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MLS Week 13 Preview: Timbers battle Union, Dynamo square off with Minnesota and more

Under-the-radar intrigue in store this weekend.

Upon first glance, the Week 13 slate in Major League Soccer doesn’t deliver a ton of intrigue. 

There aren’t many marquee clashes between the league’s high-profile sides, and those that are happening are watered down by the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Orlando and Sporting Kansas City’s recent dip in form. 

But if you dig a bit deeper through the matchups, you’ll see there are quite a few intriguing clashes.

Eastern Conference leader Philadelphia faces yet another tough test at home in the form of the Portland Timbers, who are playing their final road game before the Providence Park opener next weekend. 

Saturday’s Western Conference clash between Houston and Minnesota United doesn’t attract eye balls right away, but it could end up being a meaningful match for two teams looking to keep up with the big guns at the top of the West standings. 

The weekend slate begins with a trio of contests on Friday. Orlando City has an opportunity to carry the momentum from a five-goal performance into the Week 13 opener against the Galaxy, Atlanta United faces a tricky road test and Los Angeles FC tries to extend its home dominance in the Friday nightcap. 

Saturday requires multiple screens with five games starting within an hour of each other, including the clash between Philadelphia and Portland. 

Seattle’s trip to Children’s Mercy Park to take on Sporting KC headlines the two-game Sunday slate, while San Jose’s visit to Toronto closes out the weekend. 

Below is a breakdown of what to watch over the three days of play this weekend. 

Week 13 Schedule

Friday, May 24

LA Galaxy at Orlando City (7 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

Atlanta United at Real Salt Lake (9 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

Montreal Impact at Los Angeles FC (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+, TVA Sport) 

Saturday, May 25

New York City FC at Chicago Fire (3:30 p.m., Univision) 

FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+, TSN) 

D.C. United at New England Revolution (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Portland Timbers at Philadelphia Union (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

New York Red Bulls at FC Cincinnati (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Houston Dynamo at Minnesota United (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Columbus Crew at Colorado Rapids (9 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sunday, May 26

Seattle Sounders at Sporting Kansas City (6 p.m. ET, FS1) 

San Jose Earthquakes at Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+, TSN4) 

Storylines to Watch

1. Can the Galaxy Find Success Without Zlatan? 

May 19, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy midfielder Favio Alvarez (11) moves the ball during the first half against the Colorado Rapids at StubHub Center. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

The Galaxy have relied too much on Ibrahimovic to score goals this season. 

With Ibrahimovic serving the first game of his two-game suspension last week, the Galaxy created 18 shots and sent in 36 crosses, but put only six shots on target in a 1-0 home loss to the Colorado Rapids. 

The task of scoring without the Swedish legend doesn’t get any easier on Friday at Orlando City Stadium. 

If Ibrahimovic were in the lineup, you would think he’d be able to create a few significant chances on goal against Orlando City’s defense, but without him in the XI and Orlando coming into the contest off a 5-1 home win over FC Cincinnati, the Galaxy could suffer the same fate as Sunday. 

In the three games Ibrahimovic missed this season, the Galaxy have been shut out on two occasions, with the other coming on March 9 against FC Dallas. 

Even when the Galaxy scored three times without Ibrahimovic on March 16 against Minnesota, they could only put seven of their 20 shots on goal. 

When the Galaxy get their chances in front of goal on Friday, Uriel Antuna, Emmanuel Boateng and co. need to be more clinical in order to avoid their losing streak dropping to five games. 

2. Can Impact Give LAFC A Fight? 

May 18, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact midfielder Ignacio Piatti (10) plays the ball as New England Revolution defender Brandon Bye (15) defends during the second half at Stade Saputo. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Montreal has an opportunity to make a bit of a statement on Friday night if it goes into Banc of California Stadium and takes a win or draw from its match with LAFC. 

The Impact have climbed up to third place in the East thanks to some impressive road results. They are 4-4-2 on the road and 2-1-1 at Stade Saputo, which means a string of home results is expected at some point.

Any points Remi Garde’s team can pick up on the road will be huge with four straight home games on the horizon. 

As they have been most of the season, the Impact will be shorthanded in midfield. Samuel Piette, who is one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in MLS, is out due to yellow card accumulation and Ignacio Piatti is working his way back to full fitness. 

