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MLS Watch Grid for 4/15-16/2023
Window 1 (6:30pm):
Game of the Weekend: New England Revolution at Columbus Crew
We got #1 vs #2 in the West last weekend, and we get #1 vs #4 in the East this weekend! Both teams here are coming in flying: The Crew have a +11 goal differential in their last three matches; the Revs are coming off of a 4-0 victory over Montreal at home and very quietly have taken a seat at second place in MLS. I think there’s something for everybody here. We have yet another duel of dynamic South American attacking midfielders here between Carles Gil and Lucas Zelarayan. We have young foreign talent in Djordje Petrovic, Dylan Borrero, and Alexandru Matan. We have history between the two if you’re into that: Crew/Revs opened up both Columbus Crew Stadium in 1999 and Lower.com Field in 2021, and this matchup has seen the failed Crew comeback attempt in Gillette in the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals, Taylor Twellman scoring in Columbus to knock the Shield-holding Crew out of the 2004 playoffs, Charlie Davies and Lee Nguyen’s team dropping seven goals on the Revs in the 2014 Eastern semis, and Artur ending the miracle Revs’ run in the 2020 Eastern Conference Final.
Mostly, though? This matchup is about the BRBAMF: The Big, Red-Blooded American Mother Fucker. It’s domestic talent up and down the backbones of both of these teams. In yellow we have the ever-rising star of Aidan Morris, the reignited Christian Ramirez, the magicianship of Darlington Nagbe, and the sheer… well I don’t have enough of a foundation to build off of in order to come up with an adjective for William Sands. On the other side, the Red, White, and Blue colors lining the foundation of the 2023 Revolution do NOT run, which is one of the benefits of working in crayon: The stalwarts of Matt Polster, Dave Romney, and Andrew Farrell, the young defensive dynamos of DeJuan Jones, Brandon Bye, Noel Buck, and Henry Kessler (who’s been astoundingly good this season so far). Bobby Wood is there! Jozy Altidore is there! The one caveat here is that history’s Most American Soccer Player, Tommy McNamara, will still be out, but my god is a domestic jamboree bearing down on us in Columbus on Saturday evening. For free!
Window 2 (7:30pm):
Free Window Winner: Orlando City SC at Minnesota United FC
This one juuuuust narrowly avoided the “By Default” tag, as I still believe somewhere in my heart that Orlando’s going to figure itself out at some point this season and go on a lengthy run where they put the potential they showed against Tigres into action against the rest of MLS, and the limited risk (you might have to watch another boring Orlando City slog) offsets the reward (if they end up really clicking, they should be a very fun team to watch). The Loons finally saw their shadow on the road in Chicago last week, so the Sea Cows might have the opportunity to take advantage of a team dealing with wounded pride here. I suspect it’ll be either mid-May or right after Leagues Cup or during Leagues Cup that we see Orlando hit its real potential, but there’s a slight chance we could see them do it here. Minnesota is good if you like pragmatic defensive performances and Miguel Tapias seems to have been a very good signing.
Season Pass Window Winner: FC Cincinnati at St. Louis CITY SC
DANGER! DANGER, ST. LOUIS! IT BECOMES A SLIDE AT THREE GAMES, ST. LOUIS! DON’T LET IT BECOME A SLIDE, ST. LOUIS!
Oh this could be bad! This could be real bad! The AllCaps have lost two in a row now, they’ve failed to score in two in a row now, and it’s happened precisely how we thought it might happen: against teams that could break their press with defensive back-lines built of players experienced in playing from the back. I thought even during their winning streak that Cincinnati, with experienced center backs in Matt Miazga, Nick Hagglund, and Yerson Mosquera, matched up well with St. Louis. They have an odd opportunity to very negatively affect the St. Louis PSYCHE of St. Louis CITY. Vibes are a cruel mistress, and they can change so quickly and so severely.
For the first five weeks of this season, St. Louis was on (and I know you’ll understand this analogy, I know it’s legal there now, though I would never think to drive 40 minutes east and cross the state lines to get any for myself, that would be breaking the rules and dishonoring the will of my state’s honorable legislature) something like a pleasant sativa high where everything was going right and everything made sense and there were no problems in the world… and two weeks ago, the soccer equivalent of two guys talking outside of their window happened. Last week, those two guys’ conversation started getting louder and more animated. If they lose to Cincinnati this week, it’ll be the soccer equivalent of being uncomfortably high while two guys argue loudly outside of your window for an extended period of time, the sort of thing that will absolutely ruin what was once a good evening and leave them shaky and anxious for the rest of the night.
