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Watch These — Week of Apr. 15

Champion’s League, as you would expect, leads the exciting matches for this week. However there’s several other quality matches from Japan to Denmark to the top leagues in Europe and here in the states. Let’s look at the schedule!


Tuesday, Apr. 16

  • Juventus vs. Ajax (Champion’s League) — They ended 1 – 1 last week, giving Juventus the edge. Now they return to Turin to finish out the match. Who will advance? 538 favors Juventus and I tend to agree.
  • Barcelona vs. Manchester United (Champion’s League) — Barca snatched a 1 – 0 victory on the road in England, can they defend at home? Yes.

Wednesday, Apr. 17

  • Manchester City vs. Tottenham (Champions League) - Sadly this is where I think Tottenham’s Champions League run ends, but I will still be watching, hoping for a miracle.
  • Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage (NWSL) — Women’s soccer is back in the US after it’s long off season. The kicked off this weekend and their first midweek game of the season brings two of the league’s top teams face to face.

Thursday, Apr. 18

  • Napoli vs. Arsenal (Europa Cup) - Napoli must come back from a two goal deficit as they return home to Italy, if they want to advance.
  • København vs Midtjylland (Denmark Super League) - I know nothing about either of these teams except that they sit atop Denmark’s league and the game is broadcasting on ESPN+. Games like this are one of the great things about being a soccer fan, you get to see players and teams from around the world play the game.

Friday, Apr. 19

  • LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo (MLS) — #3 and #4 in the west meet. Historically these two teams have had a fairly balanced history, though the Galaxy have dominated when Houston came to town. Can they continue that trend this time?
  • Sanfrecce Hiroshima vs. Tokyo (J1 League) — Japan’s J1 league is underway and so far it is both of these teams sitting atop it. J1 is broadcast in the US on DAZN, which isn’t a network I normally watch so I am not positive how watchable this game will be to us Americans.

Saturday, Apr. 20

  • Manchester City vs. Tottenham (EPL) - Manchester race to hold onto the lead in the league, and Tottenham fight to claim the third spot in the league after their recent slide. Will Kane be healthy? Can Tottenham manage an upset against the Citizens?
  • Inter vs. Roma (Serie A) - #3 vs #5 in Italy, but only 3 points separate them. A win by Roma would tie them with Inter.
  • Borussia M’gladbach vs. Red Bull Leipzig (Bundesliga) — A top battle in Germany. M’gladbach (#5) hosts the Red Bulls.
  • Feyenoord vs. AZ (Eredivisie) — The Netherlands sees two of their top 5 squads face off, it might just be my imagination but it seems like the Eredivisie has had a series of weeks with high level face offs. Good stuff.

Sunday, Apr. 21

  • Los Angeles FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) — The two best teams in MLS clash for the first time this season. It’s going to be a high stress, high intensity match I expect.
  • Reign FC vs. Orlando Pride (NWSL) — The NWSL season is still getting underway, but it’s fair to expect both of these teams be dominant performers in the coming season.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 6

This week had its share of surprises, though few of those surprises were stunning upsets. Definitely fewer major swings in the power rankings below than in previous weeks.

Biggest climber: Orlando City SC. Biggest loser: New York Red Bulls.

The Leaders

1. Los Angeles FC

Change: +0 — Form: WWWDW
LAFC continue to dominate, this time with their 4 – 0 rout of DC United. Sure, Rooney got a red card but it didn’t look his presence would have changed this game’s outcome.

2. Seattle Sounders FC

Change: +2 — Form: WDWWW
A win is a win. It wasn’t the prettiest, it wasn’t the offensive monster we saw in early weeks, but it was a win. And the Sounders are having the best start for their franchise.

3. Toronto FC

Change: +0 — Form: DWWW
Pozuelo looks to be an exciting signing for Toronto and I can’t wait to see more of him in the league, but they only managed a draw with Chicago. Surprised it wasn’t a win.

4. DC United

Change: -2 — Form: LWWDW
It isn’t cause for panic, sometimes you take a shot on the chin and fail to regain your footing.


The Pack

5. Sporting KC

Change: +0 — Form: DWDWL
SKC went on the road to Cinci and left with a point, a point on the road is a fine result. Had they not given up the penalty, they might have left with a win though.

6. Columbus Crew

Change: +0 — Form: WWLWW
Twelve points in their last five games has to feel good for Caleb porter and the team. Will be curious to see how they handle the trip up to Montréal this week.

7. LA Galaxy

Change: +0 — Form: WWWLW
The Galaxy heard my criticisms last week and went to Vancouver to make a statement. Now they get to return home and welcome Philadelphia for next week. Zlatan playing on turf is something I am extremely here for.

8. Houston Dynamo

Change: +0 — Form: WWWD
Bye week.

