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The MLS Watch Grid for March 11th (and 12th), 2023
The Watch Grid is All Mixed Up and Doesn't Know What To Do
What you see above this paragraph is my MLS Watch Grid for this weekend’s slate of Major League Soccer matches. I explained the Watch Grid concept last week if you’re curious about my terminology or methodology. We have a slate of interesting matchups this Saturday (3/11), and they’ll be even more interesting if you’re observing the holy day by partaking in its designated accompanying medicinal herb at the designated burn-time, which should leave you with a barely-broken string of MLS matches (save for a half hour between the end of the Whitecaps match and the 6:30 PM window, during which you can throw on an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force to hold you over) right into 3/12.
Window 1 (11:00 AM)
Window Winner: Atlanta United FC at Charlotte FC
“You've got to trust your instinct
And let go of regret
You've got to bet on yourself now star
'Cause that's your best bet”
- All Mixed Up
Though this is the only match this window, presented for free on FOX and Apple TV, I don’t consider it a winner-by-default. Atlanta has come in about a foot or two offside from being the hottest team in MLS to start the year. Charlotte has zero points through two matches and has struggled to score, putting as many into the net of St. Louis CITY as they have the net of Charlotte FC after two matches. The third week is when we start having referenda. If Charlotte loses this match at home, we will be allowed to at least start entertaining the concept of Charlotte being a bad team this season, because they really have looked like at the very least not a good team so far. On the other hand, Giorgios Giakoumakis looked very capable of carrying on the strong tradition in the young history of the Center Forward spot in Atlanta, but saw his first goal in red and black stripped by the VAR and was visibly quite miffed about it for the rest of the match, so I’m hoping (and guessing) that he scores in Charlotte on Saturday afternoon.
Window 2 (4:00 PM)
Window Winner: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps FC
“I know a drugstore cowgirl
so afraid of getting bored
She's always running from something
so many things ignored”
I am worried that this match will be a little boring, in that Vanni Sartini could rest his starters after the Whitecaps ran into the CCL at a full sprint, playing inexplicably like they want to play and dominating Real Espana, which must be something of an uncomfortable position for the Whitecaps. There’s just something about that Putt Putt Golf Course turf they have up in the (if the coaching staff of Real Espana are to be believed) frigid icebox of BC Place that turns normal games interesting. This should be a 3-1 win for FC Dallas, but I will prep for worse.
NOTE: From this point forward I have no personal stake in the watch grid, as I’ll be heading to Children’s Mercy Park around 4:30 or so for Sporting/Galaxy. Keep that in mind — I will be unable to adhere to my suggestions from here on out.
Window 3 (6:30 PM)
Game of the Week: Seattle Sounders FC at FC Cincinnati
“We've changed a lot and then some - some
You know that we have always been down - down”
The Sounders are back to stringing together flashy-but-pragmatic passing sequences to set up tap-ins like we expect from them. St. Louis is the plucky upstart interesting story 6-points in two matches team, Miami’s the miraculous ecstatic #BANGERZ 6-points in two matches team, New England is also mathematically involved in this group, but the Sounders have looked like the best team in MLS coming out of the gate in a way that I should theoretically detest but in reality find somewhat comforting, like how things feel better but somehow wrong when the school bully’s out sick for a week and the return to the daily routine of getting your books knocked out of your hand in front of the vending machines at least reconstructs the narrative fabric of reality and allows time to flow again in a way that feels real, honest, harrowing though it may be.
I kind of lost control of that analogy, so I won’t try to lengthen it to FC Cincinnati — but they should be a good defensive team and if Brandon Vazquez gets going again, they could potentially match Seattle’s attack goal-for-goal and provide us a highly entertaining match for no charge at all!
Artisan’s Choice: Inter Miami CF at New York City FC
“I don’t practice Santeria
I ain’t got no crystal ball”
Yankee Stadium enters the fold for the first time this season! Coming in is a Miami team riding high off Pixie Dust and Good Fun and The Sorts of Goals That Make You Wish Roy Hudson Was Still Calling Them, and they will play a NYCFC team trying to develop any possible identity. They’ve brought Slim Jimmy back from the highlands and into the midfield, which leaves the Pigeons with two Americans, aged 22 and 25, as their midfield anchors — This is not a cause for concern, both Sands and Keaton Parks are excellent players, but imagine going back to the NYCFC home opener in 2015, seeing Andrea Pirlo and Mix Diskerud putz around, and telling somebody there that the NYCFC model in 2023 would be built around pragmatically effective domestic midfielders and young South American attacking talent — and that they’ll still be at Yankee Stadium.
