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What to watch for: MLS Week 8

Is it time for the Galaxy to push the panic button? And who will be best in the West?

MLS: Sporting KC at Portland Timbers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Dying Stars

The Galaxy do not look good right now, despite the positive play and dashing looks of their newest Designated Player, Romain Alessandrini. They’re only two points the last place Colorado Rapids, and their only wins have come two other under-performers at the start of the season: Real Salt Lake and Montreal Impact. Otherwise, they’ve lost to FC Dallas, Portland Timbers, Vancouver Whitecaps, and Orlando City. Jermaine Jones hasn’t looked great in the midfield, and he was victimized by Cyle Larin for Orlando’s last-gasp winner.

Jones is their to be the Galaxy big, strong enforcer. Getting beat in a wrestling match by a Canadian isn’t a good look if that’s your role. Ok, he’s a really good Canadian. Still.

They’re also in trouble in front of goal. Gyasi Zardes is back, but he and Gio Dos Santos combined for only two shots on target against Orlando. It seems the Galaxy don’t have many answers at the moment outside of Alessandrini’s individual exploits, and one has to wonder if the seat is warming for Curt Onalfo anytime soon, especially with a big name like Sigi Schmidt still floating around the MLS scene unattached.

United They Fall

Speaking of teams not doing so hot, the Philadelphia Union are downright awful. They have 2 points from 6 games, aren’t generating anything close to a dangerous attack, and in general look like a mess. Head coach Jim Curtin managed to finally guide Philly into the playoffs for the first time in years last season with a mixture of MLS cast-offs, rookie talent, and Alejandro Bedoya, but you have to wonder how long his grace period will last. Not only are the Union last in the league on points, but they’re also second to last in goals allowed and second to last in goals scored. They’re not getting unlucky. They’re fundamentally being outplayed. Jeff Cassar was the first coach sent to an early shower this MLS season. If I had to take a guess at who the second would be, Curtin seems as likely an option as any.

Player to Watch: Ike Opara

Ike Opara has been around the league for seven years now, so he’s not an unknown quality by any means. On his day, he is one of the most dominant center backs in MLS. if not the most dominant outright. This statement has always been tempered by the fact that his legs are made of glass. He’s missed 84 games since he was traded from San Jose to Kansas City in 2013. That’s more than two full seasons. He’s kind of the ultimate risk-reward player of MLS. Yes, he’s a great defender, but when is he going to tear something?

So, not to jinx him or anything, but things are looking on the up for Opara lately. He played in 25 games last season, the most games he’s played in over a single season in his entire career, and he’s already played every single minute of 2017 for Sporting KC so far. Another reason to be excited? He looks as good in defense as ever, absolutely deleting opposing forwards.

This is Fanendo Adi’s chart from last weekend. Green lines are completed passes, red lines failed passes, yellow lines passes that lead to shots, and the red line beginning with the circle is an off-target shot. The red triangle is a failed dribbling attempt. Portland thrives on Adi’s ability to receive the ball downfield and make a successful pass to his midfield once they’ve caught up to him, and his ability to turn defenders in the box and get a shot away. KC prevented him from doing both the vast majority of the night.

This sad little chart is Kevin Doyle’s from two weeks ago. He was shut out of the box completely save for his penalty kick goal. Sporting KC are undefeated because they’ve only let in 2 goals this entire season, and Ike Opara’s been a massive part of that defensive success. They’ll need him at his best on Saturday when they travel to Dallas in the match of the last two unbeatens in the league.

Game to Watch: FC Dallas vs. Sporting KC

This one is a no-brainer. Sure, there are other games on this week, but this one easily has the biggest ramifications for the Western Conference and the Supporter’s Shield race. Both teams are unbeaten, and they are 2nd and 3rd in the Supporter’s Shield race if you go off of Points per Game with games in hand over Portland and Columbus. Dom Dwyer is heating up for Kansas City with two goals in two games and their defense looks as stout as ever. FC Dallas hasn’t slouched in the defensive department either, only giving up 3 goals on the season so far. Kellyn Acosta and Maxi Urruti are the danger men for the still Mauro Diaz-less Dallas, and all signs point to a hard-fought match in Texas this weekend.

But if you need a slightly more casual, fun game to watch, Real Salt Lake hosting Atlanta United has goals written all over it, and Houston against San Jose has the potential for fireworks as well.