Cincinnati will be lacking their most important player in Luciano Acosta, who’s been the primary source of their limited goal-scoring so far, so they have something to worry about as well. If St. Louis can capitalize, they’ll be fine, but if not, then watch out!
Window 3 (9:30pm):
Free Window Winner (By Default): Sporting Kansas City at San Jose Earthquakes
Free viewers, I apologize. You don’t even get a Mountain Time Zone match to tide you over through the first half of this one before you decide to commit to watching it. Quakes fans, I also apologize – Sporting Kansas City cannot do anything successfully this year and in response, they’ve decided on the road to sit on the floor and ensure that if they can’t have fun, neither can anybody else. Sporting Fans… I don’t know. If you want to commiserate I’ll probably be at the Red Lyon in downtown Lawrence on Saturday night.
I love watching San Jose this year, and if they can get an early goal and force SKC to play soccer with them, they might run up a few, perhaps Jackson Yueill and Cade Cowell purposefully try to get Jeremy Ebobisse a hat trick to make Anthony Hudson look foolish for not calling him in for the upcoming friendly against Mexico. The Earthquakes had a rough time of it last weekend, too, with the racial epithet incident in Harrison, but I think that their team leadership handled it about as well as they could’ve and I hope that they’ve at least been brought together closer as a team in response.
Season Pass Window Winner: Seattle Sounders at Portland Timbers
In the words of Jay Bilas when describing a rivalry in a different sport on the opposite coast… It always delivers. At least, it tends to deliver. Cascadia has shifted in favor of the road team as of recent, with Seattle blowing out Portland in Providence Park last year and Portland ruining Seattle’s CCL banner-raising. This does not set a happy precedent for Portland when compounded with the 23-place difference between them and Seattle at the current moment. Portland’s also missing Eryk Williamson now. Every sentence I type seems to bury the Timbers further, so I’m going to move off of that topic and discuss the Sounders, whose domination of then-first-place St. Louis last weekend has them looking like the best and maybe deepest team in MLS depending upon what you think of LAFC and how much you believe in Cincinnati’s ability to find their goal-scoring prowess from last year.
This might be a total blowout on the part of the Sounders, you might see Nouhou or Alex Roldan or Joao Paulo or all three of them plus many more score goals and break hearts in Portland. If the Timbers can somehow find a way to win here, you might see the lone bright moment in what is shaping up to be a dismal season in Oregon.
Window 4 (3:30pm on Sunday):
Artisan’s Choice: Los Angeles FC at Los Angeles Galaxy
I can remember a time in my life where nothing was allowed to go wrong for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Not that they could do no wrong, just that, even when they did do wrong, things tended to work out for them somehow, be it with a new ballyhooed high-money signing and a new type of GarberBuck to pay that new ballyhooed high-money signing, a display of greatness from one of those ballyhooed high-money signings like Robbie Keane or David Beckham, or even a display of greatness from a non-ballyhooed but still quite good player like Guillermo Rodriguez, Gregg Berhalter, or Mike Magee in a clutch postseason match. All of that karma and fortune built up from about 1996 to 2016 has destabilized, and it’s coming to a head this season. The fans are protesting, the forwards can’t score, the defense is… actually doing alright, but whatever – In the build-up to this weekend, it seems like nobody around the LA Galaxy can do anything right. They’re sitting at 28th, and somehow, both Chris Klein and Greg Vanney said things that got the fans even further heated.
We are at a time in the MLS season when certain teams hit something of a bounce in their watchability, as their failure makes them watchable in a sense more studiable than entertaining. The Galaxy are there, Sporting KC is there, I think Portland’s there, I think Charlotte FC’s getting there, I think Toronto FC’s sliding that way but not quite there. This match, in the early afternoon sun in Carson, in which we might see fans in Black and Gold (maybe they’ll try camo again?) fully usurp Dignity Health Sports Park in a manner that’s only been metaphorical up to this point, will be fascinating as it is, and if LAFC come out and dominate like they’ve been doing to everyone so far this season, we might reach a tipping point that the team doesn’t want to face until the season ends. This might be an important moment in history for the LA Galaxy on Sunday afternoon. It might go down in history like the Revs/Atlanta United match in Mercedes Benz on ESPN in mid-July 2021 when the fans vocally sided with Josef Martinez over Gabriel Heinze, or the 2017 playoff round between Columbus and New York City FC when we thought there was a real possibility it was the last match we’d ever see at the old Crew Stadium.
It might get microcosmic in Carson on Sunday. We might get some lore in Carson on Sunday. We might also see the Galaxy right the ship, which I suppose could be fun as well.
Miami! You’re off this weekend. I’m sure you can find something to do down there on a Saturday night. Everybody else, let’s enjoy the soccer!