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This Week in MLS - October 2, 2018

  • Rooney: D.C. ‘in great position for playoffs’ as MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T comes into view
  • 2018: Year for the MLS Record Books
  • Armas has Red Bulls focused on top record, MLS Cup
  • 22 Under 22 to highlight top young stars in MLS this week
  • MLS Week 32: Match Notes
Rooney: D.C. ‘in great position for playoffs’ as MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T comes into view
Red-hot D.C. United, currently touting a league-best five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2), is creating the needed postseason push with four weeks until the pivotal MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T on Oct. 28. For star Englishman Wayne Rooney, he certainly likes the team’s chances of breaking into the top six of the Eastern Conference over the next five games to clinch a spot in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“We have a lot of confidence after this game, and we’re in a great position for the playoffs,” Rooney said following D.C.’s 5-0 win against the Montreal Impact on Saturday – the most lopsided D.C. victory since 2001. “We’ve been building momentum at the right time. I think that’s what we’ve needed.” (LISTEN HERE)
United look to keep the ball rolling against the Chicago Fire this Sunday at Audi Field (1 p.m. ET / ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN2). Chicago poses a dangerous obstacle for D.C. as the two sides face each other twice more, capped off by a matchup in Bridgeview, Ill., on MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T. The Fire will play the role of spoiler when they visit D.C., and so far Chicago has caused a ruckus with a striking 3-1 victory against the expansion Los Angeles Football Club on Saturday.
The four-time MLS Cup champion D.C. has thrived under the late-season pressure. Since Rooney’s MLS debut on July 14, D.C. has posted an 8-4-3 record and 27 points, more than doubling the club’s points total from the first 14 games (11 points):
  • Past 15 games (July 14-present): 8-4-3 record, 27 points
  • First 14 games (March 3-July 4): 2-7-5 record, 11 points
During this stretch, 24-year-old Argentine forward Luciano Acosta has become one of the league’s top offensive forces with eight goals and nine assists since July 14 – a much-improved output than his one goal and seven assists in the club’s first 14 games of 2018 – to become MLS’s assists leader (16). U.S. National Team player Paul Arriola also has been heavier a goalscoring threat with five goals since Rooney’s arrival, compared to two goals during the first 14 matches.
With five regular-season games remaining, D.C. certainly is on pace for a postseason position when MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T arrives.
2018: Year for the MLS Record Books
Major League Soccer’s dominating performances have made for a historic 2018 season, but the season isn’t over yet, and neither is the record breaking.
Atlanta United, only in their second season, continue to outdraw every professional sports team in North America outside the NFL. This year alone Atlanta set the three highest single-game attendance records in MLS history, all over 70,000, including the largest-ever at 72,243 for their match against Seattle Sounders FC on July 15. As host of the 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target, Atlanta’s crowd of 72,317 became one of the two highest attended All-Star games for any major North American professional sports league.
Top 3 single-game crowds in MLS history
  1. Atlanta United vs. Seattle Sounders FC, July 15, 2018 – 72,243
  2. Atlanta United vs. D.C. United, March 11, 2018 – 72,035
  3. Atlanta United vs. Orlando City SC, June 30, 2018 – 71,932
With a spot already secured for the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, the current MLS postseason attendance record of 67,221, which Atlanta set last year, doesn’t stand a chance.
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez has been a virtually unstoppable, breaking record after record, with a goals-per-game average (0.968) that outranks FC Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (0.944) and Liverpool FC’s Mohamed Salah (0.889). With four games left, Martinez is on pace to potentially surpass Messi's 34-goal scoring total (2017-18) before season’s end. Martinez has already broken the MLS career hat-trick record this season with his sixth three-goal game, and his 30 goals in 31 games in 2018 has eclipsed the previous MLS single-season scoring mark of 27.
With #WondoWatch in full effect, Landon Donovan’s all-time scoring record (145) is in jeopardy, as San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski’s 143 finishes inch him closer to taking over the mark.
Expansion club LAFC is having one of the best first-year campaigns in MLS history and could become one of only five expansion teams ever to make the playoffs in their opening season. LAFC is tied for most away wins during an inaugural season with a road match against the Colorado Rapids this weekend. With a 50-point total to date, the club could set the record for most points by an expansion team, surpassing the 1998 Chicago Fire (56 points), which was the most decorated expansion team of all time.