Not having Piette or a full-strength Piatti could hurt the Impact against one of the best midfield units in the league, but this is a team that’s stared down adversity and come away with results for most of the 2019 campaign.

3. How Dangerous Will Portland’s Attack Look? 

May 15, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Timbers forward Brian Fernandez (7) in action during a game against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Portland’s primary goal for the rest of the season is to take advantage of the renovated Providence Park and use a long run of home games to surge to the top of the Western Conference. 

But it always helps to carry some momentum and confidence into a June home opener, especially when next week’s opponent is LAFC. 

The Timbers enter Talen Energy Stadium with fresh legs after 10 days off, and Saturday presents an opportunity for Brian Fernández to make his first start alongside Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Chara. 

Those four players and Jeremy Ebobisse could end up forming part of the best front six in the league by the time the season ends if everything goes as planned. 

The in-form Union should provide the Timbers with a good challenge to test out their new attacking chemistry before everyone in Oregon gets to see it in person in a week’s time. 

4. Can New England and Colorado Build on Results Under Interim Bosses? 

May 18, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) plays the ball ans Montreal Impact midfielder Mathieu Choiniere (29) defends during the first half at Stade Saputo. (Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports)

Colorado and New England put together some respectable performances under interim managers in Week 12. 

Colorado, who is led by interim boss Conor Casey, went into Dignity Health Sports Park and got its first win of the year, over the Galaxy.

On Saturday, the Rapids have an opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time since August. The win is there for the taking against a Columbus Crew side that is in the middle of one of the worst spells of form in the league. 

New England has pulled out four points from its last two games under interim boss Mike Lapper, who is keeping the seat warm for Bruce Arena. 

The Revs beat San Jose in Week 11 at home and earned a valuable road point in Montreal in Week 12 under Lapper. A win over D.C. United at Gillette Stadium on Saturday would set the team up for a wave of results once Arena takes charge. 

As for the other team with an interim boss, FC Cincinnati is just trying to regroup after giving up a five goals to Orlando City. 

However, the expansion side is not guaranteed of earning points on Saturday against a New York Red Bulls side that is beginning to surge up the Eastern Conference.

5. How Will Toronto FC Look Without Pozuelo? 

May 18, 2019; Sandy, UT, USA; Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) reacts as he receives a red card in the second half against the Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

While other sides in the East have begun to reverse their early-season struggles, Toronto FC has trended downward with one point from its last four games. 

The Reds should be able to dig themselves out of the hole by beating the Earthquakes on Sunday, but they will have to do so without Alejandro Pozuelo, who picked up a needless second yellow against Real Salt Lake in Week 12. 

Without Pozuelo, the Reds will have to find a new creative force in attack to link between Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. 

Greg Vanney has plenty of options to turn to in the playmaking role, but none of them are as dynamic as the Spaniard who has five goals and six assists in 10 games. 

If Toronto can’t find the right combination in attack, and one of the teams beneath it in the standings win, it will drop out of the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference. 

Player to Watch

Aleksandar Katai, Chicago Fire

Jun 2, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward Aleksandar Katai (10) kicks the ball past San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Shea Salinas (6) during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium.  (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Chicago has an opportunity to pick up its third win in four games on Saturday at home against New York City FC in front of a national audience. 

The Fire’s recent surge has been sparked by Aleksandar Katai, who has two goals and two assists in May.

With Nemanja Nikolić struggling to find the back of the net, Katai has to be the man to unlock the NYCFC defense in order to score himself, or feed Nikolić for open looks in front of goal.

Matchup to Watch

Romain Metanire, Minnesota United vs. Houston’s Attackers

Apr 24, 2019; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota United defender Romain Metanire (19) protects the ball from LA Galaxy defender Emmanuel Boateng (24) during the second half at Allianz Field. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the best fullbacks in MLS faces one of his toughest matchups yet on Saturday at Allianz Field. 

Romain Métanire will have his hands full with Houston’s collection of speedy attackers, even if Alberth Elis is ruled out for the contest.

If Métanire can keep Romell Quioto, Memo Rodriguez and Mauro Manotas quiet on his half of the field, the Loons should be able to control the meeting of third-versus-fifth in the West. 

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