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MLS Talking Points: Minnesota United unveils Allianz Field, Sounders-TFC collide, and more

5:01 AM IST 13/04/19
Allianz Field Scarves Supporters 04122019
The Loons are opening their new home on Saturday as New York City FC comes to town for the first MLS match at the nearly 20,000 seat venue

Major League Soccer's newest state-of-the-art stadium is set to be unveiled, headlining a weekend filled with quality match-ups.

Allianz Field will open for business, giving third-year side Minnesota United the home Loons fans have been anxiously anticipating since the team arrived in MLS in 2017.

Recent MLS Cup winners Seattle and Toronto will renew acquaintances in Seattle as two of the four remaining unbeaten teams in MLS.

Los Angeles will be busy with MLS action this weekend, with the Galaxy playing host to the streaking Philadelphia Union, and on the same night LAFC will welcome FC Cincinnati to Banc of California Stadium.

Here are some key talking points for the seventh week of the 2019 MLS season.

Minnesota United unveils Allianz Field

The new $250 million Allianz Field will open for business on Saturday, with Minnesota United welcoming New York City FC to its beautiful facility. Sporting a capacity of 19,400, Major League Soccer's newest stadium is a cozy facility, with fans being in very close proximity of the playing field, which should help give the Loons a good home-field advantage. 

Minnesota United arrives in its new home on a run of good form, having won three of five road matches to start the season, including last week's 2-1 upset of the New York Red Bulls. Adrian Heath's side managed just one road win in 2018 but has already compiled nine points before a run of four home matches in five. 

NYCFC will look to play the role of spoiler, entering Saturday's meeting still searching for its first win of 2019. That winless record includes four draws though, so NYCFC isn't quite a pushover, but will face Minnesota United as an underdog. 

Darwin Quintero should be ready to go for Minnesota United after missing last week's win against the Red Bulls with a groin injury, but Loons coach Adrian Heath will have to decide whether to give him more rest and stick with the squad that beat the Red Bulls or plug Quintero back into the lineup. 

Whatever lineup Heath chooses will have the added advantage of a sell-out crowd cheering the Loons on and urging them to land a win to christen their new home. 

Match of the week: Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC

Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders know each other well, far better than any other interconference opponents in MLS, after meeting in the 2016 and 2017 MLS Cup finals. They split those finals, but neither was able to make it back for a third MLS Cup final in 2017. As they prepare for their only regular season meeting of 2019, they do so as unbeatens and teams that have aspirations of making it back to the championship game. 

Both teams have changed quite a bit since their 2017 MLS Cup final meeting, won by Toronto FC. Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez have left TFC, and in their place is Alejandro Pozuelo, who has already made a good impression as Toronto's new playmaker. He will be key to TFC's chances of breaking down a tough Sounders defense that has allowed just three goals in five matches in 2019. 

The Sounders attack will look to go after a TFC defense that has shown vulnerability at times this year, both in Concacaf Champions League, and more recently in last week's 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire. Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz is listed as questionable for the match and his absence hurt Seattle's attack last week against Real Salt Lake. Will Bruin started in his place on a night that saw the Sounders manage just three shots on goal. 

The match should hinge on how TFC's fullbacks deal with the Sounders winger tandem of Victor Rodriguez and Jordan Morris, and how Michael Bradley deals with Nicolas Lodeiro, who scored Seattle's winner against RSL last week. 

Quick Kicks

Atlanta United is back in action after a bye week and should have Argentine midfielder Gonzalo 'Pity' Martinez back in the lineup. The former River Plate star missed Atlanta's last match with an injury suffered while on international duty, but he returned to training this week and will look to help the MLS Cup champions snap their winless slide to start the season.

The LA Galaxy finalized the acquisition of Costa Rican defender Giancarlo Gonzalez, but will have to wait a while before integrating him into the lineup. Diego Polenta and Daniel Steres have been Guillermo Barros Schelotto's first-choice central defenders, and Saturday's match against the Philadelphia Union should offer them both one more chance to show why they should be the one to partner with Gonzalez, who wasn't brought in to sit on the bench.

The Montreal Impact will be without Ignacio Piatti once again. The Argentine star will miss Montreal's home opener on Saturday with the same knee injury that has cost him the past two Impact matches. Montreal has yet to score without him on the field, and the odds of that trend changing will be made tougher by a Columbus defense that has allowed just three goals in six matches.

Week 7 Predictions

(*Best Bet)

FIRE 2, Whitecaps 1. C.J. Sapong is on a good run of form, and Bastian Schweinsteiger continues to anchor a defense that still has weaknesses, but could hold up against a struggling Whitecaps side.

Impact 0, CREW 1. Montreal's defense has been salvaging points for the Impact in the absence of injured star attacker Ignacio Piatti, but the Crew have been even better defensively and have the weapons to grab the road win.

DYNAMO 3, Earthquakes 1. Matias Almeyda will try to build some momentum off the Earthquakes first win of 2019, but Alberth Elis is in top form and will terrorize the Earthquakes defense.

SOUNDERS 2, Toronto FC 1. This one will hinge on whether Raul Ruidiaz plays. If the Peruvian striker can play, the Sounders will edge TFC, but if he doesn't, look for Toronto to take a point in Seattle.

MINNESOTA UNITED 3, NYCFC 0. Miguel Ibarra and Darwin Quintero should help christen Allianz Arena with some goals, and a victory against an NYCFC side that is simply not clicking.

New England Revolution 1, ATLANTA UNITED 3. Josef Martinez is due for a big game, and with Pity Martinez back in the lineup look for the league's reigning MVP to deliver a hat-trick at Gillette Stadium.

FC DALLAS 2, Timbers 0. This feels like the type of game where the Timbers regroup and knock off the youngsters from Dallas, but the reality is Portland is in a funk and Dallas has the energy to run the Timbers ragged.

Rapids 0, D.C. UNITED 2. Wayne Rooney scores one against his former Manchester United teammate Tim Howard as D.C. gets back to its winning ways.

REAL SALT LAKE 2, Orlando City 1. The Lions will feel good after last week's dramatic win against Colorado, but RSL is at home and due a big performance from Albert Rusnak.

GALAXY 3, Union 1. The Union have been in a good run of form, but they're facing a Galaxy team that has hit its stride, with a midfield that is playing very well and an in-form Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who should net a pair against the Union.

*LAFC 4, FC Cincinnati 1. The expansion side has put up some impressive results for a first-year team, but this has the feel of a beatdown with Carlos Vela delivering another masterpiece.

SPORTING KC 2, Red Bulls 0. Can Sporting KC regroup from its CCL loss in time? The answer is yes, if only because the Red Bulls just aren't playing like the 2018 MLS Supporters' Shield-winning version of themselves.