Window 4 (7:30 PM)
Free Window Winner (By Default): CF Montreal at Nashville SC
“FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST DO NOT WATCH MONTREAL”
Couple more weeks like this and I’m calling you guys “Feet Club” again
Season Pass Window Winner: LA Galaxy at Sporting Kansas City
“Some days it seems it’s not worth it, the fight in me is all gone.
And I’m not trying to be perfect, but just get one damn thing done.
Before I lose control, I pick myself off the floor.”
- Don’t Tread on Me
I apologize, I’m really stretching my knowledge of 311 songs by this point. I guess the “one damn thing” to be done in this case, for Sporting Kansas City, is to score a goal. If this game ends up without a goal from Sporting KC, there will be a palpable frustration in the stadium, which might be entertaining to see on TV. A non-insignificant amount of it will come from me, who will be hanging out up on the Price Chopper Bridge. I’m hoping for like a 3-2 in favor of Sporting but I will not pretend like I honestly know what to expect.
Window 5 (8:30 PM)
Window Winner: Austin FC at Real Salt Lake
“The river cuts its way through stone.
Not through sheer force, but persistence.
At the end of the day the relentless always win.”
You know, when I originally drafted this grid, it was a pleasant Tuesday afternoon, and Austin FC was about to go down to the Dominican Republic and probably blow the hell out of a Haitian team in CCL. We know now that this is not the case. Austin got their shit rocked this last weekend in front of a band playing two songs on repeat on a field with a huge tree overhanging one of the goals (which gives me an idea for filling that odd dead space corner at Q2 Stadium, the one with the Ketel One ads). To further the school bully conceit of several paragraphs ago, Austin’s looking like the hot-shot whose mojo is completely messed up after getting his nose broken inexplicably by a kid they didn’t know and for once didn’t even really provoke.
With their pride bruised and sense-of-self destabilized, they have to go play their brand of flashy pretty attacking soccer against Justen Glad, a man created from the earth by the hand of god with the central driving force of ruining flashy pretty attacking soccer. This should be the Artisan’s Second Choice.
Window 6 (9:30 PM)
“Come Original you got to Come Original
Something Something Something Come Original”
- Come Original
Window Winner: St. Louis CITY SC at Portland Timbers
Somehow all of St. Louis’s good karma will come tumbling back down as Tim Parker accidentally delivers a soft ground-pass right to the feet of Jaroslaw Niezgoda on the edge of the six-yard box, who, with clinical grace and precision, delivers a perfect strike that ripples the glass of the windows of the Multnomah Athletic Club, startling Portland’s upper-crust but making no dent on the progress of their concurrent spin class nor on the inexplicable 3-0 lead that St. Louis has built up by that point.
Window 7 (Sunday (9:30 PM)
Purple is the color of your energy
Towels of Power fly naturally”
- ‘Purple’, a version of ‘Amber’ that I and my friend Mike wrote about the Wildcats athletics teams of Kansas State University
Window Winner (By Default): New England Revolution at Los Angeles FC
LAFC just beat the shit out of Alajuelense in Costa Rica on Thursday, and they’ll have to play the second leg of that tie in the middle of next week, so I’m guessing that a good chunk of the LAFC roster will be rotated here. The Revs looked good last week! The spring forward will diminish the Jet Lag difference, I think — probably — I mean that sounds like it would make sense, don’t you think? So you get a rotated LAFC, a good Revs team in some sort of existence outside of time, and I think that equals an interesting game, right? I don’t know, I’ll be in bed because I have to wake up on Monday morning (keep in mind 9:30 PM kickoff on FS1 really means something like a 10:07 PM kickoff on FS1) but I think the theory holds water.
The Odd Team Out
It’s the Houston Dynamo left on the sidelines this weekend. Dynamo fans, enjoy Marcus Sasser while you have him on the Cougars but before you have him on the Rockets (as an early second round pick, I mean). Everybody else, enjoy the soccer this weekend!