David Villa - New York City FC - celebrates a goal against Colorado - close-up - May 19, 2018

“Where’s the Armchair Analyst? You’re not Matt Doyle.”

I’m not, and I won’t pretend to be. Frankly, I don’t know how Doyle does this every single week. There’s a lot of pressure, and it is kinda exhausting. Scroll to the bottom for your favorite MLS analyst’s whereabouts.

In the meantime, let’s dig into Week 25.

Saturday Slate

Seattle Sounders vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN)

4 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

August 16, 2018

No doubt, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic could sit this one out. Check the quote here. Even if he rides the pine, there are goals in this game, on average 3.6 every time the Galaxy take the field, most in MLS. Given the current state of the Western Conference the three points at stake are huge for both teams.

The Seattle side is obvious. They’ve won five straight games but, thanks to the fact they won all of four times in league play before their current run, still sit outside the playoff field looking in. The Sounders have never won six straight in MLS, and this looks like a golden opportunity with a potentially Zlatan-less LA team coming to CenturyLink.

The Galaxy side comes from the mouth of, who else, Zlatan, who said it best after LA dropped four points in four days by blowing a couple 2-1 leads at home to settle for a pair of home draws with Minnesotaand Colorado, both below them in the table.

“Everybody talk about the playoffs,” he said. “The way we play now, we don't even deserve playoffs.”

Thanks to Bobby Warshaw’s beautiful mind, I’m thinking about this game this way:

If you were to seed the top eight teams in the Western Conference and put on a single-elimination tournament starting this weekend, who would you bet on and in what order? Here’s where I stand.

  1. Seattle Sounders
  2. LAFC
  3. Portland Timbers
  4. Sporting KC
  5. FC Dallas
  6. LA Galaxy
  7. Vancouver Whitecaps
  8. Real Salt Lake

That’s another way of saying I think it’ll be six straight for the Sounders, and every team above the playoff line ought to be concerned about what another late-summer hot streak (in which it doesn’t seem like they’re actually playing all that well… yet) means for the stretch run and beyond.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC

7 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

If you’re going to watch one game on Saturday night, make it this one. Both teams want the ball, and both teams know what to do with it once they get it. Get ready for 90 minutes of pretty soccer.

The Union have won two in a row just once all season. With NYCFC in town, they’ve got a chance to do that while putting some much-needed distance between themselves and the rest of the playoff chasers in the East. Bobby loves watching Philly, but aesthetics must also come with results. Time to get one against an elite team.

NYCFC, meanwhile, have given up seven goals in their last three games. The only win in that stretch came against 10-man, Jozy-less Toronto FC. Needless to say, Dome Torrent isn’t particularly happy with how his team is playing, and he isn’t afraid to say it. Thankfully for them, David Villa is back is help lead the push for the Supporters’ Shield and a CCL berth.

This is a Decision Day preview, and a damn good one.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. New York Red Bulls

7 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Let’s chat about the player both teams wanted, but neither may be able to keep.

That’d be Tim Parker, who went from SuperDraft pick to rising star in Vancouver and now missing piece to, depending on what happens this offseason, missing man in New York. In case you didn’t know, Parker is currently in the final year of his contract. He could sign a pre-contract with a club outside MLS at any time.

But he hasn’t, which means the Red Bulls have some hope that they’ll be able to keep the Parker-Aaron Long partnership together long-term. If RBNY can get the Long Island native re-upped, that’d give the club a pair of 25-year-old centerbacks and arguably the league’s best central defensive pairing for years to come. If they can’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

Anyway, Parker returns to BC Place at the head (PPG truther here) of the Supporters’ Shield race. The ‘Caps, meanwhile, just took a beating from TFC midweek in the second and decisive leg of the Canadian Championship final. The Red Bulls are chasing something bigger than the playoffs. Vancouver are just trying to get back there for the second straight season.

Some questions ahead of this game…

  • Will the dominant version of Alphonso Davies show up after returning from injury?
  • If Davies isn’t dominant, how will Vancouver generate scoring opportunities? New York aren’t likely to shoot themselves in the foot the way Portland did.
  • How will Chris Armas configure the Red Bulls press, considering the ‘Caps figure to go direct?
  • Will Armas rotate the squad given the midweek Heineken Rivalry Week matchup at Yankee Stadium?

Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire

7:30 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

The Impact are holding on by a thread in the Eastern Conference, while the Fire are in a full-on, seven-game-losing-streak nosedive. Playoff teams win games like this. Do either of these teams belong in the playoffs? That’s very much TBD.

Because Doyle started it and Nacho Piatti can never get enough love, here are my top five wingers in MLS in 2018:

  1. Carlos Vela
  2. Ignacio Piatti
  3. Alphonso Davies
  4. Yamil Asad
  5. Romell Quioto

Yes, we may disagree about the definition of winger. Your list goes in the comment section below.

FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United

8 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Any game (hopefully) featuring Darwin Quintero is worth your time.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers

8:30 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Can Krisztian Nemeth thrive as a No. 9 for Kansas City? Guess we’re about to find out.

