Weekend Kickoff: The Return to League Play / by Harrison Crow

By Harrison Crow (@harrison_crow)

There are a lot of crazy things going on this week. Forget all the hype and insanity that has taken center stage around the Cascadia Open Cup match-up. After losing to the Cosmos in the USOC this week, NYCFC continues to look bad and perform terrible. Philadelphia somehow staved off a very tenacious Rochester Raging Rhinos club that had upset written all over it. Charlotte Independence found a way to be the first USL Pro team to knock off a MLS club in the tournament and lastly Orlando beat former USL foe Charleston that went to penalty kicks (Danny Mwanga!).

Considering all those mid-weed games and extra minutes, this weekend could and should become especially interesting. As an example, Jesse Marsch made good on his promise that the Red Bulls would take the US Open Cup serious and posted a very strong XI. That could potentially haunt them as they turn around and play host to a rested Whitecaps lineup that loves to run.

Vancouver isn't the only Canadian team that has a pretty favorable match-up. Toronto gets to play host to one of the leagues bottom dwellers in New York City FC. Forgetting about what happened out at Hempstead and losing to the NASL Cosmos, there were a lot of minutes that were invested in the losing effort. Patrick Mullins, Mix, Poku and most of the midfield that saw the pitch played significant minutes. The question will be if there will be enough in the tank to take on of the best teams in MLS on the road.

While we talked an awful lot about the Open Cup the last week, it's these two Canadian teams that should be getting a large percentage of the words that were are committing to the league. Vancouver is sitting third in the Western Conference on points per game (1.62) and while everyone talks about their dangerous attacking pieces, it's their defense that has been impressive. Right now they are posting a 0.98 expected goals against, third best in MLS.

Likewise, Toronto has turned around on their mediocre start to show they've got an immensely talented group of players. Currently 4th in expected goals scored, they're a dynamic team on the attack and it's not surprising that they've been able to right the ship... especially when Matthias called it over a month ago.

I could say things about the third Canadian city in MLS, Montreal, but I'm still honestly waiting to see more from them. I want Jack McInerney to succeed SO MUCH it's like I'm stuck in early 2013 all over again. But they need more on the attack and so far Laurent Ciman seems a lot less impressive defensive package than what I thought they were getting.

This has been your very Canadian-American Soccer Analysis introduction. Let's take a look at the full gambit of MLS action this weekend.

#WatchabilityScore

According to our Watchability Score (a lower score suggests a better game to watch) it's believed that the three best games this weekend are going to be NYC-TOR, POR-HOU and MTL-ORL. Something to at least keep an eye on. That mostly makes sense as at least one of those teams in each match-up attempt to play a visually appealing brand of soccer.

#TheWeekendKickoff

FRIDAY
FC Dallas @ Colorado Rapids
Prediction: I'm gonna go with the Rapids because at least they've created attacking chances and are just unable to finish them. Dallas has broken their attack and it's actually kind of concerning at this point.

SATURDAY
San Jose Earthquakes @ Seattle Sounders
Prediction: Don't sleep on SJ, on points per game they're sixth and would just edge out the Houston Dynamo for the last playoff slot. I have this game going as a draw.

Vancouver Whitecaps @ NY Red Bulls
Prediction: As I said I think the Red Bulls are going to have some tired legs and with their defensive press I tend to believe that this is a game that will favor the Whitecaps. 3 points to Vancouver.

NY City @ Toronto FC
Prediction: Another game with one side playing during the week and the other did not. This time the well rest team has shown to be the better team this season. TOR with 3 points.

Orlando City Soccer Club @ Montreal Impact
Prediction: A lot of time I say in general say something like "don't sleep on <insert some team that we feel we have a unique perspective on> (see also; two paragraphs above). This game might be closer than you think, and if Montreal can get Justin Mapp back before August things could get even more interesting in the East. I have Montreal with 3 points.

Philadelphia Union @ LA Galaxy
Prediction: LA is starting to get healthy again and they're starting to go on a roll, but Philadelphia and Jim Curtin have also finally started pressing the right buttons. I think it's a draw but a win for LA Galaxy isn't out of the question.

Houston Dynamo @ Portland Timbers
Prediction: Timbers will be obviously gassed from their victory in Seattle. The question for me isn't necessarily can they stave off the Dynamo but can they make it interesting and answer back for every goal The Orange score. I have this game as a draw.

SUNDAY

New England Revolution @ DC United
Prediction: You know I hate United for no other reason than that they ruin all the fun we have with this site. New England, THREE POINTS.

Sporting KC @ Real Salt Lake
Prediction: For me; SKC represents one of the top three teams in MLS. Their attack is potent, the defense is dense and they seem to prep and game plan really well. The other side of things is RSL has been terrible all season. But going to the RioT and pulling points is tough regardless of the "form" or season that's going on there. I call this a draw.