W2W4: Zlatan goes coast to coast; Vela earning Tata's attention
It's a battle between the coasts as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy make the cross-country trek to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), and later that night Minnesota United welcomes the Seattle Sounders to Allianz Field, plus Carlos Vela and LAFC host Chicago.
Zlatan goes coast to coast
Major League Soccer has changed in many ways throughout the years, with new teams and new rivalries, but a New York Red Bulls-LA Galaxy meeting still conjures some great memories of the league's adolescence, specifically the thrilling 5-4 Red Bulls win in August 2007.
It was David Beckham's first start in MLS with the Galaxy, and the game lived up to the hype, as more than 66,000 in attendance watched as the home side eked out a late win against Beckham's bunch. Now, almost 12 years later, another global superstar with the Galaxy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, will make his first appearance in New York.
On the field, Ibrahimovic continues to dazzle, scoring the winner in last week's 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake, but like everything else with the Swede, there is more to the story. The former Manchester United man got in the face of RSL's Nedum Onuoha after scoring, and then promptly had his apology rejected postmatch. Oddly enough in last season's home win over RSL, Ibrahimovic had an almost identical on-field brush with Stephen Sunday, issuing a few curt words after a goal.
It's a reminder that Ibrahimovic isn't one to shirk from jawing with anyone around him, and while it won't be the 66,000 that greeted Beckham in 2007, he is certain to get his fair share of attention from the fans in New York, which should make for quite the spectacle.
Vela earning Tata's attention
Everywhere he goes, Mexico head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino is asked about Carlos Vela. After not calling up the LAFC striker for Mexico's two March friendlies, the first matches for El Tri with the Argentine at the helm, Vela has responded with 11 goals and five assists in 10 games to start the season.
It was slightly ironic that two weeks ago the Gold Cup draw was held at LAFC's Banc of California Stadium, as Martino dutifully responded to a countless number of questions that all basically asked the same thing: "Hey, are you gonna call Carlos Vela or what?" One would have to think that Martino will breathe a sigh of relief when he likely calls in the scorching-hot striker for Mexico's Gold Cup campaign, thus ending that firing line of questions.
In the meantime, Vela keeps finding the back of the net about as much as his NBA heroes, notching another goal in last Sunday's 1-1 draw up in Seattle. He'll probably get another chance to flash his goal-scoring grin Saturday night (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) against a Chicago Fire side that has limped to two straight shutout losses. The Fire have a weird knack of playing everyone close but not winning that much. Chicago head coach Veljko Paunovic could really use a win against the league's top team to quiet any hot-seat talk.
Statement time in Minnesota
It seems that whenever a team in MLS opens a new stadium, a string of good results follows, and Minnesota United has been no different. Since the debut of Allianz Field on April 13, Minnesota has gone unbeaten in three homes games, with two draws and its first win in its new digs last weekend against D.C. United.
The singing of Oasis hit "Wonderwall" by the home fans is a great spectacle, but the team is also doing its part, amassing four wins and sitting in sixth in the Western Conference. You could say that for the first time, Minnesota has the upper hand on its expansion sibling Atlanta United.
Star striker Darwin Quintero is still yet to find the back of the net in Minnesota's new home, but that could well come on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) against a Seattle defense that has been uncharacteristically leaky so far in 2019 with 12 goals allowed.
With the 2019 MLS season at the quarter pole, a home clash with perennial contender Seattle on a week of rest is the perfect kind of statement game for the Loons.