MLS notebook: El Trafico XII on Saturday, USMNT roster announced for World Cup qualifiers

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The U.S. men's national soccer team is just days away from its first World Cup qualifier since that dreadful October 2017 night in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago.

Meanwhile in MLS, the league's "rivalry week" is here.

The fun starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday night with a doubleheader of nationally televised games on ESPN, starting with the renewal of the "Hell is Real" derby between the Columbus Crew and FC Cincinnati followed by Orlando City hosting its Florida nemesis, Inter Miami CF.

The 12th edition of El Tráfico takes place Saturday (7 p.m. ET on FOX) when Los Angeles FC hosts the LA Galaxy.

On Sunday, the Seattle Sounders host the Portland Timbers (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN). When last they clashed just two weeks ago, Seattle routed Portland in their Cascadia showdown.

When they last clashed on May 8, the LA Galaxy defeated LAFC, 2-1, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
When they last clashed on May 8, the LA Galaxy defeated LAFC, 2-1, at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Here is what you need to know for the weekend in MLS:

MLS game of the week

Los Angeles FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET on FOX): Neither LA team enters the 12th edition of El Tráfico in great form. The Galaxy are riding a two-game losing streak. LAFC hasn't won since July 7, nearly a week before Episode 1 of the second season of "Ted Lasso" dropped on Apple TV+. Galaxy star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez has missed the last 11 games with a calf injury, but said Tuesday night during FS1's broadcast of the All-Star Skills Challenge that his return is "soon, soon." LAFC's Carlos Vela has had a lingering quad issue and he had a setback during his team's loss to Vancouver last Saturday. Still, this is a must-win game for both sides, who might have to fend off their biggest rival without their respective star players. While the Galaxy's recent slide has them now in fourth place in the Western Conference behind the Seattle Sounders, Sporting KC and the Colorado Rapids, LAFC's slump has the one-time powerhouse below the playoff line.

MLS player to watch

Dániel Sallói, Sporting Kansas City: SKC's 25-year-old Hungarian-born homegrown striker is having a breakthrough season. Currently sitting tied for second with the New England Revolution's Gustavo Bou in the Golden Boot race, Sallói was named to the MLS All-Star team for the first time in his career. On Saturday night, SKC hosts the surprising Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the second- and third-place teams in the Western Conference. This is the third time those two teams have met, and Sallói scored twice in a 3-1 win the last time SKC hosted the Rapids.

Daniel Salloi has scored 12 goals so far this season, second only to Seattle Raul Ruidiaz (14) in the MLS Golden Boot race.
Daniel Salloi has scored 12 goals so far this season, second only to Seattle Raul Ruidiaz (14) in the MLS Golden Boot race.

By the numbers

49: The New England Revolution are leading the race toward the Supporters' Shield with 49 points, seven more than the next-nearest contender, the Seattle Sounders. Through 22 games, the Revolution are averaging 2.23 points per game, a pace that - if they can keep it up for the remaining 12 games - would eclipse Los Angeles FC's record of 72 points from 2019 (2.11 points per game).

MORE: New England leads MLS going into final two months

MLS news and notes

USMNT names roster for upcoming World Cup qualifiers: On Thursday, U.S. men's national team coach Gregg Berhalter named his 26-player roster for next month's qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Christian Pulisic's availability remains up in the air after last week's positive COVID test. The inclusion of FC Dallas' homegrown 18-year-old rising star Ricardo Pepi - who converted the winning kick in the penalty shootout in the MLS All-Star game against Liga MX on Wednesday night - was notable in that he's eligible to play for both the USMNT and Mexico, but indicated on Twitter on Thursday that he has made his choice.

Here is the full roster ...

Goalkeepers: Ethan Horvath (Nottingham Forest, England), Zack Steffen (Manchester City, England), Matt Turner (New England Revolution).

Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta United), John Brooks (Wolfsburg, Germany), Sergiño Dest (Barcelona, Spain), Mark McKenzie (Genk, Belgium), Tim Ream (Fulham, England), Antonee Robinson (Fulham, England), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), James Sands (New York City FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray, Turkey), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC).

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Tyler Adams (Leipzig, Germany), Sebastian Lletget (Los Angeles Galaxy), Weston McKennie (Juventus, Italy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders).

Forwards: Brenden Aaronson (Salzburg, Austria), Konrad de la Fuente (Olympique Marseille, France), Jordan Pefok (Young Boys, Switzerland), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea, England), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund, Germany), Josh Sargent (Norwich, England), Tim Weah (Lille, France).

The USMNT opens World Cup qualifying on Thursday, Sept. 2 in El Salvador (10:05 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network/Paramount+). It will host Canada at Nissan Stadium in Nashville on Sunday, Sept. 5 (8 p.m. ET on FS1 and UniMas/TUDN), and then conclude this international window on Wednesday, Sept. 8 in Honduras (10:05 p.m. ET on Paramount+).

MLS wins All-Star game vs. Liga MX: The historic first combined All-Star game between MLS and Liga MX was a thriller, with the showdown being decided in a penalty kick shootout. FC Dallas' 19-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi made the decisive kick as MLS prevailed, making three kicks to Liga MX's two. New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner – who made two saves in the penalty shootout – was named the game's MVP. In regulation, the two squads played to a 1-1 tie. Cruz Azul's Jonathan Rodríguez gave Liga MX the lead in the 20th minute, LAFC's Jesús David Murillo tied it with a header off a corner kick in the 53rd minute.

Matt Turner celebrates after making a save during the penalty kick shootout during the MLS All-Star game at Banc of California Stadium.
Matt Turner celebrates after making a save during the penalty kick shootout during the MLS All-Star game at Banc of California Stadium.

Liga MX All-Stars do win the skills challenge, though: The MLS All-Stars could have used Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez and Carlos Vela - both of whom were scratched from All-Star game activities due to injuries - in the All-Star Skills Challenge, which Liga MX won, 26-25, after it claimed the crossbar challenge event to cap a fun night at Banc of California Stadium. MLS won the shooting challenge, and cross and volley challenge. Liga MX took the passing challenge and touch challenge. The skills challenge was the second iteration of the event since it was introduced at the 2019 MLS All-Star festivities in Orlando.

Tajon Buchanan, New England Revolution make Club Brugge move official: After weeks of speculation, the New England Revolution confirmed Tuesday that 22-year-old Canadian star Tajon Buchanan would complete a transfer to Club Brugge of Belgium. According to multiple reports, New England will net $7 million for the transfer of Buchanan, who was the No. 9 selection in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. As part of the move, Buchanan will remain with the Revs through the end of the current season, which looks promising as New England is running circles around its Eastern Conference rivals and has a formidable lead in the race for the Supporters' Shield. Buchanan has six goals and four assists for his club so far in 2021. He was also named best young player of this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup as Canada made a run to the semifinal round of the competition.

The New England Revolution's Tajon Buchanan will be heading overseas to Belgium at the conclusion of the 2021 MLS season.
The New England Revolution's Tajon Buchanan will be heading overseas to Belgium at the conclusion of the 2021 MLS season.

Brenden Aaronson dominates UCL playoff vs. Brondby: MLS alum and former Philadelphia Union playmaker Brendan Aaronson took the Red Bull Salzburg’s UEFA Champions League two-leg playoff by storm, and finished the job on Wednesday. After scoring a 90th-minute winner in the first leg of the playoff, Aaronson capitalized on a Brondby giveaway with a close-range score in the 10th minute of Wednesday’s second leg, 2-1 win against the Danish side. Salzburg won the playoff by an aggregate score line of 4-2 and will be drawn in the Champions League group stage.

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MLS rankings: Top 10 power poll

1. New England Revolution: New England entered all-star week with 49 points through 22 matches, seven more than any other team in Major League Soccer. The Revolution hold a plus-18 goal differential, tied with Seattle for tops in MLS. New England is on a four-game winning streak and six-match unbeaten streak heading into a showdown with NYCFC on Saturday night.

2. Seattle Sounders: Seattle waivered in the summer months as the roster took a hit due to injuries, suspension and a few international call-ups. The Sounders righted the ship in August, winning their last three games and remaining unbeaten in their last four. Raúl Ruidíaz leads the league with 14 goals, but it is the team's league-low 17 goals allowed that is the real catalyst.

3. Sporting Kansas City: Sporting is on a season-high five-match unbeaten streak which was continued last weekend in a scoreless draw against Minnesota United despite playing with 10 men for more than 70 minutes. Kansas City hasn’t lost in the month of August and avenged a July 31 defeat to FC Dallas in a 2-0 victory during the rematch on Aug. 14.

4. Orlando City SC: Nani’s exploits, specifically his nine goals in 16 matches, had Orlando flying into the all-star break. No other player on the team has scored more than four goals, and only two players on the roster account for more than two. Orlando City picked up six points in four MLS matches so far in August. The group hosts Miami to close out the month on Friday.

5. Colorado Rapids: The Rapids rarely get the attention the group deserves because it lacks star players. The Rapids’ 37 points, in only 19 matches, and plus-10 goal differential are both third best in the Western Conference. Their 19 goals allowed are second in the league. Leading scorer Michael Barrios sits on five goals.

6. Philadelphia Union: Philadelphia entered the all-star break with 32 points and a plus-seven goal differential through 21 games. The Union rebounded from an Aug. 8 loss at New England with a victory over NYCFC and a 1-1 draw with CF Montreal. The Union travel to DC United on Saturday night.

7. Los Angeles Galaxy: The Galaxy remain in the fourth spot of the Western Conference despite an extended absence from star attacker Chicharito, who began the season with 10 goals in 10 matches played. Despite 35 points from 21 games, the Galaxy’s goal differential is zero. That’s because of a leaky defense that’s allowed 32 goals.

8. New York City FC: NYCFC sits in fourth place of the Eastern Conference with 31 points in 19 matches, which is tied for the fewest played in the conference. New York’s plus-15 goal differential is second-highest in the Eastern Conference, but a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia and a postponed match against the Red Bulls slowed momentum leading into the all-star break.

9. Nashville SC: Nashville is the only team in the league with more than 30 points and fewer than eight wins. The 11 draws on the season are highest in MLS. Conversely, Nashville’s two losses are fewest in the league. The last win for Nashville came on July 24 at home against Cincinnati.

10. CF Montreal: The best team north of the border plays in Montreal. The club is consistent, if nothing else, possessing seven wins, seven draws and seven losses to go along with a plus-one goal differential. Montreal ends a six-match August schedule at home on Friday against Toronto.

Moving in: CF Montreal

Dropping out: Minnesota United (previously: 10)

Others receiving votes: Minnesota United

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.

MLS schedule: What are this weekend's games?

(ABC/ESPN games available to be streamed on Watch ESPN; FOX games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available on fuboTV.)

Friday

  • Columbus Crew vs. FC Cincinnati, 6:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

  • CF Montreal vs. Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Orlando City SC vs. Inter Miami CF, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Saturday

  • Atlanta United vs. Nashville SC, 3:30 p.m. ET (Univision/TUDN, Twitter)

  • New York Red Bulls vs. Chicago Fire FC, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Los Angeles FC vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 7 p.m. ET (FOX)

  • New York City FC vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • DC United vs. Philadelphia Union, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Houston Dynamo vs. Minnesota United, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Sporting Kansas City vs. Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

Sunday

  • Austin FC vs. FC Dallas, 8 p.m. ET (FS1)

  • Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Real Salt Lake, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)

  • Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers, 10:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS notebook: LAFC-vs. LA Galaxy El Trafico highlights rivalry week