MLS Talking Points: D.C. set to debut Rooney and Audi Field

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English star Wayne Rooney will make his MLS debut on Saturday, helping D.C. United christen its new home, Audi Field

Major League Soccer's summer transfer window is open for business, a time of year both fans and club officials get excited for because of the possibility of season-changing additions.

This weekend will see the first big names of the summer make their MLS debuts, with Wayne Rooney serving as the headliner. The English superstar will play his first match for D.C. United on Saturday, at the unveiling of the new Audi Field.

Rooney isn't the only highly-anticipated newcomer making a debut this weekend. Los Angeles FC's Portuguese midfielder, Andre Horta, should debut, but not necessarily start, in LAFC's showdown with the Portland Timbers.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders say hello to Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz, who joins a Sounders team desperate for an attacking spark to help them climb out of the bottom half of the Western Conference standings.

A full slate of 11 matches this weekend is headlined by Portland's visit to Banc of California Stadium as two of the league's most in-form teams square off. The Timbers are riding an 11-match unbeaten streak while LAFC enters with a 4-0-1 record in its past five, and an unbeaten record at home.

In the East, Chris Armas will coach his first game at Red Bull Arena since replacing Jesse Marsch as New York Red Bulls boss. Sporting KC will look to play the role of spoiler, while snapping its recent 0-2-1 slump. New York City FC has won three of four since Domenec Torrent replaced Patrick Vieira, and will look to keep the Columbus Crew's recent slump going. The Crew have just one win in their past seven.

In inter-conference action, the LA Galaxy are making the cross-country trip to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution. The Galaxy have quietly put together a five-match unbeaten streak, but they face a Revs side unbeaten in seven. A win on the road could push the Galaxy into playoff position, while the Revs will be looking to break into the top four in the East with a victory.

Here is a closer look at the key talking points for MLS Week 20:


Rooney set to debut for D.C. United as Audi Field opens


Wayne Rooney D.C. United

D.C. United fans have been waiting for 22 years to have a stadium to call their own, and they've been waiting just as long to have an international superstar wearing their colors. Both dreams will become reality on Saturday, when Audi Field opens and Wayne Rooney makes his MLS debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Audi Field opening is a historic moment for a D.C. United club that spent more than two decades playing in run-down RFK Stadium. The new home should help the club establish a more stable financial footing, and also give the team more of a home-field advantage.

Filling the new building may take a bit given the years of poor results that have chipped away at D.C. United once-sizable fan-base, but the arrival of Rooney should help expedite that process. The former Manchester United and England national team legend not only gives the club a marquee name to try and draw new fans, he also gives it the goal-scoring threat it so desperately needed. Rooney joins a D.C. attack with plenty of quality in midfield in playmaker Luciano Acosta, U.S. national team winger Paul Arriola and Argentine midfielder Yamil Asad.

D.C. may head into Saturday in last place in the East, but its performances in recent weeks have been encouraging, including Wednesday's 2-2 draw on the road against the LA Galaxy. Rooney's presence should open things up for the rest of the D.C. attack, and take some pressure of the D.C. defense, though it is clear the team will be making some more upgrades in the coming weeks as the club's new ownership looks to build a winning team around Rooney.


Match of the Week: Los Angeles FC vs. Portland Timbers


Carlos Vela MLS LAFC 03312018

LAFC is the hottest team in MLS, having gone 4-0-1 in its last five and outscoring opponents 14-7 during that span. Bob Bradley's squad will put that hot streak, and an unbeaten home record, on the line Sunday against a Timbers side that has thrived under first-year coach Giovanni Savarese.

Recent acquisition Adama Diomande enters the match on a red-hot scoring run, having notched nine goals in seven matches since arriving from Hull City. The Norwegian striker will be a handful for a Timbers defense that has settled on a center-back tandem of Julio Cascante and Larrys Mabiala. Carlos Vela should be read to slide back into the starting lineup for LAFC for the first time since returning from the World Cup.

There is also the matter of designated player and new arrival Andre Horta. The Portuguese midfielder is a versatile player who Bob Bradley can't stop raving about, but he's also a player who is coming off a vacation and still working to catch up to full fitness. That means he may not start against the Timbers, but it's a safe bet Bradley finds some time for him on Sunday.

The Timbers attack will have some questions for LAFC's defense as well, with Samuel Armenteros leading the line having scored six goals in his past six matches. Reigning MLS MVP Diego Valeri and Argentine playmaker Sebastian Blanco are a handful for any midfield to deal with, but they will need to put in a serious shift to keep the LAFC midfield from dominating possession and overwhelming the Timbers back-line.


