MLS Talking Points: LAFC opens new home, NYCFC faces unbeaten FCD

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Banc of California Stadium's unveiling and the league's lone unbeaten visiting Yankee Stadium headline a full weekend of MLS action

Major League Soccer will see its newest stadium open its doors, while the league's lone remaining unbeaten team prepares for its toughest test to date.

Los Angeles FC is set to unveil its new $350 million Banc of California Stadium on Sunday night, taking on the Seattle Sounders in a can't-miss encounter. Bob Bradley's squad is off to a strong start to its expansion season, and will look to keep Seattle's slow opening to 2018 going.

FC Dallas takes its unbeaten record to New York on Sunday to take on an NYCFC side that only last week left the ranks of the undefeated. These two possession-oriented teams only face off once a year, but it generally produces some of the best matches you'll see in MLS.

Western Conference leader Sporting Kansas City takes a trip to Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Revolution in another intriguing clash. Brad Friedel's side has gotten off to a good start to the season, but beating Sporting KC would be the Revs' first quality win of the year. SKC is riding a seven-match unbeaten run that includes a 2-0-1 mark on the road.

Toronto FC will look to pick up the pieces after falling just short in its quest for a CONCACAF Champions League title. There is no time to sulk after digging itself a hole in the East standings during the run to the CCL final, and Greg Vanney's men will want to reassert their dominance in the East as quickly as possible. The Chicago Fire will look to try and build on last week's impressive win at Red Bull Arena by winning in another notoriously tough venue for road teams.

The two teams just above Toronto FC at the bottom of the East standings square off at Talen Energy Stadium when D.C. United pays a visit to the Philadelphia Union in a clash of teams desperately needing a victory.

Here is a closer look at the key talking points for MLS Week 9:


LAFC's homecoming


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Los Angeles FC's expansion season has already gone about as well as anyone could have hoped for, but things are about to get even better as the team prepares to unveil its state-of-the-art Banc of California Stadium on Sunday.

LAFC has spared no expense in putting together a top-notch home that will immediately be in the conversation of best stadiums in MLS. Now it will be up to Bob Bradley's squad to make use of the home-field advantage in a building that will expected to be sold-out for much of the season.

"Every team wants to get its supporters on its side with football, with energy, so that together it becomes a difficult place for opponents," Bradley said. "We have our first chance on Sunday. We talked a lot this year about our firsts. Our first game in Seattle, the first impression. But now the opportunity here, Banc of California (Stadium), we look around today, and as beautiful as it is it's not filled yet. So now when you put people, and noise and energy and passion in here it's going to be incredible."

Up first on the schedule is a Seattle side that just recorded its first league win last week, but still hasn't looked like the same team that reached last year's MLS Cup final. LAFC knocked off the Sounders in the season opener, and debut its new home after rattling off four road wins from six matches to start the season.

LAFC will be looking to tighten things up defensively after surrendering 12 goals in the past four matches, including last week's 5-3 goal-fest in Montreal. It will be interesting to see if Bradley reverts to the four-man defense LAFC opened the season with, or sticks with the three-man defense used in the past two matches.


Match of the Week: NYCFC vs. FC Dallas


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There will be more eyeballs on LAFC's stadium unveiling, but the best matchup of the weekend will take place in the Bronx, where Patrick Vieira's side will trry to shake off last week's loss to Portland by handing FC Dallas its first loss of 2018.

NYCFC has never beaten FC Dallas, having gone 0-1-2 in the three meetings the teams have had. All three matches were entertaining affairs, as both sides look to try and control the tempo in what is a good clash of attractive styles.

"They are quite similar (to us) on the type of players that they have," NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. "I believe that is a team who likes to have the ball. They have technical quality, they have individual quality, they have the really good structure. The play well as a team, they're really creative. I really love that team. Of course with Columbus, and some of the other teams, they are one of my favorite teams in the league."

Oscar Pareja's side has won two straight, and both wins came with playmaker Mauro Diaz coming off the bench, with the tandem of Jacori Hayes and Victor Ulloa holding things down in central midfield. Given NYCFC's excellent central midfield trio of Maxi Moralez, Alexander Ring and Yangel Herrera, Pareja will likely have to deploy a five-man midfield to try and help avoid being dominated in possession. Santiago Mosquera has seen more minutes than Diaz in recent weeks, but Diaz played better off the bench last week. FC Dallas will need one of them to provide some creativity in midfield in order to test NYCFC's defense.

