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What to watch for in this weekend's MLS action | Andrew Wiebe

I’m not here to tell you how to spend your time this weekend or what to watch when you do get a chance to sit down and watch soccer. I’m here to tell you how you could spend it, should you so choose.

There are 24 teams playing over the weekend, and every game has at least one compelling reason for neutrals to tune in. Whether it’ll deliver on that promise, I can’t say. I will promise that, unless you’ve got a multiscreen setup that I am very jealous of, you’re going to run up against the ESPN+ curse, that sinking feeling that you chose the wrong game and missed all the fun. Just roll with it, game surf or get yourself a sick setup.

Enjoy your weekend. Find joy where you can. We’ll run it all back on Monday on Extratime. Here are the matches that already went final in Week 12:

Atlanta United vs. Inter Miami CF 

Saturday, 7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

A trio of Argentine prospects trying to find their form. By the math available to me, I’ve got Ezequiel Barco, Matias Pellegrini and Julian Carranza costing Atlanta United and Inter Miami somewhere around $27 to $30 million. That’s a whole lot of money! And yet, unless Diego Alonso changes things up, we’re likely to see only one of three on the field to start the game. Basically, I’m suggesting you watch this game as a way to check up on all three. Is Barco going to produce in conditions that aren’t ideal? Why aren’t Pelligrini and Carranza starting for Inter – or maybe they will be! – and what is Alonso building with Gonzalo Higuain waiting in the wings?

New York Red Bulls vs. FC Cincinnati

Saturday, 7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

FC Cincinnati goal watch. Just kidding. That ended after 558 minutes against NYCFC. Night gathers, and now the next watch begins.

I’m watching for Dru Yearwood, Samuel Tetteh and Mathias Jorgensen. Every game is another opportunity to see what Red Bulls head of sport Kevin Thelwell is building and what interim coach Bradley Carnell can do with the current squad. Will Yearwood, a Young DP from Brentford in the Championship, look like an inspired move? Is Tetteh, on the books at Salzburg but scorer of seven Austrian Bundesliga goals at LASK last year, going to stick or be another Omer Damari? Is Jorgensen, who made his first start against D.C. United, ready to make an impact in MLS after bagging 11 goals in the USL Championship last year? Gotta watch to find out.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Nashville SC

Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

Honestly, the sell on this match is a little TBD until the lineups hit an hour before game time. Will Darlington Nagbe and Lucas Zelarayan be available? I’m leaning toward no.

No matter the lineups, Nashville are starting to believe in themselves. They said from the start that the project wasn’t going to be flashy. The goal was substance, and we’re starting to see it. Now, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves and start talking third or fourth in the East until they’re there, but a Nagbe- and Zelarayan-less Crew could be an opportunity for an unexpected road point/points. Either would still be a big result. I’ll be watching to see what kind of service Gary Smith’s squad provides Dom Badji/Daniel Rios. After all, Jhonder Cadiz is coming…

D.C. United vs. Toronto FC

Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

Kevin Paredes. Look, there’s always a reason to watch Toronto FC. Three big reasons are Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore and Pablo Piatti (not to mention a whole host of other top-tier talent). I’ll certainly watch for the stars, but you should know by not that I trend hard toward #PlayYourKids. You learn more every game because the sample size is so small and the players learning as they go. Paredes has six starts as a 17-year-old and looks the part in midfield despite weighing 120 pounds soaking wet.

“He is competitive and he is fiery and he has a lot of elements that make him not only a good player on the offensive end, but also [can] hang in there physically against bigger boys,” Ben Olsen told the Washington Post recently.

Toronto FC are the big boys, which means we may not the Homegrown in the starting lineup, but it’s a big measuring stick for Paredes should Olsen give him another start.

Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire FC

Saturday, 7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

From Ben Baer: “Orlando have been fun and good, and Chicago gives up a lot of goals.” That seems like a good combination to me. Daryl Dike’s Rookie of the Year campaign rolls on!

Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United

Saturday, 8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

What are the Dynamo without Alberth Elis? The reported Boavista transfer is not official, but I will Baerantee we won’t see Pantera in the squad on Saturday. Houston dropped a 3-0 loss on Minnesota on Sept. 2. Elis had two goals. So what will it look like in the near- and medium-term? Get ready for the Darwin Quintero show. Name a more dangerous attacker in MLS right now. It’s tough. Loons fans know a little something about that, but it seems Tab Ramos might be a better coach for the Colombian than Adrian Heath. Of course, the first year went well in the Twin Cities, too.  

Real Salt Lake vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

Saturday, 9:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

Lucas Cavallini. We’re still waiting for El Tanque to hit. He’s got to hit, or it’ll be another year below the (even lower than usual) playoff line. How will he react to that red card? Where and how will he channel his energy?

LA Galaxy vs. Colorado Rapids

Saturday, 10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

Chicharito watch. He says he’s “completely fit” and came off the bench in the Cali Clasico. This has 60-minute first start written all over it, if he is indeed physically ready. At least that’s the hopeful side of my mind. The realistic side says Guillermo Barros Schelotto will give Chicharito at least one more appearance off the bench before pushing him into the XI. Even if that’s the case, you get to watch Cristian Pavon. I’m not sure we realize how special that is just yet.   

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers

Saturday, 10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

I know, I know. We just did this. Cade Cowell is 16 years old and gets more confident every game he plays. He’s as good a reason as there is to watch San Jose right now. Think about it this way, Eryk Williamson is seven years older and just this season got his chance to shine. Now, that’s a whole different conversation entirely – who among us thinks Williamson got this good out of the blue? – but two compelling reasons to watch. The other reason is that the Quakes have a pattern going that could pay off in entertainment value. A couple insane, defensively disastrous games followed by one or two tight ones. I feel a crazy one coming on short rest.   

Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union

Sunday, 7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in the US and DAZN in Canada (Local TV)

Brenden Aaronson. Enjoy him while it lasts. We have no idea what Aaronson will be or where he’ll be in a year’s time, but it almost certainly won’t be in MLS. We’re watching player development in real-time, week to week, and it’s a lot of fun. Every chance to watch it live ought to be a little celebration. It’s not always linear, but it’s always a reason to be tuned in to the 19-year-old’s games. Plus, the Union are just a good team, and I’m fascinated to see what Thierry Henry can get out of his team after Wednesday’s knee-punch debacle.

Series: 

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