With a full, 13-game Major League Soccer slate and the Concacaf Gold Cup final serving as the capper, this will be a busy weekend for American soccer fans.
The featured MLS games take place Friday night with a doubleheader of soccer football action on ESPN.
First, Orlando City hosts Atlanta United (8 p.m. ET) with Orlando looking to rebound from a humbling 5-0 loss last Sunday to New York City FC. That game will be followed up by the Los Angeles Galaxy hosting the Portland Timbers (10 p.m. ET) in Carson, California. With Javier "Chicharito" Hernández sidelined, the Galaxy have just one win in their previous five games. Despite the lengthy absence, Chicharito is just a goal behind the Seattle Sounders' Raúl Ruidíaz in the MLS Golden Boot race.
Here is what you need to know for the weekend in MLS:
MLS game of the week
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET on ESPN): The victor in Saturday's match between the LA Galaxy and Portland Timbers could positively change the morale of one the two most prominent MLS clubs. Both have concerning losses as of late, with the Galaxy succumbing to a 4-0 rout their last time out against FC Dallas in a rematch of the Galaxy's 3-1 win over Dallas on July 7. The Galaxy were also shutout, 2-0, on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps. But Portland has been inconsistent as well, defeating FC Dallas and LAFC in their two-game home stint, but have been beaten handily by Vancouver and Austin FC. A win in primetime would be great as both have home stints coming up in August.
MLS player to watch
CJ Sapong, Nashville SC: The 11-year MLS veteran is settling in well with his new Nashville teammates, having scored three goals and adding two assists in Nashville's previous three matches. Joining the club from Chicago Fire FC in the offseason, Sapong has scored five goals in 15 matches played and has meshed well with creative maestros, Hany Mukhtar and Randall Leal, playing around him. A match on Sunday against Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+) means a chance to add to his scoring form against the worst defensive team in MLS (32 goals allowed).
MLS news and notes
Familiar Gold Cup final matchup: For the eighth time in the last nine Concacaf Gold Cup tournaments, the USMNT will play in the final. And, they'll be facing a familiar foe ... Mexico. The U.S. advanced to Sunday's Gold Cup final at Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and Univision/TUDN) with a 1-0 win over Qatar, thanks to a late goal by Gyasi Zardes. Mexico, meanwhile, needed a stoppage time goal by Héctor Herrera to dispatch what is an improving Canada team.
This will be the second time in seven weeks that the USMNT and Mexico will square off in the final of a major continental tournament. The U.S. defeated Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League final on June 6.
Mexico has won the Gold Cup eight times, while the USMNT has done so six times. Mexico (+135) is a favorite over the U.S. (+220) to win the Concacaf Gold Cup final, according to BetMGM.
A new leader in Supporters' Shield race: The Seattle Sounders paced MLS in the league-wide table for much of the 2021 season up until this past weekend’s action concluded. When the dust settled on the latest completed match week, the New England Revolution found themselves perched atop MLS on 33 points (10-3-3). Seattle, now 32 points (9-2-5), isn’t far behind the Revs, but did take a hit in losing at Lumen Field to Sporting Kansas City, which is third in the race for the Supporters' Shield on 30 points (9-3-3).
USMNT-Mexico men’s World Cup qualifier to Cincinnati, not Columbus: With Concacaf’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers approaching, U.S. Soccer is starting to roll out its list of host cities and, after previously announcing Nashville and Austin would stage the U.S. men’s national team matches against Canada and Jamaica, respectively, it was announced Wednesday that Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium would host the coveted U.S.-Mexico tilt on Nov. 12. That means Columbus, situated about two hours north of Cincinnati, lost out on hosting the Mexico match for a sixth consecutive World Cup cycle, although the Columbus Dispatch reported Central Ohio wouldn’t be left emptyhanded as the Costa Rica qualifier scheduled for October would be held at the Crew’s Lower.com Field.
LAFC deals Mark Anthony-Kaye to Colorado Rapids: There hasn’t been much sex appeal about the ongoing secondary transfer window around MLS, but at least we’ve got a blockbuster trade to discuss. This week, Los Angeles FC traded 2019 MLS All-Star Mark-Anthony Kaye and a 2022 MLS SuperDraft first-round selection to the Rapids. In return, LAFC netted $1 million in general allocation money, a 2022 international roster slot and potential add-ons if performance thresholds are met.
FC Dallas homegrown Ricardo Pepi makes history: With his hat trick against the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday, FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi - at age 18 years, 196 days - became the youngest player in MLS history to record a hat trick. Pepi - a product of FC Dallas' renown youth academy - is just the second MLS player before in 2000 or later to net a hat trick, joining Toronto FC's Ayo Akinola, who had a hat trick in last year's MLS is Back Tournament. Pepi, who is eligible to play for both the U.S. and Mexico national teams, has yet to make an appearance for either senior national team.
