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:

MLS Power Rankings — Week 4

Week 4 had only a handful of games but there were still some surprises. Cincinnati taking a win on the road. Orlando going into the Red Bulls home and getting the win. LAFC snatching victory after a golazo from Zimmerman. Next week the league is back in full swing!

The Leaders

1. DC United

Change: +0 — Form: WDW
No game this week as they lost Paul Arriola to International duty. They are rested and ready to travel down to Orlando for their next game. Though they have to take notice of Orlando’s win last weekend.

2. Seattle Sounders FC

Change: +1 — Form: WWW
The week off, but several players went off to play for their national team. Lodeiro nabbed an assist in Uruguay’s match against Uzbekistan. Svensson got some time for Sweden. Jorstian Mordan got some time for the US. And now they come back together to travel north to Vancouver for their first Cascadia Cup match of the season.

3. Los Angeles FC

Change: +1 — Form: WDWW
The win was not convincing but it was a win none-the-less. Walker Zimmerman nails a banger from outside the box that leaves Rimando frozen in position.

4. Toronto FC

Change: +1 — Form: WW
The week off but they get the bump by the Red Bulls stumble.


The Pack

5. New York Red Bulls

Change: ‑3 — Form: LLWD
Losing to Orlando? At home!? Come on Red Bulls, you’re way better than that. They head on the road to play against Toronto. Fitting that Toronto overtook them in the power rankings due to this week’s loss.

6. Atlanta United

Change: +1 — Form: DDL
Off for the week with a few players off at international duty. They benefit in the rankings after Columbus’s result in Philadelphia.

7. Columbus Crew

Change: ‑1 — Form: LWWD
Losses on the road happen, but Philadelphia has not looked strong thus far this season and then they put together a 3 – 0 victory against Caleb Porter’s Crew.

8. Sporting KC

Change: +0 — Form: DWL
No action. No news. But now they welcome Montréal to their home.

9. Houston Dynamo

Change: +0 — Form: WWD
No action. No news. Houston takes their current form and head to Colorado.

10. LA Galaxy

Change: +0 — Form: WLW
No action this week but I am left wondering what is the status of Zlatan? Will he return to the Galaxy as Portland comes to town?

11. Minnesota United

Change: +0 — Form: LWW
They have had the break off, while a handful of players played for the home countries. Minnesota are on the road, heading to New England. Can they take a point away from the trip?

12. NYCFC

Change: +0 — Form: DDD
NYCFC head to Toronto. Can the team with only draws finally get a win, on the road no less?

13. FC Cincinnati

Change: +1 — Form: WWDL
Two wins in a row, including one on the road. Sure it was over the floundering Revolution, but a road win is always an accomplishment in this league. Can they keep their home a fortress by getting another solid win over Philadelphia?

14. FC Dallas

Change: +1 — Form: WLWD
They got the win, 2 – 1 over the struggling Colorado. Now they get to travel to Rio Tinto and face the struggling Real Salt Lake side.


The Chase

15. Montréal Impact

Change: ‑1 — Form: WLW
Off for the break and now heading to Kansas City. It will be a hard test for Montréal.

16. Colorado Rapids

Change: +0 — Form: LDLD
Colorado lost against Dallas, now they welcome Houston into their home. Could this be their opportunity for their first win of the season?

17. Real Salt Lake

Change: +0 — Form: LLWD
Three red cards in two weeks. Two losses. Real Salt Lake need Petke to put a firm hand on the wheel to steer this ship. At least this week they are at home.

18. Philadelphia Union

Change: +1 — Form: WDLL
Drawing against Atlanta, and then winning 3 – 0 over Columbus. Could Philadelphia finally be finding their form?

19. Chicago Fire

Change: ‑1 — Form: LDL
Chicago had the week off, a chance to recover from Seattle’s win at their home. Now things don’t get any easier as they hostthe Red Bulls this week.

20. Orlando City

Change: +2 — Form: WLDD
A ray of sunshine falls on Orlando after a player meeting that Nani led. Pulling off a stunning 1 – 0 win during their visit to New York, or New Jersey more properly. Now they are back home to welcome DC United.

21. Portland Timbers

Change: ‑1 — Form: LLD
The week off, a chance for Savarese to try and stop the tumbling Timbers; help them before they travel to LA to face the Galaxy.


The Basement

22. Vancouver Whitecaps

Change: +0 — Form: LLL
It is a rebuilding year for Vancouver as they try to find their new way forward under Dos Santos. Unfortunately their road does not get easy as now they welcome the rolling Sounders to their home.

23. New England Revolution

Change: ‑1 — Form: LLLD
No action this week before setting up and hosting Minnesota. Will Friedel’s side be able to earn points?

24. San Jose Earthquakes

Change: +0 — Form: LLL
Almeyda needs to find which way is up and which way is down with San Jose. The good news is they’ve hit rock bottom, so the only way to go is up. Can they manage some upward motion with a visit from LAFC? Unlikely, but it’s MLS so who knows what will happen.

Watch These — Week of Mar. 25

The International break winds down with a few more early week matches before players return to their clubs and the leagues resume action next weekend. MLS had a fun weekend with the few games which played.

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:

  • France vs. Iceland (ESPN+ — Monday, 12:45pm Pacific)
  • Ajax vs. PSV (ESPN+ — Sunday, 7:45am Pacific)
  • Liverpool vs. Tottenham (NBC Sports — Sunday, 8:30am Pacific)

Monday, Mar. 25

  • France vs. Iceland (UEFA Euro Qualifiers) — World Cup champions against the Cinderella story of the last Euros.

Tuesday, Mar. 26

  • United States vs. Chile (Friendly) — Sixto Vizuente, the Ecuadorian national coach, said this was the best US Men’s team he had faced. And though they won only 1 – 0 thanks to a flukey lofting goal from Zardes, there is no doubt that Berhalter’s era is underway and the US Men’s team looks dynamic as they settle into the new form.

Wednesday, Mar. 27

  • Paris Saint-Germain vs. Chelsea (UEFA Women’s Champions League) — A rare treat for us Americans. The opportunity to see two top female clubs battle in the European championship. Chelsea lead 2 – 0 coming into the second leg of this quarterfinal. Can PSG pull back to win?

Friday, Mar. 29

  • Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS) — New York just suffered an embarrassing loss at home, can they bounce back against Toronto? Or will Toronto prove to us all that the loss of Gio is something they are unaffected by?
  • 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, Mar. 30

  • Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) - Vancouver is a team in crisis. Seattle is a team riding high. Can Vancouver take advantage of being at home to stop the offensive powerhouse of Seattle?
  • Borussia Dortmund vs. Wolfsburg (Bundesliga) - Dortmund is tied with Bayern on points, but they sit in second of the league due to goal difference. Can Dortmund get a win here and hopefully regain the advantage on Bayern?

Sunday, Mar. 24

  • Ajax vs. PSV (Eredivisie) — It is the top two teams in the Netherlands facing off. Ajax are still alive in the Champions League and they look incredibly good.
  • Liverpool vs. Tottenham (EPL) — Liverpool are being pursued by a hungry Manchester City, they can’t afford any more missteps if they want to hold on to the lead. Tottenham are in their own race against their rivals, Arsenal. Both teams need to win this game, who will?
  • Roma vs. Napoli & Inter vs. Lazio (Serie A)  — We’ve got two games between teams in the top six of Italy’s top league. Should be lots of fun.
  • North Carolina FC vs. Charleston Battery (USL) — Two of the top teams in USL face off for their next match of the season.