MLS weekend preview: Soccer in the South is back with Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC. Elsewhere, LAFC hosts NYCFC.
This is the final full weekend of action in Major League Soccer before the league takes a brief break for international play.
The U.S. men's national soccer team plays a friendly against Switzerland on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, ESPN and UniMas/TUDN), and then will take part in Concacaf Nations League play starting Thursday, June 3 against Honduras (7:30 p.m. ET, Paramount+ and TUDN).
In league play, the East-leading New England Revolution (at FC Cincinnati on Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on ESPN+) and West-leading Seattle Sounders (vs. Austin FC on Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET on FS1) will look to enter the three-week break atop their respective conferences.
Elsewhere, Los Angeles FC – an expected contender that got off to a slow start to the season – hosts NYCFC (5 p.m. ET on UniMas/TUDN) hoping to build off its first win since the season opener.
Here is what you need to know for this weekend in MLS:
MLS game of the week
Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+): Soccer in the South is back and so is 2018 MLS MVP Josef Martinez. The Atlanta United center forward suffered an ACL tear in his right knee against Nashville in the 2020 season opener, but has bounced back to begin the season, scoring two goals in six matches. Nashville (2-0-4, 10 points) enters Saturday’s clash as one of three teams still unbeaten and are led by playmaking winger Randall Leal, who has two goals and two assists to his name.
MLS player to watch
Valentin Castellanos, New York City FC: There isn’t a player of equal skill in New York like Valentin "Taty" Castellanos, the 22-year-old Argentinian forward who has bagged four goals while adding two assists in his first six matches. Stifled by injuries last season, Castellanos is on pace to surpass his 11-goal tally from 2019. He’s recently signed a five-year contract extension to remain in NYCFC’s power blue. He will be a key defensive focus for LAFC in Saturday’s match at Banc of California Stadium (5 p.m. ET).
New York City FC's Valentin Castellanos (11) is well ahead of pace to eclipse his career-high in goals scored. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)
MLS schedule: What are this weekend's games?
(All times Eastern. ABC/ESPN games available to be streamed on Watch ESPN; Fox games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available on fuboTV.)
- Chicago Fire FC vs. CF Montreal, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
- New York Red Bulls vs. Orlando City SC, 1 p.m. (ESPN+)
- FC Cincinnati vs. New England Revolution, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC, 3 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Los Angeles FC vs. New York City FC, 5 p.m. (UniMas, TUDN)
- Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 7 p.m. (UniMas, TUDN)
- Inter Miami CF vs. DC United, 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Colorado Rapids vs. FC Dallas, 9 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Real Salt Lake vs. Minnesota United, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
- Philadelphia Union vs. Portland Timbers, 7 p.m. (FS1)
- Seattle Sounders vs. Austin FC, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
MLS news and notes
USMNT Concacaf Nations League call-ups go out: On Monday, the United States men’s national team revealed the roster of players that will compete with Costa Rica, Honduras and Mexico for the inaugural Concacaf Nations League title. Four MLS-based players – Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa, Colorado Rapids midfielder Kellyn Acosta, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget and San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill – were called into manager Gregg Berhalter’s star-studded squad, which is comprised of many of the country’s biggest Europe-based stars including recently crowned English Premier League champion and goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
The San Jose Earthquakes' Jackson Yueill (14) was called into USMNT camp for Sunday's friendly vs. Switzerland as well as Concacaf Nations League play. (Photo: Darren Yamashita, USA TODAY Sports)
Q2 Stadium in Austin to open at full capacity: When the U.S. women’s national team and Austin FC play their first-ever matches at the brand new Q2 Stadium, they’ll likely do so before capacity crowds. Austin FC and Austin Public Health announced Monday they’ll allow 100% capacity for the 20,500-seat stadium. The 100% capacity decision will apply to both the USWNT match against Nigeria on June 16 to officially christen the stadium, as well as the Austin FC stadium-opener against San Jose Earthquakes on June 19. Q2 Stadium will be the second new MLS venue to open this season after FC Cincinnati raised the curtain on TQL Stadium on May 16 against Inter Miami CF before a 30% capacity crowd.