NYCFC's attack will look to get back on track after being shut out last week. David Villa hasn't scored against FC Dallas before in three previous meetings, and he'll face a tough obstacle in Matt Hedges, who has been key to FC Dallas' defense allowing a league-low three goals in six matches. Vieira should bring Jesus Medina back into the starting lineup, where he will look to add to his league-leading five assists. His creativity was missed against Portland, as was Yangel Herrera's dynamic work rate in central midfield.


Matchups to Watch


Sebastian Giovinco vs. Bastian Schweinsteiger

David Villa vs. Matt Hedges. Two of the league's best square off in a clash that could determine the winner of the weekend's top match. Hedges has been one of the league's best defenders this season, but Villa is deadly at home.

Sebastian Giovinco vs. Bastian Schweinsteiger. With center back looking to be Schweinsteiger's role for the foreseeable future with the Fire, he'll be called upon to try and keep tabs on the elusive Giovinco.

Ignacio Piatti vs. Julian Gressel. Piatti is coming off a hat-trick performance, but he'll have some defensive work to do in what should be an entertaining battle on the flank.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Tim Parker. Ibrahimovic has the height advantage, but Parker has the strength to keep the big Swede from getting too comfortable. He's still likely to need help from Aaron Long.

Diego Fagundez vs. Ilie Sanchez. Sanchez has been outstanding for West-leading SKC this season, and he'll be key to trying to keep Fagundez from finding opening in Sporting KC's defense.

Kaku vs. Perry Kitchen. The Galaxy will surely take note of the fact that Chicago stymied the Red Bulls attack by containing Kaku, and Kitchen is the best equipped to try and slow him down.

Maxi Moralez vs. Jacori Hayes. Moralez is the real engine in the NYCFC attack, while Hayes has quietly become an outstanding presence in the FC Dallas central midfield. This test should tell us a lot about the youngster.

Roland Lamah vs. Anton Tinnerholm. Lamah loves to operate on the left wing, but Tinnerholm is one of the best defensive fullbacks in the league and won't make things easy for him.

Romain Alessandrini vs. Kemar Lawrence. Expect plenty of action in this clash, with Lawrence having the speed to stay with the tricky Frenchman. Can Alessandrini help keep Lawrence from being a threat on the counter?

Federico Higuain vs. Florian Jungwirth. San Jose's central defenders haven't inspired a ton of confidence, so it will be up to Jungwirth to try and keep Higuain from picking them apart with dangerous passes.


Week 9 Predictions


Sebastian Giovinco Dax McCarty MLS 04212018

ATLANTA UNITED 4, Impact 0. There are no sure things in MLS, where upsets and surprise results happen all the time, but this feels like a blowout waiting to happen, as well as a breakout party for Ezequiel Barco.

TORONTO FC 3, Fire 1. Expecting a CCL hangover? Don't bet on it. Defensive injuries are a concern for TFC, but their attack should still be able to find success against the Fire, unless Richard Sanchez has another monster game.

UNION 3, D.C. United 2. Expectng a low-scoring snoozer? Think again. David Accam has his best game since joining the Union in a much-needed home win.

CREW 3, Earthquakes 1. The Crew have been playing better than their record would suggest, and Gregg Berhalter's side is do for a breakout game and this one should be it.

Revolution 1, SPORTING KC 2. Gillette Stadium isn't an easy place to pay for visiting teams, but SKC is in a good rhythm these days and their midfield should outshine New England's.

MINNESOTA UNITED 3, Dynamo 2. Houston has had its troubles on the road and the Loons have shown some signs of improvement offensively since the arrival of Darwin Quintero. Christian Ramirez has a big match in a home win.

GALAXY 2, Red Bulls 1. Jonathan Dos Santos is set to miss this battle of top midfields, and if his brother Gio isn't able to start then the Red Bulls could definitely come into StubHub and snatch a road win. Zlatan is due for another goal.

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Rapids 2, Orlando City 2. Tim Howard will be serving a red card suspension, which will give Zac MacMath a chance to stake his claim to the starting goalkeeper role. Unfortunately for him, the Lions attack has been rolling, and should find success at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

NYCFC 2, FC Dallas 1. David Villa is due for a big game, and even though the FC Dallas defense has looked tough, stopping NYCFC on the small Yankee Stadium pitch is going to be difficult.

LAFC 3, Sounders 1. After looking so good on the road, LAFC should look even better at home. Carlos Vela is the best bet to christen Banc of California Stadium with some goals in a big win.

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