guide you through what to watch on a night where every single game resides on ESPN+. This isn’t luck. It’s just preparation meeting opportunity.

Remember, the Plusometer originally began as a scientific way to quantify the potential watchability of any given game on ESPN+, but can also be used for all other channels. Using the elements of "Potential for very good/very bad soccer," "Chances created," "NARRATIVE," "Aesthetics" and "Totally subjective bonus points," I assign each game a score out of 50. Twenty-five is average potential. Fifty is the greatest game of all-time potential.

Editor's note: This story originally ran in The Daily Kickoff.

Tier One
The delightful mum of a soccer broadcast on television

Soccer is nice to have on. And sometimes you look up and see something fun.

CF Montréal vs. Atlanta United – Wed., 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 24/50

Both of these teams have their own intriguing circumstances heading into this one. Montréal are trying to stick around the seventh playoff spot in the East and considering the talent above them, that might just be the goal the rest of the way. They can do it, but they’ll have to hold off surging D.C. United and the streaky Red Bulls. Maybe even Toronto? And almost definitely not, but maybe just maybe, this Atlanta team as well.

They’ll at least need to be able to take down teams near the bottom of the table like Atlanta. The most interesting thing happening with the Five Stripes today isn’t even on the field. Seriously, how and when are they going to get these signings done? Are they even going to work?

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Cincinnati – Wed., 8 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 20/50

The Red Bulls are always engaging to watch and you never know what can happen in an FC Cincinnati game. Especially now that Luciano Acosta is around to potentially flip the entire thing on its head every now and then. But on a crowded night, two teams below the playoff line in the East isn’t quite going to move the needle.

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas – Wed., 10 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 26/50

I’m almost shocked the Plusometer has this one so low. But Seattle simply don’t look like themselves right now. It would be just a little more interesting if the Sounders had a few more weapons at their disposal against an FC Dallas team that's loved taking down some of the biggest teams in the league this year.

I might regret trusting the Plusometer on this one, especially if you just want to look at it as Ricardo Pepi versus Seattle. You aren’t going to go wrong with this one.

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake – Wed., 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 24/50

The Galaxy XI is a little threadbare still, but that honestly makes this one more intriguing. Since core players left for the Gold Cup and Chicharito has been stuck on the sideline, this team has been a grab bag of horrible losses and weirdly impressive wins. We’ll see which one shows up.

Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes – Wed., 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 24/50

I’m losing faith in Portland. Maybe they can get back on track against San Jose? The Quakes did just take down Seattle, though.

Tier Two
The joy of stumbling onto a match you previously weren't invested in but now are

Every now and then, you go into a game not asking for much and come away with more than you ever imagined.

Columbus Crew vs. D.C. United — Wed., 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 32/50

D.C. United are becoming increasingly fascinating. As their underlying numbers and place in the Eastern Confernce continue to rise, Losadaball becomes more worthy of study. So far, in my estimation, it’s pretty fun to watch. At least when it’s working. There’s kind of no in between here.

What’s particularly compelling though is the fact that if D.C. United win tonight, they’ll be even on points, but ahead of Columbus in the standings. I’m not sure if that’s more impressive for D.C. or worrying for Columbus.

Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC — Wed., 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 33/50

The Union are struggling. Jamiro Monteiro is seemingly gone. And they need to regroup.

The standings would tell you Toronto are an excellent team to do that against. The lineup for Toronto tells you it’s going to be a little more difficult than that. The Reds are looking to continue a long push back to a playoff spot and the Union are looking to not slam the panic button. The Narrative is strong with this one.

Chicago Fire FC vs. New York City FC — Wed., 8 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 30/50

Hey! Hey you! Are you a fan of turning on a very MLS-looking game only to discover that there are about 423 chances per minute? Boy, are you in luck. Because either NYCFC puts up like seven on Chicago here, or both teams show up and this turns into a parade of goals both intentional and unintentional. That’s the magic of the 2021 Chicago Fire Football Club.

Orlando City SC vs. Inter Miami CF — Wed., 8 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 28/50

Rivalry! On paper, it seems clear who the better team is. And that’s because Orlando are 9000% the better team. But don’t forget Inter Miami gave the Lions genuine trouble in 2020, even as Orlando shifted into one of the league’s best teams. The series sits 3-2 in favor of Orlando, with all five games so far being decided by one goal.

Austin FC vs. Houston Dynamo FC – Wed., 9 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 27/50

Rivalry! It’s an in-state thing and Texas is bigger than most countries, so I’m sure the folks in Houston have serious thoughts about the yuppies in Austin and vice versa. There will be some intensity here as Los Verdes welcome a Texas-based team to Q2 Stadium for the first time. Big week for them in that regard as they take on FC Dallas over the weekend. Especially considering the winner of the Texas Triangle gets a statue of Big Tex on fire. I’m assuming at least.

Tier Three
The satisfaction of expectations being met

Sometimes you want the best and you get it.

New England Revolution vs. Nashville SC – Wed., 7 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 40/50

A bonafide Eastern Conference playoff matchup for you here. It will be very interesting to see how both teams approach this one. Nashville may just trot out Ake Loba for the full 90 and New England may just plug in Matt Turner back in goal. We’ll have to see. But lucking into a one versus three matchup like this on Wednesday night feels too good to be true. It’s also a huge barometer for Nashville.

LAFC vs. Sporting Kansas City – Wed., 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 48/50

I think this is legitimately the highest Plusometer score I’ve given that wasn’t even a little bit sarcastic. Apologies to the 50 given to D.C. vs Red Bulls.

This one has everything, though. The LA backdrop. Two of the top chance-creating teams in the West. Big Narrative implications as LAFC look to prove they belong in the top tier, all while Sporting KC try to jump to the top of the top tier. A high likelihood that we see a spectacular goal or two. An MLS After Dark number bump. And a look at an LAFC roster that’s suddenly shifting pretty quickly.

It’s fascinating. It’s energetic. It’s all the things you’d want from an MLS game.

Except for the part where I gave it a high Plusometer score because it’s almost certainly ending 0-0 now. I’m very, very sorry for that.