School’s out. The youth of America is on vacation, but a majority of MLS teams will return from theirs in Week 17.
International duty severely hampered the MLS June schedule. With World Cup qualifiers out of the way, the action is ready to heat up. Twelve matches are scheduled for Week 17. Four were played on Wednesday.
The Montreal Impact, Chicago Fire and Vancouver Whitecaps all returned to the win column, while the Los Angeles Galaxy and Portland Timbers played to a scoreless draw.
Eight matches remain for this weekend. But with so much action on tap, what warrants your attention in Week 17?
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 17.
The New England Revolution are idle. The results from Wednesday night's action are posted as well.
Montreal Impact 2-0 Houston Dynamo
Chicago Fire 2-1 Colorado Rapids
Vancouver Whitecaps 3-1 Chivas USA
Los Angeles Galaxy 0-0 Portland Timbers
DC United vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Columbus Crew vs. Chicago Fire 8:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Houston Dynamo vs. Toronto FC, 9:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders, 9:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Portland Timbers vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Chivas USA vs. Los Angeles Galaxy 11:00 p.m. ET, UniMas
Chicago was a club amid desperation before Mike Magee’s arrival.
Twelve games into the season, a meager seven goals was all the team could muster. Fast forward a few weeks, the Fire have scored six goals in their last three MLS matches. Even better, the team is unbeaten during that stretch.
But the story here is Magee.
The 28-year-old veteran has suited up five times for the Fire this season. He’s scored in each of those appearances.
Not a bad start for the hometown hero.
As a result, the Men in Red are three victories shy of capturing their fifth U.S. Open Cup title. Even an Eastern Conference playoff position is within reach.
A victory over the Crew on Saturday wouldn't catapult the Fire back into playoff position. But a victory could drop Chicago’s point deficit to four in the Eastern Conference.
The scenario seemed unlikely a few weeks ago. But if Magee’s scorching form is not extinguished in Week 17, the impossible will become possible.
The Timbers have scored a league-best nine goals in the 15 minutes following halftime. That staggering total is a testament to Caleb Porter’s ability to coach his team. Adjustments are made in his locker room. Then, they are executed on the field.
Week 16 was no different.
But just seven minutes after halftime, Darlington Nagbe delivered with a sensational strike. The goal proved to be the game-winner for Portland.
The Timbers were unable to repeat that post-halftime performance in Wednesday’s draw with the Galaxy. But clearly, that was an aberration. Portland’s consistent ability to adjust after halftime has allowed the team to extend its unbeaten streak to 14.
Now, a return visit to Colorado awaits the Timbers this Sunday.
Johnson and company will look to improve on that performance. A victory could see the Timbers atop the Western Conference in Week 17.
The Red Bulls opened a new practice facility in Hanover, NJ on Tuesday.
Long gone are the days of a solitary field at Montclair State University. The new training ground drew praise from head coach Mike Petke. According to the MLS official website, the rookie head coach believes there is zero justification for failure moving forward:
This is a team that I don’t believe has ever really had excuses for anything, so I’m saying the next thing not about them doing that before, but there’s no excuses whatsoever, and that in my mind has been a bit of my mantra. From the arena to the practice facility to everything we try to do for these players off the field to get them prepared on the field, there literally [are] no excuses anymore.
There are those who believe New York already had no excuses. After all, the team does boast the highest payroll in MLS. Coach Petke is fortunate enough to field some of the league's biggest names on matchday.
And no name is bigger than Thierry Henry.
Coach Petke has set the tone. Now, the burden of success falls on the shoulders of the highest-paid star in the MLS.
Henry has lived up to expectations thus far in 2013. The 35-year-old Frenchman leads the team with six goals on 49 shots this season. His first came in the 81st minute of a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia back in March.
The Union fell victim to Henry’s world-class ability in Week 5. They will seek revenge at home in Week 17.
If there are “no excuses” for New York, it’s on Henry to ensure that doesn't happen.
Kansas City lost just three games at Sporting Park in 2012. It’s Week 17, the team has already matched that total in 2013.
Sporting has only been able to secure one victory in their last five games. Even worse, the team suffered an embarrassing loss in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup. True, that string of poor performances can be attributed to key personnel being away on international duty.
But this team was built on the premise of depth in the offseason.
The acquisitions of Benny Feilhaber, Ike Opara and Cladio Bieler highlighted a busy offseason for Kansas City. The roster was there to manage international duty and a congested schedule in 2013.
A three-game winless streak says otherwise, and that streak is in danger of being extended in Week 17.
After a three-week break, Sporting will visit FC Dallas Stadium Saturday night. Three points against the Supporters’ Shield leaders would suffice in turning Kansas City’s season around.
But it won't be easy.
Dallas remains unblemished at home this season—boasting a 7-0-1 record in Frisco, Texas.
Fortunately for Kansas City, the return of Graham Zusi and Matt Besler turns a daunting task into a feasible one.
Get ready for another instant classic.
Seattle and Real Salt Lake have met in each of the last two postseasons. The Claret and Cobalt eliminated the Sounders in 2011 with a 3-2 aggregate victory. Seattle returned the favor in 2012. A wonder-goal from Mario Martinez sealed a 1-0 aggregate victory for Rave Green.
The two continued their one-goal affairs in 2013.
Real secured a 2-1 victory over Seattle in Week 5. A goal from Brad Evans was not enough to overturn the contributions of Robbie Findley and Luis Gil.
Now, it’s Seattle’s turn to return the favor...again.
Interestingly enough, the Week 17 battle between Seattle and Real is a battle between the last two cities to host the United States men's national team. Both cities served as the backdrop in a pair of World Cup qualifying victories for the Yanks. Rio Tinto Stadium hosted the latest triumph this past Tuesday.
Brad Evans, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Eddie Johnson were in uniform for that World Cup win.
But only two of them will be able to celebrate another victory at the RioT on Saturday.
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