Armas has Red Bulls focused on top record, MLS Cup
The New York Red Bulls have been one of the hottest teams in MLS since Chris Armas took over as head coach on July 6, with the club compiling a 9-3-3 overall record to register the second-most points over that span behind only Seattle Sounders FC, which tied an MLS post shootout-era record with nine consecutive victories. After defeating first-place Atlanta United on Sunday with a dominant performance, the Red Bulls have closed the gap for the top spot in the standings to one point. The Red Bulls are keeping the pressure on Atlanta and look to be an intimidating opponent in the buildup to the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs in a bid to win their first ever MLS Cup title.
Armas has helped to masterfully mix the Red Bulls heralded internationals such as Bradley Wright-Phillips and Kaku with a strong base of academy products like Tyler Adams and Sean Davis to give the club tremendous depth with its pressing style of play. The 46-year-old next prepares his club to take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on Saturday in pursuit of the team’s third consecutive victory (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+). With both Wright-Phillips and Adams missing the last match, a now full strength Red Bulls squad is determined to catch Atlanta and secure its third Supporters’ Shield in six years.
While there is much to be done before MLS Cup, Armas could find himself in unique company if he were to lead the Red Bulls to an MLS Cup title by becoming only the third person in league history to win MLS Cup as both a player and coach, following in the footsteps of Peter Nowak (Chicago Fire ’98 / D.C. United ‘04) and Peter Vermes (Kansas City Wizards ’00 / Sporting Kansas City ’13). Armas secured his championship as a player alongside Nowak as teammates on that 1998 Chicago Fire team and looks to lead New York to glory in his first season as coach following the departure of Jesse Marsch to Red Bull Leipzig in July.
22 Under 22 to highlight top young stars in MLS this week
With a continued emphasis in signing young international players and relying on domestic academy products, Major League Soccer has continued to grow younger as a league as reflected by the average age of newcomers to MLS dropping by 2 years since 2014 (25.58 years old in 2018 compared to 27.53 in 2014). Due to this shift, MLSsoccer.com has adjusted its annual rankings of the best young stars in the league and will unveil its first ever 22 Under 22 list on October 3-4, a shift from the previous list that ranked players under 24 years of age. This year’s top-ranked star will follow in the footsteps of previous No. 1-ranked 24 Under 24 players such as Miguel Almirón (2017), Cyle Larin (2016) and DeAndre Yedlin (2014) who have all had lasting legacies in the league and with their respective national teams.
A strong group of players expected to be on the shortlist are domestic academy products that have starred for the United States and Canada Men’s National Teams, serving as the brightest prospects for their respective countries. Among the names to look out for include 19-year-old midfielder Tyler Adams, who has helped the New York Red Bulls to contention for the top record in MLS while also breaking out for the USMNT this year. Similarly, 17-year-old Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Alphonso Davies has starred for Canada and secured the largest transfer fee in MLS history for his impending move in 2019 to German power Bayern Munich.
MLS has also seen an influx of talented young South Americans come to the league that are in contention to join the 22 Under 22 rankings. Atlanta United 19-year-old midfielder Ezequiel Barco secured the largest outgoing transfer fee in league history with his stateside move this season after starring for both Independiente and the Argentina Under-20 National Team. Similarly, Los Angeles Football Club 20-year-old forward Diego Rossi has the expansion side on the brink of the postseason with his combined 18 goals and assists in his first season in MLS after leaving Peñarol and making multiple appearances with Uruguay’s Under-20 National Team.
MLS Week 32: Match Notes
Saturday, October 6, 2018
Montreal Impact vs. Columbus Crew SC, 3 p.m. ET (TSN, TVA Sports, ESPN+)
  • The Impact saw their three-game undefeated run come to a sudden end, falling 5-0 to D.C. United at Audi Field on Saturday evening. The five goals allowed matched the club record in its MLS history, set twice previously (including in a 5-3 loss to LAFC on April 21).
  • Crew SC stretched their home undefeated streak to six matches, reaching a goalless draw with the Philadelphia Union at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Gyasi Zardes scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner four minutes into stoppage time, to give Crew SC a 3-2 win on March 10 at Mapfre Stadium.
  • Crew SC have won the past three meetings between the teams, including winning both matches a year ago, now with a five-game undefeated streak alive in the series. The Impact last won in the series on April 9, 2016, a 2-0 win in Montréal. Crew SC have won seven of the 10 meetings all-time in Columbus, with two draws; the lone Impact win there came in 2015.
