Three big storylines
- After a banner year for the Eastern Conference in MLS in 2018, when Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls both had historically great regular seasons along with strong campaigns from a number of other playoff teams, the balance of power looks to have shifted back West for 2019. So far five teams in the Western Conference are averaging 2.0 points per game or better, while only Toronto FC and their 13 points from six games played is achieving that feat in the East. This weekend will see if the Western Conference can solidify that lead as there are six inter-conference games including TFC hosting the travel-weary Portland Timbers, the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps hosting the Philadelphia Union, Colorado Rapids at Atlanta United, Houston Dynamo hosting the Columbus Crew, the New England Revolution at an injury ravaged Sporting Kansas City, and an MLS United derby (Minnesota hosting D.C. edition).
- Coming into the weekend, all is good in the city of Angels in MLS. The Galaxy played to a midweek draw at Minnesota United, but that comes after a five-match winning streak. And LAFC are atop every MLS power poll this week after beating the Seattle Sounders 4-1 at home last weekend. Due to a scheduling quirk they play in Seattle this weekend on full rest against a Sounders team that played midweek. The only bad news in Tinseltown is that the LA Galaxy have lost Designated Player Romain Alessandrini until the fall due to a knee injury.
- Atlanta United had arguably one of the best seasons in MLS history in 2018. They capped off a record-breaking regular season with an MLS Cup victory in front of a sold-out crowd. There were some off-season changes, but the hopes were that the infrastructure would still be in place for a seamless transition. Well, that did not work out so well. Atlanta have only two points from their three home games to start the season and were bounced out of Concacaf Champions League in the quarterfinals after only narrowly defeating Costa Rica’s Herediano in the round of 16. Atlanta have the perfect opponent to right a struggling ship and get their offense back on track this weekend as they host the Colorado Rapids. The Rapids have only two points from eight games played and come into the match on a five-game losing streak. Tim Howard’s retirement season is shaping up to a be a bit different than hoped.
From a Sounders point of view
It’s really too early to start looking at the standings, BUT that being said this weekend’s match against LAFC might loom large as the season progresses. Three points here seems like a must if the Sounders are going to be in the Supporters’ Shield conversation, at least for the first half of the season.
Next weekend sees the Sounders traveling to Minnesota; thus, the game that immediately precedes the Sounders game on national TV on Sunday will be of particular interest to Sounders fans, as D.C. United are at Minnesota United.
National TV listings
FC Dallas v San Jose Earthquakes
Date/Time: Saturday, 12:30 PM PT
Streaming: Univision Deportes and Twitter Live Stream of the Week
Minnesota United v D.C. United
Date/Time: Sunday, 10:30 AM PT
Seattle Sounders v LAFC
Date/Time: Sunday, 12:30 PM PT
Streaming: Watch ESPN
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This is your Sounder at Heart MLS Week 9 gamethread. Watch with us.