MLS Week 11: Three Games to Watch

With the domestic transfer window closed, MLS teams can only sign out-of-contract players until the secondary window opens in early July.

By then, the Gold Cup will be underway and many teams will have also lost players during the FIFA international fixture interval in early June. For a couple of weeks, teams can go with what they’ve got and in addition to the usual diet of weekend games there’s another busy Wednesday next week during which 10 teams will play.

So rotations of players will markedly effect the lineups and tactics chosen by head coaches mindful of upcoming games. Here are three to watch this weekend.

Sunday, May 14
NY Red Bulls vs. LA Galaxy 6 pm FS1
REDRESS AT RED BULL ARENA. This matchup of massive markets and huge superstars isn’t what it once was, but of course you are keen to find out why the defending Eastern Conference champions  are fifth and the not-so-mighty Galaxy is ninth. That’s reason enough to tune in Sunday (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes, 6 p.m. ET).

As per the Red Bulls, they are not defending well, as shown last week in a loss at Philly in which they turned a goalless game into a 3-0 loss. Defender Aaron Long started the skid by nodding a headed clearance right to C.J. Sapong, then sliding to accidentally deflect his shot over keeper Luis Robles, whose sharp play is one of the team’s few bright spots to date. Sapong headed the second goal when right back Michael Murillo stumbled as a cross flew over his head.

The loss dropped the Red Bulls’ road mark to 1-3-0, but they are 4-0-1 at home and Sunday kick off a three-game run of games at Red Bull Arena. (They do not play midweek but do host juggernaut Toronto FC a week from Friday.) There is always danger when Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan are on the field, but both players have sputtered in the attacking third too often this season.

By contrast, the Galaxy have played six of its nine games at home and won only one of them. Last weekend, it rallied to tie the Fire, 2-2, with goals off corner kicks by Daniel Steres and Giovani dos Santos after head coach Curt Onalfo pulled centerback Jelle Van Damme, who fouled to give away a penalty kick and messed up on the second Fire goal as well. It’s hard to see Van Damme not starting on Sunday, since the Red Bulls will be snorting fire to get their season back on track.

Newcomer Romain Alessandrini is a joy to watch but he’s outplaying his attacking mates. Dos Santos has been flat for too long in too many games, and attacker Gyasi Zardes has notched just one assist in six games (four starts) this season. He recovered from a foot injury suffered last August just in time to injure his knee playing in a January scrimmage with the U.S. national team, and hasn’t seemed quite the same since recovering from surgery.

The Galaxy is also dealing with the news that defender Robbie Rogers, who hasn’t played in 2017 because of recurring ankle problems, will miss the entire season. He underwent surgery during the offseason to repair nerve damage in his left ankle. So far, Bradley Diallo and Rafael Garcia haven’t provided stability at right back.
Sunday, May 14
Portland vs. Atlanta United 4 pm ESPN
TWO TEAMS IN SEARCH OF A TURNAROUND. In the first two months of the season, the Timbers have been rattling in the goals, and effervescent Atlanta United has scored more times (19) than any team except Portland (20) and Houston (also 19). Yet they meet Saturday at Providence Park (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 4 p.m. ET) each winless in their last two games and with only three wins, combined, in their last 10.

The prospect of a high-scoring game – the first between the teams, obviously -- is raised by the return of Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez, who was leading MLS with five goals in just three games when he suffered a thigh injury while on international duty for Venezuela. Also back from injury is forward Jacob Peterson, sidelined the past four games with an ankle injury. Atlanta United, despite playing six of the first nine MLS games in its history on the road, is a solid 2-2-2 heading into one of the leagues’ most boisterous venues.

At home the Timbers will be anxious to atone for a 3-0 defeat at San Jose last weekend in which the Quakes shackled forward Fanendo Adi, who came into the match with six goals but did not manage a shot before coming off in the 83rd minute.

Portland’s home dominance has waned since it blasted Minnesota United, 5-1, and Houston, 4-2, in its first games this season at Providence Park. It has tied New England (1-1) lost to Sporting Kansas City (0-1), and beaten Vancouver (2-1). In the latter game Diego Valeri suffered a hip injury and has missed the last two matches.

Head coach Caleb Porter said it was “likely’ Valeri will play against Atlanta United. A hamstring injury has kept Darlington Nagbe from full training this week and he is questionable, which gives Atlanta United more license to push forward on the counterattacks that have scorched several opponents already in its first season.
Saturday, May 13
D.C. United vs. Philadelphia 7 pm
UNITED AND UNION GO AT IT AGAIN. This second meeting of these Eastern Conference rivals Saturday (MLS Live, 7 pm.) will probably be more about grit than glamour.

In their first encounter on April Fool’s Day United prevailed, 2-1, to earn its first win of the season. Philly cleared that barrier only last week after eight games winless, but did so emphatically against the Red Bulls thanks to a Sapong hat trick and Andre Blake’s second straight shutout.

Though United has won three of its last six, it is a point out of the playoff tier. Last weekend head coach Ben Olsen tore into his players following a dismal 1-0 home loss to Montreal, in which former Union attacker Sebastian Le Toux was blanked after scoring a goal apiece in United’s previous two games.

In two separate stints with Philly (2010-11, 2013-16) he set the club record for goals (50), assists (50), and games played (175). Le Toux did not play when the teams met April 1; Olsen will likely count on him to spark his team back to life.
1 comment about "MLS Week 11: Three Games to Watch".
  1. Quarterback TD, May 12, 2017 at 8:16 a.m.

    I will go to the NYRB games on Sunday just to see the Red Bulls and LA Galaxy first hand. How bad can it be ? I am guessing extremely bad and boring giving the college level state of both teams.

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