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This Week in MLS – September 11, 2017

This Week in MLS – September 11, 2017
  • Supporters’ Shield, MLS records within reach for history-seeking Toronto FC
  • Atlanta United aim for record attendance against Orlando City SC’s record breaker
  • MVP race heats up with Villa looking to claim his second consecutive award
  • Kamaras controlling course for Crew SC, Revs in heated East race
  • MLS Roster Freeze on horizon this Friday as teams lock in 30-man rosters
  • Sweet Tweets
  • Week 28 Game Previews
 
Supporters’ Shield, MLS records within reach for history-seeking Toronto FC
Toronto FC is on pace to have one of the most dominant seasons in MLS history with a chance to break multiple records entering their final six matches of the season. Winners of five straight matches and undefeated in their last 10 overall, TFC looks to take one step closer to history on Saturday when facing the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center (10:30 p.m. ET, TSN1/3/4, MLS LIVE).
 
With nine points separating them from the next closest team in the standings, Toronto aims to become the first Canadian club to capture the Supporters’ Shield in MLS history. Along with Sporting Kansas City, the Reds are one of only two teams in the league this season with an undefeated home record. Currently sitting with 59 points (17-3-8 overall record, 2.11 points per game), TFC is chasing a pair of the 1998 LA Galaxy’s single-season records of 68 points and 2.13 points per game. The Reds are also in contention to set the mark for fewest losses in an MLS season (four losses, set on three different occasions) and most wins in the post-shootout era (20 wins, 2014 Seattle Sounders FC).
 
Leading the pack for Toronto’s stellar season is midfielder Victor Vazquez, who tops the league with 15 assists to go along with six goals after registering a goal and an assist in Toronto’s 4-0 victory over San Jose on Saturday. Also starring was U.S. Men’s National Team forward Jozy Altidore, who scored a brace on the same day his girlfriend, tennis star Sloane Stephens, captured her first major title after winning the U.S. Open.
 
Atlanta United aim for record attendance against Orlando City SC’s record breaker
Still reeling from Sunday’s 3-0, home-christening victory over FC Dallas, Atlanta United will be looking to reignite the fireworks that drew more than 45,000 fans to their first match at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium last week. With momentum at an all-time high leading into a stretch of five consecutive home matches, Atlanta United will look to replicate last week’s performance to remain on the cusp of a history-making season both on and off the field. 
 
Sitting firmly in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with two games in hand and three points clear of the seventh-place Montreal Impact, Atlanta will lean heavily on key internationals Josef Martinez (Venezuela), Miguel Almirón (Paraguay), and Hector “Tito” Villalba (Argentina) to make the first inaugural season playoff debut since Seattle Sounders FC accomplished the feat in 2007. Tallying a collective 28 goals among them, this trio of South American stars could be the difference that keeps Atlanta within reach.  
 
Off the field, Atlanta United is averaging more than 40,000 fans per game, and will be aiming for the League’s single-game attendance record this week, when Atlanta hosts Orlando City SC on Saturday, September 16 (3:55 p.m. ET, Univision / facebook.com).
 
On the opposing side and with a record breaker of its own, Orlando City has found its way back into the win column after forward Cyle Larin triumphantly wrote his name on the scoresheet and in the history books. Leading the club to a 2-1 victory over D.C. United last week, Larin found the back of the net for his 43rd career finish, becoming the Lions’ all-time leading goalscorer. As the only rookie to net two hat tricks in a single season (2015), Larin has been a show stopper from the beginning, and he could be the answer to sweet victory over a freshly brewing rival. 
 
MVP race heats up with Villa looking to claim his second consecutive award
With six weeks remaining in the 2017 MLS regular season, the race for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award is heating up in dramatic fashion. New York City FC forward David Villa looks to become the first back-to-back MVP winner in MLS history but faces stiff competition across the league.
 
Villa has 19 goals and nine assists this season, and with one more score, would become only the second player in MLS history to register multiple 20-goal campaigns, and first to do so in consecutive seasons. Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Valeri looks to spoil Villa’s repeat campaign after scoring in his seventh consecutive match, tying the MLS mark. The Argentine has 17 goals and nine assists this season for the Western Conference-leading Timbers, while Chicago Fire forward Nemanja Nikolić also sits tied for second in the Golden Boot race with Valeri at 17 goals.
 
Three Canada-based players firmly in the MVP discussion are Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti and Toronto FC teammates Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez. Piatti and Giovinco both rank in the top five league wide with 15 goals apiece, while Vazquez leads MLS with 15 assists this season.
 
