Bogert: Four games to pay close attention to this weekend

It's early, but trends for 2019 are starting to form in Major League Soccer after just a week. 

Data points are being accrued as clubs open their respective seasons, both obvious and obscure. This weekend there are another 11 matches on tap, each with more than enough interest and intrigue on their own.

Here are a few games to pay special attention to this weekend, in chronological order:

Chicago's new and improved attack

Chicago vs. Orlando City: Sat., 1 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada). 

Despite their 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy to start 2019, the Chicago Fire have more than a few reasons for optimism. As Bobby Warshaw so eloquently put it: The Fire "claimed the pointless-yet-not-insignificant 'won the hearts of the neutrals' prize for the weekend."  

The attack ranged from threatening to very good for 90 minutes, and new signing Przemyslaw Frankowski looked quite solid. One match is too small a sample size to form concrete opinions, but at the very least he's fast, and pace is a natural resource the Fire attack had dangerously little of last season.

This week, they face Orlando City at SeatGeek Stadium. A win at the club's home opener would be a nice way to show the fans that 2019 is, truly, a fresh start. Last season Orlando conceded a league record for goals, and while they appear to have improved a bit defensively after one match, they still had some issues, typified by NYCFC's second goal last weekend.

Not to belittle Alexandru Mitrita's wonderful pass, Alex Ring found himself with an alarming amount of atop Orlando City's 18-yard box in a non-transitional moment, with rookie center back Kamal Miller not occupied by marking an attacker. 

Djordje Mihailovic should be salivating. 

Minnesota United's road quest

San Jose vs. Minnesota: Sat., 8 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada). 

Minnesota United opened their season in style, with a win that marked the Loons' first-ever in-conference victory away from home in MLS. Could they double that all-time win total on Saturday?

The 3-2 victory against the Vancouver Whitecaps was particularly galvanizing, for reasons outside of three points earned: Darwin Quintero looked elite yet again, Francisco Calvo re-born at left back while Ozzie Alonso, Jan Gregus, Ike Opara and Romain Metanire solidified the defense as envisioned when each were acquired this offseason, even if those pesky set-piece issues still remain. Baby steps. 

Spare a thought for whichever San Jose defender is stuck in the unenviable position of man-marking Quintero all over the pitch. 

With five games on the road to start the season ahead of christening Allianz Field on April 13, the Loons could do well to build some momentum. Winning on the road is never easy, but the five matches only include one team that made the playoffs last year. The path to points away from home could be much more perilous. 

Bonus, from a San Jose perspective: The Quakes fell at home to the Montreal Impact last week and after the Loons come to town, San Jose face the New York Red Bulls, LAFCPortland Timbers, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City and Seattle Sounders for their next six games. Sheesh. 

Can Atlanta regain momentum?

Atlanta vs. Cincinnati: Sun., 5 pm ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN in Canada). 

Atlanta United have suffered three road loses in three different countries to start the season, with a goal differential of -7. The latest was a 3-0 pounding by CF Monterrey in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals on Wednesday. In each road loss, Frank de Boer's side have not looked particularly good.

The good news? They landed a knockout blow with their backs on the ropes against Herediano in their lone home match -- which wasn't even at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This week they have two pivotal home games to start regaining some momentum for 2019. 

It starts Sunday against expansion side FC Cincinnati, who were welcomed to MLS with a kick in the teeth by way of a 4-1 loss away from home to the Sounders. Atlanta could do well with a big performance at home, because anything less than a convincing win won't bode well for the midweek match against Monterrey, where the club needs a performance for the ages to overcome the Liga MX side. 

Goal involvements for Pity Martinez and Ezequiel Barco could go a long way for De Boer's squad.

LAFC and winning ugly

LAFC vs. Portland: Sun., 7:30 pm ET (FS1, Fox Deportes in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada). 

A knock on LAFC in 2018 was that they couldn't win ugly. When they were good, man, they were good. When they were less than their best, however, they struggled to grind out results. 

An opening weekend win against a tired Sporting Kansas City side won't erase that narrative, but, it could signal the start of a new chapter. LAFC looked far from playing jogo bonito, yet fouled and tackled their way to be in a position for Adama Diomande's belligerently struck stoppage-time winning goal. It was different from the club that was 0-4-2 against SKC, the Timbers and FC Dallas in 2018. 

After beating SKC to kick off 2019, they host the Timbers. Earning wins against two rivals expected to be jostling the club near the summit of the Western Conference is as ideal a start to the season that LAFC could have hoped for. 

Bonus: All season it'll be fun to watch which of Diomande or Christian Ramirez is getting the starts. Bob Bradley has been known to ride the hot hand, so if Diomande is fit following a late start to preseason, expect him to lead the lines against the Timbers. But how many games without scoring might he be given before Ramirez returns? And may we ever see a two-striker look from LAFC for both to play?  


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