Kenwyne Jones is in for Josef Martinez, and that should make Atlanta quite a bit different. Plus what games to watch, how to watch them, and what you should keep an eye out for.
Most of MLS was off during the international break while big chunks of their squads were off playing for their countries. And during every international date, some teams get extremely unlucky with injuries. This one was no exception.
The most severe injury was one to Galaxy midfielder Sebastian Lletget, who will miss 4-6 months. The one to Atlanta’s Josef Martinez was less severe — he’ll return sometime in May — but is slightly more immediately interesting.
Martinez has arguably been the best player in the league so far. His replacement Kenwyne Jones is certainly good enough to be an MLS starter, but is a completely different type of player. We’ll get to see how Atlanta copes on Friday night, when they play away to Seattle on FS1.
Your national TV games (all times ET)
Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City — Friday, 7:30 p.m., FS1
Seattle Sounders vs. Atlanta United — Friday, 10 p.m., FS1
Columbus Crew SC vs. Orlando City — Saturday, 4 p.m., UniMas
Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution — Sunday, 9 p.m., ESPN2
The must-watch game is the one that’ll be most inconvenient for most viewers, unfortunately — that late Friday night one. Seattle vs. Atlanta should be great. But none of the teams featured on national TV this week totally stinks to watch, so they should all be worth your time.
MLS Live games, ranked
- Minnesota United vs. Real Salt Lake — Saturday, 8 p.m.
- Houston Dynamo vs. New York Red Bulls — Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
- New York City FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes — Saturday, 2 p.m.
- Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LA Galaxy — Saturday, 10 p.m.
- Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact — Saturday, 3 p.m.
- D.C. United vs. Philadelphia Union — Saturday, 7 p.m.
This is probably the weakest full week of the season for great matchups. It doesn’t help that FC Dallas and Colorado Rapids are off this week. Minnesota has a bad defense and RSL has a new coach, so that game should be interesting. You can definitely skip DC-Philly.
One big storyline: Two new-look teams face off in Minnesota
Minnesota United is working on being the worst team in MLS history, and they know it. They switched to a 3-5-2 formation in the second half of their loss against the New England Revolution and could trot it out from the start this week. They’ve also reportedly made a trade for two defensive players, shipping out Josh Gatt and Mohamed Saied to make room for Sam Cronin and Marc Burch. While Cronin and Burch might not be able to start on Saturday, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them dress, and both could slot into any formation.
Their opponents on Saturday, Real Salt Lake, have already made a coaching change. Jeff Cassar was sent packing after just three games, with Real Monarchs coach Mike Petke getting promoted to replace him. Petke won Supporters’ Shield with New York Red Bulls in 2013, but was surprisingly fired after his second season in charge of the club.
Petke mostly favored a 4-2-3-1 formation with Red Bulls and used it in his only game in charge of Real Monarchs, but it’s probably not the best fit for the RSL squad. Kyle Beckerman wasn’t even asked to play in a pivot much in his younger days, and at 34, probably wouldn’t be great in a system that asked him to do a ton of running. What Petke’s first lineup will look like is anyone’s guess.
One player to watch: Kenwyne Jones
Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez has a league-leading five goals, but he’s going to be sidelined for 4-6 weeks after picking up an injury on international duty. Enter Kenwyne Jones, his similarly talented but extremely different backup.
Martinez is a small, quick player who’s an excellent dribbler and regularly tried to beat offside traps. In stark contrast to that, Jones is a big target man who doesn’t have quite the speed that he used to back in his Premier League days. He’s still an extremely intelligent player, great in the air and excellent at holding up the ball, but Atlanta can’t play the same way with him that they did with Martinez.
Expect to see a few more lofted crosses into the box, and a bit of Jones coming deep to find the ball so his teammates can make runs into the space behind him.
Four things to read before games get underway
Parker Cleveland at Dirty South Soccer on the tough four-game road trip Atlanta kicks off on Friday.
Spenser Davis at Sounder at Heart on Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey’s praise for Atlanta.
Ben Baer at MLS on why Petke should turn to a diamond midfield.