Either way, the Timbers didn’t deal well with D.C.’s attack on Wednesday, which featured a No. 9 who preferred to drop a little deeper, a bunch of slashers with vision for the final pass in support and two athletic, energetic central midfielders. That sounds a lot like Sporting KC.

This one could shuffle the hierarchy out West.

Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake

9 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Every home game from here on our is a must-win for the Dynamo. Fortunately, Real Salt Lake are verified patsies away from Rio Tinto Stadium (1-9-2), which they proved midweek against LAFC.

If the Dynamo win, their playoff hopes live on. If they lose their fifth straight, there’s always the U.S. Open Cup final.

On the flip side, RSL have lost to Minnesota and LAFC and drawn Colorado, San Jose and Montreal in their last six games. The lone win in that stretch was against Chicago, losers of seven straight, thanks to Damir Kreilach.

Those early-July wins against Sporting KC and FC Dallas are looking pretty fluky right about now, and Vancouver and Seattle are breathing down their necks for the final playoff spot. This would be a good time to pick up a result of any kind. The schedule only gets harder from here.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Toronto FC

10 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

I’m guessing you saw those Jozy Altidore transfer rumors.

For my money, he’s Toronto’s best player, and they’ll be an MLS Cup contender for as long as he’s in The Six. Not having him this weekend makes that red card against NYCFC a potentially six-point blow that the Reds simply can’t afford.

Given each team’s respective place in the table, this is a must-win for Toronto. They’re still the most talented team in the league, top to bottom. As we’ve found out, talent can only get you so far. They’re better than the teams competing for the five and six spots in the East, but the defending champs better hurry up and stack points or it’s going to be too late.

Soccer Sunday

Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC

4 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Is this where I go ahead and #BaeranteeJoesf Martinez ties the single-season goal record this weekend? Because that’s what’s going to happen.

You should watch this game for three reasons…

  • Josef accomplishing the inevitable, and maybe even breaking the record … in August (!!!).
  • To see whether 2018 Orlando City Justin Meram or 2014-2017 Columbus Crew SCJustin Meram shows up. This is an opportunity to prove he’s back where he belongs on a big stage.
  • Both these teams have distinct identities and play attractive, attacking soccer. What more could you want from a Sunday afternoon?

D.C. United vs. New England (FS1)

7:30 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Don’t tune in for soccer broadcasting history. Tune in because Lisa Byington (play-by-play), Danielle Slaton (analyst) and Katie Witham (sideline) are knowledgeable, engaging and good at what they do. You can listen to ExtraTime Radio’s interview with Witham for more on Sunday’s all-female FS1 broadcast and the art of sideline reporting below.

There may not be a better game to call this weekend than this one, a six-pointer in every sense of the cliche.

A D.C. United win would pull them within two points of New England with three games in hand on the Revs. Depending on what Montreal (vs. CHI) and Philly (vs. NYC) pull in from Week 25, Señor Wayne and the boys could find themselves within three points of the final playoff spot come Monday with a minimum of two games in hand on the rest of the field with nine more home games remaining. Prettttttttayyyyyy good.

The Revs desperately need all three points to stave off the collapse that’s currently staring them in the face. Three facts for you…

  • For the first time since Week 3, New England find themselves below the playoff line
  • The Revs are 1-4-4 since beating the Red Bulls on June 2
  • Six of their next eight games, are away from home, where they’ve won once all season

Those aren’t tidings of comfort and joy for Brad Friedel. Then again, New England didn’t play midweek, and ought to be able to unleash their press (and perhaps new center back Michael Mancienne) against some tired D.C. legs.

It probably won’t matter because Wayne Rooney, Lucho Acosta and the rest of D.C.’s suddenly swashbuckling squad are on a heater right now. Belief is contagious, and everything seems to be working for the Black-and-Red right now. Tell me why they can’t make the playoffs...

If you said, “Because Rooney, sans preseason, can’t possibly play at this level for the next two months in swampy D.C.,” you might have a point.

August 16, 2018

My retort would be that, other than two trips to New York, Ben Olsen and Rooney will be able to manage his load from the comforts of home. Play games, rest and repeat for the better part of two months, just as he would during a multi-front European campaign. The more wins D.C. pile up, the more Rooney can rest.

“I think I’ve been in this situation many times,” Rooney told reporters this week. “It’s probably more normal for me to do that. You calm down a little bit with your training but you make sure you’re ready for matchday, and that’s what I’ve done the last couple days.”

Colorado Rapids vs. LAFC

10 pm ET | Match Preview | TV & streaming info

Math has never been Doyle’s strong suit, but I’m going to go ahead and #Baerantee he’s right here — and not just because Christian Ramirez bagged two in his first start in black and gold.

Ramirez has better attacking players around him in SoCal, figures to hold onto the starting job as long as he’s scoring regardless of the status of Adama Diomande’s hamstring — and LAFC have a Charmin-soft schedule compared to Minnesota’s prolonged (and probably season-dooming) road trip. I bet he keeps scoring.

Colorado aren’t pushovers anymore, though, so who knows?

One More Thing to Ponder

Live look at Matt Doyle in Cabo...

Have a good weekend everybody!