Major League Soccer
New York Derby, Returning Stars Boost MLS Weekend
July 02, 2016
AS THE 2016 Major League Soccer season reaches its midway point and the playoff races become more defined, the second half of the season should bring more intensity and more intrigue. That's the hope anyway.
Now that the Copa America is over, the league’s best players are back with their teams—which should raise the talent level substantially. The action started Friday night and continues daily with the New York Derby on Sunday and a trio of very good games on Monday.
Jones vs. Nagbe on the 4th of July
The best individual matchup of the weekend is on Monday when Colorado hosts Portland (9pm ET, MLS Live). The Rapids might not play pretty soccer but it has the best record in the league thanks to its ability to grind and find ways to win. Meanwhile Portland has moved into playoff position thanks to three wins and two draws in its last five league games.
Jermaine Jones has been an important part of Colorado’s success this year while Nagbe was perhaps the biggest reason why Portland won MLS Cup last year. At the recent Copa America, Jones started every game he was eligible for and enjoyed some very good moments while Nagbe only saw limited action despite impressing in friendlies.
Jones is 34 years old and Nagbe is 25, and it looked like Copa America Centenario was going to be a changing of the guard moment. That did not happen. Now the two central midfielders will face off against each other in an MLS game. Could be fun to watch.
Big Apple takes center stage again
In May the New York Red Bulls pulled off one of the most shocking regular season results in MLS history when it defeated New York City FC 7-0 at Yankee Stadium—a bludgeoning seen on national television. Coming into the game, NYCFC was actually playing well but then capitulated in a highly hyped game in which both sides were pushing for New York area bragging rights.
Though incredibly one-sided, that match was great for the rivalry and the league. MLS tried to force NYCFC–Red Bulls on the fans as a genuine derby but instead it felt manufactured. The 7-0 result was humiliating and embarrassing for NYCFC but that only makes Sunday’s game between the two (12pm ET, ESPN) at Yankee Stadium more of a must watch. NYCFC needs to come out strong and make a statement. Based on recent play, the team just might do so.
NYCFC is finally getting solid production out of its high-priced designated players: Frank Lampard, David Villa, and Andrea Pirlo. Rookie Jack Harrison is playing like a No. 1 draft pick and Tommy MacNamara continues to have a very strong season.
The Red Bulls, on the other hand, are enduring a terrible stretch, settling for draws in its last two MLS games after squandering late equalizers. Then, in midweek, it was bounced out of the U.S. Open Cup by Philadelphia for a second straight year despite dominating the first half.
After losing all six of its games to the Red Bulls and Cosmos, NYCFC has another golden chance to win a game against a local opponent.
It will be fascinating to watch.
Will U.S. Stars Boost Toronto-Seattle?
The combined rosters of Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders include some of the best known and respected players in MLS: Sebastian Giovinco, Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore, Ozzie Alonso, Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, and Will Johnson.
And yet, if the season were to end right now neither would make the playoffs. It's another reminder that MLS general managers need to build teams and not merelu a collection of all-stars.
The sides will face off on Saturday night (7:30pm ET, MLS Live) in Ontario.
Dempsey will need to boost Seattle’s atrocious offense—an attack that has scored just 13 goals the entire season. He'll be under a lot of pressure to carry his team toward the red line, but if there's one battle-tested vet who seems up to the task, it's the Nacogdoches, Texas, native.
Toronto finished June with a 3-2-1 record and won the Canadian Championship to book a place in the CONCACAF Champions League. But on Friday the club revealed that Bradley will miss six weeks with a sprained knee suffered at during Copa America Centenario.
Due to injuries and bad form, this matchup is not the blockbuster many might have exprected but hopefully the desperation of the teams should make for entertainment. Besides, watching Dempsey go against Giovinco is well worth any soccer fan’s time.
Offense expected in Dallas vs. Orlando
FC Dallas hosts Orlando City Monday night (9pm ET, MLS Live) and Oscar Pareja’s team is riding a home unbeaten streak of 14 games.
This is a game that should see some goals. FC Dallas boasts a dynamic offense with a lot of depth. Despite logging 26 goals this season, the club does not have one player in the top 10 in scoring. Its backline is anchored by the American duo of Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman, while Kellyn Acosta, Carlos Gruezo, Mauro Diaz, and Fabian Castillo boost the midfield and the attack. Even though Colorado has the league's best record, Dallas looks like the squad most like to make a run into December.
Meanwhile, Orlando has been very good at times—and also extremely inconsistent. Former FIFA player of the year Kaka and reigning rookie of the year Cyle Larin should open this game up. Keep an eye on U.S. U-20 central defender Tommy Redding, who should be a big part of Tab Ramos’ team this cycle.
Montreal Impact 1-1 New England Revolution
Toronto FC 3-1 Seattle Sounders
Houston Dynamo 0-0 Philadelphia Union
New York City FC 1-2 New York Red Bulls
Sporting Kansas City 2-0 Columbus Crew SC
Colorado Rapids 2-2 Portland Timbers
FC Dallas 3-2 Orlando City SC
LA Galaxy 3-1 Vancouver Whitecaps