By the numbers
22: Anyone else remember the Minnesota United team that lost its first four games and was being written off after nearly making MLS Cup in 2020? No one can seem to find them. Whoever this new team is in the Twin Cities is looking like a top team in the league right now. After back-to-back home wins against the Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, and a road draw at LAFC on Wednesday night, the Loons are 6-1-4 (22 points) in their last 11 games. An impressive stretch after a disastrous start to the season.
MLS rankings: Top 10 power poll
1. Seattle Sounders: The Sounders bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 1-0 win at Austin FC thanks to a 35-yard strike by Raúl Ruidíaz. The reserves couldn’t continue the momentum, however, falling to Sporting KC by a score of 3-1. The club played without 10 regulars against Austin.
2. New England Revolution: New England is clear of second-place Nashville SC by seven points thanks to victories over Inter Miami and CF Montreal over the past week. Revolution midfielder Carlos Gil is the leader in the clubhouse for MLS MVP honors. A road match against the New York Red Bulls awaits over the weekend.
3. Sporting Kansas City: Sporting took advantage of a depleted Seattle lineup to come out with a 3-1 win in a battle between the two best teams in the Western Conference. First-half goals by Johnny Russell and Dániel Sallói put Kansas City in front before a second-half score by Cameron Duke closed the door. Sporting is only two points behind Seattle with one fewer match played.
4. Nashville SC: Nashville found its scoring stride over the past month and it helped the club inch toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Nashville scored five against Chicago on July 17 and three against Cincinnati on July 24. Nashville only scored four total goals during three matches in June.
5. Orlando City SC: Orlando City remain in third place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points and a plus-four goal differential despite a 5-0 loss to NYCFC the last time out. It was the third loss in six matches for an increasingly inconsistent Orlando City team. The group can right the ship with a win over Atlanta at home on Friday.
6. Philadelphia Union: The Union are holding on while key players such as goalkeeper Andre Blake begin to return from Concacaf Gold Cup duty. Philadelphia amassed five points in five matches during the month of July. The team plays seven times in August, including a showdown with New England on Aug. 8.
7. Colorado Rapids: The Rapids are another Western Conference contender that is coming off an embarrassing loss. The Rapids dropped a 3-0 match to Real Salt Lake last weekend, and look to rebound with a road game against last-place Austin FC on Saturday.
8. Columbus Crew: The defending MLS Cup champions are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points through 15 matches. The Crew are unbeaten since a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia back on June 23, and drew three times in five July matches. The group closes out a busy month with a road trip to NYCFC on Friday.
9. Los Angeles Galaxy: The Galaxy remain in third place in the Western Conference with 25 points despite a minus-three goal differential. The squad came back to orbit after a strong start, mostly because Chicharito is no longer scoring at a record pace. A recent 4-0 loss to FC Dallas was a red flag.
10. New York City FC: NYCFC moved into playoff position with a dominant 5-0 win over Orlando, its second consecutive win since a tough 1-0 loss to Columbus back on July 17. NYCFC gets another crack at the Crew on Friday night at home. Jesús Medina leads the squad with seven goals through 14 matches.
Moving in: New York City FC
Dropping out: Club de Foot Montréal (previously: 10)
Others receiving votes: Los Angeles FC, 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?
New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: NYC (-200), Tie (+320), CLB (+500)
Orlando City vs. Atlanta United, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Odds: ORL (-120), Tie (+250), ATL (+300)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Odds: LAG (-105), Tie (+270), POR (+240)
Seattle Sounders vs. San Jose Earthquakes, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: SEA (-175), Tie (+280), SJ (+450)
New York Red Bulls vs. New England Revolution, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: RBNY (+120), Tie (+250), NE (+195)
FC Cincinnati vs. DC United, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: CIN (+170), Tie (+250), DC (+135)
Inter Miami CF vs. CF Montreal, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: MIA (+110), Tie (+230), MON (+230)
Houston Dynamo vs. Real Salt Lake, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: HOU (+100), Tie (+250), RSL (+240)
Sporting Kansas City vs. FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: SKC (-185), Tie (+310), DAL (+425)
Austin FC vs. Colorado Rapids, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: ATX (+120), Tie (+225), COL (+210)
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Minnesota United, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: VAN (+260), Tie (+275), MIN (-115)
Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire FC, 6 p.m. ET (UniMas, Twitter)
Odds: PHI (-150), Tie (+280), CHI (+360)
Toronto FC vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+)
Odds: TOR (+140), Tie (+240), NSH (+170)
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Concacaf Gold Cup final and MLS games this weekend: How to watch, odds