Orlando City vs. Toronto FC (7:30et, 4:30pt, TSN4/MLS Live)
Everything’s trending in the right direction for Greg Vanney’s Toronto FC. They’ve won five of their last six games, with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore combining for an incredible 11 goals in that span. They’re now just one point back of NYCFC for the top spot in the East with a game in hand, and they have one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league.
It’s a bit of a different story for Orlando City SC. Jason Kreis’s side have won just once in their last nine, leaving them in the middle of a tight playoff battle with the rapidly-improving D.C. United.
TFC are dominating right now and should have no problem with a shaky Orlando team, but it’s worth noting that they have a home rivalry match on the weekend against Montreal, so Vanney may take that into account when he makes his lineup choices in Orlando. That means Altidore and others could play limited minutes in preparation for the Impact.
However, if we’ve learned anything about Toronto this year, it’s that they have arguably the best depth in the league. Look for Jordan Hamilton or Tosaint Ricketts or Tsubasa Endoh to have a say on things in Orlando.
Columbus Crew SC vs. Philadelphia Union (7:30et, 4:30pt, MLS Live)
The Crew actually won a game recently (2-0 at New England) and so they remain loosely in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They’re at home against Philadelphia on Wednesday with a chance to make a statement and confirm to the league that they won’t go down without a fight.
And, Gregg Berhalter, if you’re reading this, feel free to use that last line in your pre-game speech.
Philadelphia got steamrolled against Toronto last weekend, but that seems to be an outlier, as Jim Curtain and co. appear to have figured things out of late. Alejandro Bedoya is plugging every midfield gap they had left, freeing Tranquillo Barnetta to work his magic high up the field, and C.J. Sapong hasn’t let up on the goals.
To keep pace in the East, the Union will look for, at the very least, a road point. The Crew can accept nothing less than another win.
Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United (7:30et, 4:30pt, MLS Live)
Mauro Biello is in quite the predicament at the current moment. His Impact were picked apart by the Chicago Fire at home last weekend — basically the worst possible outcome in any game for any MLS team — and they have yet to figure out what their best lineup is. To complicate matters further, they somehow get worse when they have one of the best players in the league on the field.
The Impact are the kind of team that would do really well in Football Manager and FIFA, but don’t work out in real life.
While Montreal stand still near the bottom of the Eastern Conference, D.C. United get their track shoes on directly behind them. United are improving fast, just in time for the final 10 games of the season, and they will look to storm up the standings with a feisty Orlando side hanging around. The Impact are the next team in their way, and DCU now get a chance to pull within two points of them.
Montreal are at home with a chance to hop over Philly in the standings. Theoretically, they should be able to do it. Theoretically is the key word there.
Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy (8:30et, 5:30pt, MLS Live)
Well, this is a heck of a matchup.
The Fire are basically the complete opposite of the Galaxy. They don’t have much, if any, star power (David Accam is the only qualifier there; the Galaxy have approximately 900,000 DP-caliber players); and they’re floundering at the bottom of the East while the Galaxy hang around near the top of the West (although they’re now fifth after a weekend loss). Chicago did win on Saturday, however, so maybe their fortunes are turning? Yeah, not likely.
LA are stuck in what you could call a rough patch by Galaxy standards. They’re in the midst of a five-game winless streak in all competitions, and they’ve had trouble both creating shots and stopping them recently. The Fire, meanwhile, won 3-0 in Montreal on the weekend, so they’re currently in heaven even though they’re in last place.
It should be a blowout, because the Galaxy are a hundred times better than Chicago on paper, but maybe, just maybe, Accam will score a goal on the counter and Sean Johnson will make a save or two and the Fire will pull off an upset. Not likely, but this is MLS, remember.
Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders (9:00et, 6:00pt, MLS Live)
The Sounders are on an absolute tear right now. They’ve picked up 10 of the last 12 available points — with wins in each of their last three — thanks in large part to the addition of MLS’s third magical wizard/Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro (the other two are Mauro Diaz and Diego Valeri). Jordan Morris is having an excellent rookie season, Clint Dempsey’s in his favorite position and therefore is scoring a ton of goals, and Cristian Roldan is making a serious case for a national team call-up.
They’re now just two points out of a playoff spot and with a win over the worst team in the Western Conference, they can leapfrog the Timbers, which or may or may not send the city of Portland into a riot. Things are looking increasingly peachy in Seattle.
The same can’t be said for the poor Dynamo. They fired Owen Coyle in May — he was the worst coach in MLS by a pretty wide margin — and they traded their only truly good attacker (Giles Barnes) in July. Interim coach Wade Barrett has done well since taking over — easily better than Coyle, who’s back in England destroying Blackburn Rovers — but he doesn’t exactly have much to work with.
And so they languish at the bottom, counting down the days until the winter transfer window. The Sounders should have a pretty easy time at BBVA Compass Stadium.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution (10:30et, 7:30pt, MLS Live)
The Quakes blew their golden opportunity to gain huge ground in the Western Conference playoff battle last Friday by losing at home to Houston. With the Sounders cruising and Portland losing, San Jose could have stolen the sixth spot and spoiled the Cascadian party.
But alas, they flopped and allowed Portland to hold onto their playoff spot for a little while longer. With Seattle charging up the standings, it’s hard to imagine the Earthquakes taking a postseason spot away from them. They’re not out of it, though.
They are still just a point behind, and with another home game coming up against a team in turmoil, they could jump back into sixth.