This Week in MLS - April 24, 2017

  • Five Under-20 World Cup hopefuls square off in Kansas City with tournament a month away
  • Atlanta's potent offense led by young attacking core
  • Designated Players showing their worth with 38% of league goals in 2017
  • Sweet Tweets
  • Week 9 Game Previews
Five Under-20 World Cup hopefuls square off in Kansas City with tournament a month away
The United States Under-20 Men’s National Team made history in March by winning its first ever CONCACAF U-20 Championship and qualifying for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea. With MLS players making up more than half the roster at the CONCACAF Championships with 11 of the 20 roster spots, players are using league play to further justify their inclusion for the U-20 World Cup set to begin on May 20. Five of those young MLS stars are set to square off this week when Sporting Kansas City hosts Real Salt Lake at Children’s Mercy Park on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE).
Real Salt Lake led all clubs with four players on the CONCACAF U-20 Championship roster, with defenders Danny Acosta and Justen Glad, midfielder Sebastian Saucedo and forward Brooks Lennon starring for the U.S. Acosta has started and played the full 90 minutes in each of RSL’s previous three contests, while Lennon has six straight 90-minute starts for the club, including scoring the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Rapids on April 15. Glad and Lennon were named to the CONCACAF U-20 Championship Best XI along with U-20 captain and Sporting Kansas City defender Erik Palmer-Brown, who also received the Golden Ball as the tournament’s top player.
With coach Tab Ramos once again expected to call upon an MLS heavy roster for the U-20 World Cup, the United States begins play on May 22 against Ecuador at Incheon Stadium (4 a.m. ET) followed by remaining Group E matches against Senegal on May 25 at Incheon Stadium, and against Saudi Arabia on May 28 at Daejeon World Cup Stadium.
Atlanta's potent offense led by young attacking core
Atlanta United burst onto the MLS scene with a fast-paced attack that seems to be picking up more speed. With an average age of goal scorers at 24.4 years old, Atlanta’s offense is leading the league in scoring with 17 goals, six more than any other team, and the club ranks second in scoring distribution with seven different players finding the back of the net. Strategizing for youth had last week’s scorers getting even younger with three players under the age of 24, including Hector Villalba (22), Yamil Asad (22), and Brandon Vazquez (18), contributing to a 3-1 defeat of Real Salt Lake. 
As Atlanta returns home from a four-game road swing to host D.C. United on Sunday, April 30 (3 p.m. ET, FS1/FOX Deportes), D.C. arrives with a 22-year-old difference-maker of their own, Luciano Acosta, whose game changing exploits include back to back game winners in each of D.C.’s two victories the season.
With youth set to sparkle for both red and black sides, which young players will have the greatest impact as the D.C. looks for a first win on the road and Atlanta hopes earn a second victory at home?
Designated Players showing their worth with 38% of league goals in 2017
Through the opening nine weeks and 79 matches of the 2017 MLS season, 38.4 percent of the goals have come from Designated Players – on track to be the largest single-season percentage of goals from Designated Players since the rule was instituted in 2007. So far this year, 30.3 percent of league assists have come from Designated Players – which would also be a single-season high.
The scoring trend continued over Week 8 MLS matches as 11 of the total 33 goals scored were recorded by DPs. 2015 Landon Donovan MLS MVP and Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco notched a brace in a 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire, which included this pinpoint-perfect golazo (WATCH) and skilled near-post strike (WATCH). Canadian rival Ignacio Piatti dazzled with an incredible solo effort to help the Montreal Impact reduce a three-goal deficit in a draw with the Philadelphia Union, while New York City FC’s David Villa (WATCH) and Real Salt Lake’s Albert Rusnak (WATCH) made it look all too easy. 
2017 Designated Player Goals and Assists 
As of April 24, 2017
Sweet Tweets Week 9 Game Previews
Friday, April 28
Houston Dynamo at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. (TSN 4/5)
  • Sebastian Giovinco scored a pair of goals – one directly from a free kick, the eighth in his three MLS seasons – as Toronto FC won for the first time this season at BMO Field in a 3-1 win against the Chicago Fire.
  • Erick Torres leads the MLS Golden Boot standings with seven goals, netting the opener in the Dynamo’s 2-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes last weekend. Torres has a goal and/or an assist in every game where the Dynamo have scored this season.
Saturday, April 29
Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Montreal Impact, 3 p.m. (CTV)
  • The Impact became the ninth team in MLS history to overturn a three-goal deficit and secure a draw, coming back from 3-0 down for a 3-3 draw with Philadelphia Union. Anthony Jackson-Hamel scored two goals; he has the game-winning and game-tying goals in Impact’s last two matches.