A late-season hot streak by any number of players could make the already-crowded MVP race all that more difficult to decide.
 
Kamaras controlling course for Crew SC, Revs in heated East race
Only nine points separate fourth through ninth place in the heated Eastern Conference race, and for two clubs within this margin, the play of their respective Kamara striker will play a heavy role in a potential postseason.
 
MLS veteran and Sierra Leone native Kei Kamara has been in strong form for a New England Revolution side (10-12-5, 35 points) that enters the week in eighth place and is hoping to make a case for one of six East spots in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. Norwegian Ola Kamara of Columbus Crew SC has reached 15 goals for a second straight season as Columbus (13-12-4, 43 points) holds onto fourth in the standings.
 
Since mid-July, Kei Kamara has scored seven goals over an eight-game span, highlighted by his first career hat trick on Sept. 2 during a 4-0 victory against Orlando City SC. Kamara’s 11-goal output ties for the second-most goals in a single season during his career, and he is just three away from reaching 100 goals scored in MLS regular season play. Kamara and Lee Nguyen have been the Revs’ engine, with Nguyen notching his ninth goal of the season during a 1-0 win against the Montreal Impact while matching an MLS record with a four-assist game against Orlando. New England has a stiff road test this week with a Wednesday match against Atlanta United FC and a Saturday contest at Sporting Kansas City.
 
Ola Kamara has been as steady as they come with six goals over the past seven matches, including a tally in three consecutive games – most recently a first-half stoppage time equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw against Sporting. Kamara is in a four-way tie for fourth in the MLS Golden Boot race and is one away from matching his 16-goal barrage during the 2016 campaign. Thanks to Kamara’s efforts, Crew SC are now unbeaten in five straight (3-0-2) as they head to BC Place to face the Western Conference’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday.
 
Can the Kamaras sustain these trends during crunch time?
 
MLS Roster Freeze on horizon this Friday as teams lock in 30-man rosters
The 2017 MLS Roster Freeze takes effect at 5 p.m. ET this Friday as teams submit their final 30-man rosters, which cannot be changed through the day after 2017 MLS Cup. Following the freeze, no alterations can be made other than in cases of Extreme Hardship (MLS Roster Rules and Regulations), and MLS teams can still sign players from their USL affiliate to Short-Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts), the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and exhibition matches.
 
The window of further transaction activity is quickly closing. Teams such as D.C. United have been incredibly active in retooling their roster. The midfield transfers of Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse and Zoltan Stieber in early August were a prelude to a season-high three-game winning streak in the second half of the month. Seattle Sounders FC, who are challenging for the top spot in the Western Conference, also made several late moves, including the Aug. 7 return of Lamar Neagle. Neagle rewarded the Sounders with a clutch last-minute equalizer to help Seattle to a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy on Sunday.
 
Could more pivotal late-season moves be on the horizon?
 
Sweet Tweets
 
Week 28 Game Previews
 
Wednesday, Sept. 13
New England Revolution at Atlanta United, 7 p.m. ET
  • Atlanta United put an end to their four-game winless run, opening Mercedes-Benz Stadium in style with a 3-0 win against FC Dallas. The win extended ATLUTD’s home undefeated streak to seven games (6-0-1), dating back to May 20, including the final six matches played at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
  • Josef Martínez scored his 10th goal of the season, his first since July 4, making a third consecutive start after missing three games through injury. Martínez has joined Hector Villalba as 10-goal scorers for Atlanta United this season.
  • The Revolution won their second consecutive match, defeating the Montréal Impact by the game’s lone goal at Gillette Stadium. It was a fifth consecutive home victory for the Revolution, and they recorded a shutout in a fourth consecutive home match. New England has now gone 371 consecutive minutes since their last goal conceded at Gillette Stadium. The club record is five consecutive shutouts on their home ground, set April 9-May 8, 2005.
  • Lee Nguyen scored his ninth goal of the season; he has been involved in each of the Revolution’s past five goals over the last two games, with a goal and four assists.
 
Minnesota United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 10 p.m. ET (TSN)
  • The teams are meeting for the second time. Goals from MNUFC’s Jerôme Thiesson and Francisco Calvo in the second half canceled out first-half tallies from Whitecaps FC’s Cristian Techera and Tony Tchani, leaving the teams in a 2-2 draw on June 24 at TCF Bank Stadium.
  • Whitecaps FC won their second consecutive match, defeating Real Salt Lake 3-2 at BC Place. It’s the third time this season the ‘Caps have won back-to-back games; they have not won three games in a row in league play since May 7-14, 2016.
  • Minnesota United FC gained a second consecutive result, reaching a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday evening.
  • Ethan Finlay scored the lone MNUFC goal, his second goal with the club. Since his arrival from Columbus Crew SC, Finlay has been involved in all four Minnesota United goals over his three starts, with two goals and two assists.
 
