While many of the usual suspects remain in playoff positions after the first several weeks of the MLS season, 2017 has kicked off with quite a few surprises.
As it stands, three non-playoff teams from a season ago and an expansion side sit inside the top 6 in the Eastern Conference, while the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes continue to impress in a congested Western Conference.
[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 7 ]
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire – 7:30 p.m. ET Friday
Can we talk about how good Bastian Schweinsteiger has been? On paper, it looked like a pointless move for the Fire after acquiring Dax McCarty in the offseason and boasting a fairly strong attack but the German international has been everything Veljko Paunovic could have hoped for since arriving in the Midwest. The Fire are unbeaten in three and have scored six goals in that span, while only allowing two goals. Toronto finally dropped a decision last week against the Crew, but there shouldn’t be great cause for concern from last season’s runners’ up.
Philadelphia Union vs. Montreal Impact – 1 p.m. ET Saturday
Jim Curtin and his side are running dangerously close to having wholesale changes arrive in Chester. Four consecutive losses have the Union sitting bottom in all of MLS with two points and the team’s lack of finishing has proved to be a massive cause for concern. The Impact haven’t been much better to start, but last week’s effort against Atlanta should give Montreal supporters a glimmer of hope.
Houston Dynamo vs. San Jose Earthquakes – 3:55 p.m. ET Saturday
Two of the more surprising sides in 2017 will meet at BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday, and that provides fans the opportunity to get a closer look at Erick “Cubo” Torres. The league leader in goals (6) is finally living up to the hype, and if the Mexican international can continue to produce up front then the Dynamo will be a very hard out as the season rolls on. Elsewhere, the Quakes are unbeaten in three with three straight draws against quality opposition. Dominic Kinnear will want to turn those ties into wins but it’s been a very strong start for the two-time MLS Cup winners.
Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – 4 p.m. ET Saturday
For the first time all season, the Timbers failed to score last weekend against Sporting KC. The Whitecaps will look to contain the rampant Portland attack but that’s easy said than done. Carl Robinson’s Whitecaps earned an important win over the Sounders last week and now Vancouver can earn back-to-back Cascadia victories on Saturday in the Pacific Northwest.
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
D.C. finally came back down to earth against rivals New York Red Bulls, but there’s been better play from Ben Olsen’s group over recent weeks. The Revs have been up and down to say the least and with both clubs sitting on the outside of the top 6 Saturday’s meeting could play an important role later in the season.
New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew – 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday
The Red Bulls snapped a four-match winless run against D.C. but the Crew present a much bigger challenge with the East leaders coming to Harrison. After missing the postseason in 2016, it was only a matter of time for Greg Berhalter’s side to return to form given the club’s talent. Plus, you’ve got two of the league’s best strikers in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Ola Kamara matching up.
FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC – 8 p.m. ET Saturday
Saturday night’s clash in Dallas is intriguing for several reasons, most notably because of the fact that these two sides are the only unbeatens remaining in MLS through seven weeks. Both clubs continue to play stingy defense, while their attacks aren’t producing as much as either team would like.
Real Salt Lake vs. Atlanta United – 9:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Outside of maybe Portland, Atlanta has been the most exciting team to watch over the first seven weeks. Tata Martino’s boys have found the back of the net 14 times and once they get Josef Martinez back into the fold, the expansion side will be that much more dangerous. RSL has picked up its play recently with back-to-back wins over the Whitecaps and Rapids, but Atlanta will pose a bit of a bigger threat.
New York City FC vs. Orlando City – 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday
When these two clubs met on opening weekend it turned out to be quite the wild affair. If anyone thought that Kaka could go down injured in the opening 10 minutes and Orlando would still come away victorious, whoever said that was probably lying. Now, the Lions have several other injury woes, although there’s a chance that the Brazilian could play on Sunday afternoon. NYCFC is coming off an important win over D.C. United last week but Patrick Vieira’s group will have to cope without a key defender as Ronald Matarrita is sidelined with an ankle injury.
LA Galaxy at Seattle Sounders – 4 p.m. ET Sunday
Six points in six matches isn’t exactly what the Sounders had in mind after hoisting MLS Cup five months ago, but if we learned anything from the Cascadia side in 2016 then there shouldn’t be cause for panic. For the Galaxy, Romain Alessandrini has lived up to the billing early with the newcomer netting four goals and adding two assists in the first month-plus of the season.
Minnesota United vs. Colorado Rapids – 6 p.m. ET Sunday
The bottom sides out West meet in the weekend’s final matchup, and each club could really learn something from the other. While Minnesota has managed to score at a solid pace over recent weeks, the Loons have struggled mightily out of the back, allowing a league-high 24 goals in seven matches. Meanwhile, Pablo Mastroeni’s side continues to search for goals and its defense remains the strongest aspect of the Rapids squad.Follow @MattReedFutbol