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MLS Week 19 Preview: Three derbies; Portland looks to stay hot; Seattle welcomes Atlanta

The Cali Clasico, 401 Derby and Hudson River Derby all take place this weekend.

Get your popcorn ready. 

Rivalry clashes headline the Week 19 slate in Major League Soccer, with the Cali Clasico, 401 Derby and Hudson River Derby all taking place over three days. 

In addition to the rivalry matches, there are a few other intriguing bouts that could change the complexion of the playoff races in each conference. 

A majority of the teams will be playing on a full week’s rest, while a handful of sides are trying to either continue momentum or bounce back from domestic cup performances midweek. 

MLS Week 19 Schedule

Friday, July 12

New England Revolution at DC United (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

Los Angeles FC at Houston Dynamo (9 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy (11 p.m. ET, UniMas) 

Saturday, July 13

Toronto FC at Montreal Impact (7:30 p.m. ET, TVA Sport, ESPN+)

Columbus Crew at Orlando City (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

FC Cincinnati at Chicago Fire (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

FC Dallas at Minnesota United (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Colorado Rapids at Portland Timbers (11 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sunday, July 14

Atlanta United at Seattle Sounders (3:55 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

New York City FC at New York Red Bulls (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1) 

Things to Watch 

1. Can the Revs contain Rooney without Acosta? 

D.C. United midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) and New England Revolution midfielder Luis Caicedo (27) battle for the ball during the first half at Gillette Stadium

May 25, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; D.C. United midfielder Luciano Acosta (10) and New England Revolution midfielder Luis Caicedo (27) battle for the ball during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

In the two games in which Luciano Acosta has not started for DC United, the Black and Red have failed to score a goal.

Ben Olsen’s side will be without its No. 10 on Friday due to a red-card suspension, which puts more pressure on Wayne Rooney to produce in the final third. 

In the first meeting between DC and New England, Rooney put two of his six shots on target, and in order to keep D.C. off the scoreboard at Audi Field, the Revs have to limit those numbers. 

Although the Revs are in good form under Bruce Arena, they have conceded one goal in each of their past five games. 

The opportunity is there for the Revs to take three points from Audi Field without Acosta on the field, but in order to do so, their defensive production must improve.

2. How does LAFC recover?

Apr 21, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; LAFC forward Christian Ramirez (21) celebrates with teammates Mark-Anthony Kayel (14), Jordan Harvey (3) and Carlos Vela (10) after scoring a goal in the second half at Banc of California Stadium. LAFC defeated the Sounders 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles FC was handed zero favors with its schedule this week.

After falling to Portland at home in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, the Black and Gold have to travel to BBVA Compass Stadium for a Friday clash with the Houston Dynamo

The short rest combined with the sweltering heat in Houston could put Bob Bradley’s side in a spot of difficulty.

Since the second-year side used most of its starters on Wednesday, there should be some squad rotation, which will either lead to a flexing of the team’s depth, or Houston’s attack pouncing for a handful of goals. 

3. Can Galaxy regain foothold in Cali Clasico? 

Jul 4, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic (9) and Toronto FC midfielder Richie Laryea (22) battle for the ball in the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. The Gakaxy defeated Tornto FC 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the last six Cali Clasico matches, the LA Galaxy have one victory.

San Jose won the meeting at Stanford Stadium on June 29 in dominant fashion, and it has taken two other league games and a U.S. Open Cup match in 2017 from the Galaxy. 

The good news for the Galaxy is they won their last home meeting with the Quakes and have two wins in their last three games. 

In the first Cali Clasico of the season, San Jose’s attack overwhelmed the Galaxy defense, with Vako, Magnus Eriksson and Chris Wondolowski all playing active roles in the final third. 

Add in Danny Hoesen, who scored the game-winning goal on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, and you have a strike force that will be hard to contain.

The Galaxy have two clean sheets in their last two wins, but now they have to prove they have learned from the June 29 thumping and earn a victory to potentially gain ground on LAFC in the Western Conference standings. 

4. Will home team reign supreme in 401 Derby? 

Jul 6, 2019; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Impact forward Anthony Jackson-Hamel (11) runs with the ball against Minnesota United during the first half at Stade Saputo. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll keep this one simple. 

The last four 401 derbies in league play have been won by the home team. Montreal is 5-3-1 at Stade Saputo and Toronto FC is 2-5-2 away from BMO Field. 

In addition to those numbers, the road team has scored once in the last four league meetings between the Impact and TFC.

It seems pretty straightforward that the Impact will win this game, so because this is MLS, TFC will somehow prevail. 

5. Can the Crew finally spring to life? 

Jun 29, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC midfielder David Guzman (right) looks for a call against Orlando City SC midfielder Oriol Rosell (20) during the second half at MAPFRE Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve been asking this question in many different varieties for the last month.

The Columbus Crew have one point since May 11. Yes, you read that right, one point in the past eight games. 

To make matters worse, Caleb Porter’s team has the worst scoring record in MLS with 17 goals. The Crew tried to light a spark in attack by making a slew of moves after the opening of the secondary transfer window on Tuesday. 

