One of the league's best rivalries makes its 2018 debut, while Los Angeles FC tries to top what was an unforgettable home debut at Banc of California Stadium.
Those are just some of the top headlines heading into the weekend of Major League Soccer's 10th week of action. Leading the way is New York City FC's visit to Red Bull Arena to take on the New York Red Bulls in a clash of two of the league's best teams.
Two of the top teams in the West square off on the other side of the country, as LAFC looks to stay perfect at its new home against an FC Dallas side coming off of its first loss of the season.
Atlanta United is the hottest team in the league, with six wins in seven matches (6-0-1), but the Five Strips will face a tricky test on the road against the Chicago Fire, a team leaning on rookies to fill some voids, but also on the experience of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty to navigate the tough Eastern Conference.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to embark on a lengthy road trip with the LA Galaxy. It kicks off in Houston, against a vulnerable Dynamo side that has struggled to match the quality shown in their season-opening win against Atlanta United. Wilmer Cabrera's squad has just one win since that Atlanta rout, and that came against a reserve-heavy Toronto FC side.
The Seattle Sounders have become the subject of much consternation in the Emerald City, with a 1-4-1 record and quiet primary transfer window leaving many Sounders fans nervous about the team sliding into obscurity. Brian Schmetzer's squad can put some of those fears at ease with a home win against a Columbus Crew side that has struggled with consistency early in 2018.
Here is a closer look at the key talking points for MLS Week 10:
Match of the Week: New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC
The Hudson River Derby is back and Saturday's match features what is likely the strongest match-up in the history of the rivalry.
"I think New York City probably has the best team they’ve had yet, and I think we have a good team too," Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch told Goal. "We’re still establishing ourselves in the season, and trying to find ways to get better, but yeah, it has potential to be a really good matchup between two really good teams."
Vieira agrees that his NYCFC team is the best he's had since he took over in 2016, but he also sees a Red Bulls squad that is still just as dangerous as ever.
"I watched (the Red Bulls) play in the Champions League. I think they were really unlucky not to win the games," NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. "And when you look at their performance lately in the league it’s been good. I think this is a team who have a clear idea and a clear philosophy and I’m really looking forward to the game."
The rivalry has been boosted in recent years by the contrast in styles. NYCFC's possession-oriented approach, which often emphasized building out of the back often clashed with the Red Bulls' high-pressing, physical style under Marsch. Early in the 2018 season, the two rivals have actually shown more of the qualities of their cross-river counterparts.
"I think actually, and I don’t mean this to be self-serving in any way, but they look more like a Red Bull team than a possession team than they used to," Marsch said. "They counter-press a lot more. They move their backline a lot more. They look to, I think, be better against the ball, where in the past they’ve had much more emphasis on movement and ideas with the ball.
"They’ve always been real interesting to watch, but this year I think it’s becoming a little bit more similar to the things that we really like," Marsch said. "I admire his ability to teach a team how to be good with the ball and really manage games that way. I think we’re trying to become a little bit more like them, and I think they’re trying to become a little bit more like us."
Vieira acknowledged that NYCFC has adapted its style in 2018 to incorporate more of the qualities similar to the Red Bulls approach, but is reluctant to give the Red Bulls credit for that evolution.
"I think it’s just about the goals that we conceded," Viera said. "Obviously we conceded a few against them, but it was more about overall than just one specific game. I think we have to see how can I help the team make less mistakes and coming up with a way to not be in danger as much. I think jumping the line is one of them, but we still need to play and we’re going to play against the Red Bulls."
Saturday's derby will feature a plethora of juicy match ups, from Jesus Medina versus Kemar Lawrence, and the battle of the central midfields, but Marsch believes the final outcome will be determined by a familiar factor.
"What does this rivalry usually come down to? Is it David Villa’s day, or is it Bradley Wright-Phillips day," Marsch told Goal. "Obviously that midfield trio for each team can help feed to the success of that striker on the day, but these two players, in many ways, have defined this series and I think that will come down to it in many ways again."
Los Angeles FC ready for home encore
How do you top a stadium unveiling like last week's dramatic late win in the inaugural match at Banc of California Stadium? If you're LAFC, you go out and make a few more marquee signings and look to cap the exciting week off with a win against a very tough FC Dallas side.
Bob Bradley enjoyed a heck of a week, following up the 1-0 win against Seattle with the acquisitions of playmaker Lee Nguyen and forward Adama Diomande, helping immediately extinguish any bad vibes brought on by the loss of Costa Rican forward Marco Urena to a facial injury. Both Nguyen and Diomande have played for Bradley before, and their additions give the LAFC attack even more flexibility and weapons to keep scoring goals in bunches.
