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Back at it tomorrow

A full weekend slate starts tomorrow. Check the full schedule here.

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A double-game week means a double-Watchgridometer week. Busy times around here.

The Plusometer is a scientific way to quantify the potential watchability of any given game on Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, but can and will also be used for all other channels. Using the elements of "Potential for very good/entertainingly bad soccer," "Chances created," "Narrative," "Aesthetics" and "Totally subjective bonus points," I assign each element a score out of 10 and each game a score out of 50. Twenty-five is average potential. Fifty is greatest game of all-time potential. Yes, I do calculate each game. No, I don't know why.

We also add a “Playoffocity” value to each game. The closer to 50, the closer it is to a winner gets in/loser goes home game on Decision Day. The closer a game's total score is to 100, the closer it is to being basically last year’s MLS Cup.

Tier One: The delightful hum of a soccer broadcast on television
Soccer is nice to have on. And sometimes you look up and see something fun.

D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 22/50 | Playoffocity: 25/50

For me, the Red Bulls are dead. I can say that because I’ve been pushing them as a probable Audi MLS Cup Playoffs team, and all they did is keep hurting me over and over again. They haven’t gotten it together in 29 games, and I don’t know why they would start now with five games left.

Meanwhile, D.C. should feel a whole lot of urgency here. Too many teams are too close to pushing them out of ninth place. I’m not a tactical genius, but might I recommend starting Ted Du-KiPietro?

NYCFC vs. Toronto FC

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 24/50 | Playoffocity: 22/50

NYCFC scored more than two goals in a game! And against Orlando! It’s almost enough to turn a man into a believer. Almost. I’m still very skeptical of their ability to put together a competent attack twice in one week. There’s a lot on the table if they can, though. They’re just two points out of ninth with four games to go. And one of those games is this one. Against Toronto. A bad soccer team. If they can’t score here, they don’t deserve a Wild Card spot.

Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 29/50 | Playoffocity: 20/50

The Plusometer score is only this high because Portland are quietly turning into one of the best stories in the league. The post-Gio Savarese era has been wildly successful so far. The Timbers and Evander have dragged themselves back into the playoff race and have a realistic chance at avoiding the Wild Card at this point. Colorado might be in trouble here.

Austin FC vs. LA Galaxy

WATCH: Apple TV - Free, FS1 | Sunday, 9:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 21/50 | Playoffocity: 18/50

Both teams need a miracle run to a playoff spot. It’s gotta start here or it won’t start at all.

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.

FC Cincinnati vs. Charlotte FC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 28/50 | Playoffocity: 27/50

Charlotte have made a habit of giant killing lately. Or at least giant maiming. They’ve been able to at least put a scare into some of the league’s best teams since Leagues Cup, taking a win over LAFC and drawing against Orlando, Nashville, D.C. and Philadelphia. Those draws could have been a lot more if Charlotte had been able to hold onto leads. The Crown held an advantage in the 88th minute or later against Orlando, Nashville and Philly. They can make life uncomfortable for Cincy in this one; they just have to remember if you stab a giant in the toe, the giant is going to start trying to stomp on you.

Atlanta United vs. CF Montréal

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 30/50 | Playoffocity: 39/50

Atlanta United at home right now feels like one of the most entertaining products in the league. CF Montréal on the road feels like… a team that really, really needs to figure out how to get a point on the road because they’ve only taken eight points from 14 road games this season. If they can’t figure it out this weekend, they’re in genuine danger of dropping below the line over the last few weeks of the season. Montréal need a special performance here.

Chicago Fire FC vs. New England Revolution

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 22/50 | Playoffocity: 39/50

The Fire didn’t inspire a ton of confidence that a playoff run is on the way in their 3-0 beatdown loss to Columbus midweek and… uh… also the last like 14 seasons. They are technically still three points out of ninth with a game in hand, though. And they’ve been gifted a Revs team that just face-planted against Colorado after a tumultuous few weeks to say the least. Not all is lost for New England, though. Second place in the East is still very much in play if they can get it together over the last six games.

FC Dallas vs. Columbus Crew 

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 36/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

Dallas are right on the edge of the playoff line while the Crew are right on the edge of the top four in the East. But even if there weren’t playoff stakes, this would have the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the week. We know about the Crew’s tendency to play 5-4 games, but Dallas have their moments of allowing things to go off the rails from time to time as well. They at least have the firepower to keep up if it happens. Cucho and Diego Rossi versus Jesús Ferreira and Alan Velasco should be a blast.

Minnesota United vs. St. Louis CITY SC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 34/50 | Playoffocity: 27/50

Oh boy! A home game for Minnesota! I wonder what the most frustrating team in the league is going to do?!?!!

(Probably lose for reasons and stay stuck below the playoff line despite having great underlying numbers and attacking talent, but there’s still a chance this one is really fun.)

Sporting KC vs. Houston Dynamo FC

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 8:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 28/50 | Playoffocity: 25/50

SKC’s playoff dreams likely died with this week’s loss to Nashville. There’s still hope, though. Not much, but some. The bad news is they have to find hope against a Houston team that’s squeezing the life out of opponents for 90 minutes at a time as of late. The Dynamo could potentially end the weekend second in the West.

Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps 

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 9:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 29/50 | Playoffocity: 40/50

I don’t know what to think of RSL anymore, but my general tendency is to think of a cartoon character repeatedly struggling to make it through a field of assorted rakes that they can’t help but step on. It’s been rough lately. Still, this is a genuine six-pointer between the fifth and sixth-place teams in the West. The Whitecaps finally took a loss on their seven-game road trip earlier this week but are still a very dangerous road team.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Nashville SC

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass | Saturday, 10:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 30/50 | Playoffocity: 33/50

The Quakes have a few teams coming up fast behind them in the standings and need to right the ship before it’s too late and they’re wondering how they missed out on the playoffs. It won’t be easy to do that against one of the league’s best teams. My advice is to mark that Mukhtar guy, but that seems easier said than done.

Tier Three: The satisfaction of expectations being met
Sometimes you want the best and you get it.

Philadephia Union vs. LAFC

WATCH: Apple TV - Free | Saturday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 45/50 | Playoffocity: 43/50

Oh man.

This one kind of snuck up on me. We just get a late-season MLS Cup/CCL semifinal rematch? As a treat? This feels extremely generous. I’m not going to complain, though. Beyond the obvious reasons, both teams will be looking to ruin the other team emotionally and physically, and both are jostling for key playoff positioning in their conference. Neither team is guaranteed a home playoff spot at this point.

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami

WATCH: Apple TV - MLS Season Pass, FS1| Sunday, 7:30 pm ET
Plusometer Score: 42/50 | Playoffocity: 38/50

No Messi and Alba for this one, but that doesn’t make it any less critical for the Herons. They have six games left to close a five-point gap and their in-state rivals are going to do everything in their power to make sure that doesn’t happen. Orlando’s crowd should be at their rowdiest for this one, and the Lions should be eager for revenge after Leagues Cup. Plus, they’d probably like a little more recognition as the best team in Florida. There is a 19-point gap here, after all.

Other Things

LA Galaxy's Sharp named Player of the Matchday: Billy Sharp, acquired last month as a free agent, scored three times as the Galaxy turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory iced by Diego Fagúndez's winner. The result keeps them within five points of the ninth-and-final Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs spot in the Western Conference with six games remaining.

The Reading Rainbow
Full Time

Good luck out there. Please attend the Pup Cup. I’m gonna be real mad if you do not attend the Pup Cup.