In the long term, the acquisitions of Luis Díaz, Romario Williams and Jordan Hamilton could help, but on Saturday, the Crew need to benefit from the return of Gyasi Zardes against an Orlando City team riding an emotional high of advancing to the Open Cup semifinals in order to try and turn things back in a positive direction.

6. Goals expected in Bridgeview

Jul 3, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Fire forward C.J. Sapong (9) celebrates with teammates after scoring his second goal against Atlanta United during the first half at Bridgeview Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire and FC Cincinnati have combined to concede 73 goals in MLS play. 

If anything, Saturday’s clash at SeatGeek Stadium should be an exciting, goal-filled affair.

The Fire are coming off a topsy-turvy Week 18 in which they put five goals up on Atlanta United and were shutout by Sporting Kansas City, while FC Cincinnati dispatched of Houston by scoring on three occasions.

The combination of poor defense and a bit of desperation seeping in to surge up to the top seven in the East should at least make this one an interesting watch.

7. Future of the league on display at Allianz

Apr 27, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) kicks the ball during the match against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas cleared the way for more Homegrown production when it sold Carlos Gruezo to Augsburg.

The combination of Edwin Cerrillo, Brandon Servania and Paxton Pomykal will be exciting to watch for the rest of the season, but they won’t be the only young stars on display when Luchi Gonzalez’s team visits Minnesota United on Saturday night. 

During their three-game league winning streak, the Loons have received contributions from rookie Hassani Dotson and second-year man Mason Toye. 

Of course, there will be some experienced players featuring in key roles as well, but if you want to watch the game from a different perspective, keep an eye on the qualities of the young stars on the field. 

8. Can RSL keep up strong home form? 

Sep 1, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Real Salt Lake midfielder Albert Rusnak (11) shoots and scores during the first half against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Only Portland and FC Dallas have come into Rio Tinto Stadium and taken points off Real Salt Lake this season. 

During their four-game winning run in Sandy, the Claret and Cobalt have knocked off Toronto, Atlanta, Sporting KC and Columbus.

First-place Philadelphia presents a new challenge to Mike Petke’s team, especially with Andrew Wooten available for selection. 

The key to success for RSL will be Albert Rusnak’s ability to break through the Union’s midfield and challenge center backs Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty, who have been shaky in some stretches since the Gold Cup break ended. 

 9. Can Vancouver plug holes in its defense? 

Apr 17, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Ali Adnan (53) celebrates the win with goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau (16) after the end of the second half at BC Place. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps have not earned a clean sheet in league play since May 10. 

During that nine-game stretch, the Whitecaps have been outscored 17-11 and won a single game.

Sporting Kansas City comes into BC Place on a wave of momentum following a weekend win over Chicago at home, but now Peter Vermes’ team has to put together a consistent string of results. 

Keep an eye on Gerso Fernandes, who was incredibly active in the victory over Chicago, and his movement around the Vancouver defense that gave up six goals to LAFC in Week 18.

If Gerso is able to matriculate his way through the Whitecaps defense to set up Dániel Sallói, Yohan Croizet and others, Vancouver could be in for a long night.

10. The Timbers freight train is rolling

Jul 7, 2019; New York, NY, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Sebastian Blanco (10) celebrates his goal with forward Brian Fernandez (7) during the first half against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

The loud noise you hear is the combination of Timber Joey’s chainsaw and the freight train rolling out of Portland with eyes on the Western Conference playoff places. 

The Timbers have been on a roll since returning from the Gold Cup break with wins over Houston, FC Dallas and NYCFC in league play and LAFC in the Open Cup. The only defeat in that span came from a rotated squad in Montreal. 

Colorado has the unfortunate pleasure of heading to Providence Park to face the in-form Timbers on Saturday night. 

If you stay up for this one, watch how well connected the Portland attack is, and then you can make your own conclusion regarding whether this is a team capable of returning to MLS Cup. 

11. Will Seattle take advantage of Atlanta’s recent defensive struggles? 

Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (10) passes against the Orlando City SC during the first half at CenturyLink Field. (Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)

Atlanta United rolls into CenturyLink Field off short rest from a Wednesday Open Cup game and with a defense that has been torn to shreds on a few occasions in recent weeks. 

The Five Stripes conceded eight goals in Week 18 to Chicago and the Red Bulls, and they face a Sounders side that has Nicolás Lodeiro coming off a two-goal performance and Jordan Morris returning to the squad. 

Seattle’s fresher legs and in-form attackers should have the advantage for 90 minutes, and the Sounders should be champing at the bit to be the next team to score on the Five Stripes since Frank de Boer’s team has given up 15 of its 23 goals conceded away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

12. BWP 

Apr 6, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (99) reacts after a goal by midfielder Cristian Casseres Jr (23) against Minnesota United during the second half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been the dominant individual of the Hudson River Derby, and he is expected to play some type of role on Sunday.

Wright-Phillips scored a late equalizer against Atlanta United in Week 18 in his third consecutive substitute appearance. 

Regardless of when he enters the match, the 34-year-old forward should make an impact since he has 12 goals in his career against NYCFC. 

The Red Bulls are looking to pull back a bit of momentum in the rivalry after NYCFC won in July 2018 and the two sides played a draw in their last meeting

 

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