9. Minnesota United

Change: +2 — Form: WLLWW
They stop their losing skid and get a win on the road in New Jersey against the Red Bulls. They get a win for some confidence just in time to return home next week and open their new stadium. Should be quite the celebration.

10. FC Dallas

Change: -1 — Form: LWWLW
Dallas nearly got out of Philadelphia with a point, only to have it snatched away by Alejandro Bedoya in the final moments of the game. Had Minnesota not jumped them, this loss wouldn’t have affected their power ranking.

11. Philadelphia Union

Change: +3 — Form: WWWDL
A third win in a row for Philadelphia is impressive. Bedoya gave them the W, but the team worked to keep them in a position for it.

12. FC Cincinnati

Change: +1 — Form: DLWWD
Cinci were disappointed with a draw against the western powerhouse of SKC, that is the right mentality and a result they should be satisfied with. Cinci have really impressed me thus far this season and I am eager to see how their inaugural season unfolds.


The Chase

13. New York Red Bulls

Change: -3 — Form: LLLWD
Three losses in a row. Red Bulls are officially in crisis as they try and halt their skid. Also two of these losses occurred at home, which is a bitter pill to swallow.

14. NYCFC

Change: -2 — Form: LLDDD
Seeing NYCFC as a powerhouse of the east seems so long ago. I wonder how much they wish they still had David Villa in their roster.

15. Atlanta United

Change: +0 — Form: LDDL
Bye week.

16. Chicago Fire

Change: +0 — Form: DWWLD
A draw on the road is an acceptable result in most cases. For it to be a draw in a match that you could easily see being a loss is a great outcome.

17. Montréal Impact

Change: +0 — Form: DLWLW
A draw is, you guessed it, a fine result. But Montréal needs to do more and keep climbing in the east.

18. Real Salt Lake

Change: +1 — Form: LLLLW
A fourth loss in a row is tough for Petke and his crew. As a Sounders fan they looked dangerous and had some bad luck in not walking away with a point. But thanks to Colorado dropping, they get a bump in the ranking.

19. Orlando City

Change: +3 — Form: WLWLD
A win over Colorado isn’t the biggest of results, but for Orlando it was another spark in their engine as they try to figure out their system.

20. Colorado Rapids

Change: -2 — Form: LLLDL
Three points in their last four games is not good. They are destined for the basement if they can’t get a win soon.


The Basement

21. Vancouver Whitecaps

Change: -1 — Form: LDLLL
One point in their last five matches. At this point, I think their coach could be the first one fired this season.

22. New England Revolution

Change: -1 — Form: LWLLL
Four points after six games is not a good result. Friedel’s seat has to be getting quite warm as pressure to deliver mounts.

23. San Jose Earthquakes

Change: +1 — Form: WLLLL
San Jose gets their first win in 220 days with their victory over Portland. Even more, they didn’t look awful. Could they finally be waking up?

24. Portland Timbers

Change: -1 — Form: LLLLD
Portland is bad and Merritt + Gio should feed bad. The team needs a reboot.

Watch These — Week of Apr. 8

I somehow missed last week, so let’s get back into the top matches to watch for this week!

My Top 3

The tail end of this International break leading back into a lot of fantastic league action. Tough to pick just three matches, but here are mine:

  • Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City (B/R Live — Tuesday, 12:00pm Pacific)
  • Milan vs. Lazio (ESPN+ — Saturday, 11:30am Pacific)
  • Lille vs. Paris Saint‐Germaine (BeIN — Sunday, 12:00pm Pacific)

Tuesday, Apr. 9

  • Tottenham Hotspur vs Manchester City (Champion’s League) — The Champions League has reached pinnacle excitement in the quarterfinals. Tottenham are the definite underdog between Man. City, which look to be the best team in the world right now.
  • Bristol City vs West Bromwich Albion (Championship) — The 2nd division in England have a race for promotion. Norwich City have 1st place by a safe distance, but the 2nd spot is up for a fight. WBA winning this would put them in striking distance of Leeds United. A win for Bristol City would make them more secure in the top 6, a loss leaves them on the cusp of falling in to the pack.

Wednesday, Apr. 10

  • Manchester United vs. Barcelona & Ajax vs. Juventus (UEFA Champions League) - Two fantastic matches between teams which need no explanation.
  • Orange County SC vs. Tacoma Defiance (USL Championship) — Tacoma got their second win off of a roster that featured largely MLS players, as the Sounders got players warmed up before heading into a stretch where their depth will be tested. How will they do on the road against the struggling Orange County?

Thursday, Apr. 11

  • Sporting KC vs. Monterrey (Concacaf Champions League) -There are stories of heroes. Epic tales of the protagonists overcoming unthinkable odds. And that is what Kansas City have to do. They left Mexico 3 – 0 losers. I don’t think they can do it, but every great epic stacks the chips against the hero.

