MLS Week 15: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch for This Weekend
World Cup qualifying will dominate the headlines come Friday, but don’t neglect MLS Week 15. Lord knows Seattle won’t.
Two teams were in action Wednesday night, but if you look at the scoreboard, it was really only one. The Philadelphia Union defeated the Columbus Crew 3-0 at PPL Park. The victory lifted the Union into a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Not much action will follow this weekend. Only four matches are scheduled for Saturday, but we still managed to extract the five things that warrant your attention.
Read on to find out what they are.
Complete Schedule and Guide
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 15. Nine teams are idle.
New England Revolution vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
Chicago Fire vs. Portland Timbers, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, 10:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
The Story to Watch: Seattle Brings 'Da Ruckus'
The Wu-Tang Clan brought “da ruckus” in 1993 (warning: explicit language). The Emerald City will take it a step further in 2013.
According to a Sounders FC spokesman (via Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times), more than 50,000 tickets have been sold for this week’s home game against the Whitecaps. If those numbers hold true, CenturyLink Field will house the fifth-largest crowd in team history Saturday night.
Don’t think an army of that magnitude will have zero impact.
Seattle is 4-0 in front of crowds that eclipse the 50,000 mark. Teams have been outscored 11-1 in the process.
But the crowd isn’t the only story to watch Saturday night. Temporary grass will be installed ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between the U.S. men’s national team and Panama. American soccer fans will be eager to see how the surface plays.
Consider this a rehearsal, Seattle.
The United States will need you to bring “da ruckus” once more Tuesday night.
The Number to Watch: 5
That is the number of assists Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe now has on the season. Even more surprising, that total is enough to put the 21-year-old American just one assist behind Sebastien Le Toux for the MLS lead.
Rowe hasn’t started since Week 11, and he only has eight starts on the season. But that hasn’t stopped him from producing at an elite level—especially last week. Rowe finished with a goal and two assists in New England’s 5-0 win over the Galaxy.
To what do we attribute this recent run of form? Rowe tells Jeff Lemieux of revolutionsoccer.net the story:
I think [playing centrally] maximizes a lot because on the wing I was kind of [playing] in two different directions. It was up and back. Now in the midfield, I can go any which way and in the center I’m very confident and very comfortable. It’s easier to find the ball.
It’s been easier for his team to find the win column as well. The Revolution have won three straight and are unbeaten in their last four.
With D.C. United visiting this weekend, the opportunity is there to extend that streak to five.
The Player to Watch: Obafemi Martins
Get ready for your close-up, Obafemi Martins.
Martins was not scheduled to play in this week’s Cascadian showdown. The Nigerian footballer was to be suspended after earning a red card against Chivas in Week 14. But an independent review panel rescinded the red card on Wednesday.
Head coach Sigi Schmid will have one of his top guns available for Saturday night.
That puts the burden of Rave Green's dynamic attack squarely on the shoulders of Seattle’s highest-paid star.
Martins has responded to that pressure as of late. The 28-year-old forward has scored in three of his last four games. Two of those goals have come as a second-half substitute.
The Sounders will need Martins to continue his scorching form Saturday night. A victory would thrust Seattle into playoff position for the first time this season.
The Team to Watch: Chicago Fire
They’re not done yet.
After a 2-7-1 start, the Fire could potentially find themselves back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Chicago is 11 points off the pace but has the benefit of holding three games in hand.
A two-game unbeaten streak, coupled with the acquisition of Mike Magee, has the team believing its trajectory is pointing upward.
But that will be put to the test in Week 15.
A visit from the Timbers awaits the Fire Saturday night.
If the Fire hope to remain in the playoff discussion entering Week 16, that will need to change.
The Match to Watch: Real Salt Lake vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
CenturyLink Field will have the glamour Saturday night. But Rio Tinto Stadium will host a Western Conference showdown that will severely impact the standings.
Unfortunately, both teams will be without the services of some key personnel.
International duty continues to rear its ugly head in Week 15. Alvaro Saborio will not be with the Claret and Cobalt, while the Galaxy will be deprived of the talents of Robbie Keane and Omar Gonzalez.
But there’s a reason both teams currently find themselves in playoff position.
Extensive depth has allowed both teams to extend beyond the services of one or two key players.
Six different players have scored multiple goals for Salt Lake this season. As for the Galaxy, the vigorous talents of Jose Villarreal and Gyasi Zardes allowed head coach Bruce Arena to trade away his leading goal scorer, Mike Magee.
Not to mention, there’s still some guy named Landon Donovan lacing up his boots.
Don’t let international duty fool you. There'll be enough talent at "the RioT" to maintain the intensity between these two Western Conference foes.
They proved it in Week 9. They'll prove it once again in Week 15.
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