Saturday, Sept. 16
Orlando City SC at Atlanta United, 4 p.m. ET (Univisión)
  • The teams are meeting for the third time, having faced each other in a home-and-home set over eight days July 21-29. Hector Villalba scored the game’s only goal for an Atlanta United win at Orlando City Stadium in the first matchup. Then Villalba hit for the stoppage-time equalizer after Kaká had given OCSC a first-half lead, leaving the teams in a 1-1 deadlock at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
  • Miguel Almíron now has 11 assists for the season, with seven assists in the past 10 games, after recording two assists in the win vs. FC Dallas. It was the second two-assist game in his MLS career; he is tied for fifth in the MLS assist standings.
  • Orlando City SC snapped their club-record eight-game winless streak, defeating D.C. United 2-1 at RFK Stadium. The victory also snapped a three-game losing streak and a four-game winless run on their travels for Orlando City SC.
  • Cyle Larin scored his 11th goal of the season, his second in the past three matches and third over the past six games.
 
Columbus Crew SC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 7 p.m. ET (TSN)
  • Crew SC extended their undefeated run to five games but saw their two-game winning run put to an end, reaching a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City at Mapfre Stadium.
  • Ola Kamara scored for a third consecutive match, now with six goals in his past seven games, hitting for the lone Crew SC tally. Kamara has 15 goals for the season, now sitting in a four-way tie for fourth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings. Kamara’s 15 goals are one shy of his 16 goals recorded in his first MLS season last year; he has 31 MLS goals in 54 career appearances.
  • Whitecaps FC have not lost to Crew SC since the 2011 season – Vancouver’s first year in MLS. Whitecaps FC won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 3-1 win Sept. 10 at Mapfre Stadium, their fourth victory in the past five encounters.
  • Crew SC have come away with points on two of their three visits to Vancouver, including a 2-2 draw in the last match at BC Place on April 8, 2015. The ‘Caps have won the past three meetings in Columbus.
 
Minnesota United FC at Montreal Impact, 7:30 p.m. ET (TVAS)
  • The Impact suffered their third consecutive defeat, falling 1-0 to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on Saturday evening.
  • The three consecutive losses are the most for the Impact since a three-game losing run Aug. 8-29, 2015. It’s also just the second time this season the Impact have lost consecutive games (also July 22-29).
  • The teams are meeting for the first time ever. The Impact defeated Atlanta United 2-1 on April 15 in their only match with a member of the expansion class of 2017.
  • It’s a second away match of the week for MNUFC, who won for the first time on the road in club history on Aug. 21 at the Chicago Fire, after eight losses and two draws in their first 10 MLS away games.
 
Seattle Sounders FC at FC Dallas, 8 p.m. ET
  • FC Dallas saw their winless streak extended to eight games, falling 3-0 to Atlanta United in the opening match at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The eight-game winless run is the longest for FC Dallas since an eight-game stretch without a victory from April 26-May 31, 2014, equaling the fourth-longest streak in the club’s 22-year history.
  • Sounders FC reached a third consecutive draw but still maintained their long undefeated streak, coming back for a 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field. The draw extended the Sounders FC undefeated streak to 12 games (6-0-6), the club record in its nine-year MLS history. Seattle also stretched its home undefeated streak to 10 games, the club’s third-longest home undefeated run in MLS.
  • Lamar Neagle scored his second goal of the season, his first since May 27. It was Neagle’s first goal since his return to Sounders FC from D.C. United, his 27th goal in a Sounders FC uniform in league play, fourth-most for the club in its MLS history
  • FC Dallas won both meetings at Toyota Stadium a year ago, a 2-0 win on May 14 and a 2-1 win on Oct. 16, now undefeated in their past four home encounters with Sounders FC. Sounders FC have won the past six league meetings between the teams in Seattle.
  • The teams also met in the Western Conference Semifinals for a third consecutive season last year, with Sounders FC winning the series 4-2 on aggregate after a 3-0 win at CenturyLink Field in the first leg. FC Dallas has not scored a goal in their 318 minutes played in all competitions in Seattle.
 