Friday, Apr. 12

  • Chicago Fire vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (MLS) — Chicago and Vancouver are two teams struggling to reliably get points. Vancouver just held Seattle’s offense at bay while Chicago just managed a win at home against the New York Red Bulls.
  • Hoffenheim vs. Bayer Leverkusen (Bundesliga) — Leverkusen are clinging to their sixth position quite precariously and a loss here could be what causes them to fall out of Europa competition for next year. Conversely, if Hoffenheim can claim a win, they are now in striking distance to climb into the top six. An important match for both teams.

Saturday, Apr. 13

  • Seattle Sounders FC vs Toronto FC (MLS) - Two of the top teams in the league face off in what has grown to be a rivalry in the league.
  • Tottenham Hotspur vs Huddersfield Town (EPL) - Tottenham have been on a slide, but opening their new stadium seems to have relit their fires and now they welcome Huddersfield into their arena. How many can Tottenham score?
  • Milan vs. Lazio (Serie A) — Two of the top in Italy face off. Lazio has Torino and Roma tied on points, all competing over the 6th spot in the league.

Sunday, Mar. 24

  • Liverpool vs. Chelsea (EPL) — Liverpool is chasing Manchester City, can they get a win to put themselves back on top of Manchester City?
  • Sporting KC vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS) — KC are coming off a, well let’s face it, likely loss and exit from the CCL. How hungry will they be for redemption? Red Bulls need to get their heads straight and run for the top of the east, to do so they need to win this game.
  • Lille vs. Paris Saint‐Germaine (Ligue 1)  — There is a twenty point gap between these two teams, and yet they are first and second in the league. Ligue 1 needs a serious push for balance between teams to make the race more interesting. However, this should be a good game.

MLS Power Rankings — Week 5

I dare not try to apply reason and logic to the MLS in all but a few cases. Otherwise the league is far too wild to try and feel confident about… well, just about anything. Lots of good games this weekend and a good number of surprises. Let’s get to the ratings.

Biggest climber: FC Dallas. Biggest loser: Atlanta FC.

The Leaders

1. Los Angeles FC

Change: +2 — Form: WWDWW
Carlos Vela nabs a hat trick and I feel even more comfortable in my league predictions for the team to win it all.

2. DC United

Change: -1 — Form: WWDW
The 2 – 1 win over the floundering Orlando wasn’t impressive, but it was a win. They lose their throne purely to the sheer audacious force that is LA.

3. Toronto FC

Change: +1 — Form: WWW
This pains me, the Sounder fan that I am, to admit that Toronto keeps winning and it sure feels like they could keep doing it.

4. Seattle Sounders FC

Change: -2 — Form: DWWW
I hate to say I knew it, but I sure felt like Nostro‐fucking‐damus as I watched Seattle struggle against a deep seated Vancouver. They will have to figure out how to score against those opponents.


The Pack

5. Sporting KC

Change: +3 — Form: WDWL
KC demolished a mid‐tier Montréal in a way that the league doesn’t frequently see. They head to Mexico for the CCL and the league can all agree we want them to do as well as possible.

6. Columbus Crew

Change: +1 — Form: WLWWD
Caleb Porter outplayed Atlanta. They took a lot of shots, but most of them were bad ones. And more importantly, none of them went in. Columbus sit atop the east and looking strong.

7. LA Galaxy

Change: +3 — Form: WWLW
LA, put simply, are good and should be better. We all look at Zlatan and hold our breath waiting to be wowed and yet he is only above average… except when he is amazing.

8. Houston Dynamo

Change: +1 — Form: WWWD
Houston are performing well, 10 points tied with Seattle and FC Dallas.

9. FC Dallas

Change: +5 — Form: WWLWD
Dallas are doing what Atlanta should be. A new coach. New players. And they are putting points on the board, with one of the youngest squads in the league. Impressive stuff.

10. New York Red Bulls

Change: -5 — Form: LLWD
Two losses in a row is a tough pill to swallow for Red Bulls fans. What would normally be good news for New York is that their next opponent is Minnesota. And yet… this is a mad mad mad mad mad world.

11. Minnesota United

Change: +0 — Form: LLWW
Minnesota started so good and now they’re not doing so good. Losing to New England is pretty rough.

12. NYCFC

Change: +0 — Form: LDDD
A loss on the road is not uncommon in the league, but a team that is failing to get W’s means losses are even more painful.

13. FC Cincinnati

Change: +0 — Form: LWWDL
Cincinnati learned what a home loss in the MLS feels like, which I did not expect against Philly.

14. Philadelphia Union

Change: +4 — Form: WWDLL
Philly sits at 4th in the East and they seem to finally have their system working. An impressive win in Cincinnati but next comes a trip to Dallas, can they keep their winning ways?


