LOS ANGELES - It’s week 13 in MLS, which kicks off with a remarkable 13-game slate on Wednesday night as every team is in action, moving past the halfway point of their seasons and getting into the business end of the chase for spots in the MLS Cup Playoffs. And, unlike in previous weeks where games were kept to largely regional scheduling to ease the travel, we now get to see some of the top teams in each conference square off against each other, and perhaps get some previews of what MLS Cup 2020 might look like on Saturday, December 12th on FOX Sports.
Sporting Kansas City vs Orlando City SC (Wed, 7:30pm ET, FS1)
Two of the top teams in the MLS standings face off Wednesday night on FS1: Sporting KC are second in the West, Orlando third in the East, and each have their own compelling storylines right now. Orlando, simply put, are the story of this MLS season so far: coming out of nowhere to reach the MLS Is Back Tournament final, they can set a new club record Wednesday night with a seventh straight game unbeaten, and you can make a case for the Coach of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, and Rookie of the Year all wearing Orlando’s purple right now.
In Kansas City, meanwhile, there’s two ways to cut it: just two wins in seven games since the restart, with a slew of injuries and absences? Or that they’re second in the West despite those struggles, and the cavalry is coming over the hill, as record-setting acquisition Alan Pulido is among those players getting fit and ready to return. And, in a rare treat in these COVID-affected time, a limited number of fans are being allowed into Children’s Mercy Park, so we’ll get a taste of one of the best atmospheres in the last decade of MLS.
Columbus Crew vs Minnesota United (Wed, 7:30pm ET)
The other fun matchup of top teams across conferences is in Central Ohio Wednesday night; the Crew remain atop the Supporters Shield standings (the fan-created trophy for regular season champions), riding both a withering defense that’s allowed just four goals in 12 games, as well as another big year from one of the top forwards on the US Men’s National Team, Gyasi Zardes (9 goals, second best in MLS).
The Loons could find themselves tied for first in the West by the time the night is done, and they’re making some noise on the attacking end right now, bringing in Argentine playmaker Emanuel Reynoso (who coach Adrian Heath has called “one of the best players in the league”), and over the weekend acquiring Kei Kamara from Colorado, who sits at No. 5 in the all-time MLS scoring charts.
Inter Miami vs New York Red Bulls (Wed, 8pm ET)
This year’s two expansion teams took the roughest hit when the season was forced to shut down in March, but we’re starting to see “David Beckham’s Inter Miami”—as they will more commonly be known by most casual fans—come to life. After signing World Cup-winner Blaise Matuidi, and making record-breaking European scoring star Gonzalo Higuain the highest paid player in the league, Miami are seeing their existing roster come together under that momentum to post two wins in their last three games.
The Red Bulls, meanwhile, have hit on some hard times, and a recent coaching change sees former assistant Bradley Carnell try to navigate them out as the interim head coach. But two recent attacking players have been added to the squad, and while this has quickly become one of the youngest teams in MLS, the strength of this club has always been its homegrown talent: they’re capable of fielding a lineup with eight players who have roots in their youth academy and/or their USL reserve team.
Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders (Wed, 10pm ET)
Wednesday marks the 96th time professional soccer teams by these names have faced off, and while this will be their third meeting in a matter of weeks, nothing dulls the intensity between these rivals, least of all the situations both teams find themselves in at the moment.
The Timbers, despite losing star attacker Sebastian Blanco to a recent torn ACL, saw contributions from all over the field as they scored a club-record six goals in a 6-1 demolition of San Jose over the weekend. The Sounders, meanwhile, are now atop the Western Conference after back-to-back wins with a combined TEN goals scored. There’s also an unprecedented streak in the long history between these teams at the moment: the last six regular season meetings have been won by the away team.