Major League Soccer heads into Week 16 after a light Week 15 that consisted of only three games while players were on international duty. FC Dallas dropped three crucial points in their 2-0 loss at Portland while Sporting KC was only able to produce a draw as they gave up a late goal and could not take advantage of being up a man in the dying minutes against Montreal. Finally, Chicago was able to take full advantage of being at home in an important 2-0 win over Atlanta, which keeps them pressing toward the top of the East.
Week 16 is filled with action as every MLS team from the United States will start their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run on Wednesday, and then play during the weekend as well. Almost every team faces an opponent from a lower league in the United States, with the exception of Seattle (beat Portland 2-1 on Tuesday), New York Red Bulls (playing their rivals New York City FC), and Sporting KC (play host to Minnesota United). The cup gives an opportunity for players in lower leagues to play against the top tier clubs in the U.S., although MLS teams enter the tournament after three rounds have already been played. The only amateur team left in the cup was a club from Baltimore named Christos FC who lost 4-1 on Tuesday to DC United.
After Wednesday’s 13 cup clashes, an important 11 game weekend in MLS will follow with teams looking to position themselves in the best possible spot as we near the halfway point of the season. Some of the best games to watch this weekend include NYCFC versus Seattle, FC Dallas as they travel to Vancouver, and LA Galaxy as they host Houston.
NYCFC currently sit in third position in the East and need a healthy three points to move themselves closer toward the two teams above (Toronto and Chicago). Without three points in this game, we could start to see a bit of a gap between the top two teams in the East and the rest of the conference. This game will challenge NYCFC as they play a Sounders team that beat Houston two weeks ago and then their rivals the Portland Timbers 2-1 on Tuesday in the Open Cup. NYCFC will have to be ready to face a team that is in form and trying to turn a corner and this could pose a threat as they try and take all three points at home.
FC Dallas will travel to Vancouver having won just one game in their last five (not including the U.S. Open Cup). This makes for an interesting game because both teams are behind in matches played, and if they win they can set themselves up to take first in the West once they are caught up. The teams currently sit in fourth and fifth place, but FC Dallas is two games behind conference leaders Sporting KC and Vancouver is three games behind. FC Dallas would regain some much needed momentum after a subpar last three weeks that have seen them fall out of form. Vancouver has the obvious advantage of being at home, and they also do not play midweek since they are a Canadian team. They will try to continue their recent success after they beat Atlanta United two weeks ago 3-1 at home.
Los Angeles hosts Houston in what will be an extremely important game for the Galaxy, as they sit seven points below Houston with two games in hand. A win could help propel the Galaxy toward the top of the table, while a loss could start to form a gap in the West.
The Western Conference standings are extremely close, with less than ten points separating first from eighth, and many teams being on different numbers of matches played. The East is similar, but it is hard to say that Toronto and Chicago do not look like the breakout teams at this point. Every team desperately needs points in Week 16, whether it’s to push them ahead of the rest of the pack, or it’s to start a climb toward the top.