What you need to know


A whole bunch of games today as Rivalry Week presented by Continental Tire kicks off. Check the full schedule here.

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A few players to watch in the weekend that will be

Big games are the norm over the next couple of weeks as Rivalry Week presented by Continental Tires rolls on. Here are a few players who might step up when their fans need them most.

Pedro de la Vega - Seattle Sounders

He's back! Maybe! Kind of!

The folks in Seattle reported DP winger Pedro de la Vega participated in training this week. It’s unlikely he starts, but an appearance off the bench feels plausible. Even if it’s only for a few moments, de la Vega’s return will be a breath of fresh air for the Sounders. We only got 89 minutes of data on him before his injury, but you didn’t need long to recognize the dynamism de la Vega has on the ball.

“Dynamic” is not how you’d describe the rest of the Seattle attack so far. They desperately need de la Vega back and looking like himself as soon as possible. We may get a taste of that this weekend. And it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make an instant impact in the Sounders’ biggest game of the season so far.

Christian Benteke - D.C. United

D.C. United are headed to Atlanta tonight looking for their first road win of the season.

They’ve been unlucky not to grab one so far. Like Atlanta, their underlying numbers are far better than their record. Both teams could use a lift. Whether or not they get it likely comes down to Christian Benteke. Benteke has immediately benefited from new head coach Troy Lesesne’s game model of “see ball, get ball, kick ball to Benteke.” He has eight goals in nine starts this season in large part because he’s hilariously, impossibly good in the air.

A friend of The Daily Kickoff named Cam pointed out just how good Benteke has been earlier this week when he pulled Benteke’s “aerial duels” stats from FBref. The second-best player in the air this year is Kevin Long, who’s won 47 aerial duels. Benteke is first with 124 aerial duels won are you kidding me.

It’s a really bad time for Atlanta United to be missing their 6-foot-3 DP center back due to injury. Benteke could change tonight’s match at a moment’s notice against Atlanta’s duo of backup center backs.

Martín Ojeda - Orlando City

Probably. This really should have read, “Whoever gets thrown into a No. 10 role for Orlando City tonight.” But for the last couple of games, that’s been Martin Ojeda.

Ojeda and Orlando aren’t living up to expectations. Ojeda, a DP, arrived last season. He put up six goals and 10 assists on the season, but didn’t claim a starting job in the midst of Orlando’s run to a 63-point season. This year, he’s made seven starts, but he’s yet to score and only has two assists on the year. The Lions have looked to him the last two games to fill the creative void they have in the center of the pitch, but Ojeda didn’t produce much of anything in back-to-back losses.

On a related note, the Lions are sitting 14th in the East and have a -7 goal differential. They’re tied for second-to-last in the East in goals scored. Someone has to step up and start making an impact as a No. 10. If it’s not going to be Ojeda tonight against Philadelphia, then you have to wonder how much time he’s got left as a DP in Orlando. If it’s not going to anyone, you have to wonder how much longer before we officially hit the panic button on Orlando.

Literally anyone who can put the ball in the back of the net - Houston Dynamo FC

We’re sitting on about 283 MLS minutes without a goal for Houston. It doesn’t matter who it is or how, they need someone to break a drought tonight against a Sporting KC defense that’s been one of the worst in the league.

Emeka Eneli - Real Salt Lake

There might technically be more important players in tonight’s huge Western Conference matchup between first-place RSL and third-place LA. But it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Eneli is one of the more enjoyable players to watch for RSL right now. Chicho Arango will rightfully get all the love, but the 24-year-old Eneli has taken over a starting role in midfield after earning his first MLS minutes last season. He’s a press-resistant player who helps guide the ship for RSL by connecting passes and carrying the ball forward. If RSL are going to keep things steady against an LA side that tilts towards chaos, Eneli will play a small but still notable role.

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