MLS Preview: Conference clashes set up intriguing Week 8

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With the New York Red Bulls and Seattle Sounders still struggling to find their way in the new MLS season, both sides will look for some stability in their respective conferences.

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That’s right, Week 8 is about conference matchups, except for Columbus-Houston. With no Friday night game on the docket, let’s take a look at what the weekend has to offer.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC — Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

The Union have been one of the more surprising teams in MLS through seven weeks. Unfortunately for NYCFC, there haven’t been many surprises in terms of improvements from a season ago. Despite David Villa’s offensive firepower, New York City continues to struggle in front of goal, with very little to no support for the Spaniard. Since their opening match against the Fire, which saw them score four goals, NYCFC has tallied just five goals in as many matches since.

Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC — Saturday, 4 p.m. ET

Already atop the Eastern Conference, the Impact can now add Didier Drogba into the mix. The ex-Chelsea forward scored just minutes after being substituted on for Montreal last weekend against the Fire, giving the team another dimension. Add him in with Ignacio Piatti, already with four goals on the year, and you have a very dangerous tandem. Toronto is still figuring things out, on the other hand. In a competitive East, TFC sits fourth on the table, but is still searching for assistance up front. Sebastian Giovinco’s four goals and two assists lead the team, however, the Atomic Ant appears to be their only option when getting forward.

D.C. United vs. New England Revolution — Saturday, 5:30 p.m. ET

Neither team has started the season the way that they would have liked to. Both D.C. and New England have one win each though the opening month-plus of the season. Goals have been hard to come by for both teams, so maybe facing one another will be the key to breaking out.

Columbus Crew vs. Houston Dynamo — Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET

As a team that played for the MLS Cup in 2015, expectations for the Crew were much higher than what they have met so far. Five points in six games isn’t good enough for an attack that boasts the likes of Kei Kemara and Ethan Finlay. For the Dynamo, scoring goals hasn’t been the issue. Keeping them out has been though. Houston has scored 13 goals in 2016, while allowing the same number, which will always be a recipe for failure.

Colorado Rapids vs. Seattle Sounders — Saturday, 9 p.m. ET

The new-look Rapids continue to impress this season under Pablo Mastroeni, sitting third in the Western Conference. While Mastroeni’s side doesn’t score a lot of goals, their defense is among the best in MLS, making it very difficult for opposition to break through. The Sounders have begun to string together a nice run of results, unbeaten in three straight games, although the team is still lacking substance in the midfield. Marco Pappa’s arrival in Colorado has given the Rapids a huge lift, while also breaking the back of Seattle.

LA Galaxy vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

In a battle of two of the West’s best teams, RSL looks to remain unbeaten against the Galaxy. Real Salt Lake is the only team that has yet to lose this season, and head coach Jeff Cassar has a lot to do with that. The squad has brought back many key players from previous seasons, while adding a few pieces here and there to solidify their weaknesses. The Galaxy will be missing Nigel de Jong as par of his suspension, but Gyasi Zardes and crew should be game to take on RSL. The Galaxy are tied for first in goals allowed with Toronto and the Rapids, conceding five goals.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. FC Dallas — Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET

This match is a tale of two very different sides. Dallas is undoubtedly among the hottest teams in MLS through almost two months of play, holding 17 points and topping the West. The side’s attack features countless players that can break a game open at any moment, including Michael Barrios and Max Urruti. The Whitecaps are led by Pedro Morales offensively, but it has been their defense that has raised questions so far, giving away 11 goals in seven games. Vancouver has gone three straight matches without scoring a goal, so they’ll be hoping to end that trend at BC Place.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Sporting Kansas City — Sunday, 3:30 p.m. ET

This could very well be game of the week based off of what the two sides have shown through seven weeks. Both teams have more than capable attacks, as well as quality defenses. Chris Wondolowski leads the charge for the Earthquakes, having netted six goal in seven games. With each side coming off of a loss, two straight in the case of Sporting KC, look for them to get after one another early and often. Dom Dwyer can add to his goal total of four on Sunday, especially with the team’s service from the wings.

New York Red Bulls vs. Orlando City SC — Sunday, 7:30 p.m. ET

The question isn’t what has gone wrong for the Red Bulls thus far in 2016, but instead what has gone right? Other than their four-goal outburst against the Dynamo, New York has scored just one additional goal. Bradley Wright-Phillips and the Red Bulls attack have struggled mightily in front of net, despite having numerous opportunities to get on the scoreboard this season. Orlando City is having no such difficulty when it comes to finding goals, with Cyle Larin picking right up where he left off in his rookie year. The second-year forward has three goals thus far, while Kaka has added an additional two.

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