D.C. United at Chicago Fire, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. David Accam scored the game’s only goal in the 52nd minute to give the Fire the win on May 20 at RFK Stadium. The Fire victory in the first meeting put an end to a nine-game United undefeated streak in the series.
  • The Fire gained their second consecutive result on the heels of a four-game losing run, reaching a 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park.
  • Nemanja Nikolic scored his 17th goal of the season for the Fire, his first since July 1, having gone nine matches without a goal. Nikolic is still in a tie for second place in the MLS Golden Boot standings, with Portland’s Diego Valeri, and two behind David Villa of NYCFC.
  • D.C. United had their three-game winning streak put to an end, falling 2-1 to Orlando City SC at RFK Stadium.
  • United also saw their streak of three consecutive shutouts come to an end, the first time since Aug. 5-18, 2007 when they also recorded shutouts in three consecutive games. The first Orlando City goal ended United’s shutout streak at 315 minutes, the sixth-longest shutout streak in club history.
 
New England Revolution at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET
  • The Revolution won the lone meeting between the teams last year, a 3-1 win on Oct. 1 at Gillette Stadium. The Revolution have won the past three meetings in Foxborough, undefeated in their past four encounters in the series. The Revolution’s 2-0 win at Gillette Stadium on April 26, 2014, snapped a six-game Sporting undefeated streak in league play in the series, scoring their first goals vs. SKC since July 30, 2011, snapping a 592-minute shutout streak.
  • Sporting won the last meeting between the teams at Children’s Mercy Park, a 4-2 victory on May 20, 2016. When the Revolution won 3-2 in the last previous meeting in Kansas City, on Sept. 26, 2014, it was their first win there since 2008.
  • Sporting KC again rebounded from a defeat with a result, gaining a 1-1 draw with Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium. The draw ended Sporting’s two-game road losing run, though it stretched their away winless streak to four games. Sporting have lost consecutive games in league play just once this season.
  • Cristian Lobato scored his first career MLS goal, making a sixth consecutive appearance (fourth as a starter) since his arrival with the club.
 
New York City FC at Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET
  • The Rapids put an end to their four-game losing slide, defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium. The victory snapped the Rapids’ winless streak after nine games overall, equaling the third-longest in club history, the longest since the club-record 18-game winless run from July 30, 2014-April 4, 2015.
  • It was also the first victory on the road for the Rapids this season, putting an end to their away winless streak after 14 games, the second-longest stretch without a win on the road in club history (record: 16 games, April 26, 2014-March 28, 2015). It also ended a three-game road losing streak.
  • New York City FC had their five-game undefeated streak put to an end, falling 1-0 to the Portland Timbers at Yankee Stadium on Saturday evening.
  • The five-game undefeated streak matched the club record set twice previously, including May 31-June 29 this season. NYCFC also saw their four-game home winning streak put to an end, one game shy of the club record.
  • The teams have met twice in their histories. A year ago, Frank Lampard scored a hat trick as New York City FC stormed to a 5-1 win July 30 at Yankee Stadium, the heaviest defeat suffered by the Rapids last season. The teams reached a scoreless draw in their first meeting, March 21, 2015 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
 
Portland Timbers at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m. ET
  • The Timbers extended their undefeated run to four games with a third victory in that time, defeating New York City FC 1-0 at Yankee Stadium.
  • Diego Valeri scored the game’s lone goal, hitting the back of the net for a seventh consecutive game, tying the all-time MLS record set three times previously – Wolde Harris (NE, 7/19-8/26/2000), Raul Diaz Arce (DC, 4/12-7/4/1997) and Carlos Ruiz (DAL, 5/6-6/11/2006). Valeri now has 17 goals for the season, his single-season career-high in his five MLS seasons, now in a tie for second place in the MLS Golden Boot standings (with Nemanja Nikolic of Chicago, two goals behind David Villa of NYCFC).
  • Real Salt Lake saw their two-game winning streak put to an end, falling 3-2 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place. It was also a second consecutive defeat on their travels for RSL on the heels of a three-game away winning streak.
  • Tony Beltran scored his first career MLS goal, in his 241st career regular-season appearance – the third-most games in league history before scoring a first goal. Chris Wingert also scored his first goal of the season, his first goal in an MLS game since May 22, 2010, a span of 191 games between goals.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Joao Plata scored a pair of goals, and Albert Rusnák and Kyle Beckerman also scored as Real cruised to a 4-1 win July 19 at Providence Park.
  • The RSL win in the first meeting ended an eight-game Timbers undefeated streak in the all-time league series. The last previous RSL win came April 19, 2014; Portland won four of the eight games in between, with four draws.
 
