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FOLLOW LIVE: Fire v. Union, Galaxy v. Sounders on a busy MLS Saturday

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11 games in a matter of hours, now that’s a busy MLS Saturday you don’t want to miss.

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Things kickoff with the New York Red Bulls hosting the New England Revolution, and comes to a close with a vital Western Conference showdown between the Seattle Sounders and the LA Galaxy.

In between, the San Jose Earthquakes look to bounce back as they take on a struggling Sporting Kansas City, while Carlos Vela’s LAFC hope to widen the gap between them and the rest of the league.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

New York Red Bulls v. New England Revolution — 7 p.m. ET
Montreal Impact v. FC Dallas — 7:30 p.m. ET
Columbus Crew v. Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Cincinatti v. NYCFC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Minnesota United v. Orlando City — 8 p.m. ET
Chicago Fire v. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET
Sporting Kansas City v. San Jose Earthquakes— 8:30 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. Colorado Rapids — 9 p.m. ET
LAFC v. Real Salt Lake— 10 p.m. ET
Vancouver Whitecaps v. D.C. United — 10 p.m. ET
LA Galaxy v. Seattle Sounders— 10 p.m. ET

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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The first-ever “Hell is Real” Derby, a back-and-forth battle in Seattle, and an eight-goal fest between Dallas and Minnesota: Saturday’s early slate of games had it all. Here’s what we learned from the jam-packed action.

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New England, Seattle split points

In the first game of the weekend, the Seattle Sounders and the New England Revolution set the bar high, putting on a show with six goals and three lead changes in their 3-3 draw. But spectacle aside, neither Bruce Arena nor Brian Schmetzer will be pleased with missing out on two, vital points.

Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil keep paying dividends for a Revs team that is night and day to what they once were under Brad Friedel. The Revs’ discipline and work ethic appears to improve as the weeks go by. It’s small details on the defensive side that is costing them points, however. With nine games to go and a playoff bid far from secured, Arena has no choice than to address the elephant in the room.

With a clear path to surge as the second best in West, splitting points was arguably worse for the Sounders, who’ve picked up a meager point in the last three home games. Talk about missing out on home-field advantage.

 


Toronto fail to jump above playoff line 

Toronto FC, healthy and all, had the pristine opportunity to jump above the red line in the Eastern Conference.

Orlando, however, had other things in mind.

A goal from substitute Benji Michel was enough to earn a draw for James O’Connor’s side, who found themselves outpossessed and outshoot throughout the stretch of the game.

And despite not reaping the benefits from their control, there was a silver lining for The Reds. Patrick Mullins, who joined from the Columbus Crew this summer, opened his scoring account, finishing a ball that was set on not leaving the box.

Toronto (33 points) sit one point behind Montreal and New England, while Orlando (30 points) stand right behind the Canadian side in the Eastern Conference table. Dropping points for either side from here on out will hurt, there’s no way around it.


 

So far, the “Hell is Real” Derby lives up to the hype

MLS has a new derby, and it lives up to its name and hype.

The “Hell is real” Derby between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati got off to a dramatic start with league newcomers scoring two in 23 minutes. Darren Mattocks and Emmanuel Ledesma gave FC Cincy and their supporters every reason to believe that the first derby – which happened to be Ron Jans coaching debut – was theirs.

But then Gyasi Zardes answered with one of his own from the spot.

And then in the 62nd minute, Pedro Santos did this:

A stunning rocket from at least 20 yards out, it marked the Portuguese’s seventh goal of the season. He leveled the score and salvaged his team a point, but, most importantly, the Designated Player let everyone know that Ohio’s rivalry is as competitive and entertaining as they get.

 


 

Dallas and Minnesota partake in a wild game

Not having picked up three points at home since early July, FC Dallas were in a dire need to overturn that as they hosted red-hot Minnesota United.

They did it in soul-stirring fashion, edging Adrian Heath’s side 5-3 at home. Poor defending came in bunches, specifically from the Loons, causing for six lead changes and a red card with minutes to spare. It was the type of environment that was destined to give someone the opportunity to stand out.

With the score level, Dallas Homegrown Brandon Servania delivered, scoring a brace in less than ten minutes and giving his side the three points.

Dallas are now seventh in the Western Conference, only three away from second-place Seattle. The West cannot be overlooked.

Unstoppable LAFC end Revs’ 11-game unbeaten run (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less): Coming into the weekend’s premier matchup in MLS, Bruce Arena’s New England Revolution found itself above the playoff cut line on the back of an 11-game unbeaten run that began all the way back on May 11. In that time, the Revs took down the likes of San Jose, LA Galaxy, Houston and Orlando, to name a few, but they had face no one on par with runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC. All of the above changed on Saturday, when Bob Bradley‘s men walked out of Gillette Stadium with a 2-0 victory. Diego Rossi and Latif Blessing scored the goals — one in each half — and LAFC ran their modest recent run of results to five wins in their last six games. Their lead in the Shield race walkover is 13 points with 11 games left to play.