Match-ups to Watch


Matt Besler Bradley Wright Phillips MLS 09202017

Miguel Almiron vs. Cristian Roldan. Almiron is in the midst of an MVP-caliber season, but Roldan has the motor to keep up with him and limit his dangerous contributions.

Kaku vs. Ilie Sanchez. Kaku is coming off a quiet match in the recent derby loss to NYCFC, but a return home should help him find more joy, though Sanchez is capable of keeping him under wraps.

Sacha Kljestan vs. Michael Bradley. These old friends have both seen better times club-wise, and the former USMNT teammates both need their teams to win and turn around disappointing seasons.

Maxi Moralez vs. Wil Trapp. Moralez is a terror at Yankee Stadium, and Trapp must prevent the diminutive Argentine from finding the gaps in what has been an increasingly vulnerable Crew defense.

Bradley Wright-Phillips vs. Matt Besler. A hamstring injury could force Ike Opara to miss this one, which would put the onus on Besler to stop Wright-Phillips at Red Bull Arena, one of the toughest assignments in MLS.

Clint Dempsey vs. Michael Parkhurst. Assuming Brian Schmetzer doesn't put Dempsey on the bench again, he should draw plenty of attention from his former New England teammate.

Diego Fagundez vs. Jonathan Dos Santos. Fagundez has thrived in the playmaker role vacated by Lee Nguyen's departure from New England, and Dos Santos and Perry Kitchen must limit space for Fagundez to operate in if the Galaxy are going to take three points back to California.

Nemanja Nikolic vs. Matt Hedges. The reigning MLS golden boot winner must have spent plenty of time this past week thinking about the chance he missed in last week's loss to Vancouver. Hedges will look to ensure Nikolic doesn't get those kind of looks on Saturday.

Darwin Quintero vs. Justen Glad. RSL's growth as a team has seen Glad take on an important role in Mike Petke's defense, and he will be one of the key defenders tasked with trying to keep Quintero from running wild.

Benny Feilhaber vs. Sebastian Blanco. Feilhaber and Mark-Anthony Kaye have formed a solid central midfield partnership for LAFC, and they will be tested by the mobile and elusive Blanco, who has been just as dangerous as Valeri this season.


Week 20 Predictions


Sean Johnson MLS NYCFC 05132018

(*Best Bet)

New York City FC 3, Crew 1. That impenetrable Crew defense from earlier in the season has disappeared, and it isn't likely to show up at Yankee Stadium, where NYCFC has a way of overwhelming opponents.

Red Bulls 2, Sporting KC 0. The potential absence of Ike Opara makes this already-tough task of winning at Red Bull Arena even more brutal. Bradley Wright-Phillips gets back in the scoring column to deliver Chris Armas his first win as Red Bulls head coach.

Impact 2, Earthquakes 1. The Impact were humbled by NYCFC on Wednesday, but Remi Garde's team has shown it can handle the weaker teams in the league, and the Earthquakes qualify for that category.

Revolution 3, Galaxy 1. Will Zlatan Ibrahimovic travel cross-country to play on New England's infamous turf? Don't bet on it. If he doesn't, the Galaxy will have a tough time grabbing this road win. Cristian Penilla will be too much for LA's fullbacks.

D.C. United 3, Whitecaps 0. With Kendall Waston still hobbled, the Whitecaps defense will be shorthanded going against a D.C. side that will be inspired to christen its new home with a victory. Wayne Rooney finds the net in his debut to lead the way.

* FC Dallas 2, Fire 0. How will FC Dallas cope without Mauro Diaz? Facing a Fire side coming off consecutive losses should help. 

Minnesota United 1, Real Salt Lake 2. How seriously should we take RSL as a West contender? This match, on the road against a tricky Loons side, will help show us if Petke's squad can put away an opponent its supposed to beat.

Orlando City 1, Toronto FC 2. Two desperate teams face off in what could wind up being a shootout. Give the edge to TFC, which looks ready to make that climb up the standings we have been waiting for.

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Rapids 1, Dynamo 2. The Rapids are tough at home, and Houston has had its struggles on the road, but the Dynamo have shown some signs of life in recent matches and they have the weapons to trouble Colorado's defense.

Atlanta United 2, Sounders 1. Can Raul Ruidiaz give the Seattle attack the speed it needs to trouble Atlanta's defense? Perhaps, but Atlanta's attack should find plenty of chances against the Seattle defense, even with Roman Torres back in action.

Los Angeles FC 2, Timbers 1. As tough as Portland has been to beat over the past three months, LAFC is just too strong in attack, and Diomande is a handful the Timbers won't be able to deal with.

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