Houston Dynamo at San Jose Earthquakes, 10:30 p.m. ET
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, and the Dynamo have won both, each by shutout at BBVA Compass Stadium. Erick Torres and Alberth Elis netted goals on either side of halftime to give the Dynamo a 2-0 win April 22, then on Aug. 12, Elis, Vicente Sánchez and Mauro Manotas all tallied in a 3-0 victory.
  • The Dynamo have won two of the three meetings between the teams at Avaya Stadium, including a 2-1 win last Aug. 19 in the last encounter in San Jose. The Quakes have won once at BBVA Compass Stadium in six meetings, a 1-0 win in 2015.
  • The Quakes lost for a second time in the past three matches, falling 4-0 to Toronto FC at BMO Field. The Quakes concluded a three-game road swing, shut out for a second time in the past three games.
  • The Quakes return home for the first time since Aug. 19, riding a six-game home undefeated streak, a four-game home winning run put to an end in their last match at Avaya Stadium (a 2-2 draw with Philadelphia).
  • The Dynamo saw their winless run extended to three games with a second loss in that time, falling 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The defeat was the first of the season at home for the Dynamo, putting an end to their home undefeated run after 12 matches, the third-longest in club history. It was also the first time this season the Dynamo were shut out on their home ground,
 
Toronto FC at LA Galaxy, 10:30 p.m. ET (TSN)
  • The Galaxy gained a second consecutive result on the heels of a four-game losing run, reaching a 1-1 draw with Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field. The draw did put an end to a four-game losing streak on the road for the Galaxy, their longest away losing streak since the 2008 season.
  • Gyasi Zardes scored a goal for a second consecutive game, netting in back-to-back games for the first time since April 15-23, 2016. Romain Alessandrini also collected his 10th assist of the season, a second consecutive game with an assist. Alessandrini has a goal and two assists in the past two games, involved in three of the Galaxy’s four goals in that time.
  • Toronto FC won a fifth consecutive game, rolling to a 4-0 win against the San Jose Earthquakes at BMO Field. The five-game winning streak is the second-longest for the season for TFC, behind their club-record six-game winning run April 21-May 13; they also extended their home undefeated streak to 15 games, dating back to the final game of the 2016 season.
  • It was a fifth consecutive game scoring three goals or more for TFC, netting 17 goals in that stretch. That’s a record over a five-game stretch in TFC history, matching the season-high five-game total of the New York Red Bulls (July 5-Aug. 6).
  • Jozy Altidore scored for a third match in a row, now with 13 goals for the season, matching his MLS single-season high (set in 2015 with TFC). Altidore scored the 50th and 51st league goals of his MLS career, the eighth multiple-goal game of his MLS career and his sixth since moving to Toronto FC.
  • TFC won the only meeting between the teams a year ago, a 1-0 victory on June 18 at BMO Field. The victory snapped a 10-game Galaxy undefeated streak in league play in the all-time series, dating back to May 31, 2008. The Galaxy won five of the 10 meetings in between, with five draws. The TFC goal, scored by Drew Moor, ended a 268-minute TFC goalless drought in the series.
 
Sunday, Sept. 17
Philadelphia Union at New York Red Bulls, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
  • The teams are meeting for the third time this season, splitting the first two matchups, both played at Talen Energy Stadium. CJ Sapong scored a hat trick – all the goals within 11 minutes, from the 74th minute on – as the Union claimed a 3-0 win on May 6. Bradley Wright-Phillips then netted both goals – in the 87th and 92nd minutes – in the Red Bulls’ win on June 18.
  • The Red Bulls have won the past two meetings at Red Bull Arena. When the Union won 2-0 there on May 24, 2015, it was their first-ever win in Harrison; the Red Bulls had gone 5-0-1 in their first six home games vs. Philadelphia. The Union win in the first meeting this year was their first in the series in Chester since 2014.
  • The Union reached a second successive draw but saw their winless run extended to five games, playing to a 1-1 result with Minnesota United FC at TCF Bank Stadium. CJ Sapong scored his 13th goal of the season, tied for 10th place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • The Union also saw their road winless streak extended to nine matches dating back to May 27, equaling the club record set last season.
  • The Red Bulls reached a third consecutive draw as their winless run extended to four games, ending in a 1-1 deadlock with the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his 15th goal of the season, now sitting in a tie for fourth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
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