After a cursory check of soccer leagues around the world, I can confirm that MLS is the only top tier men’s soccer league to have league games this weekend, during a FIFA international window. Which means that many teams fighting for their playoff lives, like the Portland Timbers, will be playing very significant games over the weekend with reduced rosters. Oh MLS, keep being your weird and inconvenient and probably problematic self!
(That was a joke. This is the type of nonsense, among other things, that keeps MLS from being taken seriously from fans across the world and among its own fan base. Be better.)
This is especially relevant for the fate of the Portland Timbers, as they find themselves in a fierce fight for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. We’ve been hearing about them all summer, and Saturday is finally Portland’s “game in hand” over many of the teams ahead of them in the standings. It comes at a somewhat inconvenient time, but Saturday is one of the biggest games of Portland’s season so far.
Not a ton of games outside of Saturday night, which impacts Portland’s fate, but there is a certain game involving a certain team that plays in an American football stadium in a city north of Portland whom I would very much like to see go a specific way. Here’s what else Timbers fans should root for in this short and sweet weekend in MLS:
NYCFC v. New England Revolution (Saturday, 12:30 p.m.)
Just as NYC starts to build their claim as the best team in the East, they lose their star forward for a month. And because MLS is whack (see above!), they have to play a pivotal conference game against New England. A pretty consequential game in the East, but not the West, so I say just root for some chaos in this one.
Preferred result: New England wins 4-2. Bruce Arena smugly sneers through his entire postgame press conference. When asked a question about the international window, Arena says “No, I don’t know why in the heck we’re playing this weekend.” Before the next question can be asked, Bruce quickly adds “But I do know that the USMNT lost to Mexico. How ‘bout that?”. The room stays silent as Bruce’s smug slowly turns into a disappointed scowl.
FC Cincinnati v. Toronto FC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
Cincinnati’s season is lost, and their focus is now on determining which players on the current roster are good enough to make the roster next season. (Spoiler alert: Not a whole lot of them!) Toronto’s season can be best visualized as a Prius stuck in the mud: It’s a decent enough car, environmentally friendly, and shouldn’t really be anywhere near mud. And yet, there it is. They’re most likely thinking that this weekend is a chance to start digging themselves out. Well ...
Preferred result: Cincinnati wins 2-1. After the game, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez all gather in the locker room, huddled around a garbage can. In the can is a picture of the starting 11 from the infamous USMNT loss in Couva in 2017. Bradley drops a match into the garbage can, as the three players try to finally rid themselves of the curse of that game. As the flames begin to rise, a janitor walks in. Gonzalez quickly puts the fire out as the players flee. The janitor pauses, blinks, and shakes his head. As he leaves, he sighs, “Why in the heck are they playing this weekend…”
Orlando City SC v. LAFC (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)
All of a sudden, LAFC are sliding just a tad. They couldn’t beat the Galaxy at home, and then they lost to Minnesota at home. Their star player is week to week, and the team’s claim to “best MLS team ever” is looking a lot more tenuous. Nobody is catching LAFC in the regular season, but it would be nice to see them limp a bit into the playoffs.
Preferred result: Orlando pulls off a shocking 1-0 win. Will Johnson scores a penalty and celebrates by calmly but intensely staring into the eyes of the wall of LAFC fans. His teammates try to jump on him in celebration, but he is an immovable statue, stuck in the world’s most unfair staring contest. As he slowly back away, Nani whispers, “Why in the heck are we playing this weekend…”
Colorado Rapids v. Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 6:00 p.m.)
The math here is simple: Always root against teams ahead of Portland in the standings + usually root against teams below Portland to take points off of teams ahead of Portland + always root against Seattle = let’s go Rapids.
Preferred result: See aforementioned note about the team that plays in a football stadium. Colorado wins 2-0, with Kei Kamara scoring two goals. At 11 different points throughout the game, all Seattle players mutter under their breath, “Why in the heck are we playing this weekend…” As all of Seattle’s international absences watch the loss, they all shake their heads and say, “Why in the heck are we playing this weekend…” As Macklemore, new owner of approximately 1/567th of the team, watches the loss, he says “Why in the heck are they playing this weekend? No, really, I don’t understand. Why they’re playing the same weekend as the Seahawks?”
Short and sweet this week, but maybe you still have disagreements or other thoughts. If you do, let me know below!