Week 19 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is upon us, and though the Gold Cup is ongoing and the MLS schedule continues to roll right along as if nothing anywhere else is happening, this weekend’s games aren’t looking so bad. There’s playoff-team-on-playoff-team action everywhere you look.
So, if you’re to watch just four MLS games this weekend — who am I to tell you to watch only four games? — might I suggest the following four:
New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution (Saturday, 7 pm ET, MLS Live)
The Revs are hurting — I mean, hurting — without Jermaine Jones in the lineup. They’ve lost four straight by a combined score of 9-3. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are recently off a four-game losing streak of their own, though results have been mixed ever since.
With five of the 10 defenders on their roster unavailable due to injuries and international call-ups, the Red Bulls will have to get creative at one of the full back spots in this one. This should be a wide open game with lots of chances on the counter going either way. I actually like the Revs, because for all that Jones means to them, the rest of the roster is still intact.
Prediction: Red Bulls 1-2 Revs
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC (Sunday, 3 pm ET, ESPN)
NYCFC have won four out of five, while TFC got hammered last weekend by the LA Galaxy, 4-0. No Michael Bradley and no Jozy Altidore (international duty) means the onus of not only scoring goals, but driving the game, falls squarely on the shoulders of Sebastian Giovinco, who’s scored just once in his last four games.
Fortunately for the Reds, NYCFC’s greatest weakness is still the area of the field in which Giovinco and Benoit Cheyrou operate, which means they’ve got a chance. That said, David Villa is in stunning form (five goals in four games) as he’s been healthy for more than two months straight. Advantage NYCFC, though who know’s what can happen on the ping-pong pitch at Yankee Stadium.
Prediction: NYCFC 2-1 TFC
Orlando City SC vs. FC Dallas (Saturday, 7:30 pm ET, MLS Live)
After losing just once in their last eight league games, expansion side Orlando City find themselves all the way up in third place in the Eastern Conference. That’s pretty remarkable, really, considering that the Seattle Sounders (2009) were the only expansion team to qualify for the playoffs in the last decade.
While the Lions are once again decimated by injuries (Aurelien Collin, Brek Shea and Kevin Molino), international call-ups (Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren) and red cards (Kaka), Adrian Heath’s bunch continues to roll right along. This will, however, be their first voyage without Kaka since they entered the league. FCD haven’t conceded a goal in nearly 200 minutes, which doesn’t bode well for what is sure to be an impotent Lions attack.
Prediction: Orlando City 0-2 FCD
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 9 pm ET, MLS Live)
While Sporting KC have been one of the best teams in MLS over the last two months, this is a matchup that just sets up horribly for Peter Vermes’ side. Not only will they be without starters Graham Zusi and Marcel de Jong (international duty), but the Whitecaps are a juggernaut at home and will almost certainly look to exploit Sporting’s rookie third-string left back Amadou Dia with the pace of Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera.
For as dynamic as the ‘Caps are going forward, they’ve actually give up the sixth-fewest goals this season (19 in 19 games). Of course, Sporting have conceded the fewest (17). It won’t be a spectacle of exciting soccer, but #VANvSKC will ultimately play out as an interesting tactical battle between Vermes and Carl Robinson.
Prediction: Whitecaps 1-0 Sporting KC