MLS Weekend Preview
Bedoya and Davies Focus Spotlight on Philadelphia
August 05, 2016
All Eyes on Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Union is the most compelling team in MLS at the moment thanks to several significant moves made ahead of Wednesday's transfer deadline.
The team added U.S. international midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, providing Jim Curtin’s team much-needed leadership in the midfield. It also added former U.S. national team forward Charlie Davies and sent Sebastian Le Toux to Colorado, shuffling the deck in the attack.
Sporting director Earnie Stewart's moves should help a Union team which started off the season strongly but has tumbled from first to fourth place with just one win in its last six MLS games.
It is not yet clear what role, if any, Davies or Bedoya will play on Saturday after just joining the club. Regardless it is a new era for Philadelphia which also boasts one of the best rookies (Keegan Rosenberry), an exciting attacking midfielder (Roland Alberg), and a top young goalkeeper (Andre Blake).
The acquisitions will no doubt result in heightened expectations. Making the playoffs this year (which would be Philadelphia’s second playoff appearance in team history) is a must. On Saturday night Philadelphia have a very winnable game on the road against a fading D.C. United squad (7pm ET, MLS Live). Coming into this season, not much was expected of the Union but now there is very real pressure to be among one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.
Can Davis break in with Red Bulls?
Last weekend, New York Red Bulls captain Dax McCarty was on the wrong end of a first-half tackle from Chicago’s Khaly Thiam and was forced out of the game. On Monday, McCarty posted this on Twitter.
It's a huge setback for the Red Bulls. Now Jesse Marsch must fill the void and that task will most likely be left to homegrown product Sean Davis who has looked very promising at times when given the chance to play. Unfortunately for the Duke University product, playing behind McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe Martins has yielded few minutes.
Davis, 23, should now finally get his chance to prove his worth. The New Jersey native was overlooked by the U.S. U-23 team despite some strong showings last year. The first step will be a tough one for Davis as the Red Bulls visit a Los Angeles Galaxy team on Sunday (9:30pm ET, FS1) that hasn’t lost in seven MLS games and is undefeated at home this year. This is a matchup between the teams with the best goal differentials on the season with the Galaxy at +15 and the Red Bulls at +8.
Kreis & Lagerwey meet again
Jason Kreis enjoyed an impressive Orlando City debut last weekend as his team turned a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 3-1 win over the New England Revolution. As a result, Orlando leapfrogged the Revolution for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Along with Philadelphia’s makeover and the surge of Toronto FC, the addition of Kreis has changed the dynamics of the Eastern Conference. Old-guard teams like D.C. United, the Revolution, and the woefully disappointing Columbus Crew SC are giving way to a new order in the Conference that include NYCFC, Philadelphia, and Orlando.
On Sunday, Orlando will host a disappointing Seattle side (7pm ET, FS1) and Kreis will get the opportunity to go against Garth Lagerwey—the Seattle general manager he worked for at Real Salt Lake. A win by Orlando could be the final nail in the coffin for Seattle's dwindling playoff hopes.
Can Altidore help Giovinco?
Last week, U.S. national team forward Jozy Altidore came on in the second half for Toronto FC and scored the final goal in a 3-0 rout over Columbus. Midweek he played again for Toronto in a 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake. The New Jersey native has now played in three straight games—all off the bench—which have been his first performances since suffering a pulled hamstring on May 14.
The off-injured Altidore has a lot to prove. Aside from two productive seasons in the Eredivisie, most of his career has been frustrating as injuries have kept him out of important tournaments for the U.S. while his club impact has been uneven.
The stage is now set for Altidore to show what he can do alongsideSebastian Giovinco, the league’s most dynamic player.
On Saturday night, Toronto will host New England (7:30pm ET, MLS Live) and while Greg Vanney has been slowly easing Altidore back into the team, Altidore could be ready for the Starting XI. If he can play up to his ability and be a goal scoring threat, it would finally take pressure off Giovinco and Toronto might finally have a team that could go far in the playoffs.
Another injured Yank, Michael Bradley, could return from injury Saturday to play for the Ontario club.
CONCACAF Champions League
The 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League opened this week with group stage play. In total, five MLS teams will be taking part: the New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers, FC Dallas, Sporting Kansas City, and Vancouver Whitecaps.
On Tuesday the Whitecaps defeated Central FC on the road, 1-0. On Wednesday, the Red Bulls easily defeated Antigua 3-0 at home and Portland crept past a visiting CD Dragon 2-1. On Thursday, FC Dallas defeated Real Esteli 2-1 in Texas.
It is a pretty simple format with eight groups of three teams with the group winners advancing. MLS can only advance four teams into the quarterfinals next year as Vancouver and Sporting Kansas City are in the same group.
All four American teams should be favored to advance but the trickiest path belongs to Portland which has Costa Rica’s Deportivo Saprissa in its group.
This tournament has been a huge obstacle for Major League Soccer as Liga MX teams have dominated the competition in the knockout stages. From this early standpoint, it would seem Omar Gonzalez and Pachuca should be considered the favorite for this year’s edition.
San Jose Earthquakes 0-2 New York City FC
D.C. United 1-3 Philadelphia Union
Montreal 3-0 Houston Dynamo
Toronto 3-1 New England Revolution
Colorado 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Real Salt Lake 2-0 Chicago Fire
Portland Timbers 1-1 Sporting Kansas City
Orlando City 2-1 Seattle Sounders
Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 New York Red Bulls