The weekend card is loaded with a dozen hearty contests, which means there are plenty of chances to play the fool's game that is predicting MLS results.
As always, I'm up to play despite a degree of difficulty that covers a duel between the top two teams in the overall table, two prime derbies and a few other match-ups that probably qualify as lower-tier grudge matches (or will some day). There's no ceremony needed here, so let's jump right in like daredevils.
Nashville SC vs. New England Revolution
Both teams are in solid form with two wins in three, but Nashville suddenly seems to be finding themselves offensively. Will the expansion team's newfound potency in attack hold up against a shrewd Revs side that's just as hard-nosed at the back as they are? That's the big question here, and "probably not" is my answer. Rain is currently expected for Music City throughout the day, so let's say each club will be slick enough to find an opening in a 1-1 draw.
Inter Miami CF vs. Orlando City SC
The hosts will get Rodolfo Pizarro back, but Gonzalo Higuain must sit out due to a suspension. I doubt that's the trade Inter Miami would willingly make ahead ahead of this Florida derby. Orlando City are impressively difficult to play against, even when missing a handful of regulars (related note: Benji Michel was removed from the injury list). The Lions haven't conceded more than one goal in 13 games, so it says here they look good for the first away "Tropic Thunder" win. Orlando City 3-1.
Atlanta United vs. D.C. United
It's another "Who the hell knows?" derby between two teams that have been among the toughest to figure this year. A healthy portion of the difficulty in pinning them down is they've also been among the clubs hit hardest by the turnover/injuries double whammy. Both are getting key bodies back, and both have looked a bit better for it this week. The Five Stripes are getting more players back, so I'm backing them to straighten out their shoddy home form with extreme prejudice. Atlanta United 3-0.
New York City FC vs. Montreal Impact
Maybe it's just me and Montreal transferring Saphir Taider doesn't actually come off like a big white flag wave on the season. Maybe the Impact squad (who responded well by beating Inter Miami last weekend) have a healthier take on the matter. Then again, maybe not. The dinged-up Cityzens, who haven't lost to Montreal in 10 meetings, will need to control this game from the back. My call is they'll have no problem with that task, NYCFC 2-0.
Chicago Fire FC vs. New York Red Bulls
Two teams slowly getting their acts together will clash at Soldier Field, the confines of which have been pretty friendly for the Fire. I am currently concerned about the misfiring Red Bulls offense, but the same cannot be said for Chicago. Robert Beric, Alvaro Medran and Djordje Mihailovic have been cooking up some good stuff lately, and that's why this tilt has the aroma of a 2-1 Chicago win.
FC Cincinnati vs. Minnesota United FC
With one Hell Is Real exception, the FC Cincy boys have been in a largely punchless slide for 6-7 weeks. On the other hand, the Loons have been good but not great over the same time frame. The expected return of Jan Gregus is a big boost for the visitors, but it's just one of several reasons I foresee a tidy 2-0 Minnesota United victory.
Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC
Let's try not to overthink this one. Yes, Toronto FC are in rampant form, but so are the Union. Philly will also be cozily at home, where they've taken six straight by a combined 15-3 tally. Jim Curtin has the more complete squad at the moment, and his squad likely has revenge in their hearts after a late collapse loss on the road a few weeks back. Going to have to go with 2-0 Philadelphia.
Houston Dynamo vs. Columbus Crew SC
Columbus won't return to full dominance mode until Darlington Nagbe is fit, but I certainly have a lot more faith that the Crew are over their swoon than I do in the Dynamo right now. While Tab Ramos has had Houston punching above their talent weight at times this season, the loss of Alberth Elis has put added weight on an already iffy defense. They might now be cracking, so 3-1 Columbus it is.
Sporting KC vs. Colorado Rapids
The Rapids were heating up when a COVID-19 outbreak pressed pause on their season a month ago. They've gone through training upheaval, late postponements and missing coaches during this disruptive period. Now they have to go to Sporting, which is a horror show for Colorado in the best of times. As charged up to hit the field as they surely are, I think the best the visitors can hope for from the trip are some Arthur Bryant's burnt ends. The easiest pick of the week says 4-2 Sporting KC.
Real Salt Lake vs. FC Dallas
About a month ago, FC Dallas seemed to be rounding into shape, but they're a galling 1-3-2 with just three goals scored. Meanwhile, RSL have slumped through the whole season, broken up by occasional, fleeting signs of life (such as last week's win over Portland). Ordinarily, I'd give the edge to FC Dallas, but I'm kinda tired of waiting for them to be all they can be and the hosts will enter as the best-rested club in the league. A 2-0 Real Salt Lake win kicks off their first win streak in a year.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Here's another match-up that makes me want to toss dice in a cup, shake it vigorously and then see what spills out. Just when you leave these teams for dead, they go on a run. Just when you think they may have their ducks in a row, they face-plant. San Jose have been more impressive lately, and they've knocked the 'Caps around pretty good over the last year and change. However, this is MLS, and current Quakes weaknesses actually match up quite well with the home side's strengths. In other words: 3-2 Vancouver.
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy
Sigh. Can anyone ever really know what's going to happen when a City of Angels bout goes down? The Galaxy have owned LAFC in the two meetings since MLS Is Back. The Carson crew are fresh off the schneid after a solid effort to cool off Vancouver. Of course, Bob Bradley will need to do without attack hydra Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi and Brian Rodriguez. Even the ghost of Paul the Octopus is tabbing the Galaxy in this one. So yeah... I'm picking a 2-1 LAFC win.