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What to Watch for: MLS Week 7

A tight Eastern Conference race will clear itself up, the Cascadia Cup starts anew, and we’re still wondering if Chicago can keep this up.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Beasts

We’re still early on in the season, but the Eastern Conference is essentially deadlocked going into week 7. Columbus sits on top of the East with 10 points from 6 games, but you have to go all the way down to 10th place in the Conference to find a team more than 3 points behind them. Orlando City, Atlanta United, Chicago, New England, NYCFC, New York Red Bulls, D.C. United, and Toronto FC are all within spitting distance of the top spot in the conference on one end and the wrong side of the red line on the other. That should change this weekend, with only one interconference game on the schedule (Orlando vs. LA). Look out for some reshuffling in those standings.

Waiting for a Fire

So, Chicago. Are they...good? Well, they’re certainly not as bad as they were last year. But they still don’t have a good defense or a particularly good attacking line outside of David Accam. On the other hand, you’ve got Bastian Schweinsteiger, Juninho, and Dax McCarty pulling passes like this out of their hats from their midfield.

They’ve got themselves 4 points since Schweinsteiger debuted, 1 against a depleted Montreal squad and all 3 against Columbus. They have a home game against New England next, who have figured out (again) that putting Kei Kamara and Juan Agudelo as close to goal as possible with Lee Nguyen behind them is a good thing. The game will stretch Chicago, putting two forwards in the face of their backline and creating pockets of space for Nguyen underneath them. That set-up could allow New England to bypass the midfield completely. If Chicago can adjust to that, they just might be for real.

Player to Watch: Jozy Altidore

Listen up, nerds: Jozy Altidore is good. He played a great game against Honduras. He didn’t have too hot of a game against Panama, but neither did anyone else on the team. I have seen dozens of arguments from that Panama game calling out Jozy for losing the ball and next to none about Dempsey losing the ball (which he did plenty of as well) or Darlington Nagbe or Christian Pulisic losing the ball (which they also did, albeit with less frequency than our forwards on the night). It wasn’t a good night for the U.S. attack, plain and simple. But that doesn’t mean Jozy isn’t at the very least one of the best U.S. attackers playing right now. Case in point.

The offense for TFC hasn’t quite fired on all cylinders as of yet, and that’s in large part because of inconsistency and injury on the part of Sebastian Giovinco. But this play was gorgeous, and it is exactly the kind of confident play from Altidore that typified his torrid second half of the season last years. Jozy is a streaky player. Everyone knows this. But with Giovinco off the mark and Jozy pulling out flicks like this, don’t be surprised if Mr. Altidore is getting warmed up.

Games to Watch:

Plenty of good games on this week for fans coast to coast. The big Eastern Conference matchup is Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew and the start of another Trillithingy Cup. The two-team Cup between a team from Canada and a team from Ohio always seemed like an ill fit to me, but these two are big players in the Eastern conference right now and both have the potential to break out some incredibly fun soccer.

In a more natural Cup competition, the Cascadia Cup starts up with Seattle visiting Vancouver. Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson has to be feeling the heat on his coaching chair going up after two consecutive league losses saw the team give up a combined 6 goals, not to mention bowing out of the CCL semis to current Mexican powerhouse Tigres. A win could right the ship, a loss could send Robbo packing.

The LA Galaxy travel to Orlando City’s new digs for in a match that just feels ripe for a soccer game to break out in the middle of the fight, and Portland welcome Sporting KC back to Providence Park once again in a game that’s become one of the more tightly contested matchups over the last couple years. Almost everywhere you look there’s an interesting game on this weekend, so just make sure you tune in.

Poorly Executed MLS Photoshop of the Week:

Should’ve just answered the question.