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MLS Week 6 Preview: Rooney, Vela to square off in national spotlight

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Every once in a while, there’s a moment in Major League Soccer where we just have to sit back and enjoy. 

Saturday afternoon’s clash between Los Angeles FC and D.C. United is the first of those moments to occur in 2019.

Mexican international midfielder Carlos Vela and English legend Wayne Rooney will go head-to-head on a nationally-televised stage in a clash of two of the best teams in the league.

The cherry on top here is both Vela and Rooney are in remarkable form to start the season. 

Vela has six goals and three assists, including a hat trick a week ago, for an LAFC side that is the best in MLS through one month with 13 points. 

Rooney is three weeks removed from a hat trick of his own against Real Salt Lake, and he enters Week 6 after recording a goal and an assist to keep D.C. United atop the Eastern Conference with 10 points. 

Make no mistake about it, Rooney and Vela are the main attractions for Saturday’s behemoth of a matchup, but there are plenty of other difference-makers on both sides who will make the game one of the best of the 2019 season. 

For starters, D.C. United’s defense has given up one goal in four games and has a United States men’s national team goalkeeper in Bill Hamid. 

Then there’s the combination of Paul Arriola and Russell Canouse in midfield, one of whom is already in the USMNT picture and the other is more than deserving of a shot in Gregg Berhalter’s squad. 

Oh, and lest we forget Luciano Acosta, the midfield playmaker who almost moved to Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window and could end up being MLS’ next big-money transfer. 

If that isn’t enough to get you as excited as you’ve been for an MLS match in a long time, let’s introduce you to the LAFC supporting cast. 

There’s Diego Rossi, whose production hasn’t been tracked by the national spotlight yet because of Vela’s scoring exploits. 

The dynamic Uruguayan forward, who could also be on the shortlist for a move to Europe in the future, has found the back of the net three times for Bob Bradley’s side. 

Midfielders Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye are almost criminally underrated, and they’ll be locked in the best positional battle of Saturday’s game at Audi Field with Acosta, Arriola and Canouse. 

LAFC also has its own USMNT stud in center back Walker Zimmerman, who will maraud forward on occasion in an attempt to put home set pieces. 

You can even make a big deal of the managerial matchup as MLS lifer Ben Olsen, who has been through hell and back with the Black-and-Red, takes on the well-traveled Bob Bradley, who has come back to MLS and molded LAFC into a title contender in its second season. 

There are few matches in MLS deserving of the pre-game hype, but this one is it. 

So sit back in your recliner, bask in all the talent on the field in a league that’s come so far even in just a few years, and after it’s done settle in for a night full of intriguing clashes. 

Week 6 Schedule

Friday, April 5

LA Galaxy at Vancouver Whitecaps (10 p.m. ET, TSN1, ESPN+) 

Saturday, April 6

Montreal Impact at New York City FC (1 p.m. ET, TVA Sport,  ESPN+)

Los Angeles FC at D.C. United (3 p.m. ET, Fox) 

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC (3 p.m. ET, TSN4, ESPN+) 

Minnesota United at New York Red Bulls (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+)

New England Revolution at Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Colorado Rapids at Orlando City (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

FC Dallas at Philadelphia Union (7;30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Portland Timbers at San Jose Earthquakes (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Real Salt Lake at Seattle Sounders (10 p.m. ET, ESPN+) 

Sporting Kansas City at FC Cincinnati (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) 

Player to Watch

Diego Chara, M, Portland Timbers

Mar 31, 2019; Carson, CA, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara (21) moves the ball ahead of LA Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget (17) during the second half at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The perfect cure for the Portland Timbers’ early-season struggles comes in the form of a trip to Avaya Stadium on Saturday. 

The Timbers can take control of their match with the Earthquakes through Diego Chara, who will not only enforce the area in front of the back four, but also act as a distributor to kick start some of Portland’s attacks.

Going against a team that’s scored twice in 2019 should allow the Colombian midfield general to command the game and rack up high numbers in passing, touches and interceptions.

Matchup to Watch

Paxton Pomykal, FC Dallas vs. Brenden Aaronson, Philadelphia Union

Mar 23, 2019; Frisco, TX, USA; FC Dallas midfielder Paxton Pomykal (19) splits the Colorado Rapids defense during the second half at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

That loud noise you hear is the hype train storming into Chester, Pennsylvania at 1,000 miles per hour. 

Two of the brightest American prospects in MLS are set to do battle on Saturday night.

Both Paxton Pomykal and Brenden Aaronson have made immediate impacts on their respective sides, and depending on where Aaronson lines up in the Union’s diamond midfield, the two could be going head-to-head in individual battles.

Every move made by the 19-year-old Pomykal and 18-year-old Aaronson has been under dissection, and for the most part praised, through one month. 

And the rare head-to-head meeting of these exciting prospects should attract more eyes than any previous clash between Philadelphia and FC Dallas. 

Fantasy Player to Watch

Alejandro Pozuelo, M, Toronto FC 

Mar 29, 2019; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Alejandro Pozuelo (10) tries to control the ball against New York City FC at BMO Field. Toronto defeated New York. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Eventually we’ll get one of these selections right so we’ll go with an easy selection to get back on track in Week 6. 

Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo will try to follow up his fantastic MLS debut in Week 5 by working his way through the defense of the Chicago Fire. 

The Fire showed at home in Week 3 against Seattle that they are susceptible to conceding a handful of goals, and with Toronto FC’s attack revving up with Pozuelo at the controls, it could be a long Saturday afternoon in Ontario for Veljko Paunovic’s men. 

 

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