[ MORE: Saturday’s transfer rumor roundup | Friday | Thursday ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Rossi loops it high and back down for the opener — How many players in MLS even see the 10-foot-high looping finish as an option in this scenario, let alone have the technical wherewithal to pull it off? The answer is a small number, but it includes Rossi.

41′ — Farrell saves his own embarrassing blemish on the goal line — Andrew Farrell almost scored an embarrassing, if unlucky, own goal, but managed to sprint to the goal line and clear the ball away in the nick of time.

72′ — Blessing finishes a fantastic team goal for 2-0 — Champagne football from LAFC, innit? There should be about five secondary assists handed out on this one.

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Man of the match: Jordan Harvey

Goalscorers: Rossi (8′), Blessing (72′)

FOLLOW: ATLUTD host LA Galaxy to begin 9-game MLS Saturday

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Saturday’s slate of MLS fixtures is set to kick off in just under an hour, and the big matchup of the day comes flying out of the starting gate right away: Atlanta United (second place, Eastern Conference) hosting LA Galaxy (third place, Western Conference) in front of an expected crowd of 70,000 fans inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

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The visitors will be without superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic (suspended), though the big Swede might have sat this one out anyway due to the artificial turf playing surface in Atlanta, making the already uphill battle that much tougher. Efrain Alvarez and Diego Polenta are also suspended, leaving Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side somewhat shorthanded to face the defending champions.

The two hottest teams in MLS, New England Revolution (11 games unbeaten) and San Jose Earthquakes (one defeat in 11 games), are also in action on Saturday. The Revs will host runaway Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC in the biggest test of Bruce Arena’s tenure to date, while Matias Almeyda’s Quakes will host a quickly sinking Columbus Crew SC side (eight losses in 12 games, including 10 without a win).

Hit the link above to follow along with all of the day’s action, and check back on PST throughout the day for recaps and highlights of the most consequential matchups.

Saturday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. LA Galaxy — 5 p.m. ET
New York Red Bulls v. Toronto FC — 5 p.m. ET
New England Revolution v. Los Angeles FC — 7:30 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. FC Dallas — 7:30 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. Vancouver Whitecaps 8 p.m. ET
Houston Dynamo v. Chicago Fire — 9 p.m. ET
Colorado Rapids v. Montreal Impact — 9 p.m. ET
San Jose Earthquakes v. Columbus Crew SC — 10 p.m. ET
Real Salt Lake v. New York City FC — 10 p.m. ET

MLS Wrap: What we learned

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There were many takeaways from a busy night of MLS matches. Here’s some of the biggest lessons we learned from the early slate of games.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]


New England is good? New England is good

Most teams get a bump when there’s a coaching change, but few could have expected what we’re witnessing in New England over the last two months.

With a 4-1 win over a hapless Orlando City side, the New England Revolution improved to 11 games unbeaten and would qualify for the MLS Cup playoffs if the season ended today. That’s an incredible change in fortunes, considering the Revolution were dead and dusted just two months into the season under former coach Brad Friedel. For whatever reason, Friedel didn’t work out but hiring Bruce Arena has made the Krafts look like they made a brilliant decision.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt either that new signing Gustavo Bou has been terrific, Carles Gil has been outstanding in midfield and everyone has taken their games to another level. Antonio Delamea at centerback alongside Andrew Farrell have been lockdown, with Luis Caicedo and Wilfried Zahibo protecting in front of them. That’s allowed Edgar Castillo, Brandon Bye and the Revs attackers more freedom to attack.

The Revs are arguably the hottest team in MLS right now, and there’s no sign that they’ll slow down any time soon.


Union, Red Bulls miss out on chance to advance

The New York Red Bulls had a chance to stay ahead of New York City FC and even move ahead of D.C. United in the standings with a win on Saturday, yet they couldn’t capitalize in their match.

Defensive miscues led to the New York Red Bulls coughing up three goals in a surprising 3-2 win for the Columbus Crew at Red Bull Arena. That’s left the Red Bulls in fifth-place, just one point above the red line and in danger of potentially dropping out of the playoff picture. With razor-thin margins, this defeat at home was a big black eye for the Red Bulls.

At the same time, the Union had a chance to extend its lead atop the MLS Eastern Conference. Instead, a shell-shocked Union got crushed, 4-0 by the Montreal Impact. New Impact signing Lassi Lappalainen scored a brace in his debut with the club, while Orji Okwonkwo scored again off an Ignacio “Nacho” Piatti assist. The Union backline of Matthew Real, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott and Ray Gaddis were completely overrun by the Impact’s speedy attack.


Seattle gets 3 big points on road

With Raul Ruidiaz out injured with a concussion and other nagging injuries to star players, the Seattle Sounders would have been happy to come away with just a point from its trip to Houston.

Instead, the squad will be bringing back all three.

There weren’t many quality chances, but Jordan Morris scored a wonderful goal, first looping the ball over two defenders into a goal-mouth scramble before finishing into the far corner. In addition to Morris’ goal, U.S. youth international and 16-year-old Danny Leyva started and went the full 90 in midfield for the Sounders, and was quite clean on the ball throughout.

With the win, the Sounders move for the time being into second place, though still 11 points back of Los Angeles FC.