Going through World Cup withdrawals? MLS would like to help you with that, and this weekend's slate of games offers four compelling matchups with strong ties to the U.S. national team, present and future.
July 11, 2014
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New York and Columbus Slug It Out
The New York Red Bulls will host Columbus Crew on Saturday and the two teams are neck and neck in the standings. Right now, New York holds the final playoff spot in the East but its lead over Columbus is as tight as it could be. Both are even on points and goal differential but the Red Bulls have the edge on goals scored. Saturday’s game should be a good one.
One year after winning the MLS Supporters Shield, the Red Bulls have struggled to build off that successful campaign. Salary cap issues have hampered the team’s ability to make adjustments and a series of ineffective off-season signings have made it hard on Mike Petke.
The good news is that the Red Bulls, which have a terrific history of developing young American players (Jozy Altidore, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, Tim Ream, Juan Agudelo), have given opportunities to promising young talents, including U.S U-20 central defender Matt Miazga and Cameroonian fullback Ambroise Oyongo.
In its first season under former U.S. international Gregg Berhalter, the Crew got off to a strong start but have since cooled off. The squad will arrive in Harrison, N.J. having drawn its last four matches.
Worth watching in this game is the central midfield battle between the experienced Yank Dax McCarty and the promising young talent Wil Trapp, who could very well be the captain of the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro.
Two Top rookies square Off
New England has quietly rebuilt itself around a solid core of young players: Diego Fagundez, Andrew Farrell, and Kelyn Rowe have all been instrumental in the team's turnaround.
Jay Heaps' team added another piece to the puzzle via the 2014 SuperDraft, selecting former University of Maryland striker Patrick Mullins, who has four goals in his first nine MLS contests.
On Saturday, New England will host Chicago and its 2014 homegrown signing Harry Shipp, who is the frontrunner for 2014 MLS rookie of the year. Shipp has six goals and four assists in his first 15 games this season, and has impressed just about everybody with his vision in the final third.
The Seattle – Portland rivalry resumes
Any time Seattle and Portland face off you need to change your planes, find a large TV (or match ticket), and enjoy the spectacle. The crowds are always big, the games are typically intense, and Sunday’s contest will have the added bonus of being crucial to the western conference standings.
Seattle possesses the league’s best record and two of the most important names in American soccer— U.S. national team captain Clint Dempsey and right back DeAndre Yedlin, who made a splash in Brazil and is the subject of many transfer rumors.
In Seattle’s way will be a desperate Timber team looking for revenge. On Wednesday, Seattle eliminated Portland from the U.S. Open Cup with a well-played 3-1 extra-time victory. In league play, Portland cannot afford to lose any more ground, as it is currently four points out of the playoffs.
Seattle will be looking to deliver a second harsh blow to its Pacific Northwest rival. Portland will be seeking revenge. It should be an intense game even by Cascadia Cup standards.
Galaxy – RSL: the marquee matchup
For American fans looking to fill the void left by the U.S. national team's elimination from the World Cup, Saturday's match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake would be a good place to start.
Omar Gonzalez, who sparkled in his starts against Belgium and Germany, is nursing an ankle injury but could return to the Galaxy lineup. Will he be lured away from Southern California with offers from Europe? Is he determined to stay with the Galaxy? It's a subplot worth keeping any eye on.
Another American who shined in Brazil, Kyle Beckerman, will likely return to duty in this clash of rivals, and while goalkeeper Nick Rimando did not see any action at the World Cup, he is still perhaps the best shot stopper in Major League Soccer.
Curious about the future of the U.S. national team? Look no further than RSL midfielder Luis Gil, a likely leader on the U.S. Olympic team who could become a prominent player on Jurgen Klinsmann's senior side in the years ahead.
Adding to the intrigue of this match, former—it's awkward to use that word—national team star Landon Donovan will be on hand after making headlines for his critical comments on Klinsmann and the U.S. national team.
So yeah, there are plenty of reasons to watch this one.
How many of these matches are you planning to catch? Did the World Cup increase or decrease your interest in MLS? Let us know below.
Brian Sciaretta is an American Soccer Now columnist and an ASN 100 panelist. Follow him on Twitter and share your thoughts on his thoughts below.