The polarizing issue that is MLS’ 20th franchise has been settled. The nine matches scheduled for MLS Week 13 have not.
Welcome to MLS, New York City FC.
Now, step aside. It isn’t 2015 yet. There’s actual soccer to be played this weekend.
Eighteen of the 19 teams will be in action in Week 13. That’s enough soccer to preserve the Champions League hangover you’ll be undoubtedly suffering from. But with so much action on tap, what warrants your attention this weekend?
Read on to find out.
Which match will you—the fan—be watching this weekend?
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 13. The Vancouver Whitecaps are idle.
D.C. United vs. Portland Timbers, 7:00 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
Montreal Impact vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:00 pm.m ET, MLS Live
New England vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS LIve
Real Salt Lake vs. Chicago Fire, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Colorado Rapids vs. Chivas USA, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
New York Red Bulls vs. Columbus Crew, 5:00 p.m. ET, UniMas
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Seattle Sounders, 11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Clearly, the most talked about story of the week has been the announcement of New York City FC.
According to some, “New York has a professional soccer team for the first time since the Cosmos.”
True, the Red Bulls ply their trade in New Jersey. But so do the New York Jets. So do the New York Giants. Tell the residents of Brooklyn who spend $30 on bridges and tolls to attend each home match that the Red Bulls aren’t “New York’s team.”
But with the announcement of NYC FC, the line has been drawn. Sides are already being chosen.
This isn't organic. We have a rivalry on our hands, and not a single match has been played.
Head coach Mike Petke shares his excitement in this new-found rivalry—which should be dubbed "the Empire Derby"—with Franco Panizo on MLS' official website:
It’s good to have a true derby, a true rivalry...They’re the new guys coming in and I’m looking forward to smashing them in 2015 to be honest with you.
It's been 18 years, but day one of a new existence starts now. The Red Bulls must do the one thing New Yorkers know and love: win.
And that’s exactly what the team has been doing lately.
After a sluggish start, Coach Petke’s squad is 5-0-1 in their last six matches and tied atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. Another home match in Week 13 presents the opportunity to extend that unbeaten streak to seven.
With a league-leading 24 points, the Red Bulls have a firm grip on the Eastern Conference. But the city of New York is officially up for grabs.
It's time for—as Jay-Z called it in 2001—"the takeover." It starts with a win on Sunday.
It hasn't been all smiles for the Dynamo as of late.
The Dynamo have scored a league-best eight goals in the final 15 minutes of matches this season. But zero have come in the last two weeks.
And no, Ricardo Clark’s own goal doesn’t count.
As a result, the Dynamo suffered back-to-back home losses for the first time since 2010.
That late-game magic was sorely needed in Week 11 when Houston suffered its first ever home loss at BBVA Compass Stadium. After years of playoff torment, Kansas City exacted its revenge in historic fashion.
Now, it’s Houston’s turn to return the favor.
But some late-game heroics will be necessary this time around. Six of the last seven regular season matches between these two Eastern Conference powers have been decided by one goal or resulted in a tie.
A loss on Sunday would be Houston’s third consecutive loss of the season. The top of the Eastern Conference could be slipping away if the Dynamo fail to turn their season around.
At only 18 years of age, Diego Fagundez has been playing like a man amongst boys in recent weeks.
The Revolution’s first-ever Homegrown product is paying huge dividends during New England’s mini unbeaten streak. His two goals on seven shots helped secure an impressive four points against a pair of Eastern Conference powers.
That brought Fagundez’s goal total to three for 2013—enough for 37 percent of the Revolution’s productive output this season.
But it’s not just his attacking prowess that has caught the eye of his head coach Jay Heaps. Fagundez’s tenacious motor—both on and off the ball—is responsible for his increased playing time. After starting four of the first five matches on the bench, Fagundez has started in the last six for New England.
Coach Heaps explains on the team’s official website:
I work a lot with Diego. He’s been in and out of our lineup and I’m pushing him for more and more. I think you’re seeing him become a more complete player, two-way. His awareness tactically; that’s natural. But it’s his two-way play that shows me he’s ready for the next level.
Coach Heaps isn't lying, and neither are the numbers. Fagundez's recent form is already on another level.
He has more than earned his keep for a listless offense that’s ranked near the bottom of MLS in goals scored.
The last time Montreal saw the field, the team played to a scoreless draw in first leg of the Canadian Championship. Just days before that, it was a remarkable comeback against Real Salt Lake that propelled the Impact to 20 points through 10 games.
That two points per game average is tied for tops in the league.
After 10 days off, Marco Di Vaio and company are set to return to action.
But Week 13 presents a challenge of a different kind for Montreal. Led by MLS Golden Boot leader Jack McInerney, the up-start Union visit Saputo Stadium Saturday night.
It will be the first time the two teams meet this season.
Saturday night will also mark the return to the starting lineup for Brazilian midfielder Felipe Martins.
The 22-year-old was shockingly omitted from the starting XI in the first leg of the Canadian Championship, and justifiably so. Felipe passed kidney stones just hours after Montreal’s victory over Real Salt Lake in Week 12.
That didn’t keep the Brazilian international from seeing the field against Vancouver. Sheer guts and determination allowed Felipe to trot back onto the field in the 62nd minute:
I wasn’t 100 percent, but when you’re playing a final, you give everything you have. You want to do everything, but you can’t…Now I’m good and hopefully I’ll get better every day so I’m ready for the next game.
The Impact trail the Supporters’ Shield leading Red Bulls by four points entering Week 13.
But with four games in hand, the opportunity is there for Marco Schallibaum’s side to stake their claim as MLS' premier club.
It’s a rematch of the 2012 Western Conference final. Both teams still possess the talent to make this a potential preview of the 2013 version.
But Seattle and Los Angeles enter Sunday’s Western Conference showdown with contrasting results.
The Galaxy have lost their championship form, losing three of their last four matches. That rough patch can be attributed to a nine-day span that included trips to Vancouver, Philadelphia and New York. Two countries and approximately 6,700 miles later, the defending champs are finally home.
Unfortunately for the Galaxy, it’s the Sounders waiting on their door step.
No team in MLS has been as dominant as Seattle in recent weeks.
True, the Timbers are riding a 10-game unbeaten streak that features four wins and 16 goals scored. And yes, the Red Bulls are riding a six-game unbeaten streak featuring five wins and 11 goals of their own.
But Seattle’s six-game unbeaten streak features an impressive four wins with 12 goals scored. Eight have been scored in the last two weeks. Even better, four of those six matches have come against teams currently locked in playoff positioning.
New York and Portland have played two and four, respectively.
Couple Seattle’s scorching form with an uncontrollable tenacity—a team hell bent on exacting revenge—and you have the makings of an instant classic.
Just make sure there's an extra pot of coffee brewing Monday morning if you're on the East Coast.
You'll need it after an 11:00 p.m. ET kickoff.
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