Atlanta United vs. New England Revolution, 3:30 p.m. ET (Univisión, UDN, Twitter)
  • Atlanta United saw their three-game winning streak come to an end, falling 2-0 to the New York Red Bulls in an Eastern Conference top-of-the-table clash at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon.
  • The Revolution saw their four-game undefeated streak come to an end, falling 4-1 to Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Josef Martínez gave Atlanta United a first-half lead, but Teal Bunbury netted the leveler two minutes from time to leave the teams in a 1-1 draw on May 30 at Gillette Stadium.
  • The teams met twice in Atlanta United’s inaugural season. Atlanta equaled the all-time MLS margin of victory, with a 7-0 win against the Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 13. Martínez scored a hat trick as part of the most goals ever scored in a single game by an expansion team. The teams then played to a goalless draw on Sept. 30 at Gillette Stadium.
Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 5 p.m. ET (TSN, ESPN+)
  • Toronto FC won for a second consecutive game at home in impressive fashion, rolling to a 4-1 win against the New England Revolution at BMO Field on Saturday evening. Sebastian Giovinco netted his 12th goal of the season, while Victor Vázquez scored a goal and added an assist.
  • Whitecaps FC suffered a third consecutive loss, falling 3-0 to the LA Galaxy at StubHub Center on Saturday evening.
  • The visiting team has won the past three meetings in the league series between the clubs. TFC won 2-0 last March 18 in the only regular-season matchup between the teams; they also won 3-1 at BC Place in 2015. Whitecaps FC claimed a 4-3 win on May 14, 2016, in the last league meeting at BMO Field.
  • The teams met in the final of the Canadian Championship this year, with TFC winning the title 7-4 on aggregate, including a 5-2 win in the second leg at BMO Field, as Jozy Altidore scored a hat trick. It was the second consecutive year the clubs have met for the Canadian domestic title, the fourth time overall, and TFC have won all four. On three occasions (2011, 2012, 2018), the teams played to a first-leg draw in Vancouver; then, Toronto won the second leg at home.
Philadelphia Union vs. Minnesota United FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • The Union had their two-game winning run put to an end but still extended their undefeated streak, playing to a goalless draw with Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday evening. The Union extended their away undefeated streak to five games, a club record for their MLS history.
  • Minnesota United FC won a second consecutive match, defeating New York City FC 2-1 at TCF Bank Stadium on Saturday evening. Angelo Rodríguez scored both MNUFC goals, his second and third since coming to MLS.
  • The teams met twice in Minnesota’s inaugural season, reaching a 1-1 draw last Sept. 9 at TCF Bank Stadium.
FC Dallas vs. Orlando City SC, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • FC Dallas extended their undefeated streak to four games with a second draw in that time, reaching a goalless result with the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Saturday evening.
  • Orlando City SC return to action after a weekend off, their winless streak extended to 10 games last time out in a scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo at Orlando City Stadium. The 10-game streak is a club record over its four MLS seasons, surpassing a nine-game run earlier this year.
  • FC Dallas have never lost to Orlando City SC and have not conceded a goal in three meetings all-time.
  • FC Dallas won the lone meeting in Frisco, a 4-0 victory on July 4, 2016. FCD won the first meeting between the teams, a 2-0 victory in 2015 at the Citrus Bowl; the teams reached a goalless draw last year at Orlando City Stadium.
Sporting Kansas City vs. LA Galaxy, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • Sporting KC had a three-game home winning streak snapped but still extended their undefeated run at Children’s Mercy Park, reaching a 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon.
  • The Galaxy won a second consecutive game by a 3-0 scoreline, defeating Vancouver Whitecaps FC at StubHub Center on Saturday evening. Zlatan Ibrahimović scored a pair of goals, giving him 20 in his first MLS season (in 24 appearances).
  • The teams are meeting for the second time this season. Daniel Salloí and Johnny Russell scored five minutes apart early in the second half, leading Sporting KC to a 2-0 win on April 8 at StubHub Center.
  • Sporting KC have a three-game winning streak in the series, and a seven-game undefeated streak alive against the Galaxy. The Galaxy’s win vs. SKC came on April 18, 2015, a 2-1 victory at StubHub Center.
  • Sporting have won the past two meetings in Carson, coming away with points on their last three trips to face the Galaxy. SKC’s win last year at StubHub Center was their first win there since 2010 – the last previous victory by the visiting team in the series.
  • The Galaxy have not won in Kansas City since 2007; Sporting have won five of their 10 home games since, with five draws.
