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Major League Soccer teams have a busy week of action before most squads take a short break during Concacaf World Cup qualifying.
After a full slate of games Wednesday night, 26 teams will be in action over the weekend.
The biggest matchup will take place in Seattle on Sunday, when the Sounders host the Colorado Rapids. Only three points separate the Western Conference leaders and the Rapids, who have been the league's biggest surprise team this season.
Montreal hosts Atlanta United on Saturday in a matchup of the sixth- and eighth-place teams in the Eastern Conference (top seven teams make the playoffs). On Sunday, New York City FC hosts Nashville SC in a showdown of the second- and fourth-place teams in the East. Later, the Philadelphia Union host the Columbus Crew, who likely will be galvanized by their win in the Campeones Cup.
Here is what you need to know for the weekend in MLS:
MLS game of the week
Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids (Sunday, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+): Though Seattle has won 19 of its 27 meetings with Colorado, the Rapids are unbeaten in the last three matches in regular-season play, dating back to Sept. 2019. The most recent clash came on the July 4, when the Sounders' standout fullback Alex Roldan scored his first MLS goal, but Rapids winger Michael Barrios scored the equalizer in the second half. Seattle has gone 8-5-1 (25 points) since then. Colorado, meanwhile, is unbeaten in 12 matches and has a 8-1-7 (31 points) record since facing Seattle.
MLS player to watch
Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota United: Reynoso, Minnesota's midfield designated player, provides the pace and pulse for the Loons' attack. Statistically, the 26-year-old Argentine has two goals and an assist in his last two matches, upping his season total to four goals and seven assists. Reynoso’s 68 key passes – the final pass before a non-converted shot on goal – are second-most in MLS behind league MVP candidate Carles Gil of the New England Revolution. The eye test indicates Reynoso, along with running mate Robin Lod, make the difference on the field, scoring 17 goals when both are in the starting lineup. Minnesota heads to Texas on Saturday to face FC Dallas.
By the numbers
16: The New England Revolution are doing what championship teams often do: win close games. They've won 16 one-goal games this year, including twice last week against the Chicago Fire and Orlando City. Of the 29 games the Revs have played, 24 games have either been a draw or decided by one goal. Those 16 wins in one-goal games alone is more wins than any other team in MLS.
MLS news and notes
Dos a Cero redux in Campeones Cup: Dos a Cero is alive and well in Columbus. In the same city where the USMNT scored four 2-0 victories over rival Mexico in World Cup qualifiers, the Columbus Crew defeated Cruz Azul, 2-0, in the Campeones Cup - the annual game between the reigning champions of America’s and Mexico’s top professional leagues - on Wednesday night. This is the second time in three editions of the Campeones Cup - the 2020 game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic - that the MLS team emerged victorious. After Tigres UANL won the inaugural game against Toronto FC in 2019, Atlanta United prevailed over Club América in 2020.
USMNT roster announcement: U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter has called 27 players for the latest round of Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. Weston McKennie returns after being punished for breaking team COVID-19 protocols, missing the last two World Cup qualifiers. Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, however, will not be with the team after picking up injuries during the last qualifying round. The USMNT plays Jamaica on Thursday, Oct. 7 in Austin, against Panama in Panama City on Sunday, Oct. 10, and then finishes against Costa Rica in Columbus on Wednesday, Oct. 13.
Here is the full roster ...
Goalkeepers (3): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; USA), Zack Steffen (Manchester City; England), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; USA)
Defenders (10): George Bello (Atlanta United; USA), John Brooks (Wolfsburg; Germany), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona; Spain), Mark McKenzie (Genk; Belgium), Shaq Moore (Tenerife; Spain), Tim Ream (Fulham; England), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim; Germany), Antonee Robinson (Fulham; England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; USA), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray; Turkey)
Midfielders (8): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; USA), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig; Germany), Gianluca Busio (Venezia; Italy), Luca de la Torre (Heracles; Netherlands), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; USA), Weston McKennie (Juventus; Italy), Yunus Musah (Valencia; Spain), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; USA)
Forwards (6): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg; Austria), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; USA), Matthew Hoppe (Mallorca; Spain), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; USA), Tim Weah (Lille; France), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; USA)
Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati fire coaches: It was a rough week for coaches of struggling teams. Both FC Cincinnati and Chicago Fire FC fired coaches this week. Despite a nice 2-0 win over New York City FC on Wednesday night, Chicago fired Raphael Wicky, who posted a 12-25-14 record in two seasons with the Fire. On Monday, FC Cincinnati fired Jaap Stam, marking the fifth head coach to get the sack in the franchise’s six seasons in existence (three in USL, three in MLS). Stam went 8-28-12 over parts of two seasons in Cincinnati. Tyrone Marshall (FC Cincinnati) and Frank Klopas (Chicago Fire FC) will serve as interim coaches.
MLS playoff picture: If the season ended today ... There's a lot of soccer football yet to be played, but these would be the MLS playoff matchups according to the standings following Wednesday night's games:
Eastern Conference: As the top seed, the New England Revolution get a bye to the conference semifinals. Round 1 matchups: New York City FC (No. 4 seed) vs. Philadelphia Union (5), DC United (3) vs. Atlanta United (6), Nashville SC (2) vs. Orlando City SC (7)
Western Conference: As the top seed, the Seattle Sounders get a bye to the conference semifinals. Round 1 matchups: Portland Timbers (No. 4 seed) vs. Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids (3) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (6), Sporting Kansas City (2) vs. Minnesota United (7).
MLS rankings: Top 10 power poll
1. New England Revolution: The Revolution - a team that has reached five MLS Cups but has yet to win one - is steamrolling toward the first Supporters' Shield in franchise history and on pace to breaking the league's single-season points record.
2. Seattle Sounders: The Sounders regrouped nicely after last Wednesday's loss in the Leagues Cup final to Club León with two road wins in four days.
3. Nashville SC: Nashville must rebound for its road game Sunday against NYCFC after a disappointing draw at home Wednesday night against Orlando City, which scored the equalizer late in stoppage time.
4. Sporting Kansas City: SKC recovered from losing Sunday's pivotal showdown with the Seattle Sounders to easily dispatch FC Dallas on Wednesday night and keep pace atop the Western Conference.
5. Colorado Rapids: Colorado extended its undefeated streak to 12 games with a clinical 3-0 win over Austin FC on Wednesday night. Any slip-up by Seattle or SKC could see the Rapids vaulting into a lofty and unexpected position.
6. Portland Timbers: With its second win over Los Angeles FC in a week and a half, the Timbers might have permanently damaged the playoff hopes of a conference rival.
7. New York City FC: NYCFC followed up not-exactly-ideal results in a home-and-home against the New York Red Bulls last week (1 tie, 1 loss) with an even less-ideal defeat to Chicago Fire FC on Wednesday night.
8. Los Angeles Galaxy: Brutal road trip for the Galaxy ahead of El Tráfico XIII. The Galaxy lost to Minnesota United, Austin FC and Real Salt Lake by a combined score of 7-1.
9. Philadelphia Union: Last season's Supporters' Shield winners got a result on the road against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night and remain in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
10. Orlando City SC: Orlando had a huge midweek result, snapping a four-game losing streak by rallying from two goals down on the road against Nashville.
Moving in: Philadelphia Union
Dropping out: Atlanta United (previously: 10)
Others receiving votes: Minnesota United, Atlanta United, DC United
USA TODAY Sports Network MLS top 10 power poll voters: Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer; Drake Hills, The Tennessean; Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch; Jim Reineking, USA TODAY.
What are this weekend's MLS games?
Austin FC vs. Real Salt Lake, 3:30 p.m. ET (UniMas/TUDN, Twitter)
CF Montreal vs. Atlanta United, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
FC Cincinnati vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Orlando City SC vs. DC United, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
FC Dallas vs. Minnesota United, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
New York City FC vs. Nashville SC, noon ET (ESPN+)
Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, 4 p.m. ET (UniMas/TUDN, Twitter)
Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Portland Timbers vs. Inter Miami CF, 5:30 p.m. ET (FS1)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Los Angeles FC, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS notebook: Busy week for teams ahead of more World Cup qualifiers