The Chase

15. Atlanta United

Change: -9 — Form: LDDL
Frank de Boer is at the helm of a broken ship. Atlanta hasn’t synced and they are sitting at the bottom of the east.

16. Chicago Fire

Change: +3 — Form: WWLDL
So Chicago got a win over the struggling Red Bulls, off of an own goal. I am not convinced Chicago is the real threat that these last two wins. Their next game is at Toronto, a win there would be a statement.

17. Montréal Impact

Change: -2 — Form: LWLW
I really like Piatti. But I just don’t see a top class team around him, which is a shame.

18. Colorado Rapids

Change: -2 — Form: LLDLD
Colorado has not had an easy start to the season and the next few weeks are a mixed bag between Orlando, Seattle, DC and Chicago. Colorado need to find the rhythm to stabilize before they sink further.

19. Real Salt Lake

Change: -2 — Form: LLLWD
The RSL balloon is deflating as they sink lower and lower in the power rankings. I am rooting for them purely out of respect for Nick Rimando, he deserves to retire after a winning season.

20. Vancouver Whitecaps

Change: +2 — Form: DLLL
The first point for the Whitecaps comes from a well defended match against Seattle. Dos Santos made a plan and his team delivered, well, except for making any goals.

21. New England Revolution

Change: +2 — Form: WLLLD
Friedel’s team got a win? This must be a dream


The Basement

22. Orlando City

Change: -2 — Form: LWLDD
Orlando looked impotent this week. Dwyer tried his best but they couldn’t find the win at home. Orlando needs help, but I fear it won’t arrive until the middle of the season.

23. Portland Timbers

Change: -2 — Form: LLLD
The Seattle Schadenfraude is real and it is delicious. At least, for now it is. Seeing them lose another one after giving up not one, but two PKs. Gio had to be apoplectic.

24. San Jose Earthquakes

Change: +0 — Form: LLLL
Another week, the same as the last.

My 2019 MLS Predictions

Trying to predict the future is a loser’s game.

Ken Liu

You know the beauty of playing a loser’s game? One that’s rigged and no one expects you to get right? Like, predicting the end of an MLS season?

If I’m wrong, well, of course I was. But… if I end up being right, then I look like a genius. It’s why TV talking heads love to make predictions. But, unlike them, I’m just a random fan not some professional analyst. So, I’ve got nothing to lose. Let’s do it!

MLS Cup Winner

LAFC — They joined the league last year and ended up getting to 3rd in the West. Based on the start of this season, how Carlos Vela looks, I think they are going to win it all — even over my Seattle Sounders.

Supporter’s Shield

Seattle Sounders FC — Look. I might just be swallowed up in the hope and excitement of an undefeated start to our season, but the Sounders look truly scary offensively and once the defense solidifies in the post Ozzie era, the team could set a new league record for points.

US Open Cup

DC United — Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta are something to behold this year and I have a feeling DC United will find themselves sitting atop the Lamar Hunt Open Cup.

Cascadia Cup

Seattle Sounders FC — I mean… look at the league standings. I might feel different next week after Seattle heads up to Vancouver, but for now, this seems obvious.

MVP

Carlos Vela — I have always been a Carlos Vela fan. His arrival in the MLS has been very exciting and what I have seen thus far this season he is the key to LAFC this season. If he continues to excel, so shall the team. But I worry if he fails, so will the team. And that has the makings of an MVP season.

Comeback Player

Jordan Morris — 3 goals already this season, looking fast and threatening on the wing. He had a disappointing sophomore slump and then a year long recovery from an injury which has ended countless careers. Let’s see how the season ends, but I don’t think this is a hard sell.

Golden Boot

Wayne Rooney — Rumors float of Acosta being highly wanted in Europe, if he leaves then DC United will lean on Rooney even more. The Manchester United legend has shown his class and his ability, I won’t be shocked if he makes his mark this season.

Defender of the Year

Graham Zusi — This one is tough and honestly of all of these wild guesses, I feel least confident about this one. But Aaron Long won it last year. Chad has won it three times and if the Sounders are as dominant in awards as I think they will be this year, I think Chad might be overlooked again unless he is truly dominant.

Keeper of the Year

Stefan Frei - Zack Steffen won it last year despite Frei deserving it in nearly every category of statistics for goalkeeping, sure he had a good season but… Frei was better. The league screwed up and Frei has reached the point where he just doesn’t care about the award anymore. And that’s bad news for the league because he is going to stand on his head this season purely for himself and for the team.

Coach of the Year

Alan Koch — Cincinnati have come out and competed better than I think anyone expected. At this point, so long as they finish upper middle table or better, I think Koch gets this.

Tweet of the Year

I think this goes to the one and only Clint Dempsey with his early entry to the competition: