MLS Rivalry Week kicked off Wednesday night, with one of the promoted rivalries tucked in amongst six regular matchups.
So, let’s start with the first of the six., making this week’s MLS Big – 5 the Big – 6. Home teams listed first.
FC Dallas 3-3 vs Houston Dynamo
Houston has been one of the surprise teams in the league this season, sitting as they do in fourth place in the West, one spot above the supposed shining example of all that is right on MLS, FC Dallas.
Dallas is often praised for its academy system, and rightly so, but for all their regular season and U.S. Cup success under coach Oscar Pareja and architect Fernando Calvillo Dallas has yet to raise the one cup that truly matters in this league the MLS Cup.
But back to last night. Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead after less than a minute on a Vicente Sanchez opener. Erick Torres picked up the assist, and the Mexican international was just getting started.
Playing in front of just 13,339 at Dallas’ home park in Frisco, Texas Dallas roared back with three goals in a six-minute span on either side of halftime.
Tesho Akindele leveled in the 45th minute, followed by Maynor Figueroa’s go ahead goal in first half stoppage time.
The Dynamo looked to be reeling when Maxi Uritti added a third Dallas score in the 51st minute but this Houston team is made of sterner stuff and led by Torres the Dynamo refused to roll over.
Torres struck in the 71st and 86th minutes to complete his brace and a remarkable comeback for Houston.
2) NY! NY!
The announcement from New York City FC that the club’s September 23rd match versus the Houston Dynamo would not be played at Yankee Stadium and would instead be moved to Rentschler Field in East Hartford has largely eclipsed Friday’s showdown with the New York Red Bulls.
The move has come about because Yankee Stadium’s prime tenant the, em, New York Yankees have to make up a rain delayed match on that date. This was a conflict that was bound to happen at some point but the franchises complete lack of progress on finding a permanent home within the five boroughs of New York City, as long promised, has pushed the stadium issue front and center for frustrated NYCFC fans and jubilant Red Bulls fans alike.
The effect has been that instead of talking about the chance of a first ever NYCFC sweep of the season series, we are left wondering whether New York City FC will ever find a home of its own in the city that bears its name.
3) Rocky Mountain Time
Saturday’s only Rivalry match is the Rocky Mountain Cup Showdown between Real Salt Lake and the Colorado Rapids with Salt Lake playing host.
The home side will want to keep up the momentum from Wednesday night’s home win over San Jose, a 4-0 shellacking sparked by Albert Rusnak’s one goal and two assist night.
Colorado is still adjusting to the firing of coach Pablo Mastroeni and the implementation on the fly of a new, more offensive minded style under interim coach Steve Cooke.
There is also a new general manager on board in Padraig Smith so it is a new broom for the Rapids. The playoffs are out of reach for the Raps but RSL remains in the hunt, two places and three points below the playoff line, so look for a motivated Salt Lake to come away with the win.
4) Cascadia Time
There will be much to play for when the 2015 MLS Champion Portland Timbers travel to Seattle to face the 2016 title winning Sounders on Sunday in front of what is expected to be a huge and raucous crowd.
First place in the West for one. The home side holds the top spot in the West with 41 points, just one better than the Timbers, but both teams are feeling good about themselves ahead of his showdown.
Seattle is riding a 10 game unbeaten streak and with the playoffs approaching Clint Dempsey is heating up at just the right time.
Portland is coming off of back to back home wins over New York Red Bulls (2-0) and lowly Colorado (2-1) and are playing well with Diego Valeri leading the way. Valeri’s goal versus the Rapids was his 52nd for the TImbers, a Portland record. It was also the fifth consecutive game in which the talented Argentine hit the target, another Portland record.
Valeri’s heroics come with a bit of a downside- transfer rumors. It is still at the rumor stage but Valerie will be expected to be a professional while the rumors swirl.
The same cannot be said of Seattle fullback Joevin Jones, who earlier signed a pre-contract offer to join Bundesliga 2 side Darmstadt after the MLS season. No problem there, but the Sounders do have a problem with Jones’ decision to go AWOL following the club’s win over Minnesota last week.
Jones left to join up with the Trinidad and Tobago national team but he left early and without permission, missing Wednesday’s match versus Vancouver.
5) Canada Derby
Two hot teams get together in Montreal on Sunday with the Impact on a four match win streak while Toronto has won three straight and are clearly the best team in the league.
Montreal has put itself in playoff position with their hot streak behind Ignacio Piatti’s big season and with the addition of Swiss midfielder Blerim Dzemali on loan from Italian side Bologna.
TFC is of course led by Sebastian Giovinco and U.S. stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore and the team is chasing the MLS points record. To get that record Toronto will have to deal with Montreal. Three of TFC’s remaining eight matches are against its nearest rivals.
When is a Clasico not a Clasico?
Maybe this Sunday when the dreadful 9th place(!) Galaxy host the playoff chasing San Jose Earthquakes.
Both teams are coming off of demoralizing losses, the Galaxy 2-0 at Columbus while the Quakes were hammered 4-0 in Salt Lake City.
To be fair to San Jose they are in the playoff hunt under new boss Chris Leitch, just two points out of the final post-season spot and only three out of fifth.
The Quakes still rely heavily on Chris Wondolowski who leads the club in both goals with 10 and assists with five.
The problem with this low wattage Clasico is the Galaxy. New coach Sigi Schmid figures to get this turned around but it won’t be this year.