MLS Weekend Preview

Red Bulls v. Timbers a Key Clash; Overhaul in Orlando

Two of Major League Soccer's best in 2015 will try to turn things around this weekend as the Portland Timbers and the New York Red Bulls square off. Also: a contrast in styles on display in Kansas City.
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
July 08, 2016
7:00 PM

Red Bulls v. Timbers is Top Tilt

Not all has gone as planned for the reigning Supporters Shield holders and the reigning MLS Cup champions. The Red Bulls did not handle a busy part of its schedule well and tumbled out of first place and into fourth. Meanwhile, Portland is simplyhoping just to remain in the playoff picture in the Western Conference.

The two teams will have plenty at stake on Sunday night when they meet at Red Bull Arena (6pm ET, ESPN).

The two squads play similar styles and have found identical offensive success. Both have scored 28 goals in 18 games, both have strong and effective forwards in Fanendo Adi and Bradley Wright-Phillips, and both have very good central midfielders.

New York traded longtime winger Lloyd Sam to D.C. United for allocation money this week and defender Damien Perrinelle started in the 2-0 friendly win over Club America—indicating he appears set to return to MLS action after tearing his ACL last November.

The Red Bulls face numerous questions: Gonzalo Veron will need to step up after Sam’s departure. The Argentine designated player has been with the club for more than a year but is yet to fit in as a Red Bull. He will see more minutes now and he will be expected to make an impact.

Portland has rebounded from a three-game losing streak in May with three wins and three draws in its last six games. The problem for Portland is that it has not won on the road all season. This will be its last road game before three consecutive at home. If Caleb Porter's team could manage a road win on Sunday, it would be in good position to climb the standings the next month.

All Eyes on Orlando

On Wednesday night Orlando City SC fired head coach Adrian Heath. It was hardly surprising, as the team has won just two out of its last 12 games. Heath had been the team’s head coach dating back to 2011 when it was in the USL.

Orlando City underwent heavy turnover last offseason and the departure of Heath represents more of the same. It will be interesting to see the response now that Heath is gone. Assistant coaches Bobby Murphy and Anthony Pulis will lead the team on an interim basis.

Any time a coach is sacked midseason questions surface as towhether he lost the locker room.

Orlando is clearly trying to make a change to have an immediate effect. It is very much in the playoff race at seventh place and is even on points with sixth-place Toronto. On Friday night, Orlando hosts the Houston Dynamo (7pm ET, UniMas) and it will be interesting to see the team respond.

Kei Kamara faces Columbus Crew

On Saturday the New England Revolution will host the Columbus Crew (7:30pm ET, MLS Live) in a battle of two terrible teams. Ninth-place Columbus is the most disappointing team in the league this year while the eighth -lace Revolution is not that far behind. Both teams had playoff expectations coming into the season but both are on the outside looking in.

Expect Kei Kamara to be at the heart of the intrigue. The striker left the Crew in May on bad terms when he got into a heated verbal exchange with Federico Higuain over who would take a penalty. A few days later he was traded to New England. Will Kamara play with added emotion? Given his personality, it seems likely.

Meanwhile the Crew replaced Kei Kamara with another Kamara—Norwegian Ola Kamara, who has been one of the best attackers in MLS the past month despite the Crew's struggles.

Old and New guards clash in KC

There is no question that New York City FC is on quite a streak. Designated players Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard, and likely MVP candidate David Villa are on a roll. Jack Harrison has been extremely effective in his rookie campaign and Tommy McNamara is having a breakout season.

When NYCFC visits Sporting Kansas City on Sunday night (8pm, FS1) it will be a great contrast in styles.

One team trying to set a new standard in MLS vs. an original team that has been a regular contender

Old foreign designated players vs. established American designated players

A flashy foreign coach vs. an American coach who has roots in the U.S. since the 1980s

An established English player in Dom Dwyer who grew to prominence in the United States vs. a younger English attacker in Jack Harrison trying to do the same

A team with a clear vision, local ownership, and first-rate facilities vs. a team with an murky purpose, distant but wealthy ownership, and awful facilities

Quite a contrast. It should be fun.



Orlando City 3-2 Houston Dynamo
San Jose Earthquakes 0-2 FC Dallas

Seattle Sounders 1-3 LA Galaxy
Philadelphia Union 1-0 DC United
Toronto FC 2-0 Chicago Fire
New England Revolution 2-2 Columbus Crew
Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 Colorado Rapids
Real Salt Lake 2-1 Montreal Impact

New York Red Bulls 3-1 Portland Timbers
Sporting Kansas City 1-2 New York City FC

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