The Weekend Kickoff: No International Break for the Wicked / by Harrison Crow

by Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

While most of the rest of the world breaks for a couple of weeks due to the FIFA international schedule, Major League Soccer, like many of their officiants, play on through. This gives an obvious advantage to those teams who either don't have internationals selected for this break or, as is rarely the case in MLS, have the depth to combat those missing in action.

Taylor Twellman's thought about the possibility of both Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley each missing as many as eight potential matches for Toronto FC due to FIFA/MLS scheduling conflicts shatters the thought of this being just a passing issue. As a whole, MLS looks to have as many as 57 players selected to represent their country. I don't think anyone wants to make light of the honor of playing for your country, but it's obvious that this issue is only going to be more pronounced and compounded by the fact that so many internationals are returning to the states, and the talent in MLS continues to improve.

There are a lot of other numbers that can be extrapolated from 57 players leaving their teams and venturing out for the opportunity of representing their country. But rather than focusing on the absences, lets focus on those who are sticking around. 

The Weekend Matchups:

Numbers in parentheses are expected goals in even game state.

Saturday:

San Jose Earthquakes (-0.26) @ New England (-0.17)
It's kind of funny; SJ has been the "surprise" and New England has been the "disappointment" and yet they're very tight on expected goal differential in even game states. Based off the talent levels I would expect that New England has missed a few pieces and has maybe been unlucky, while SJ is probably on the other end and has gotten lucky more often than not. Time will tell.  Prediction: DRAW

Orlando City Soccer Club (0.10) @ Montreal Impact (-0.73)
Sure, OCSC hasn't been very good at finishing the chances they've been given, but they still have one of the elite players in the league in Kaka while Montreal is fishing to find some consistency. Both teams are missing some key individuals. Prediction: DRAW

Sporting Kansas City (0.97) @ New York City FC (-0.10)
With all eyes turned to the big cities and bright lights (LA, Seattle, New York), Kansas City is very quietly putting together some interesting numbers. KC is first in expected goals differential in even game states and third in expected goals, lending to the idea that SKC might be returning to their dominating ways. That said, both NYC and SKC are in the top four in expected goals created. I think this could be a really good game to watch this weekend. Prediction: SKC

LA Galaxy (0.19) @ DC United (-0.14)
LA has yet to really look like LA this season. But it always seems to take them a month or two before they start caring about the season. DC United didn't look good away at New York, and even with this being a home match, I expect they will struggle. Prediction: DRAW

New York Red Bulls (-1.14) @ Columbus Crew SC (0.85)
I almost feel as if I should call Crew SC a surprise team, but they're not. A very strong season last year has lead to them to building off that and creating a roster that's both fiscally affordable and full of depth. The other side of this is the Red Bulls have seemed like they're maybe almost still a good team. I love that midfield with Dax McCarty, Lloyd Sam and Felipe Martins, and with BWP still putting away shots up top. The problem is that the Red Bulls are in the negative for expected goals differential, suggesting that maybe their defense isn't as good as what it has seemed to this point of the season... or maybe it's still trying to catch up from two disappointing games. I'm not sure at this point. Prediction: Crew SC

Portland Timbers FC (0.52) @ Vancouver Whitecaps (0.41)

Both these teams are depleted; Vancouver with international absences and Manneh's suspension, Portland with injuries to three of their top four central midfielders. Still, both teams have some dynamic pieces available and have strung together a few really strong performances. But this might be the best Vancouver Whitecaps team that we've seen in MLS and it's possible they may just end up doing more than being a fifth or sixth seed this season. Prediction: VANCOUVER

Colorado Rapids (-0.54) @ Houston Dynamo (-0.41)
Neither of these clubs have been good, but both have seen their share of luck. The difference is that Houston has seen mostly good luck whereas the Rapids have seen a rather mixed bag. Prediction: DRAW

Seattle Sounders FC (0.13) @ FC Dallas (0.56)
I had a really great conversation with an FC Dallas fan the other day who felt that I really slighted Dallas because I've been a bit concerned with their defense and card propensity. Their defense is probably a bit overrated but still very good and their attack, while having been good to this point, I don't think has really even gotten started yet--implying I think they probably are going to get better. Conversely, the Sounders are missing pieces, specifically Dempsey, and had a midweek friendly at home against Club Tijuana. Prediction: FC DALLAS

Sunday

Philadelphia Union (0.97) @ Chicago Fire(-1.05)
Our metrics don't seem to think the Fire are as bad as a team as most would think. But that doesn't mean they're especially good. Philly has yet to really have the hallelujah moment, but our numbers think of them as possibly the second best team in the league. This could lead to a Kentucky v. West Virginia moment if there was one. Prediction: PHILLY

Toronto FC (-0.66) @ Real Salt Lake (-0.97)
No Jozy, no Bradley, no Rimando, no Saborio. This game is the let down of the week. It should be fantastic and yet this match-up will be a bit sobering and probably a bit boring. Prediction: DRAW