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MLS Week 22: Schmid, LA Galaxy host Seattle, Chicago visits Sporting KC and more

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The annual LA Galaxy-Seattle Sounders matchups are always filled with drama, but Thursday’s moves took the drama and interest in the match up a notch.

Sigi Schmid’s first game back in charge of the LA Galaxy will be against his former club, which fired him midway through the 2016 season. Schmid will also have a brand new signing to debut in Jonathan Dos Santos, the midfield brother of star forward Giovani Dos Santos.

Meanwhile, the second-place Chicago Fire from the Eastern Conference travel to face second-place Sporting Kansas City from the Western Conference, with both teams back to full strength with the Gold Cup completed.

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Here’s a look at this weekend’s full slate of matches around MLS.


Atlanta United vs. Orlando City — 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

It’s a rematch from last week’s 1-0 late win for Atlanta United over OCSC. Atlanta has won five of its last six matches, courtesy of Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba, who scored the game winner last week, but Orlando City upgraded this week by trading for former player Dom Dwyer. The American international could make his Orlando City return on Saturday.

New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

The New York Red Bulls passed the test in flying colors on the turf and in the heat at Minnesota, picking up an emphatic 3-0 victory. The Red Bulls have won three-straight games and Sacha Kljestan, Daniel Royer and Bradley Wright-Phillips are firing on all cylinders. The Impact meanwhile coughed up a lead to fall 2-1 and will now have to rebound against the Red Bulls. The good news is that Ignacio Piatti is set to return to the starting lineup.

New England Revolution vs. Philadelphia Union — 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday

Both teams have struggled to win consistently this season but New England picked up a big confidence-boosting win last week, a 4-3 result over the LA Galaxy, which ended up being the dagger for Curt Onalfo. Philadelphia meanwhile is coming off a big win of it’s own, 3-0 on Wednesday against the nine-man Columbus Crew, which were pretty woeful on the night. CJ Sapong getting on the scoresheet is always a boost to the Union.

Minnesota United vs. D.C. United — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

It’s a battle of the irrelevants as the last-place team in the Western Conference hosts the same in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have struggled mightily defensively but a win on Saturday could be a nice boost for the fan bases that have suffered through the first half of the season.

Real Salt Lake vs. Columbus Crew — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

The Columbus Crew’s poor road form continued Wednesday with a 3-0 battering at the Philadelphia Union. Gregg Berhalter’s side will have to rebound without two starting centerbacks against one of the league’s hottest teams in Real Salt Lake, as Mike Petke’s side is beginning to hit its stride.

FC Dallas vs. Vancouver Whitecaps — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

FC Dallas has managed to stay in first place in the Western Conference – with two games in hand over second-place Sporting Kansas City – and now they get starters Matt Hedges, Jesse Gonzalez and Kellyn Acosta back from international duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team. The Whitecaps meanwhile are clinging to the sixth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and will need a positive result to stay above the red line.

Houston Dynamo vs. Portland Timbers — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

The Houston Dynamo, under Wilmer Cabrera, has been one of this season’s surprises and should have a good advantage in the heat against the Timbers, which sit two points behind the Dynamo in the conference standings having played an extra game. However, the Timbers do get star Darlington Nagbe back from the Gold Cup and could steal a point on the road.

Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

In one of the weekend’s most-anticipated matches, it’s a battle of two second-place teams that are about to be back at full strength. Aside from the midfield battle between Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty against Benny Feilhaber and Roger Espinoza, the biggest question for the game is how Sporting KC replaces Dom Dwyer up top. Latif Blessing, Diego Rubio and Daniel Salloi are all options up top.

San Jose Earthquakes vs. Colorado Rapids — 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

The Colorado Rapids have dropped back to earth this year after a stellar 2016, but the playoffs aren’t yet out of reach. Sitting just seven points out of a playoff place and six from the Earthquakes, Pablo Mastroeni’s side are looking for a chance to pick up a rare road win. The Earthquakes meanwhile are struggling under Chris Leitch, having lost three-straight. Colorado’s visit may come at the best time.

LA Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders — 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday

It’s arguably the weekend’s marquee game, with Sigi Schmid facing his old team. The Galaxy have struggled mightily to this point this season, but they’ve also had multiple starters missing large chunks of the season including Jermaine Jones, Robbie Rogers, Sebastian Lleget and Baggio Husidic. However, the focus will be on the sideline as well as on the new stars on the field, with the signing of Jonathan Dos Santos confirmed on Friday.

Toronto FC vs. New York City FC — 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday

Toronto FC secured a 2-2 draw with NYCFC that included a controversial goal that was originally given and then called back for offside, and it’s a bitter memory that Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney won’t forget. NYCFC are in a good vein of form but Toronto FC get Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley back from the Gold Cup and the pair are high on confidence from the Gold Cup title and final performances.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

[ MORE: NYCFC teen signs for Gladbach ]

Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola