MLS Preview: A look into Match Day 6

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Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) dribbles the ball under pressure from Orlando City midfielder Martín Ojeda (11) and Orlando City defender Rafael Santos (3) during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

The conclusion of Match Day 5 means we’re already one month into the 2024 MLS Season. It still might be a bit too early to decide if some teams are for real or if others need to hit the panic button, or not, but there have undoubtedly been some surprises around the league so far that have made for an entertaining start to the year. Adding to the madness in Match Day 6 is the hurdle of many teams missing their best players due to International Call-ups. Let’s take a look at our matchups across MLS this weekend

Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) dribbles the ball under pressure from Orlando City midfielder Martín Ojeda (11) and Orlando City defender Rafael Santos (3) during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MLS Match Day 6

*Teams listed first will play at home*

New England Revolution VS Chicago Fire – 2:00 pm

Though we’re just a few weeks in, I don’t think many people would have had Chicago higher in the standings than New England after 4 games played, but The Revs come into Match Day 6 against Chicago Fire with 0 points and the most goals conceded in the league – 10 in 4 games.

The Fire are coming off a come-from-behind win at home against Montreal in which their new, expensive striker Hugo Cuypers scored his first goal in MLS, and have already shown some fight on the road this season after earning a draw against the Union in Game Week 1. If New England doesn’t get 3 points on Saturday night, I think Caleb Porter is officially on the hot seat.

Prediction: New England Revolution 1 – Chicago Fire 2

New York Red Bulls VS Inter Miami – 2:00 pm

Miami Head Coach Tata Martino said that both teams tried to postpone this match due to the number of players both teams will be missing due to international duty – but for whatever reason, MLS stays committed to playing through international breaks. The Red Bulls are off to a decently strong start to the season, collecting 7 points in 4 games, but are coming off a 3-0 humbling on the road by Columbus Crew.

Inter Miami on the other hand have continued to prove all the haters wrong, collecting 10 points in their opening 4 games which has them sitting atop of the Supporters Shield race. Miami could be missing up to 10 players on Saturday, but as long as someone like Luis Suarez is in the lineup you can’t ever count them out.

Prediction: NYRB 1 – 1 Inter Miami

CORRECTS TO SUNDAY NOT SATURDAY – Inter Miami forward Lionel Messi (10) dribbles the ball past Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Edwin Cerrillo (20) during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Charlotte FC VS Columbus Crew – 7:30 pm

After winning in Week 1 at home in Dean Smith’s debut, Charlotte FC are looking for their 2nd win of the season after failing to do so in 3 consecutive games on the road. Unfortunately for them, they run into Columbus Crew, one of the league’s hottest teams to start the 2024 season. Wilfried Nancy and the reigning Champs are unbeaten in 4 games and have conceded just 2 goals which tied for the lowest total in MLS.

Columbus will be missing a few important players like Aidan Morris and Patrick Schulte, but they’ll still stick to their game plan and try to pass circles around Charlotte FC on Saturday night. And oh yeah – they’ve still got Cucho, one of MLS’ early MVP frontrunners.

Prediction: Charlotte FC 1 – 3 Columbus Crew

FC Cincinnati VS New York City FC – 7:30 pm

The reigning Supporters Shield winners are off to a strong start in 2024, going unbeaten (2W-2D-0L) in their first 4 games all while juggling the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Cincinnati will play at home on Saturday night after earning 3 points on the road against New England last weekend, a game in which Lucho Acosta – last season’s MVP – scored his first goal of the 2024 season in an off-the-bench role.

NYCFC are also coming off a win last weekend, their first of the 2024 campaign against a traveling Toronto FC, but have struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities early on this season and have the 2nd lowest Expected Goals Scored total in the Eastern Conference (3.7). Other than Miles Robinson FCC should be near full-strength, so I think NYCFC might have a difficult time on the road Saturday night.

Prediction: Cincinnati 3 – 1 NYCFC

Orlando City SC VS Austin FC – 7:30 pm

Everything we know from last season tells us that Orlando should be heavy favorites at home against Austin FC on Saturday night, but their form to start 2024 insists you have to approach this game differently. Austin – who most people think will be closer to winning the Wooden Spoon than securing a playoff spot in 2024 – was expected to start the season slowly.

But Orlando’s 0W-1D-3L start to the season has almost everyone puzzled. Sure, some of it comes down to Orlando’s involvement in the Champions Cup and the struggles that juggling both competitions brings, but they just don’t look like the same team from last season and have a plethora of injuries and international call-ups to deal with on Saturday.

Austin doesn’t look particularly exciting either, accumulating the 4th lowest Expected Goals total (3.3) and the 2nd highest Expected Goals Allowed total (8.6) in MLS through 4 games, but is coming off 3 consecutive draws against Seattle, St Louis, and Philadelphia.

Prediction: Orlando City 0 – 0 Austin FC

Toronto FC VS Atlanta United – 7:30 pm

One of the feel-good stories of the MLS season thus far has been John Herdman and Toronto FC. After a disastrous Wooden Spoon campaign in 2023, John Herdman has come in and instilled belief in a squad made up of almost the same exact players. 2W, 1D, and 1L for 7 points to kick off the campaign, and Lorenzo Insigne bought in and firing with 2 goals in the early-goings.

On the other side of things, Atlanta is also off to a decent start to the season, winning their previous 2 games at home by a total of 6-1 and being led by Giorgos Giakoumakis’ 4 goals. But like many teams across MLS this season, Atlanta will be without key players like Giakoumakis and Thiago Almada due to International Duty.

Prediction: Toronto 2 – 1 Atlanta United

Vancouver Whitecaps VS Real Salt Lake – 7:30 pm

Vancouver has played 1 less game than a lot of teams in MLS and is still sitting in 2nd place in a Western Conference that is seeing its usual juggernauts struggle early in the season, but somehow I’m not surprised. I love what Vanni Sartini does with this team: never afraid to tinker with his formation and lineups to keep things fresh, and we’ve seen that with defender Ryan Raposo playing higher up the pitch and scoring a goal FC Dallas last weekend.

Real Salt Lake is off to a rollercoaster start which has them in the middle of the pack in the West to start the 2024 campaign – losing to Inter Miami in week 1, Drawing St Louis in Week 2, beating LAFC in the snow in week 3, and losing to Colorado at home in Week 4, Vancouver will look to jump on the inconsistent form from Real Salt Lake at home on Saturday night.

Prediction: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 1 Real Salt Lake

MLS, Soccer
Columbus Crew’s Steven Moreira, left, and Los Angeles FC’s Denis Bouanga, right chase after the ball in the first half of the MLS soccer championship match, Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

St Louis City SC VS D.C. United – 8:30 pm

St Louis comes into Saturday’s matchup against DC without a loss, although they only have 1 win through 4 games thus far. 8 goals for STL in 4 games makes them one of MLS’s best goal-scoring teams and one that possesses a never-say-die mentality, scoring goals after the 79th minute in 3 of 4 games.

Troy Lesesne looks to have DC United playing better soccer than what we saw under Wayne Rooney with an opening week win against the Revs and consecutive draws on the road against Portland and Cincinnati but did encounter a setback last week against Luis Suarez and Miami. Both teams should have a majority of their squad amidst international call-ups so I’d suspect this to be a hard-fought, high-scoring affair.

Prediction: St Louis City SC 3 – 2 DC United

Colorado Rapids VS Houston Dynamo – 9:30 pm

An exciting off-season looked like it was all for nothing after week 1 for the Rapids, but since being blown out by the Timbers on the opening weekend of the season, Colorado are unbeaten in their previous 3 games with draws against Nashville and Seattle and a win against rivals RSL at home. With 5 goals scored and 7 conceded, Colorado is the only team currently in a playoff position with a negative Goal Differential through the first month of the season.

The Dynamo have played just 3 games and have a different result in each contest, resulting in 4 in the table. It’s been a struggle for Houston early on this season while competing in the CONCACAF Champions Cup and having an injury-ridden squad, but are seeing contributions from names we’re not as familiar with like Aliyu Ibrahim, who’s scored 2 goals in 3 games for Houston.

Prediction: Colorado Rapids 2 – Houston Dynamo 1

LAFC VS Nashville SC – 10:30 pm

One of the true surprises of the 2024 season so far is the lackluster start from LAFC. After beating Seattle at home on the opening weekend of the season, LAFC are winless in their previous 3 matches and have failed to score in either of those games.

History tells us it’s only a matter of time before the likes of Denis Bouanga find form and LAFC sign some former European Super Star(like Olivier Giroud) to bolster their squad, but Nashville’s hard-nosed defense will hope to keep the 2022 Champs off the scoresheet for the 4th straight game.

Nashville, another team battling injury and Champions Cup, found their first win of the season against Charlotte last weekend, and are in related through 4 games so far in 2024. Only 1 clean sheet for the team that conceded the least amount of goals in MLS last season – but they have hopes of finding more offense in the coming weeks with Hany Mukhtar and Sam Surridge returning to health.

Prediction: LAFC 2 – 1 Nashville SC

Portland Timbers VS Philadelphia Union – 10:30 pm

Fewer teams are affected by the international window the way the Union is. 8 regular starting caliber players were called up to their national team and somehow they still have a decent core group of their squad available for Saturday. Nonetheless, the Union has had a slow start to life in MLS in 2024 thanks to the Champion’s Cup. 3 draws in 3 games, all of which saw Union salvage a point from a losing position – with 2 of those goals being scored in stoppage time.

Quinn Sullivan has been the shining light for Union this season, and getting Julian Carranza back in the lineup consistently will be a huge boost for this squad, but they need to figure out how to keep the ball out of their net, which won’t be easy without Andre Blake on Saturday. Portland is off to a decent start under Phil Neville. With a record of 2W-1D-1L, the Timbers find themselves in 3rd place in the West through 4 games of the season.

Though Portland will be missing key defensive pierces like Kamal Miller and GK Maxime Crepeau, Portland still threatens pieces in the attack in names like Evander and Anthony. And oh yeah – the Timbers just signed forward Jonathan Rodriguez from Club America too. Designated Player deal. While I’m not sure if he’ll play or not, he did post on his social that he’ll be in attendance, which I’m sure will give Portland and their fans a boost.

Prediction: Portland Timbers 2 – 2 Philadelphia Union

San Jose Earthquakes VS Seattle Sounders – 10:30 pm

Neither San Jose nor Seattle are off to a great start to the season, with both teams anchoring the Western Conference so far. It feels like half of the Seattle team is missing out due to injury and the rest aren’t off to a great start to the 2024 campaign. Just 2 goals scored for Seattle in 3 games, and only 1 has come from open play. A shocking start for a team that many had won the West in 2024.

I’m not sure San Jose’s start is quite as shocking, but I’m still a bit surprised by how bad they’ve been so far. Just 3 goals were scored in 3 games, but 9 goals were conceded for the Northern Californian club. Neither of San Jose’s goal scorers in Jeremy Ebobisse or Christian Espinoza have gotten on the score sheet so far this season, but Saturday against a wounded Seattle side at home feels like the perfect time to get going.

Prediction: San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 1 Seattle Sounders

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell