Armchair Analyst: Your complete guide to the Week 7 MLS slate

Welcome to the ESPN+ era. Let’s dive in…

Friday’s double-header

Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City

8 pm ET | Match preview | TV & streaming info

Over the last two weeks Orlando City have won back-to-back games – in dramatic, almost preposterous fashion – for the first time in nearly a year. They’ve done it by toggling through formations (diamond 4-4-2 to 4-2-3-1 to a box-ish 4-4-2) and tossing one of the league’s more robust collections of attacking talent onto the field at any given time.

The defense, meanwhile, has been a tire fire. No one on the backline has been average or better this season, and the defensive midfield combo of Will Johnson and Yoshi Yotun has not offered anywhere near enough protection.

Perhaps all of the above is what the Union need in order to get their attack untracked. Philly have scored just three goals all season, and only one (Alejandro Bedoya‘s headed equalizer last week) at even strength. It’s been no bueno, and Bedoya said as much after the game (and yeah, I kind of wonder how that will play in the locker room).

Two things I want to point out here: Philly have gotten a decent amount of decent chances this year. C.J. Sapong and David Accam have combined for 20 shots inside the box, and have scored just one of them. Even if you factor in that shots off of crosses have a lower percentage chance of going in than shots created vs. other methods, that’s an abject scoring rate. They have a combined expected goals total of 3.79 and managed to score just once.

Second is that the best method of creating a chance that’s got a high percentage of hitting the back of the net is to hit on a breakaway. Of the Union’s 52 shots this year, zero have come from that method.

They need to play through the lines a little bit. When Sapong checks back to the play, Accam needs to dive inside into the gap his movement creates. And it probably wouldn’t kill Borek Dockal to make a direct run every now and then, either.

Update: Orlando’s potent attack beat out Philly’s wavering lineup, as the Lions won 2-0.

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LAFC

10 pm ET | Match preview | TV & streaming info

We’ve written so much about LAFC already this year because 1) they’re an expansion team, and it’s fun to take apart a new toy, and 2) they’ve been fascinating. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about them is the paradox at the heart of how they play, namely: They are a team whose best defense is their ability to pass and possess the ball, yet they seem to play better – more purposeful and dangerous – when they’re not getting a lot of possession.

I think that’s the reason so many of their games have felt so open.

The ‘Caps are still the ‘Caps. They don’t play open games, and that’s by design. They’re still hitting a ton of long balls (amongst the league leaders) and a ton of crosses (amongst the league leaders), and they don’t possess much at all (fourth from bottom at 41.74{028e8b43b440f88d50a94b0ac799d5b93a220d942414697744f001bd74eb64d0}). They are a very British team in approach, and Kei Kamara‘s willingness to be a target in every phase of the game lets that happen without it being weird.

That said, this team has an X-factor previous Vancouver teams have not: Alphonso Davies. He’s not quite the finished product yet, but every time he’s on the ball the three closest defenders are in danger of getting dunked on:

This was called back for a handball, but you get the idea. He’s attempted 44 dribbles, which leads the league. He’s completed 30 of them, which leads the league. That success rate of just over 68 percent is absurd – general rule of thumb is that anything over 40{028e8b43b440f88d50a94b0ac799d5b93a220d942414697744f001bd74eb64d0} is actually pretty good. For high-volume attacking dribblers, Darlington Nagbe has long been the gold standard in MLS, and last year was his best ever at 65 percent.

Davies is starting to attach end product to his work as well. He’s got 1g/2a in 464 minutes, and isn’t settling for no-hoper crosses from the sideline as much as he did in the season’s first two weeks.

You still gameplan for the ‘Caps the same way you have done the last couple of years. But Davies is slowly changing that.

Update: Davies had one sharp shot in the first half that forced a save, but LAFC pulled ahead in the second half to win 2-0.

Saturday’s Slate

New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact

1 pm ET | Match preview | TV & streaming info

With the Impact coming off of last week’s dispiriting 4-0 loss at New England and the Red Bulls surely suffering from a Concacaf Champions League hangover… I really have no idea here. I do know, however, that Ignacio Piatti has long been able to conjure special performances in Harrison.

One thing I don’t expect to see in this game: Bradley Wright-Phillips as a No. 10.

Colorado Rapids vs. Toronto FC

3 pm ET | Match preview | TV & streaming info

Let’s face it: TFC have no choice but to treat this as a test for their USL side, as well as a type of tune-up for Victor Vazquez, Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga – three regular starters who’ve spent most of the past month hurt, but are working their way back to fitness in time for the CCL final. I wouldn’t be shocked to see all three of them sub in as a group just past the hour mark.

The Rapids are currently sitting on our weird stat of the week: They have created five big chances, but they have scored six.

They’re very good at getting goals gifted to them early this season (as are Columbus and Chicago, for what it’s worth). I’m not sure if it’s their system (though I don’t think it is, as they’re not exactly pressing teams into mistakes out there) or just some early season small-sample-size theatre that they’ve taken advantage of. Either way they’re kind of breaking the model right now and it’s amusing.

It should also serve them well against what I’m imagining will be a very young and/or rusty Reds team.

Chicago Fire vs. LA Galaxy

3:30 pm ET | Match preview | TV & streaming info

How Chicago use Bastian Schweinsteiger will be what shapes this game, I think. They’ve flipped him back and forth between sweeper and central midfield a bunch over the past two weeks:

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