Seattle, New England pacing respective conferences: Yeah, it’s probably still too early to be thinking about the MLS table relative to the Supporters' Shield, which is awarded annually to the league’s regular-season champion. Still, it’s worth noting that the Seattle Sounders and New England Revolution have shot out of the gates in 2021 and are atop the Western and Eastern conferences, respectively. Seattle’s on 17 points via an undefeated 5-0-2 record, while the Revs are on 14 points with a 4-1-2 record.
Carles Gil signs contract extension: Speaking of the Revolution, they inked designated player and Spanish playmaker Carles Gil to a contract extension, the club announced Monday. Gil’s been earning his money so far in 2021 and now he’ll be rewarded with more of it. So far in the young season, Gil is the joint-leader in MLS with four assists and has more key passes (36) than anyone else in the league by a wide margin. Gil’s been key to New England’s hot start in the East and has one goal to go with his four assists over 630 minutes logged for the Revolution. Gil’s play, metrics and statistics all point to him carving out the early makings of a strong MVP candidacy.
By the numbers
91: When the Los Angeles Galaxy host the San Jose Earthquakes for the "California Clásico" on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on UniMas, TUDN), it will mark the 91st encounter all-time in all competitions in a rivalry that dates back to the first meeting on April 28, 1996, when the Earthquakes were known as the "Clash." In regular-season MLS play, the Galaxy have won 32 times, the Earthquakes have won 26 times, and there have been 16 draws. The Earthquakes have won their last two against the Galaxy in Carson, Calif.
MLS power rankings: Top 10 power poll
1. Seattle Sounders: Seattle is off to the best start in its history with five wins and two draws through seven matches. That point total should rise higher this weekend after hosting expansion franchise Austin FC, which has lost three straight games. The Sounders are the class of the league through a month and a half.
2. New England Revolution: The Revolution are the best team in the Eastern Conference through six weeks of action. New England, 14 points, is two points clear of second-place Orlando City with hapless FC Cincinnati up next on the schedule. New England defeated the New York Red Bulls, 3-1, the last time out.
3. Orlando City SC: Orlando City’s plus-five goal differential is tied for the best in the Eastern Conference with NYCFC. The key to success in Orlando is defense. The franchise has only conceded one goal in May and two goals for the entire season. Orlando City remains unbeaten through six matches.
4. Sporting Kansas City: SKC moved into second place in the Western Conference with three wins in its last four games. Kansas City scored three goals in each of the last two matches. A rematch with Houston, the last team to defeat Kansas City, takes place Saturday night.
5. Los Angeles Galaxy:A 3-0 loss to Portland, thanks in part to a horrific red card by defender Derrick Williams, derailed the momentum built by Galaxy over the previous two weeks. Still, the shutout loss will be chalked up to being down to 10-men unless the team doesn’t rebound at home against San Jose on Saturday.
6. Philadelphia Union: Participation in the Concacaf Champions League caused a slow start, but the Union are rounding into form and are now in third place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points. Philadelphia has added 10 points since advancing to the Concacaf Champions League semifinals.
7. Houston Dynamo: The Dynamo are the surprise of MLS through six matches. Predicted by most to be cellar-dwellers, Houston is in fourth place in the Western Conference with 11 points. The last five matches resulted in two wins, two draws and one loss.
8. Nashville SC: Nashville continues to ride a stingy defense towards points, including the recent 1-0 win over Austin FC. A tight, compact defense is the trademark of the 4-4-2 preferred by head coach Gary Smith. Nashville has kept a clean sheet in four straight matches.
9. New York City FC: NYCFC holds eight points and is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference despite a conference-leading five-goal differential. The 2-1 home loss to Columbus stings. NYCFC hasn’t won a game since May 1.
10. Portland Timbers: Portland is beginning to wake up after a groggy start to the season. Six of its nine points were won over the last two games with a 2-0 win over San Jose and a 3-0 win over Galaxy. The Timbers did lose Andy Polo to a season-ending injury after the horrendous tackle by Williams.
Moving in: Houston Dynamo, Nashville SC, Portland Timbers
Dropping out: Colorado Rapids (previously: 7), Atlanta United (8), Real Salt Lake (10)
Others receiving votes: Atlanta United, Los Angeles FC, Colorado Rapids
USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Mike Craven, Austin American-Statesman; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.
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