By virtue of Houston and RSL dropping points, Portland is finally above the red line and is showing all the signs of staying there. It’s another example of why results around MLS matter, and another reason why your average paranoid Timbers fan (read: me) mildly obsesses over the upcoming games over the weekend and calculates just how high Portland could climb — or how far they could fall.
By the time all is said and done on Sunday night, Portland could bump up to sixth in the Western Conference, and we could be talking about maybe this team could make a run for the top of the West and a low seed in the playoffs. Or, if things don’t break right … the Timbers could fall to as low as ninth, which means that we’re talking about how huge the remaining home games are just to stay in the playoff hunt. Welcome to the murderous pack that it is known as the MLS Western Conference!
Here’s your rooting guide for this weekend’s lineup of MLS matches! (All times PDT.)
Atlanta United v. LA Galaxy (Saturday, 2:00 p.m.)
How awesome was it to see Zlatan get shut down last week? And how awesome would it be to see LA drop even more points? LA will be missing him and a few other key starters due to suspension when they travel to Atlanta, so it looks like they’re ripe for being run over.
Preferred result: Atlanta wins 3-1, and Josef Martinez scores a hat trick in the first half. Zlatan watches the game from a beach somewhere in California, only mildly caring, while sipping a mojito.
New York Red Bulls v. Toronto FC (Saturday, 3:00 p.m.)
I have legitimately no clue who the best team in the Eastern Conference is. On paper, either of these two teams have the talent to be top, but just can’t figure out how to play soccer well. Maybe they’ll do that this weekend?
Preferred result: A 3-1 Red Bull win. MLS fans are subjected to a dozen “Are the Red Bulls the best team in the East???” articles over the following week, only for the Red Bulls to lose their next game in spectacular fashion.
New England Revolution v. LAFC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
The first of many East v. West games this weekend. The Revs are being christened as the hottest thing in MLS since signing aging European superstars, while LAFC are being hailed as the best team in MLS ever since last year. Something’s gotta give this week
Preferred result: A back and forth 3-2 LAFC win. Yes, I would usually recommend East over West in this situation. But looking at the chances that Portland catches LAFC (not high), and the teams that are behind LAFC in the standings, I personally can’t deal with a week of articles saying “Can Seattle catch LAFC???”. So I say, let ’em run away with it.
Orlando City SC v. FC Dallas (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
A situation where I really do want East over West, which would make the leap over Dallas possible. Side note: respect to Orlando fans for booing the heck out of Atlanta players during the All-Star game on Wednesday. Doesn’t matter if they’re All-Stars or not: If they’re not your guys, you strum up the boo birds.
Preferred result: Orlando wins 1-0 off of a Nani goal that is a carbon copy of his hit in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge — only this time, it tucks under the bar and in.
FC Cincinnati v. Vancouver Whitecaps (Saturday, 5:00 p.m.)
A pivotal game in the race for the Wooden Spoon, perhaps? Both of these teams are hopelessly nose-diving, so both are desperate for a win and some respectability. In games with desperate teams in MLS, you know it’s gonna get weird.
Preferred result: 2-1 Cincinnati. Here’s the order of goals: Kendall Waston, header off a corner; Kendall Waston own goal; Kendall Waston last-minute winner off of a weird deflection on a set piece. Basically, I’m hoping that Kendall Waston will get a very special kind of hat trick on Saturday.
Houston Dynamo v. Chicago Fire (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
Not feeling too good about this one: Houston has been (mostly) good at home, and Chicago has been (mostly) bad playing anywhere. Weird results happen in MLS, and I’m choosing to be optimistic, but don’t be too shocked if Houston regains ground against Portland this weekend.
Preferred result: Chicago incredulously gets a 1-0 smash-and-grab victory. Bastian Schweinsteiger somehow plays centerback, outside back, central midfield, and forward ... all in the same game. He gets the goal, too.
Colorado Rapids v. Montreal Impact (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
Montreal came out of nowhere and laid a 4-0 smackdown on Philadelphia last week (called it!). Playing in Colorado is a very different prospect than playing at home, but I hope the Impact carry some of that heat into Commerce City and pull off another one.
Preferred result: Montreal sits way back, Colorado sits way back, and somehow Montreal wins 1-0. After the game, everyone flees the area due to the danger of the “plague-infested fleas affecting prairie dog colonies in the surrounding area” (I’m dead serious. Click that link. It’s wild, y’all.)
Real Salt Lake v. New York City FC (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)
Mike Petke got suspended after verbally abusing the referees after RSL’s Leagues Cup game two weeks ago. The details of what he said are ugly. I don’t want to wade too much into it, but I’m getting a little tired of the “Angry Petke” thing. Yes he’s “authentic,” but this is an example of how his behavior has become excessive and unacceptable.
Preferred result: NYCFC wins 3-0. MLS fans are subjected to a dozen “Is NYC the best team in the East??” articles over the following week, only for NYC to barely scrape out a win in their next game in dubious fashion.
San Jose Earthquakes v. Columbus Crew SC (Saturday, 7:00 p.m.)
Here’s where my long-term strategy of rooting for the Crew hopefully plays off: They’ve started playing well and winning, just in time to ideally cool off the ’Quakes. I’m hoping that Caleb Porter can do his old friends in Portland a solid in this one.
Preferred result: Columbus wins 2-1. After Chris Wondolowski scores the opener, Gyasi Zardes responds with a brace. Gregg Berhalter is in attendance taking notes, to the horror of USMNT fans everywhere.
DC United v. Philadelphia Union (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.)
Are either of these teams the best team in the Eastern Conference? You could make arguments for either of them. I personally am a fan of the organic rise of Philly, but also have a soft spot for Wayne Rooney, so my heart is torn here.
Preferred result: An entertaining 3-3 draw. MLS fans are subjected to a dozen “Are either of these teams the best team in the East???” in the following week, only for both Philly and DC to lose their next games in disappointing fashion. All of those writing the dozens of “Best in the East” articles realize they have no clue who the best team in the East is.
Seattle Sounders v. Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 7:00 p.m.)
Does it make sense for SKC to lose ground in the playoff race? Yes. Would it make sense to hope that their season is all but over by the time Portland plays them in September? Also yes. But do you really think that I’m going to suggest you root for that team in this situation? Haha. No way, friend.
Preferred result: SKC wins 2-0, defying every other prediction and analysis out there. Post game, Roman Torres tries to confront a goalkeeper again. But halfway through walking up to Tim Melia, Torres realizes that his heart just isn’t in it, so he hangs his head in sadness and shuffles away.
And that’s your guide for MLS Matchday 22. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!