  • Fredy Montero scored for a second consecutive game, with three goals in that time, but Whitecaps FC suffered a third consecutive road loss in a 2-1 defeat at the Portland Timbers.
Colorado Rapids at Orlando City SC, 4 p.m. (UniMás)
  • Cyle Larin scored a pair of goals as Orlando City SC won their third game in a row and fifth out of six starts this season, in a 2-1 win against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. Of Larin’s 37 career goals in MLS, 10 have come on the road against the two New York teams.
  • The Rapids suffered a third loss in a row, falling 1-0 at Minnesota United FC; it’s the longest losing streak for Colorado since dropping four games in a row Sept. 19-Oct. 10, 2015.
Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.
  • The Red Bulls extended their shutout streak at Red Bull Arena to 367 minutes, still having not allowed a goal at home this season following their 2-0 win against Columbus Crew SC. Alex Muyl scored for a second consecutive match.
  • The Fire had their brief two-game winning streak put to an end in a 3-1 loss at Toronto FC. The Fire are winless away from Toyota Park (0-2-1); they have not lost in Bridgeview this year (3-0-1).
New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC, 7:30 p.m.
  • Crew SC suffered a second consecutive loss on the road, falling 2-0 at the New York Red Bulls. All three of Crew SC’s losses this season have come away from Mapfre Stadium.
  • David Villa scored for a third consecutive game, but NYCFC saw their home undefeated streak in league play come to an end after 11 games, falling 2-1 to Orlando City SC. It was their first regular-season defeat at Yankee Stadium since last June 2.
Portland Timbers at FC Dallas, 8 p.m.
  • FC Dallas remain the only undefeated team in Major League Soccer this season, getting the game’s only goal on a Maynor Figueroa header for a victory against Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Stadium. FC Dallas have not lost in Frisco in their last eight matches in all competitions.
  • The Timbers are tied for the most victories in MLS this season after winning their fifth contest of the season in a 2-1 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Darlington Nagbe had a goal and added an assist, while Diego Valeri also recorded an assist, now with five goals and four assists this season.
San Jose Earthquakes at Minnesota United FC, 8 p.m.
  • Minnesota United won a second consecutive game at TCF Bank Stadium and recorded a shutout for the first time in their MLS history. Miguel Ibarra scoring the game’s only goal for a victory against the Colorado Rapids.
  • The Quakes saw their road winless streak extended to nine matches, dating back to last Aug. 27, following a 2-0 defeat by the Houston Dynamo. The Quakes haven’t scored a goal on the road in the last 264 minutes of play.
Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m.
  • Real have a seven-game undefeated streak alive in the league series between the clubs, Sporting last winning a regular-season game against RSL in 2013.
  • RSL had their brief two-game winning streak put to an end in a 3-1 home loss to Atlanta United last weekend.
  • Sporting suffered a loss for the first time this season, falling 1-0 to FC Dallas on the road. SKC have still not allowed more than a single goal in any game, with three goals conceded for the season.
New England Revolution at Seattle Sounders FC, 10 p.m.
  • Clint Dempsey scored a goal and added an assist as Sounders FC won on the road for the first time this season, snapping a three-game winless run overall with a 3-0 victory against the LA Galaxy.
  • The Revolution had their winless run stretched to three games in a second consecutive draw at Gillette Stadium, a 2-2 result with D.C. United over the weekend. Lee Nguyen scored his fourth goal of the season, his marker snapping a 203-minute goalless drought for the Revolution
Philadelphia Union at LA Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.
  • Union remain winless on the season despite putting an end to a four-game losing skid, the Montréal Impact becoming the ninth team in MLS history to overcome a three-goal deficit to gain a draw in a 3-3 result. Roland Alberg netted a pair of goals for Union, while C.J. Sapong added a goal and an assist.
  • The Galaxy suffered their third loss in four starts this season at StubHub Center, matching their biggest home defeat ever in a 3-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC.
Sunday, April 30
D.C. United at Atlanta United, 3 p.m. (FS1)
  • Hector Villalba scored for a third consecutive game as Atlanta United snapped a three-game winless run, gaining a 3-1 win against Real Salt Lake. Atlanta United completed their four-game road swing with a 1-1-2 record.
  • D.C. United had their road winless run extended to four games, despite reaching a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution. Sebastian Le Toux scored his first goal since moving to D.C.