Goals may be tough to come by this week against an FC Dallas side that has allowed just six goals in seven matches to boast the best goals-against average in the league. That's after surrendering two goals in a loss to NYCFC last week. LAFC's offense wasn't quite clicking last week against the Sounders, needing Ciman's late winner to salvage a victory, and Bradley will need to adjust things as he deals with the absence of Urena, who hadn't scored a goal, but who had been very important to LAFC's fast start with his hold-up play and movement.
Who will Bradley turn to at forward? Diego Rossi is a good candidate for the role. Bradley could also slide Carlos Vela up top, move Benny Feilhaber up, and plug Eduard Atuesta into central midfield. If not Feilhaber, he could move Omar Gaber into Vela's playmaking role. Bradley could also partner Rossi and Vela up top and turn to Gaber and Latif Blessing in wing roles.
It may be a bit early to expect much from Nguyen, who hasn't played a minute this season, but it will be interesting to see how much of a role Bradley gives the skilled midfielder.
Bradley has plenty of options to field an attack capable of producing the kind of encore that can match the entertainment value of last week's home opener.
Matchups to Watch
Miguel Almiron vs. Dax McCarty. The reigning MLS player of the month tore through defenses in April, but McCarty has the savvy and quality to make things difficult for him.
Carlos Vela vs. Matt Hedges. Whether Bob Bradley deploys Vela or Diego Rossi, or both, up top, LAFC's lead forward will have to deal with Hedges, who will be looking to rebound from an off night against NYCFC.
Maxi Moralez vs. Tyler Adams. Moralez has quietly been NYCFC's MVP so far this season, and Adams will be focused on keeping the diminutive Argentine from wreaking havoc.
Josef Martinez vs. Bastian Schweinsteiger. Schweinsteiger has his limitations at center back, and one main one is speed. Can his veteran savvy keep him from getting torched by Martinez? Stay tuned.
Osvaldo Alonso vs. Federico Higuain. These veteran midfielders have seen plenty of each other over the years, and should engage in a top-notch clash in Seattle.
Kaku vs. Yangel Herrera. The two young South Americans face off for the first time in MLS, and whether it's Herrera or Alex Ring, NYCFC will need to keep tabs on the Red Bulls playmaker as he plays in his first New York derby.
Cristian Roldan vs. Wil Trapp. These two aspiring U.S. national team midfielders should see plenty of each other on Saturday, and U.S. coach Dave Sarachan will be watching.
Alberth Elis vs. Ashley Cole. Elis could have himself a field day against Cole, who has lost a step or two since his heyday in England. it will be up to Cole to make Elis work on the defensive end as well.
David Villa vs. Aaron Long. Whether it's Long or Tim Parker, the Red Bulls central defense will have its hands full against Villa, who has found his stride in recent weeks.
Diego Valeri vs. Florian Jungwirth. San Jose must decide whether to plug in Jungwirth as a defender, or keep him in midfield to deal with Valeri. Having him shadow Valeri may be the safer bet.
Week 10 Predictions
Impact 1, REVOLUTION 2. Remi Garde laid into his team this week after a string of ugly results, and Saturday will tell us if the Impact got the message. Don't expect a different result, as a coach who has succeeded with his new team, Brad Friedel, leads his team to a road win.
Red Bulls 1, NYCFC 2. This one is as tough to call as any match this season, but we'll give the edge to NYCFC against a Red Bulls side still figuring some things out with their revamped midfield. David Villa and Anton Tinnerholm are the difference makers in a dramatic and close affair.
Minnesota United 1, WHITECAPS 2. The Loons are generally tough at home, but adding Christian Ramirez to the injury list makes things that much tougher for Adrian Heath. Yordy Reyna's return from suspension, coupled with Anthony Blondell's big presence up top, give Vancouver the edge.
LAFC 3, FC Dallas 1. With the pressure of a stadium opener behind them, LAFC"s attackers should have a field day. That might sound crazy given FC Dallas' defensive record, but Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi are due for a big game.
SOUNDERS 2, Crew 1. Lost in the disappointment of a last-second defeat against LAFC was the fact Seattle played well enough to win. If the Sounders can put away chances, they should be able to hold off the Crew and stop the early-season bleeding.
FIRE 2, Atlanta United 1. Goalkeeper Richard Sanchez will need to have a strong game, and Nemanja Nikolic will need to get the better of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, if Chicago is going to halt Atlanta's unbeaten run.
Dynamo 1, GALAXY 2. It should be a hot and humid night at BBVA Compass Stadium, and while the Galaxy's injury-hit defense can certainly give up goals, look for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to have a big game against a vulnerable Dynamo defense.
*SPORTING KC 2, Rapids 0. There's no denying the Rapids can be a tough team to break down, but Sporting KC is very tough to stop at home, and Johnny Russell will look to continue his torrid home form.
Earthquakes 1, TIMBERS 2. A rested Portland side makes the trip south to grab a valuable road win against an Earthquakes squad that has yet to truly convince anyone they are buying into their new coach's system.