The first meeting of expansion entrants Atlanta United and Minnesota United is among the notable games on the schedule for the second week of MLS play.

For the second weekend of MLS 2017, the league has arranged three intriguing games.

The Timbers and Galaxy always put on a good show, and though both teams are shorthanded heading into their Sunday meeting at StubHub Center, the game will provide some insight into where these teams are as they rebuild. Next on the list is Red Bulls-Rapids Saturday in a classic early-season meeting of the defending Eastern Conference regular-season champion and the surprise team of 2016. Another interconference matchup features the first expansion clasico between (sorry, D.C.) the two new Uniteds, Minnesota and Atlanta, on Sunday.

Here’s why these games are worth watching:

NEW LOOKS FOR BITTER RIVALS. Combined, these teams have won four of the last six MLS Cup titles, and while the Galaxy has won three of them, it did so with Robbie Keane, who left the league after the 2016 season and was last seen in Dublin training with Shamrock Rovers. For its part, Portland has lost several members of its 2015 championship team, crashed short of the playoffs last year, and for this game could field a patchwork back line.

Defenders Alvas Powell, Liam Ridgewell and Vytas could all miss the match with injuries suffered in training this week. They weren’t much tested in a 5-1 rout of Minnesota United, but playing the Galaxy away with replacements — respectively, Chance Myers, Roy Miller, and Homegrown Player Marco Farfan (photo) -– is a daunting proposition. Farfan, 18, is still in high school and has yet to play in an MLS game.

Portland failed to win a road game at all last year (0-11-6 record) but in its last two visits to L.A. has tied, 1-1, and rolled to a 5-2 victory.

In its opener, a 2-1 loss to FC Dallas, the Galaxy scored only through a penalty kick by Giovani dos Santos. It will be weakened this week by one-game suspensions handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee to Jermaine Jones and Dave Romney, as well as the ongoing injury absences of Ashley Cole, Robbie Rogers and Gyasi Zardes. Romney was punished for simulation; his dive yielded the PK converted by dos Santos. Jones was cautioned for a crunching midfield tackle of Cristian Colmanthat the Disciplinary Committee ruled to be serious foul play that endangered the safety of an opponent and thus a red-card offense.

Without Jones’ swashbuckling mix of range and recklessness, Joao Pedro will shoulder more defensive duties. As for the attack, which Jones supplemented by nailing a header off the post, the MLS debut of Romain Alessandrini was a good one though he missed the target with all four of his shots and Sebastian Lleget had a rather quiet game. They will need better cohesion with dos Santos, who didn’t get much support from forward partner Jack McBean; he could give way to Ariel Lassiter in the starting lineup.


One Comments

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