Colorado Rapids vs. Los Angeles Football Club, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • The Rapids suffered a sixth consecutive defeat, falling 4-0 to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon.
  • The Los Angeles Football Club had their six-game undefeated run put to an end, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon. Diego Rossi netted his 10th goal of the season, giving LAFC two 10-goal scorers this year (Carlos Vela, 11).
  • The teams are meeting for the second time. Lee Nguyen and Rossi netted second-half goals as LAFC took a 2-0 win on Aug. 19 at Banc of California Stadium.
Real Salt Lake vs. Portland Timbers, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • RSL saw their winless run reach three games with a second draw in that time, playing to a 1-1 tie with Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park on Sunday afternoon. Corey Baird scored his seventh goal of the season, leading all MLS rookies this season.
  • The Timbers saw their three-game home winning streak come to an end but still extended their undefeated run at Providence Park, playing to a goalless draw with FC Dallas on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting in the front end of a home-and-home series over the final four weeks of the season. The return match is set for Oct. 21 at Providence Park.
  • Real Salt Lake won both meetings a year ago, one at each ground, putting an end to an eight-game Timbers undefeated streak in the all-time league series. The last previous RSL win had come April 19, 2014; Portland won four of the eight games in between, with four draws.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New York Red Bulls, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • The Quakes suffered their fifth consecutive defeat, falling 3-2 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday evening. The streak is one shy of the club-record losing run, set in 2000.
  • Chris Wondolowski netted the 143rd goal of his MLS league career, now two away from the all-time league record held by Landon Donovan.
  • The Red Bulls won a second consecutive game by a 2-0 scoreline, defeating Atlanta United at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon. Daniel Royer netted his 11th goal of the season.
  • The Red Bulls won the lone meeting between the teams a year ago, a 5-1 victory on July 19 at Red Bull Arena. The Quakes have not won at New York since 2005. Since San Jose’s return to MLS, the Red Bulls have won six home encounters with the Quakes, with two draws.
  • New York last won at San Jose in 2003, a 2-0 MetroStars victory at Spartan Stadium. The Quakes have won six of the nine home games since vs. New York, with three draws, including a 2-0 win on April 13, 2016, in the last meeting there.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN)
  • D.C. United extended their undefeated streak to five games – the last three all at home – in a 5-0 win against the Montréal Impact at Audi Field on Saturday evening. Wayne Rooney scored a pair of goals – his second two-goal game in MLS, now with seven goals (and seven assists) in 15 league appearances.
  • The Fire snapped a brief two-game winless run, defeating the Los Angeles Football Club 3-1 at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon. Djordje Mihailovic scored his second career goal, his first of the year, and also added an assist.
  • The teams are meeting in the front end of a home-and-home series over the final four weeks of the season. The return match is set for Decision Day (Oct. 28) at Toyota Park.
  • The Fire won both meetings a year ago, one at each ground, putting an end to a nine-game United undefeated streak in the series from 2014-16. United scored 24 goals over that span while winning five games.
  • The Fire ended their history at RFK Stadium with a 1-0 win, last May 20, ending a four-game home winning streak and five-game undefeated run in D.C. in the series. The teams had reached draws in their two previous meetings in Bridgeview before the Fire’s win there last year.
Monday, October 8, 2018
Seattle Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
  • Sounders FC ended a brief two-game losing run in emphatic fashion, rolling to a 4-0 win against the Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field on Saturday afternoon. Raúl Ruídiaz netted a pair of goals, while Nicolás Lodeiro had a goal and two assists.
  • The Dynamo ran their league undefeated run to three games, coming back from a two-goal deficit with three second-half goals for a 3-2 win against the San Jose Earthquakes at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday evening.
  • The teams are meeting in the front end of a home-and-home series over the final four weeks of the season. The return match is set for Oct. 21 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The teams split their two meetings a year ago, each winning at home. Sounders FC have never lost to the Dynamo in Seattle. In eight league meetings all-time, Sounders FC have won six, with two draws, outscoring Houston 11-2. Sounders FC also won a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match at home vs. Houston; the teams played to a scoreless draw in Seattle in the 2009 MLS Cup Playoffs.
  • The Dynamo have never lost to Sounders FC in Houston in league play. In eight meetings all-time there, the Dynamo have won four, with four draws.
  • The teams also met in the Western Conference Championship a year ago, with Sounders FC winning 5-0 on aggregate – a 2-0 win in Houston followed by a 3-0 victory in Seattle.