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What you need to know

11 games today

Highlights include…well, pretty much every game today, but keep a close eye on the Hudson River Derby at 1 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+, Atlanta United and Philadelphia at 3:30 pm ET on UniMás, TUDN, and Twitter, Austin hosting Nashville at 9 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+, and RSL against FC Cincinnati at 9:30 pm ET on MLS LIVE on ESPN+. Check out the full schedule here.

Canada name 27-man roster for friendlies vs. Qatar, Uruguay

With the FIFA 2022 World Cup in Qatar roughly two months away, Canada men’s national team head coach John Herdman has named a 27-man roster that’ll play two friendlies in Europe later this month. See the full roster here.

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Five games that we may be talking about on Decision Day

There’s a lot to sift through today — 11 games and a large chunk of them could be games we look back on a few weeks from now on Decision Day and say “Wow, that game meant a lot, didn’t it?” So let’s be a little more selective with our Saturday preview and pick out the games most likely to have an impact down the line.

NYCFC vs. New York Red Bulls

  • WHEN: 1 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • What we might be saying after Decision Day…

It was pretty obvious after the Hudson River Derby that NYCFC were going to lose out.”

Remember, we’re dealing with hypotheticals here. Just imagine NYCFC get run off the field at Yankee Stadium of all places today. After that, they face Orlando at Red Bull Arena and then head to Atlanta for a Decision Day matchup that may just end up determining both teams’ playoff fates. Losing out would leave NYCFC on 46 points and, honestly, that might be either where the playoff line stops or even a point or two below.

Now, if they come out and look a lot more like the team that showed up for the Campeones Cup and survive a Red Bulls press made even more suffocating by having to cover less ground, then all of the above is a wash and they won’t have to worry about the playoffs and may even be locked into a home game. They may even ride the momentum of a trophy win and a big rivalry matchup into the kind of postseason run we saw last season. They still have the talent. But considering they’ve lost seven of their last 10 in MLS, it’s hard to envision that right now.

Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia Union

  • WHEN: 3:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • What we might be saying after Decision Day…

“That win against Philadelphia made the difference for Atlanta.”

Obviously, there’s a reverse side to each of these. And the reverse side of this one is the more likely outcome. Philadelphia are the better team, they’re on the verge of the Supporters’ Shield and they’ve tortured Atlanta for a while now.

There’s a weird energy around Atlanta United right now though. It feels like things are clicking and maybe even moving towards something special. At the very least, it’s proof of concept for next year, but at the most it’s a sign they’re about to make an improbable run to a playoff spot. They’ll likely need at least six points to make it happen, but nine points would almost definitely be enough. If they can beat Philadelphia today, it feels like they’re going to pull this off. If they don’t, it’s not over. They’ll just need a lot more luck.

Orlando City SC vs. Toronto FC

  • WHEN: 7:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • What we might be saying after Decision Day…

“Thank goodness the Lions pulled that out against Toronto.”

This seems like a game that sets up well for Orlando. They’ll be able to hit in transition and as long as they survive a couple of world-class moments from the Italian national team, they should be able to outscore Toronto. Should.

That being said, it’s fair to worry about the Lions right now. They had their big emotional high with the US Open Cup win and then came immediately crashing down to Earth with losses to Philly and Atlanta. All year, their underlying numbers have suggested they were maybe “grinding out wins” to the point where it could more accurately be described as “getting lucky.” It’s possible they could be regressing to the mean at the worst possible time.

After this game against Toronto, they play three playoff-shaping matches. They travel to NYCFC, travel to Inter Miami and host Columbus. That’s a rough stretch to close the year. Especially considering all three of those teams will have their backs somewhere near or all the way up against the wall. A win today in their easiest remaining game might make all the difference in the end. At that point, a draw or two the rest of the way might be enough.

Real Salt Lake vs. FC Cincinnati

  • WHEN: 9:30 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • What we might be saying after Decision Day…

“It’s crazy to think how worried we were about the outcome of this game.”

On the surface, this one feels big. And it very well might be in the end. After all, we’re talking about sixth-place in the East versus seventh-place in the West. Weirdly enough though, my gut is saying it might end up not meaning much. At least in the grand scheme of who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t.

No matter what the outcome, RSL still have to face eighth-place LA and sixth-place Portland in their final two games. A win today would obviously provide a bit more cushion, but wins against LA and Portland (or maybe even just LA) would still be enough to get RSL into the playoffs.

No matter what the outcome, Cincy close the year with Chicago and D.C. United. And six more points will almost certainly be enough to get them over the line.

I’ll frame it this way: I think both teams will end up safe in the end. The winner of this one will just be ultra-safe. Doesn’t that make fans of both teams feel bet--oh ok, I see you’re still panicking, got it, great, have fun out there today.

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Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC

  • WHEN: 10 pm ET
  • WATCH ON: MLS LIVE on ESPN+
  • What we might be saying after Decision Day…

“So that ended a 13-year streak, huh?”

This one is simple. Seattle have to win today. They don’t make the playoffs otherwise. They’re four points out of seventh place with four games to play. A draw and an RSL loss keeps them close enough, but a loss very likely wraps things up. Especially considering they have to jump both RSL and the Galaxy.

If the Whitecaps put together the kind of performance they pulled out against LA on Wednesday, then that might be it for Seattle. If Seattle win easily though and catch a couple of breaks elsewhere…well, fate could only hold them off for so long, right?

And other things

USA release Under-20 roster for 2022 Revelations Cup

Fresh off head coach Mikey Varas’ team winning a third straight 2022 Concacaf U-20 Championship, the United States have announced their 20-player roster that’ll compete this month in the 2022 Revelations Cup in Mexico City, Mexico. See the full roster here.

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