MLS Week 22: Complete Schedule and 5 Things to Watch For This Weekend
MLS Week 22 will separate the pretenders from the contenders. Unfortunately, it won't be able to separate Chivas USA from the rest of the league.
At total of nine matches have been scheduled to bookend Sunday's Gold Cup final. Eight alone will fill your Saturday viewing pleasure to the brim. But with so much action on tap, what warrants your attention in Week 22?
Read on to find out.
Note: Unless otherwise mentioned, credit all statistics to the official MLS Press Box Stats and Standings.
Complete Schedule and Guide
Paul Halfacre-USA TODAY Sports
Before we delve into the featured storylines for this weekend's action, here is the complete schedule and guide for Week 22.
FC Dallas are idle.
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew, 2:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
DC United vs. New England Revolution, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Colorado Rapids vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 7:00 p.m. ET, ESPN 2
Montreal Impact vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
New York Red Bulls vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:00 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:00 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire, 9:00 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live
Seattle Sounders vs. Chivas USA, 11:00 p.m. ET, Univision Deportes
The Story to Watch: How Will Mastroeni Be Received in Colorado?
It's difficult to forget the past. Just ask Boyz II Men.
Rapids fans have a similar task in 2013.
After spending more than a decade with Colorado, Pablo Mastroeni was dealt to the Galaxy in June in exchange for an international roster slot and a second-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. According to MLS' official website, Colorado's most prolific star held franchise records in both games (225) and minutes played (18,669).
He also captained the franchise's only MLS Cup title in 2010.
Following the trade, Mastroeni would deliver a heartfelt goodbye on the club's official website:
For the fans, I can only say this: being with the Rapids for 12 years, there's an incredible connection that was formed with this community, and I will be forever grateful for that experience. I always tried to say thanks by giving everything I had on the field, but now, I will have to do it with words. Thank you again for all your support, for giving hope when things looked dim. Colorado will always have a place in my heart. I wish you all the very best, and I will see you soon.
The 36-year-old wasn't lying. "Soon" is now Week 22.
For the first time in Mastroeni's career, Colorado is enemy territory.
According to Galaxy Insider Adam Serrano, the reception from Rapids fans isn't high on World Cup veteran's priority list:
Who knows how I'll be received, but there were a lot of fun memories in Dick's Sporting Goods Park. [However,] I'm not really focused on any of that. I'm just taking it day to day and seeing what comes.
Look for Mastroeni to create another "fun" memory with a victory at his former stomping grounds on Saturday.
The Number to Watch: 16.7
They're tough. They're physical. They're the most-whistled club in MLS.
Especially on the road.
According to the statisticians at WhoScored, Sporting Kansas City is tied with a league-high 14.7 fouls per game. That numbers increases to 16.7 when the club is on the road.
The fun doesn't end there.
With 42 cautions, only Chivas USA has been yellow carded more this season. It should be noted, however, that SKC isn't far behind that pace with 39 yellow cards entering Week 22. You can attribute a little more than 20 percent of that total to defender Aurelien Collin.
The Frenchman enters the weekend with a league-high eight yellow cards.
That level of physical play helped propel Sporting to a controversial 2-1 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium last Saturday. Tactical foul after tactical foul was committed to stymie a dynamic Real Salt Lake attack.
If the club holds to form, you can expect that intensity to be matched at Saputo Stadium in Week 22.
Just expect that intensity to be one-sided.
According to WhoScored, the Impact commit a league-low 9.7 fouls per game at home.
The Player to Watch: Alvaro Saborio
Welcome back, Alvaro Saborio.
For the second consecutive Gold Cup, Costa Rica was eliminated by Honduras in the quarterfinals. For the second consecutive Gold Cup, it was Saborio who had the regrettable performance for Los Ticos.
In 2011, it was a pair of missed penalty kicks.
With another heartbreaking elimination behind him, the Costa Rican has returned his attention to Real Salt Lake. According to Tyler Gray—a writer for SoccerByIves—Saborio is likely to return to the lineup on Saturday.
Just in time for another showdown with a premier club.
The Red Bulls enter the weekend four points behind Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the East. In four career appearances against New York, Saborio has just two goals on five attempted shots.
With his American compadres still away on Gold Cup duty, he'll have to add to his total in Week 22.
Back-to-back losses could remove the Claret and Cobalt from atop the Supporters' Shield standings.
The Team to Watch: Chivas USA
Off the pitch, Chivas USA is a club in shambles.
A report on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumble shed light on alleged discriminatory practices behind closed doors. The report forced Chivas to issue the following statement on its official website:
One of the biggest strengths we have at Chivas USA is the talented and dedicated employees that make up our community, in which diversity prevails by having different nationalities, cultures and beliefs...At Chivas USA we are all part of the same Red-and-White colors and ideology, which strives for both personal and professional fulfillment on and off the field.
After a 14-game winless streak, there wasn't much "fulfillment" on the field, either.
But the club has turned a bit of a corner in recent weeks.
In the last five matches, the club is 1-1-3. That's hardly an impressive run of form...until you delve further into the schedule.
All three draws came against the Revolution, Impact and FC Dallas. The three clubs have a combined 91 points this season. Chivas went down to 10 men en route to a 1-0 victory over Toronto, and even a hard-fought, 3-1 loss to the Union wasn't devoid of some controversy.
Playoff hopes are dead, and thanks to HBO's report, some damage was done off the pitch.
But on the pitch, the Goats still have the opportunity to do some damage of their own.
It starts with a tough trip to CenturyLink Field on Sunday.
The Match to Watch: Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire
The Dynamo have some more competition for the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Fire enter Week 22 just five points behind Houston. A 4-1 throttling of DC United in Week 21 put the club back on track after consecutive losses. An all-important trip to BBVA Compass Stadium this Saturday could determine the club's playoff future.
Win, and the playoff race is down to a two-point deficit.
Lose, and it's an eight-point gap with just 14 matches left to play.
This scenario seemed highly unlikely after a Week 7 matchup.
Following a 2-1 loss to the Dynamo, the Fire entered Week 8 with just four points and five goals to their name. But in recent weeks, the club has captured 16 out of a possible 24 points.
The surge is on in the Eastern Conference.
If the Dynamo hope to solidify their playoff position, a home victory is of the utmost importance in Week 22.
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